Human traffic on the road

by Edo van Belkom

Mark was nearing his destination and hadn’t heard from his dispatcher Bud for a while. He was in need of another load so he decided to give the man a call.

“Hello?” Bud said.

“Bud, this is Mark.”

“Mark who?”

‘Did he never get tired of that?’ Mark thought. “Mark S. Welby, Doctor of Trucking.”

“Very funny, Dalton. Sad thing is, I’m old enough to remember that show.”

“I need my next load, Bud.”

“Yeah, you and everyone else working for me.”

“Things that bad?”

“Not really, just slow at the moment.”

 “So you don’t have a heavy load going all the way across the country that’s going to make me a truckload of cash?”

“If I had that,” Bud said, “I’d still be driving myself.”

Mark nodded. “Okay, what do you have?”

“I didn’t think you’d be interested, seeing as you like adventure and all that, but I have about four weeks worth of trips to Montreal and back. Two round trips every three days.”

“Sounds like a grind.”

“It’s honest work,” Bud said. “And it’s yours if you want it.”

“I’ll take it. My truck’s not making money if it’s not moving.”

Bud gave Mark the details.

Mark was able to comfortably go from Toronto to Montreal and halfway back again before running out of hours in his logbook, so he decided he would stop overnight at the same truck stop outside Kingston whenever he had to stop halfway between the two cities. That would give him alternating days off in Toronto and Montreal, which wasn’t too bad a gig, all things considered.

While he liked the food and amenities the truck stop had to offer, the hardest part of the trip by far was the overnight stay. Mother Load was comfortable enough and he could usually get a good night’s rest in her sleeper no matter where she was parked, but this truck stop was making peaceful sleep a real challenge.

The problem began on the third night he stayed in the truck stop’s lot. He was tucked into his bunk, all warm and snug and just about to drift off into a deep sleep when there was a knock on the door.

The first time it happened he didn’t even realize what was going on until the third knock. By then he was up and wondering who the hell was knocking on his door at this time of night.

“You lonely, mister?” It was a female voice and a young one at that.

“What?” he said. “No!”

“You sure? I’m young and pretty.”

“Get lost!” Mark said, shaking his head. There were lot lizards just about everywhere you went in North America – probably the world too, for that matter – but he’d never been in a place where they were so brazen as to walk up to a truck and knock on your door. He didn’t approve of it anywhere, but at least in other places people were discrete about it. This was like, well…selling candy door-to-door.

Mark put his head back on his pillow and closed his eyes.

Minutes later there was another knock on his door.

“You want a good time?” the woman on the other side of the door asked.

Mark lifted his head off his pillow and saw a young woman peeking into his cab through the driver’s side window.

“No, I don’t want a good time.”

“I can make you feel real good.”

“I’ll call the cops in a minute if you don’t get down off my truck, now!” he said.

“Relax, mister. All you gotta say is no.”

‘Really?,’ Mark thought, having already said the word, “No.” He looked over at the window again, but the woman was gone.

With a sigh, Mark rolled over onto his other side and closed his eyes once more.

Sure enough, an hour later there was yet another knock on his door.

“How many times do I have to say, NO?”

There was no response, only the sound of someone climbing down off his truck and walking away.

Thankfully, he was not disturbed the rest of the night.

Mark awoke when the sun began streaming in through his front windshield. Still sleepy and wishing it was one of his days off, he threw the sheets off and kneeled up in bed. There was little movement in the lot so early in the morning and that’s why he noticed a dark blue van drive into the lot and stop in front of the long row of trucks Mark was parked in. In moments, three women emerged from three separate trucks, walked across the lot and got inside the van. When the third woman was inside, the van drove off, passing the fuel pumps and restaurant and continuing onto the highway without stopping.

The whole pick-up seemed familiar to him somehow and then he recalled that he’d seen this same van making a similar pick-up a week or so ago, only that time there had been just two women. He remembered the van because at the time he’d thought the van had looked a lot like a school bus picking up kids for school.

He wondered if these girls were actually still in school, and the thought of it made him shudder.

At breakfast Mark ran into a driver he’d seen at the truck stop the past few weeks and joined the man at his table.

As Mark ate, the man just looked at him with a quizzical look. “What? What is it?” Mark asked.

“You look terrible,” he said. “Your eyes are red and there’s bags under them.”

Mark took a bite of his breakfast sandwich. “I didn’t get much sleep. There was someone knocking on my door every half-hour.”

“Where’d you park?”

“Out in the lot, that way,” Mark jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “At the north edge near the trees.”

The other driver laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“Of course they were knocking on your door. You were parked in Party Row all night.”

“Party row?”

“It’s where you park if you’re looking for a good time.”

“Ah,” Mark said, making the connection between the knocks on his door and the van collecting the girls each morning. “But they’re so young.”

“That’s the way it is now with human trafficking. The girls are young, really young. They get bought and sold and wound up being forced into prostitution by people who are able to control them.”

Mark had heard of groups like Truckers Against Trafficking, but he’d always thought they were all about smuggling illegals into the US or Canada, not child prostitution. That was something that was a problem in, well…third-world countries.

“If everyone knows what’s going on, why don’t they do something about it?” Mark asked.

“The police do shut them down, but they just move down the highway to the next stop. Think of it this way…it might be a new problem in the trucking industry, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still the world’s oldest profession.” Mark thought about that a long time.

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