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.
On Hwy. 17 near Kenora, Mark comes across two trucks on the shoulder. The lead truck is Nancy’s and she’s using chains to pull a fellow trucker out of the snow. Further, the guy she’s helping was the one who’d been teasing her at the truck stop.
About a week later, Mark was making the return trip back east along Hwy. 17 and found himself stopping at the same Husky in Dryden that he’d visited on his way westward.
The weather had been good the past few days and the mood inside the place was a lot lighter than it had been the last time he’d been here.
But despite the change in atmosphere, most of the players were still the same. Over by the window overlooking the fuel pumps were a bunch of drivers, nearly identical to the drivers who’d been in those seats a week before. One or two – or perhaps even all of them – were different, but as a group they were identical in essence to the ones who’d been so hard on Nancy in the hours before the big snowstorm.
Today the group was subdued, talking quietly amongst themselves about current events, last night’s hockey game, and what the weatherman had in store for them in the next few days.
Their silence was curious to Mark because across the room sat Nancy, by herself as usual, but unbothered by the group of men who usually made her life difficult.
“Hi Nancy,” Mark said as he approached.
“Hey Mark,” she smiled and pulled a chair out for him. “Have a seat.”
Mark took off his coat and sat down. Then he gestured across the room at the men by the window. “Do they even know you’re here?”
“Oh, they know,” she said. “When I first got here they were looking over at me for the longest time. It seemed like they wanted to get into it, but they just ended up going quiet.”
“Well, that’s a victory of sorts, isn’t it?”
“Yes and no. Sure, it’s better than being heckled and teased, but being isolated from the rest of the group is a form of harassment, too.”
Mark thought about that and agreed. Being cast out from the tribe is considered a form of punishment in many aboriginal cultures, and it’s also been a legitimate complaint in workplace harassment claims across Canada. “Baby steps,” Mark said. “You have to take them before you make that great stride.”
“Sure,” she said, with a smile.
“Nevertheless, it was great how you pulled that blowhard out of the snow… especially after the way he treated you.”
“He needed help, so I helped him.”
“I bet he was surprised when he saw you stop to lend a hand.”
“Oh, he was shocked, alright. Especially after half a dozen other drivers passed him by.”
“How’d he thank you?”
“He said his thanks…And even though it was obviously killing him to say it, he told me he’d buy me dinner the next time we met.”
Mark looked over to the group of men by the window. “Too bad he’s not here.”
She shook her head. “You won’t be seeing him here again anytime soon.”
“They all tease him about being pulled out of the snow by a woman.”
Mark’s shoulders sagged. She was so much of an outsider that helping out someone on the inside pulled him out rather than draw her in. It was so unfair.
“Baby steps,” Mark said again.
“I’ve been taking baby steps for years now and things haven’t gotten much better.”
“That’s because it’s happening too slowly for you to realized there’s been any change at all. People are brought up a certain way, or think a certain way and changing that is like changing who they are inside. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
She was silent for a while, then nodded. “I guess so. When I started out there were men who would expose themselves to me or plant dirty magazines in my truck just to get a reaction.At least that doesn’t happen any more.”
“No kidding?” Mark said. “How’d you get that to stop?”
“The one guy…I took some pictures of him exposing himself with my cell phone and showed them around to his friends. The other one…I collected up all the magazines, bought a few even more disgusting ones, and dropped them all off at his home with a note that read, ‘You left these in my truck, love.’ And I signed it, ‘Nancy.’”
Mark couldn’t help but laugh. This was a woman after his own heart. “So you are making progress.”
“Sure,” she agreed. “But think of it this way. Women make up 48% of the workforce in Canada, but they’re just 3% of truck drivers in Canada.”
“I doubt there will ever be that high a percentage of female truck drivers on the road,” Mark said.
“Of course not,” she replied. “It’s not the type of job that’s going to attract a lot of women. But think of this…if there are 18% of women working in dispatch in the trucking industry, then why not that many women working as drivers?”
“One day it might reach that,” Mark said. “One day soon.”
After Mark was finished his meal, he said goodbye to Nancy and got up from the table.
The men were still by the window and they watched him as he walked toward the exit.
Knowing their eyes on him, and that it was a moment that was too good to waste, he turned back around toward Nancy and said, “Good job driving through that snowstorm.”
He glanced over toward the men, then back at Nancy. “I heard some drivers couldn’t make it on their own.”
She gave him a little wave and said, “Thanks.”
“And if you ever want to drive for someone else, I’ll take you on in a minute,” he continued. “I’m always looking for good drivers who are smart, reliable and who know that being a truck driver means being part of a brotherhood.”
She lowered her head and waved him away as if she wanted him gone before it got to be a farce. Mark could have said more, but he was satisfied he had done his part to give Nancy what she’d been missing all these years – the feeling that she was not a female driver in a male dominated industry, but rather simply another driver out on the road, just one of the guys.
Mark Dalton returns next month in another adventure from the road.