After several weeks on the road, Mark decides to give Mother Load a thorough cleaning, inside and out, top to bottom. He’s so pleased with the outcome, he decides to enter the truck in the Fergus shown’n’shine that weekend.
Mark arrived at the grounds where the show was being held around three in the afternoon. There was a decent-sized lineup of trucks waiting to get in and it took a while before Mark was able to get inside. On the grounds, he was directed along a route that eventually had him parked in a line of some two dozen trucks, all entrants into the show’n’shine.
After securing Mother Load and making sure his front wheels were straight, Mark gathered his collection of rags and cleaners and got out of the truck. He grabbed a vinyl cover from one of the compartments on the outside of the cab and placed it over the fifth wheel so the greasy black pivot wouldn’t bring down his overall score.
Then, as he began wiping down spots on the fenders that had gotten dirty during the drive to the show, a multi-coloured Freightliner pulled into the spot next to him in line. It had chrome wheels, an oversized chrome bumper, eyebrows over the headlights and a chrome sun visor that made the truck look like it was perpetually saluting a flag. ‘Nice truck,’ Mark thought, watching the Freightliner roll to a stop. ‘Real clean.’
He also wondered if the time he spent polishing Mother Load had been worth it since it was obvious he’d have little chance winning a category with such slick trucks in the competition. Still, there were plenty of categories and surely he could be competitive in one of them, say…best truck driven by a guy who lives in his truck.
He got back to work on Mother Load, cleaning specks of road tar off the leading edge of the fender. Behind him, the doors of the Freightliner opened and the driver climbed down from his rig. Mark looked over. “Afternoon,” he said.
“Howdy,” replied the driver. He was dressed in shorts and sandals and a wife-beater T-shirt that barely coveried his expansive belly.
Mark was about to say something about it being a nice day or asking where the man was from, but his words got caught in his throat as he watched a woman and four children climb out of the man’s truck, each with a bottle of cleaner in one hand and a jumble of rags in the other.
“You missed a spot,” said the man, suddenly holding a can of cola in his hand.
“Huh?” Mark said.
“I said, you missed a spot.” He pointed at Mother Load’s fender. “Right there -oh, there’s another…and another. You missed a lot of spots.”
Mark looked where the man was pointing and saw that he was right. The trip to Fergus had left Mother Load speckled with bits of tar and dirt that would take him the rest of the day to wipe clean.
“Thanks,” Mark said, forcing a smile.
“No problem,” the man said.
Mark stared, not at the man but at his family behind him. They were like some NASCAR pit crew zipping around the truck with spray bottles and rags, making what was already clean, dazzling. And all the while the man stood there staring at Mark’s truck, only now there was a hot dog in his other hand, causing Mark to wonder where on earth it had come from.
Mark sighed. This guy was taking all the fun out of the show’n’shine. It was supposed to be about drivers taking pride in their rigs, cleaning them up so they reflected how they felt about their vehicles and the respect they had for the job they did. But this guy was taking it to a whole new level, standing there criticizing Mark while his family slaved to make the man’s rig spotless.
“Don’t forget to clean underneath,” he said.
Mark turned around. “Eh?”
“Underneath,” the man said around a mouthful of hot dog. “The judges will be looking under there. You can lose points for grease smudges or stone chips. I’ve even seen them take points away because all the parts of the undercarriage weren’t the same colour.
‘That’s crazy,’ thought Mark. His truck was a daily driver. A working truck. He didn’t have the time or the inclination to crawl under his rig just to wipe down his drive train. If they were going to take points away for things like that, then let them.
“Thanks for the tip,” Mark said.
“No problem,” the man said. Behind him, the smallest of his kids was crawling over the engine cowl and windshield like a spider inspecting its web. Every once in a while the kid would stop, spray and wipe.
Mark looked over Mother Load and realized she was just too big for him to inspect inch by inch. Besides, he was too old to be crawling all over a Peterbilt, and it didn’t make sense for him to get his truck that clean when he could be hauling gravel, or pigs, or garbage in a few days time. He resumed his cleaning, but it seemed more like work than ever before.
Later that day, after he’d made a quick tour of the grounds and had grabbed a bite to eat from one of the booths, Mark returned to Mother Load. He stood a few meters away admiring the three-quarter view of his rig. She was cleaner now than she’d been in months, maybe even years and he was proud of the way she gleamed. For all the miles and adventures Mother Load had been through she still looked pretty good and he was proud to have taken such good care of her over the years.
“Nice truck,” a voice said behind him.
Mark looked over his shoulder and saw a thin man in a Jays ball cap and blue jeans standing behind him with his arms across his chest. “Thanks,” Mark said. “I cleaned her up as best I could.”
“It’s a daily driver, like mine,” he said.
Mark had noticed the man’s Volvo earlier and had judged by the shape it was in that it was a working truck, just like Mother Load. But the Freightliner on the other side of him was entered in the daily driver class as well and there was no way these two trucks could compete. Mark pointed to the Freightliner, “That one’s a daily driver too.”
The man in the ball cap laughed under his breath. “Yeah, it’s a daily driver, but the guy’s route is between a factory and a warehouse. He probably only drives 10 clicks a day, all in the city.” He shook his head. “And I’ve heard that if it rains or snows, he parks his rig and uses a company truck instead.”
“How can we compete with that?” As he asked the question, Mark saw that the Freightliner was now up on a jack and the kids were spraying Armor-All on every part of the tires, even the bottoms.
“We’re not,” said the Volvo driver, “and we can’t. That guy’s a show’n’shine pro. He enters shows all across North America and wins multiple classes at each one.”
“That’s not very sporting,” Mark said.
“No it’s not. That’s why it’s so nice to have a lot more things to enjoy at the show than just the show’n’shine.”
Mark nodded, looking forward to some music and maybe a few brews later in the evening. He took another look at the Freightliner and saw its driver was now sitting in a lawn chair watching his wife lower the truck off the jack. And that’s when he decided something had to be done about this guy to bring him back down to earth.
Just then, three young boys were coming down the laneway between the trucks, two running and the other on a bicycle. They looked scruffy and mischievous with dark T-shirts, torn cutoffs and dirty runners.
“Hey boys,” he said, stopping them in their tracks. “How’d you like to make some money?”
-Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 3 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.gc.ca. Both are also available in audio book format.