Mark had returned from Texas hauling three loads that got him first to Winnipeg, then to Ottawa, and finally back into the Greater Toronto Area. After dropping off his load at the CN yard in Vaughan it was time to give Bud a call and get his next load.
He dialed the number and waited for an answer.
“Hey, Bud. Mark here.” “Mark who?”
Mark racked his brain for a witty comeback that he hadn’t used before and all he could come up with was, “Mark of the beast.”
“Mark of the beast. You know, the sign of the werewolf?”
“Yeah, there’s a full moon and I’m itching to get on the road headed someplace warm.”
“Warm, eh?” Bud said. Mark could hear the sound of shuffling papers over the phone. Then, “I’ve got a load to California with a three-day layover before a load’s ready coming back to Toronto.”
“That’s perfect, I’ll take it.”
“I knew you would. Trouble is, the load to California won’t be ready for a couple of days.”
“I can wait.”
“You just gonna wait?” Bud asked. “You got nothing going?”
“Great, because I’ve got something for you to do in the meantime.”
“Like what? The last time you had something like this for me I wound up dispatching and nearly got killed by a jealous man whose wife was having an affair…with you!”
Bud laughed a little under his breath at the memory. “It’s nothing like that this time.”
“Then, what is it?”
“One of my drivers needs to get his licence renewed and he’s going to need some help passing the tests.”
“Is he that bad a driver?”
“No, not at all. Matter of fact, he hasn’t had an accident or infraction in 45 years.”
“So what’s the problem?”
Bud sighed. “He’s a mossback, but I don’t think he’ll have any problems getting his licence renewed. It’s just that he’s turned 65 and he’s worried about all the stuff he’s got to do to keep his licence.”
Mark nodded. “I understand about the need for a physical and an eye test. Even the written test makes sense, but why do you have to take a road test if you haven’t had an accident or shown any signs of being a bad driver?”
“Because it’s the law,” was all Bud said.
“It doesn’t seem fair.” “I know.”
“And what if he fails one of these tests? A man’s been driving for 45 years and all of a sudden he can’t make a living anymore?”
“If he fails, his licence gets downgraded to a Class D or G.”
“That’s some consolation… Sounds to me like just because he’s turned 65, the government’s already decided he’s a bad driver and it’s up to him to prove he isn’t.”
“No, it’s not like that. He’s a good driver, no question. In fact he’s one of my best drivers next to…”
Bud’s voice cut out in mid-sentence, as if he’d stopped himself before he said something he might regret.
“Go on. Say it!” Mark prodded. “Say what?”
“What you were about to say.” “What was I about to say?”
“You said, ‘In fact he’s one of my best drivers next to,’ and then you stopped. I want to hear what you were going to say.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“If you don’t say it, I’m not going to help you.”
Bud sighed heavily. “Alright. You win.
He’s one of my best drivers next to you.” “Ha! Now was that so hard?”
Bud hesitated. “Yes it was, actually. Extremely difficult.”
Mark’s smile was ear-to-ear. ‘At least
Bud’s honest,’ he thought. “Okay I’ll help.”
There was an audible sigh over the phone line as Bud said, “Thanks Mark. I appreciate it, and I know he will too.”
“What’s his name, by the way?” “Charlie Knowles.”
A smile broke over Mark’s face and he laughed a little under his breath.
Mark had met Charlie Knowles before. The man was a firebrand of a Scotsman who stood five-foot-two and weighed no more than 150 pounds. He was lean and fit and had a way of looking at the world that made anyone else’s thoughts or viewpoint wrong. Period.
Mark remembered crossing paths with Charlie Knowles years ago when he had just started driving for Bud right after his divorce. At the time Mark had let his hair grow long and didn’t bother much about washing his clothes, or even changing them for that matter. Mark had been leaving the office and Charlie was entering when they passed each other in the doorway.
“Ew!” Charlie said.
“Yew smell like a pig! Did you know that?” he said in his heavy Scottish accent.
“What’s it to ya?” Mark said, angry at anyone and everyone at the time and not caring who knew it.
“To me, nothin’. But it might mean something to the people paying you to work for them. You look like a slob… and I bet your truck’s a mess too.”
Mark’s truck had looked like a dog’s breakfast with coffee cups and sandwich wrappers lying all over the place. One time he’d even stepped on the brake and had trouble stopping his truck because a coffee cup had rolled underneath it. “That’s none of your business.”
“But it is,” Charlie said, staring at Mark like he was something that he’d pulled off the bottom of his shoe. “You drive for the same company I do, so when you show up lookin’ like a bum you make me look bad too.”
Mark looked the man over when he’d said that and noticed that his clothes were all clean and pressed and there was a fresh shine on his shoes. He was clean-shaven with a fresh haircut too. Mark tried to think of something smart to say, but he couldn’t think of a damn thing that would put this man in his place.
“What a loser!” Charlie said, and continued on his way.
Mark stood there in the doorway, shaken by the exchange and a bit embarrassed. The man was right, he had let himself go and it reflected on him and the perception people had of the job he could do for them.
Shaken from his doldrums, Mark got a haircut, washed his clothes, and cleaned out his truck that very afternoon… and things had been good every since.
“I know him,” Mark said at last. “You won’t let that stop you from helping him, will you?”
“No,” Mark said. “I guess not.” “Great.”
“But I don’t understand why he’s so worried about renewing his licence. He’s a great driver.”
“He’s scared to death of tests, written or otherwise.”
Mark understood. Charlie wasn’t the kind of person who liked to be judged by anybody. “When am I supposed to do this?”
“His test is booked for this Friday. You want his number or do you want me to call him?”
“You call him… and don’t tell him too much about me. I want to introduce myself when we meet.”
-Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 2 of Licence renewed.
Did you know that there are two full-length novels featuring Mark Dalton?: Mark Dalton “SmartDriver” and Mark Dalton “Troubleload.” For your free copy register with ecoENERGY for Fleets (Fleet Smart) at fleetsmart.gc.ca