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Just one of the guys part two


THE STORY SO FAR

With a storm coming, Mark pulls into the Husky in Dryden. 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.

The woman ordered and ate her food in silence, looking over at the men by the window once, then spending the rest of her time looking down at her plate and eating in silence.

She seemed lonely sitting there and Mark couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. Despite the way she’d snapped at him before, he felt compelled to try and do something nice for her now.

“That was good,” he said aloud. “The way you handled them.”   

“Huh.” The woman lifted her head and looked around to see who’d been speaking.

“I said, the way you handled them was good. Put them in their place.”

He laughed under his breath. “No matter what I say, guys like that are always going to have strength in numbers.”

A look of disgust flashed across her face as she glanced across the restaurant. “I see these same guys on the road by themselves and they never say a word…barely even look me in the eye.”

Mark nodded, not doubting for a second that they were all blowhards who were afraid of women deep down inside, especially those that were doing the same thing for a living as they were.

The conversation went back and forth a few more times before she took a deep breath, let out a little sigh and said, “I’m sorry for blowing you off before.”

“That’s okay,” Mark responded. “I’m sure you had your reasons.”

“Only about a million of them.”

“I’ll listen to them all if you want to go through the list.”

She considered it, then said, “That’d be nice.”

Mark got up from his table and joined her. “Mark,” he said. “Mark Dalton.”

“That name sounds familiar…” she said. “I’m Nancy McEvoy.”

“Pleased to meet you, Nancy.” They shook hands and Mark took the seat across the table from her. “You know, I was only trying to help before,” he said. “You looked like you were having trouble.”

“I realized that after I saw you help that other man. I could have used your help…it’s just that so many drivers…men, offer to help me in a patronizing way because they think I can’t do the job. I don’t need that kind of help, nor do I want it.”

Mark never thought of it that way, but he could see how it might happen. As he sat there, he wondered if he would have made that initial offer of help had it not been a woman struggling with the chains.

“You know what the irony is?” she said. “The reason I was struggling with the chains is because the driver who used the truck before me – a man – broke the chains the last time he used them and he didn’t stow them away whole. Didn’t tell anybody about it either. So here I am, the woman driver who doesn’t know how to install her equipment when in reality it was the big macho driver who left a fellow driver short.”

“How’d you get them on in the end?”

She smiled. “I jury-rigged a couple of links with wire cutters and some coat hangers.”

“Think it’ll work?”

“I sure hope so,” she said. “Can you imagine what these idiots would say if my chains come off on the highway and I got stranded?”

Mark could imagine it, and it wouldn’t be pretty.

“See, I have to work twice as hard just to prove that I’m half as good as any male driver.”

Mark had heard that equation before.

“But I’ll tell you…being half as good as the male drivers I see on the road isn’t good enough for me. I want to be better than that. I think I am better than that.”

Mark nodded. “Trucking is an industry that rewards people who work hard and are professional about what they do.”

“Absolutely,” she agreed. “But when you have ambition, work hard and stand up for yourself as a man, you’re considered a good driver and a model employee. If you’re a woman and you do all those things, all you’re labelled is a bitch.”

Mark wanted to defend the industry he’d worked in for so many years, but he didn’t really know enough about this issue to counter her argument. Besides, he wasn’t sure there was all that much of a counter-argument. In the end, all he could say was, “Well, you’ve got yourself to this point, so it can’t be all bad.”

She just laughed at him. “How many women do you know of who hire drivers for trucking companies?”

Mark couldn’t think of one.

“So when you ask an employer about how much home time you’ll get every week, how clean the washrooms are, or if the truck you’ll be getting has a new mattress, what do you think the response is?”

Probably not good, thought Mark.

“Men want to know these things too, but they never ask. So when a woman asks, she’s being difficult or soft.”

That was probably true.

