by Julia Kuzeljevich
It often comes up in casual conversation with friends and acquaintances, “What do you do for a living?” and when I tell people I’m a journalist, and more specifically, an editor and writer for a transportation trade publication, the response is always, with some variance,
“So do you, like, write about trucks?”
Well, I say, I do and I don’t.
I don’t profess to be an engineer, mechanic or maintenance manager, and I prefer, when researching a technical story, to consult the experts and relay the information to the readers as accurately as possible.
But I have made attempts in my career as a transportation journalist (now in my 7th year) to gain a better knowledge of trucks and how they operate.
I even took, at one point, an admittedly accelerated truck driving course. I passed the air brakes exam with flying colours, and with no surprise-it involved studying an actual book and listening to the instructor, and then responding in concise, organized sentences to exam questions.
I’m a whiz at that.
But I failed rather miserably at the driving exam.
Sure, I could drive smoothly down some of Ontario’s secondary highways while actually shifting gears in the truck without much grinding. (I credit this with having first learned to drive on a standard transmission.)
But on the actual day of the driving exam, a blustery, overcast December day, I did not succeed in backing up my trailer properly. Instant failure.
Of course I blamed it on the female examiner being extra tough on me, and later, on the fact that I was pregnant at the time and didn’t know it, a condition that surely must have affected my already-limited spatial judgement!
And technically, I had only accumulated about half the required driving hours, so I really was wasting the Ministry’s time trying to make a go of the exam.
But I was secretly relieved, because the exam taught me many things.
First of all it, that someone is doing something right by not letting me loose on small city streets to clog up traffic with my wide left-hand turns that put the cab on the curb.
It also taught me that I’m a real Girly Girl who likes uninterrupted sleep, doesn’t like doing circle checks in the frigid cold, or getting grease on my hands, and who is unwilling to part with the high heeled boots that actually would have allowed my 5’2 height to reach the pedals in those multi-tonned machines.
Sitting in the Ministry’s waiting room with some of the other candidates, however, I was ashamed of myself because so many of these guys were relying on a successful test to permit them a chance at a new career when their current ones in manufacturing and farming, to cite two examples, were coming to a premature close due to circumstances well beyond their control.
I was there because someone thought it a good idea for a trucking magazine editor to actually get in a truck for a change, and indeed, it was a good idea.
I’ve gained a whole new perspective, appreciation and respect for what drivers do, day in, day out, night in, night out.
You have a damned difficult job, and it’s time you earned some more credit for doing it.
So the next time people ask me, do I, like, write about trucks, I won’t worry about their eyes glazing over when I launch into all the varied aspects of the transportation industry.
I won’t wish I was writing an article about “10 different things to do to brighten your day” in one of those grocery-store magazines.
I’ll simply say yes.
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