Mark is driving a load of roof trusses to a new ski resort in Northern Quebec when he sees the car in front of him swerve across the road. Thinking the driver’s drunk, or he’s having a fight with his passenger, Mark prepares to call the police, but the car suddenly stops on the side of the road. The man driving jumps out and flags Mark down. His wife in the back seat is about to have a baby. Mark makes a 911 call and learns that emergency personnel won’t be on the scene for another half-hour or more. In no time at all Mark is assisting with the baby’s birth, relaying information from the operator to the mother, and back again. Before Mark knows it, the baby is ready to enter the world.
The baby’s delivery continues and Mark grows more comfortable and confident with each passing minute. Finally, the newborn arrives – a big baby boy – and the ordeal is over. The parents are joyful, Mark is relieved. Mother and child are taken away in the ambulance. The firemen congratulate Mark then leave too, leaving Mark by the side of the road…alone.
Mark continued on his way north toward Ste. Veronique. The smile on his face was ear-to-ear and his entire body felt light and happy, as if his day was charmed and he could do no wrong. And so, he pulled into the first truck stop he saw, filled up with fuel and bought six Lotto quick-picks and another half-dozen “Scratch and win” tickets.
When he reached the counter, Mark had trouble getting the clerk’s attention because the man was intent on listening to the radio which was reporting some late breaking news…in French.
“What’s that about?” Mark asked.
The man smiled. “They’re saying some guy just helped deliver a baby on the side of the highway about 10 kilometres down the road from here. It was a boy.”
Mark looked around the shop to see if anyone else had been listening in. “That was me,” he said.
“What was you?” asked the clerk.
“That was me,” Mark repeated. “I’m the guy who delivered the baby.” “Non.”
“Yeah.” Mark wondered what proof he had that he was in fact the one, but it turned out he didn’t need any. The clerk believed him just by looking at him.
“Hey Marcel,” the clerk called out. “The guy who delivered the baby…he’s here in the shop.”
A man – Marcel – appeared from the back room and shook Mark’s hand. “Let me get you a coffee,” Marcel said. “You can tell me all about it.”
Mark checked his watch. There was plenty of time to get to Ste. Veronique and besides that, he’d been dying to tell someone – anyone – about what had happened and if they turned out to be the store clerk, Marcel, and three other people who’d already gathered round, then so be it.
“Well,” he began. “I was following this car and it started swerving back and forth across the road…” More people entered the store. No one left until Mark was done.
Mark was back on the road 45 minutes later when his cell phone rang.
“May I speak to Dr. Dalton, please?”
It was Bud calling. Mark wondered how he’d already heard about what had happened. “How do you know?”
“Mark,” Bud said. “Or should I say, Dr. Dalton, you don’t run over a nail without me knowing about it.”
“It was amazing Bud,” Mark began. “I didn’t think about what was happening – I mean, really think about it – until it was over. And even then it seemed like a dream. Like it had happened to somebody else.”
“These things only happen to you, Mark.”
“Yeah, I guess they do.”
Bud was silent a moment, then said, “Now I know you’re a hot shot superstar truck driver who delivers babies on the side of the road in his spare time, but I want to make sure you’re still on track to deliver my load, you know what I mean?”
“I’ll be there with plenty of time to spare.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” Bud said. “Because I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of people wanting a piece of your time over the next couple of days.”
Bud was right.
Before he even reached Ste. Veronique, Mark had been contacted by two newspapers and a radio station, each one wanting to do an interview with him. How these people had gotten his number, Mark had no idea, but he had a sneaking suspicion that Bud had had something to do with it.
“So, what does it feel like to be a hero?” the woman from the radio station asked him.
“What?” was all Mark could say. He felt good, not heroic.
He hadn’t stopped by the roadside thinking someone in peril needed his help, he’d just stopped to see what was going on and was suddenly sucked into a situation that demanded he become involved before he could even think about turning his back. And so, despite his desire to sound fresh and different in his radio interview, he said what everyone else who finds themselves in similar circumstances says…
“I’m not a hero,” he said, being honest rather than humble. “I was just doing what I could to help.”
“What did you do after the baby was born?”
That was an easy one. “I got back in my truck and started driving again.”
“To make another delivery?” “Yeah, I guess so. Roof trusses for a new ski lodge in Ste. Veronique.”
“Ah, so you’re making two deliveries on this trip, eh?”
There, thought Mark. She’s boiled it down to a single sentence that made the whole episode seem cute and cliched. This interview was going nowhere and Mark couldn’t wait for it to be over. “Yes, that’s exactly right.”
The interview lasted another minute, and then mercifully it ended. Mark turned off his phone for a while so he could drive in peace. When he finally reached the building site at Ste. Veronique, there was a crowd of workers gathered to greet him. Then, after he’d backed his trailer into position and shut down Mother Load, he climbed out of the cab to a round of applause.
Mark waved to the crowd wondering if he could get used to all this attention. The free coffee and donuts the workers gave him were a definite plus, but having the receiver treat him like he was more than just another truck driver felt wrong, somehow.
Mark told the story of the delivery three times before the trusses had been unloaded and he could be on his way. Back on the road, Mark was happy to be headed south again and planned to drive straight through to Ottawa to return the trailer. He turned on his phone again to ask Bud about a load out west, but before he could dial Bud’s number the phone rang.
This time it was a local television station wondering if he could stop by the hospital in Mont Tremblant to see the baby and have his picture taken with the mother and father. Mark wasn’t crazy about the picture part, but he did want to see the baby. It would also be nice to see the parents again, but this time in somewhat calmer circumstances.
“I’d like that,” he said.
“Good,” said the woman on the phone. “They have a surprise for you.” She gave him directions to the hospital.
Mark was intrigued. What kind of surprise, he wondered. Twins, maybe. Or perhaps a “Thank You” card. That’d be nice.
When Mark arrived at the hospital in Sainte-Agathe-Des-Monts, a scrum of reporters was waiting for him in the parking lot.
“What’s your name?”
‘How good were these reporters?’ Mark wondered.
“What’s it feel like to be a hero?” There was that question again. “Do you have any kids of your own?” Now that was a good one.
But before he could answer a man grabbed his arm and introduced himself. “I’m the public relations manager for the hospital, we’ve set up a press conference in the mother’s room. This way please.”
Mark was whisked away. The media followed.
‘This is it,’ thought Mark. ‘My 15 minutes of fame.’
When he reached the hospital room, things happened fast. They put the baby in his arms and snapped some pictures.
Then they gave the baby back to the mother and pictures were taken of all four of them together.
In all the confusion Mark snuck a peek at the baby and was happy t
o see he was beautiful and healthy. And the mother, Elise, was smiling and happy, a nice change from the last time he’d seen her. Even the father looked good, proud that his first-born son had caused such a stir.
“And now it’s time for the big surprise,” said the public relations man.
Mark looked around wondering what it could be?
“Georges and Elise have decided to name their son in your honour.”
A din rose up from those gathered in the room, and then applause.
Mark nodded and waved appreciatively thinking Mark was a fine name for a son. Even Dalton had a nice ring to it.
Georges looked at Mark and cleared his throat. “We have decided to name him…Peterbilt.”
Mark’s grin was ear-to-ear. He was never so glad he didn’t drive a Volvo. •