With a storm coming, Mark pulls into the Husky in Dryden, Ont. He offers help to a woman driver struggling to install her chains, but she tells him to get lost. Some time later, she enters the restaurant and is teased by a group of men who’d been watching her. She confronts the biggest loudmouth of the group head on and shuts them down, gaining Mark’s respect.
Mark ends up talking with the woman, Nancy McEvoy, and realizes she’s smart and good at her job. But he also realizes that she’s got it tough working in a male-dominated industry and gives her even more credit for being able to compete… and succeed against the men.
Hours later, after Mark had taken a nap and the storm looked as if it had passed, he decided it was time to finish this leg of his haul westward to Winnipeg. But before heading out, he turned up the radio and listened to the local forecast. Basically, the storm had run its course, but in the process had dumped close to a foot of snow. The road crews had been working steadily in both directions, but the roads were still pretty slick. Mark decided to chain up himself and get to Kenora before turning in for the night. By morning the rest of the highway would be cleared and he’d be able to make it into Winnipeg on time and without his chains.
As he worked on the chains, he realized he was having trouble of his own getting them all set up. They were in good shape, of course, and he’d installed them dozens of times before, but there was something about the cold and snow that just made putting on chains a dirty thankless job. And that’s when he was struck by the thought: ‘And here she was struggling like I am now, but with the eyes of the world on her just waiting for her to fail so they could tell her she wasn’t good enough, or she couldn’t hack it, or she should just go home to make dinner and babies full-time.’
No wonder she’s got a chip on her shoulder, Mark thought. I’d have a brick, if it were me.
Eventually Mark had the chains wrapped tight around his drive wheels and was ready to head out. The ride with the chains was bumpy and noisy, but he could feel them bite into the ice and snow, and as long as he didn’t get carried away and started driving too fast, he’d be safely at his destination in just a few hours.
Just then, Mark’s phone rang.
He took a look and saw it was Bud.
“Hello,” he said.
“Mark, is that you?”
‘Who else would it be?,’ Mark thought. “No,” he said at last. “Who’s Mark? This is Margaret.”
“Yeah, what if I were Margaret instead of Mark?” he said. “Would you still call me up and give me the good loads.”
The line was silent for the longest time. “Mark, are you sick?”
“No, just wondering what it would be like working for you as a woman.”
“I think you are sick,” Bud said. “In the head…um, maybe you should just pull over for a bit.” A pause. “When was the last time you took your temperature?”
“Relax,” Mark said. “I’m just thinking out loud.”
He went on to explain what had happened at the last truck stop and how it got him to thinking about women drivers and what it must be like dealing with the likes of guys like, well…Bud. Mark could hardly stand him, imagine what a woman would think of him.
“I’ll have you know, Dalton, that I already have two women driving for me. One’s part of a team, but the other one’s an owner/operator just like you.”
“And they put up with you?”
Bud didn’t answer right away. “They didn’t care too much for me at first and they told me so. They’re good, reliable drivers so I’ve learned to tone it down with them. They’ve stayed on and one of them is even talking about bringing in a friend of hers.”
“Then why are you so rough with me?”
“Because you’re a pain in the ass, that’s why.”
“But you still love me, or else you wouldn’t have called.” Mark paused. “By the way, why did you call?”
“I’ve got drivers in Northern Ontario – including that woman driver – and I heard there’s a storm passing through, so I’m checking up on them all. You got your chains on?”
“Of course,” Mark said. “I might be a pain in the ass, but I’m careful.”
“Good. Let me know when you reach Kenora. I’ll see if I can have something for you by the time you get to Winnipeg.”
“Will do.” Mark was about to hang up the phone, when a thought popped into his head. “Hey, Bud, what’s that woman’s name…the one driving in Northern Ontario right now?”
“Nancy,” he said. “Nancy McEvoy.”
“Well, I’ll be,” was all Mark could say.
Highway 17 was a mess, but Mark kept his speed constant and a firm hand on the wheel and was able to keep Mother Load travelling in a straight line.
About an hour outside Kenora, Mark saw a pair of rigs on the shoulder, warning lights flashing and a single flare on guard duty at the rear of the rearmost truck. As he neared, he recognized the lead truck as the one belonging to Nancy.
Mark slowed, hoping that she wasn’t stuck and in need of rescue. Getting stuck in the snow happened to all kinds of drivers, even the best on the road, but no one would give a woman the benefit of the doubt in a situation like this. She’d gotten stuck because she couldn’t drive in bad weather, or was too careless behind the wheel. But as he got closer, Mark smiled widely until he was grinning from ear-to-ear.Nancy wasn’t stuck at all.
Far from it.
She had seen a fellow trucker stuck in the snow and pulled over to help him get out of a jam. She was out behind her trailer, hooking up a set of chains to the rig behind her in the hopes of helping to pull him out of the snow. Mark stopped on the highway, even if it meant that he might get stuck himself. “Look at you!” he said. “I would have thought you’d have just driven on by.”
She climbed up onto the side of Mother Load and poked her head inside the open passenger window. “He needed help,” she said. “And I was able to do something.”
Just then, the second driver, the one who was stuck behind Nancy climbed up onto Mother Load. When his face appeared in the window, Mark’s jaw dropped and his mouth gaped open – the driver she was helping was one of the loudmouths from the truck stop. In fact, it was the one who’d been the ringleader.
“I thought I could make it without chains,” was all he said.
Mark looked at Nancy and said, “You’re a better person than I am.”
She shrugged and climbed back down on the road, leaving Mark with the bigmouthed driver. It was such a perfect chance that Mark couldn’t resist giving it to the guy, chiding him about how he had to be helped out by a girl.
But then he was struck by a moment of clarity and realized to do that wouldn’t be fair to Nancy. So in the end he said, “Lucky you…being helped by a…” He paused, then said. “By a fellow trucker who by all rights should have kept right on driving.”
The man said nothing in response, but his lowered ball cap spoke volumes.
Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Just one of the guys.