Things are slow for Mark Dalton and he spends some time driving loads in and around the Greater Toronto Area waiting for Bud to give him a long haul. During that time Mark meets an attractive young woman named Tanya.
They become intimate and just when things start going well between them, Bud comes up with some long haul loads.
Mark says good-bye, but promises to be back soon.
Out on the road, each load takes Mark farther and farther from his new love.
Tanya, for the most part, is a patient woman, but she is constantly asking Mark when he’ll be coming home, pressuring him to return to her and making it harder and harder for him to accept loads that put more kilometres between them.
Finally he returns to her and they spend days in bed together, making Mark wonder why he ever left her arms for the road in the first place…
After two full days of loving, Mark was ready to move in with Tanya.
It wasn’t that he didn’t miss the road, it was just that he’d been on the road for so long, he’d forgotten how good it felt to be in the arms of a woman.
It sure beat miles and miles of asphalt in the seat of a Peterbilt. But no matter how good his situation was, Mark still needed to earn a living.
He could spend a few days with Tanya here and there, but more permanent arrangements were out of the question.
Or maybe not.
“Don’t tell me,” she said, catching him picking up her phone to make a call.
“You’ve got to get back out on the road.”
Mark put the phone back down. “Well, I do need to make a living.”
“And the only way you can do that is by driving far away from me?”
It was a statement, but somehow Tanya had managed to make it sound like a question.
Even worse, her voice absolutely dripped with a tone that made him feel guilty for wanting to work.
“Well, it is what I do. I was driving long haul when I met you, and in fact it was the thing that brought us together.”
She let out a sigh.
“I know you have to drive, I don’t want to change that. It’s just that, well…why do you have to drive to such far away places?”
“I get paid for each kilometre I drive. The more kilometres I drive the more money I make.”
She traced a fingernail through the hairs on his chest.
“But there are plenty of truck drivers who work in the city. They earn a living too, don’t they?”
“I guess so,” Mark said.
“But it’s a tough way to make good money.”
She kissed his neck just above the shoulder.
“Maybe, but think of all the fringe benefits there would be to working in the city and staying close to home.”
Mark smiled at that one. Mother Load was his home and no matter where he drove his home was always with him.
Still, she did have a point, and she was an expert at making it. Her kisses had strayed from his neck, moved down over his chest and stomach and were now zeroing in on the tender spot between his thighs.
“We could be together every night,” she said between kisses.
Mark gasped, his body tensed with pleasure.
The woman’s powers of persuasion were strong, and he was virtually powerless against them.
“Well,” he said at last. “I guess I could see if I could get some work in and around town.”
Mark managed to get some work back at Land and Sea Transport in the northeast end of Mississauga.
The company specialized in picking up containers in the CN yard in Brampton – or sometimes the rail yard in Vaughan – and delivered them throughout the GTA.
It was decent enough work if everything went smoothly with your pick-ups and deliveries, but more often than not something would go wrong to waste Mark’s time, and time in this kind of job meant money, regardless of how many kilometres you drove.
For example, it wasn’t uncommon for him to spend two or more hours in the line at the Brampton yard, only to reach the front of the line and be told that his paperwork was wrong or they didn’t have the container yet.
On other days he could make three or four drops earning money each time he picked up or dropped off a container, as well as for the kilometres driven.
But even those days could be trashed if he pulled up to a warehouse just after five and wouldn’t be allowed to drop his trailer.
Then he would have to take the load back to the yard and deliver it again in the morning, making the trip twice and getting paid once, and missing out on a new load in the morning.
And then there were those hidden charges that didn’t become apparent until payday.
He’d been working for Land and Sea for just under a month and had been looking forward to receiving his first paycheck.
He’d been calculating his income daily based on the rates and pay scales the company had provided him and he’d figured he had earned somewhere between two and three thousand dollars.
But when he opened the envelope and saw the check he was surprised and angered to see an amount of just over $1,000.
“What’s this?” he said, standing on the other side of the desk in the office of the company accountant, a short squat man named Alfredo.
“This!” he said, holding up the check so the guy could see it.
“That’s your paycheck.”
There was a smile on the guy’s face like he’d just done Mark a favour.
Mark shook his head slightly. The way the guy was already beating around the bush reminded Mark a lot of Bud.
Maybe there was a gene the two men had in common that made them simultaneously go deaf and become smartasses whenever someone wanted to talk about money.
“I know it’s my paycheck,” he said.
“I calculated my pay every day and it’s about a thousand short.”
Alfredo put on his glasses and took the check and its accompanying pay stub from Mark’s hand. “No. See here, you were docked for damage to a chassis.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
He spun around in his chair and accessed a file folder in the cabinet behind him.
“Last Tuesday you were driving TZ 196001. When you left the yard the chassis checked out okay, but when you came back it was damaged. We charge the cost of repairs to the chassis to the driver…and in this case, that was you.”
“But the security guard just waved me through on my way out that day. I didn’t know I had to stop to be inspected.”
“Every time. In or out. Empty or loaded.”
“Yeah, I know that now,” Mark said, feeling his face getting flushed.
“And that chassis was damaged way before I used it.”
Alfredo nodded. “Could have been. I’ll have to look in the file for other inspection sheets to see if it was damaged before you used it.”
Mark let out a sigh.
“So, I’ll get my money, then?”
“Eventually. We’ll hold onto it until we get everything straightened out.”
Mark shook his head.
No matter how many years you spent behind the wheel, and how much you thought you knew, fleet owners were always figuring out new ways to hold onto their money for as long as they could.
“How long will that take?”
“I don’t know. We’re really busy these days.” Alfredo smiled. “But don’t worry, I’ll get to it.”
“Yeah, I bet you will.”
Mark could feel the anger churning inside him.
This was a scam, plain and simple, but the company held all the cards and he was helpless to do anything about it.
If nothing else, it was a powerful reminder to Mark as to why he preferred driving long haul.
That night, lying in bed after yet another intimate encounter with Tanya, Mark tried to broach the subject of taking a long haul load.
“But why?” she said.
“You’ve been working every day.”
“I know, but I’m not making any money.”
“That’s because your truck’s too new.”
“Your truck’s too new. It costs too much and it’s too good just to drive around the city.”
“I don’t understand what you’re getting at. Sure my truc
k’s new, but I’ve got to use it now when it’s the most economical to run.”
He paused a moment, then said, “Besides, that’s not why I came up short with my pay-“
“A husband of a friend of mine does the same thing you do,” she said, cutting him off like she wasn’t very interested in what he had to say, “but he owns a 10 year-old truck, and he makes a very good living.”
Mark let out a sigh.
“Well, if I was married with a couple of kids and a mortgage to pay, then I might drive a rust-bucket that works just well enough to make it from the rail yard to the delivery destination too. But I’ve got a brand new Pete and I need to run highway miles with it to make-“
“I called her last night,” she said, cutting him off again.
“Her husband knows a man with a 1992 truck with just over 400,000 highway kilometres on it. He’s willing to let it go for a really good price.”
Yeah, I bet, Mark thought, saying nothing.
“Well,” she said after a while. “What do you think?”
“I’ll think about it,” he said, just so they could get on with another steamy night between the sheets.
In the morning, after Tanya had gone off to work, Mark called Bud looking for a load that required a long, long, haul.
– The conclusion of Mark Dalton: A Man, his truck and a woman will appear in the next issue of Truck News.