“And if I complain about language that’s disparaging to women, or just plain foul, they say I can’t take it and don’t belong.” She paused and moved her plate on the table as if to give weight to what she was about to say. “I know all the four-letter words and can swear like a sailor if I want to…but why should I have to?”

Mark didn’t have an answer.

“You could make the argument that women can’t do this job because they’re not as physically strong as men, but take a look around you. Half the men on the road these days aren’t in any shape to do the job.”

Mark’s head swiveled on his neck as he checked out the restaurant. He wasn’t sure it was half, but there were a lot of men in the place that looked like they might get winded tying up their boots.

“I’m organized,” she continued. “I can multi-task, I keep my equipment clean and in good-working order and I know all of the rules of the road. I have to because if I don’t other drivers will think I’m stupid…which I assure you I am not.”

Her body was trembling and it was obvious that this subject easily touched a nerve. “I never thought you were stupid.”

All at once her expression changed, as if she suddenly remembered there was someone who could be considered a friend sitting across the table from her. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Once I get on a roll, I have trouble stopping.”

Mark shrugged.  “Don’t apologize. Driving a truck is hard enough as it is. You’ve got to deal with the same things everyone else has to deal with, plus you’re a woman.”

“Thanks for listening…and understanding.”

“No problem,” Mark said. “You’ve actually opened my eyes to something I never really knew was there.”

“And now you’re gonna spread the good word?” she laughed, an edge of cynicism in her voice.

“Why not,” he said. “Everyone’s so desperate for new drivers to get into the industry, why not more women?”

***

Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 3 of Just one of the guys.


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4 Comments » for Just one of the guys part two
  1. My name is Audrey, and I have been in Nancy’s boots many times. I love truck driving, and because of that I have been determined to be a part of the trucking industry. I have driven snow plows, trucks with 53ft reefer trailers, ski hill busses, tanker trucks and concrete trucks. I have found the most challenging part to be the fact that as women, we must prove ourselves over and over again. I have had very few truly negative comments made to me, but it is the resistance and as Nancy puts it, the patronizing way comments or offers are made to help because of the lack of confidence in the ability to do the job. Or the subtle questioning looks or comments that are there when you do something a certain way or make a mistake, and you know that if a male counterpart had done the same thing, no one would have looked twice.

    This is not to say I have a negative view of males. On the contrary. I have always worked with males, and they have been my teachers, mentors and support. I know I am where I am today because of a few who had so much faith in me, and they took me under their wings. At Island Ready Mix where I was a part of the yard for many years, the men (who became very good friends over time) learned to trust that I could do the job. At that time I was running a concrete truck, and we had mutual respect for each other and worked as a team helping each other out where we could regardless of gender. It was always comforting to drive back into the yard after being on endless construction sites where I had to prove myself each time.

    I believe that the more of us that are out there working in non-traditional jobs, the more accepted and natural it will be. One woman on a job site stands out, ten of us are just part of the crew. I now run my own truck and love it. Audrey Rippingale, She Works She Plays

  2. Bev Plummer says:

    I drove long haul for over 30 years and I was treated better as a driver then I was as a waitress!
    If I saw a driver shifting bogies I always offered my help because its easier if there is someone else watching if you only have to move them a hole or two, sometimes it was turned down but I never took it as a personal affront.
    When I was offered help I usually took it if it made the job easier and it was offered as one professional to another.
    If a woman goes out there with a chip on her shoulder she’s going to get treated badly, the same way these guys get avoided by the majority of drivers.
    We all have to remember to not let these “bumps” in the in the road bother us, for every one there’s many miles of smooth road.

  3. Shannon Block says:

    Thank you.

  4. Mark says:

    This article is one sided contrived nonsense, I’ve been trucking for a long time and met women truckers on the road many times and not once did I see or take part in anything even remotely like this scenario. When I see a woman behind the wheel of a semi I know exactly how hard her job is. This is not the way to empower women on the road, how about writing a story of an actual women trucker’s day in a truthful manner instead of in primary school make believe.

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