After delivering a load of machine parts to a lumber mill in Timmins, Mark was lucky enough to get a return load of lumber to a building supply yard in Mississauga. After dropping the trailer in the yard and getting all his paperwork in order, Mark thought about calling his dispatcher Bud, for another load. Trouble was, he didn’t really want one at the moment. He’d been working for days without a break and the inside of his truck looked like a trash can with all sorts of coffee cups and granola bar wrappers littering the floor, dash and passenger seat. Mother Load was basically home for Mark and he’d allowed it to look like a teenager’s bedroom.
Obviously, it was time to clean house.
He dialed Bud’s number. “Hello?” said Bud. “Hi Bud, it’s Mark.” “Mark? Mark who?”
“Mark me down for some time off.” “That you, Dalton?”
“Yeah, I’m going to take three or five days off and get Mother Load cleaned up, inside and out.”
“She probably needs it.”
Mark looked around the cab and wondered how a pair of his underwear had ended up on the floor of his sleeper. “You know it,” he said.
“Gonna clean it yourself or hire someone to do it for you?” Bud asked.
Mark thought about it. There were plenty of companies that would clean his truck, but the last time he’d used one they’d jacked up the price on him and held his truck hostage till he paid. No, this time he’d take the time and do it all himself. He was proud of Mother Load, after all, and she deserved the personal attention only her owner/operator could provide.
“I’ll do it myself,” he said. “You know, take the time to do it right.”
“Good luck, then,” Bud said. “And call me when you’re ready to haul loads.”
“I’ll do that,” Mark said, hanging up the phone.
While Mark was intent on doing all the cleaning himself, there was no reason he couldn’t take his rig to a truck wash to get the bulk of the truck’s outside clean. High-powered jets of soap and water would get most of the dirt off the exterior and underside, leaving him plenty of time to worry about the details.
There was a truck wash he knew of in Brampton -off the 410 and south of the old Peterbilt location -that did a decent job for a good price. He pulled up out front of the shop, and before he could get out of the cab, a man came out into the yard to wave him into one of the open bays.
“Clean inside out?” the man said as Mark glided Mother Load past him and into one of the truck wash bays.
If he’d been driving a company truck, Mark would have opted for an interior cab cleaning as well, but he had too much of his personal stuff strewn about the cab to let someone go through it deciding what was important and what was trash.
“Outside only,” Mark said. “Regular or deluxe?”
‘So many choices,’ thought Mark. But before he could make a decision, he needed to know what he got for his money. And so he asked. In the end, it was the difference between having a regular truck wash or having a crew go over the outside of the truck with rags and polishing everything that had a shine to it. It was tempting, but the polishing was the part Mark was looking forward to doing himself.
“Regular,” he said, shutting down Mother Load.
The attendant nodded and asked Mark to wait outside the bay. Then he went to work carefully power washing Mother Load, first with a soapy grease-cutting spray, then giving her a thorough fresh-water rinse. In minutes, tens of thousands of kilometres’ worth of dirt and grime had been washed away, leaving Mother Load dripping wet and cleaner than she’d been in months. While not exactly new, she did look a lot like she had when he’d first driven her off the lot…and seeing her so sparkling clean reminded him of the pride he took in owning and operating his own rig for so many years.
“Excellent job,” he told the attendant.
“Thank you, sir,” the man replied. He gestured toward the office. “You pay me now.”
Mark followed the man inside and paid. But while the truck was clean on the outside, the inside was another matter. He would need a good day or more to get it clean, so he drove to the Husky service station on Courtneypark Drive in Mississauga, fueled up and parked Mother Load in the lot near the self-service vacuums.
Then, for the rest of the day, he collected trash, vacuumed, wiped down vinyl, restored leather, polished wood and put everything in its proper place. He stopped four times while he worked -once for coffee, once for lunch and twice to go to the bathroom. When he was done, the inside of his truck was showroom ready. However, as he stood back and looked at Mother Load from a distance, the inside of the cab looked cleaner somehow than the outside. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal, but he’d taken time off to clean his truck and he wouldn’t be satisfied until it was as clean as he could make it, both inside and out.
And so, calling it an evening, he crawled up into his bunk looking forward to getting an early start on cleaning the outside of his truck in the morning. Then, bright and early the next day, Mark purchased an array of cleaners inside the service station and spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon: polishing exhaust pipes; pulling stones out of the treads of his tires, and slathering them with Armor All; waxing over scratches in the bodywork and polishing them to a bright, bright sheen; cleaning glass until he didn’t even know it was there; he even opened up the engine cowl and cleaned the grease off the Cummins until it was just as clean as the rest of the truck. At last, with the sun beginning to set on his second day in the truck stop parking lot, Mark stepped back and looked at Mother Load in the fading light of the day.
“Nice,” he said under his breath.
As he slowly circled the truck to take in its cleanliness at every angle, he wondered why he’d let her get so dirty in the first place. Time was the answer. He was so busy hauling loads and running his business that he didn’t have the time to spend cleaning and polishing his truck. It was a working truck after all, not a show queen.
Still, she did look pretty good, radiant in the glow of the setting sun. He looked around the yard to see if anyone else had noticed how clean his truck was. And that’s when Mark had a thought. ‘Since I’ve already spent the time getting her clean, I might as well make the most of it and take her to a show.’ Question was, was there one going on?
Up in his bunk, Mark got out the laptop computer he’d recently purchased and searched for a wireless Internet connection. He was able to find one quickly -either provided by the truck stop, or borrowed from a nearby business -and managed to get online.
“How lucky is that?” he said aloud when he discovered that the Fergus Truck Show -one of the largest show’n’shines in Canada -was being held that very weekend. “It’s fate,” Mark decided. “It has to be.”
While he didn’t expect to win a prize for “best of” anything, he was excited about spending the weekend at the show. Besides putting Mother Load on display for everyone to admire, it would be good for Mark to spend a weekend with his fellow truckers, listening to good music, a few noisy tractors, and catching up on the overall state of the industry.
He closed up his computer, slipped into the driver’s seat and started up Mother Load. Then, putting her in gear, he said, “C’mon, Mother… We’re going to the show!”
-Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 2 of Show, shine’n…shrug.
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. fleetsmart.gc.ca. Both are also available in audio book format.