THE STORY SO FAR
Mark travels to New Mexico for a load back to Canada. While he’s there, another driver shows up for a load to Los Angeles. The driver looks Mexican and the shipper was expecting someone white, and tells the driver there is no longer any load. Mark offers his load to the man, and the shipper ends up giving the man his original load.
On a return trip to the U.S., Mark is in Texas and decides to see what would happen if he flew a gay pride flag on his truck. He’s questioned by the shipper, and is almost refused the load. Finally, the shipper removes the flags for Mark’s own safety. Later, even with the flags removed, he is pulled over and questioned by police…
After two days of driving, Mark was able to cross the border into Canada without incident and by mid-afternoon of the third day, he was pulling into the warehouse to deliver his truckload of Texas-made pet food.
As he was backing Mother Load up to a loading dock, he saw a bunch of drivers hanging around at one end of the yard.
Of the four drivers, at least two looked familiar to him and he decided he’d join the group once his delivery was accepted and unloaded.
Within minutes of the loading dock door being rolled up, receivers were lined up with a pair of forklifts and a third man was on the ground to coordinate the unload.
That left Mark free to wander over to where the other drivers were and shoot the breeze.
As he approached the group, Mark recognized one of the men as one of Bud’s drivers, and another with whom he had spent plenty of time in the waiting line up at the railway depot in Vaughan, Ont.
“Well, well, well,” said the driver dispatched by Bud, a native of Guyana who came to Canada as a teenager and who had been driving for some 20 years. “If it isn’t the trouble-magnet himself, Mark Dalton.”
“Hey Leon!” Mark said, shaking the man’s hand.
“I recognize you,” said the container driver who knew him from Vaughan. “You bought me a coffee once.”
Mark waved hello and then was quickly introduced to the other two drivers in the group. “This guy’s famous,” said the first man. “My dispatcher has told me all kinds of stories about you.”
“What kind of stories?”
“Like busting up an international smuggling ring, or solving a murder, or reuniting lost teenagers with their families.”
The other men all stared at Mark as if he were a movie star or action hero.
“Yeah,” Mark nodded. “Those are all true stories.”
The group chuckled. Then the man said, “So what fantastic adventure are you coming from now?”
“Well, it’s funny you ask. I picked up a load in Texas and was driving through the deep south and…”
Mark went on to tell the story of how a shipper tried to take a load away from a driver with Mexican heritage when he’d expected the driver to be white, and then how he was hassled for flying gay pride flags on his truck, even after they’d been removed.
“That sounds like what’s happened to me,” said one of the drivers Mark didn’t know. “I’m from Peru and probably look like a Mexican to anyone who sees me near the southern U.S. border. And whenever a cop sees me behind the wheel of an older truck with some miles on it…they always say it’s to do a safety inspection, but they never spend as much time looking over my truck as they do asking me where I’m from and what I’m doing there. It doesn’t ever seem to matter much that there are Ontario plates on my truck and I have a Canadian passport.”
“You think that’s bad,” said Leon, the driver originally from Guyana. “One time I was stopped for driving through a yellow light. I wanted to stop for it, but it was just safer to go on through. Well, there was a cop at the intersection and he pulled me over. He was polite enough, but after he searched me and the inside of my truck, he began asking me if the truck was stolen. He kept it up even after he’d seen the ownership and insurance was all in my name.”
A pause. “I think he just couldn’t get his head around the fact that I had a nice rig and was running a profitable business.”
The gathered men all nodded in agreement as if they’d felt the same thing many times before.
At that moment Mark’s cell phone rang. A quick look at the ID told Mark it was Bud calling, probably with another load.
“Hey Bud,” Mark said. “If you don’t mind I’m going to put you on speaker phone.”
“Why, what’s going on?”
“Nothing much,” Mark answered. “Just standing around chatting with Leon and a couple other drivers.”
“Leon,” Bud asked. “Leon, who?”
Leon just shook his head. “That joke is like you, Bud. Old and lame.”
“Oh, that Leon,” Bud said.
“He knows who you are now,” Mark said, then held the phone close to his ear. “What’s up, Bud?”
“Well, I’ve got a couple of loads for you to choose from,” he said. “One is a longhaul to Houston and the other is a shorter load that pays less going to Winnipeg.”
“Big money to the southern U.S., or less money to stay in Canada,” Mark said, summing up his choices.
“I choose Canada,” Mark said.
Together, the gathered drivers all gave mark a nice long slow clap of approval.
Mark Dalton returns next month in another adventure.
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