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Survival of the Fittest Part 3

The story so far... Mark has been eating all-day breakfasts at greasy spoons for months and when he finishes breakfast, his pants don't fit him any more. He pokes a hole in his belt to solve the probl...

The story so far… Mark has been eating all-day breakfasts at greasy spoons for months and when he finishes breakfast, his pants don’t fit him any more. He pokes a hole in his belt to solve the problem, but when he heads back to Mother Load, he sees someone going through the cab. He runs toward his truck to try and catch the guy, but he’s gassed after 100 feet and the thief gets away. Mark is feeling fat and out of shape. He calls up Bud and asks Bud how much he weighs. Bud had been a star athlete in high school but since becoming a truck driver had put 290 pounds on his 5’10” frame. Bud warns Mark that the same thing can easily happen to him. Mark decides to do something about it and goes for a walk after he’s parked the truck for the night.

• The next morning before heading east out of Calgary, Mark stopped in at one of his usual truck stops for breakfast. He sat in his usual seat, picked up a morning paper like he usually did, and waited for Patty, his usual waitress, to come and take his order.

“Mark Dalton: Owner/Operator,” she said as she approached the table with a pot of coffee in her hand. She went to pour Mark a cup, but he put his hand out to stop her.

“Hey, watch it,” she said. “You’ll burn your hand pulling stunts like that.”

“No coffee for me today,” he said. “Okay, I’ll be back with the tea.”

“No, that’s not it. What do you have instead of coffee and tea?” “We’ve got decaf.” “That’s a coffee too,” Mark pointed out.

“Right. Well, there’s juice… orange and apple.” Patty scratched her head. “And I suppose I could pour you a glass of milk.”

“Milk, excellent.” Patty stared at Mark with a confused look on her face. Then she pulled the pen out of her pocket and made a note of the milk. “Besides the milk, you want the usual?”

“No,” he said. “I want something different today.”

“We’ve got chicken sausages, if you like. And Freddy’s made waffles before, but you’ve got to ask him real nice or he doesn’t even hear you.”

Mark shook his head. “No, I don’t want sausages or waffles at all. By different, I mean completely different.”

“How different?” “Like fruit for one.”

Patty’s nose suddenly scrunched up on her face like somebody just farted. “Fruit?” Mark nodded. “I think we’ve got some fruit cocktail in a can.”

It wasn’t fresh fruit, thought Mark, but it was a start. “And how about some yogurt?”

“Yogurt?” She said the word like it was from another language.

“Yes, yogurt.”

She turned to face the kitchen. “Hey Freddy, we got any yogurt back there?”

“Plenty,” Freddy shouted back. “I ordered some a few weeks ago and nobody eats it.”

“Mark here wants some.”

Freddy stepped out from behind the grill to have a look at Mark. “Is he sick?”

Patty shrugged. “I just felt like having some.”

Patty scribbled a few more words on her pad and said, “I’ll see what else we got that’s…different.”

“Thanks,” Mark said. “I’d appreciate that.”

About 10 minutes later Patty returned with a breakfast that consisted of a bowl of oatmeal, some fruit cocktail, a serving of yogurt and two slices of toast. “Sorry about the bread,” she said as she slid the plate onto the table in front of Mark, “but it’s whole wheat…and Freddy says that it’s supposed to be better for you than white bread. Is that right?”

Mark nodded. “I think so.” “Well,” said Patty. “Enjoy.” “I will, thanks.”

Mark looked at the spread in front of him and wondered if he’d been wise to change his eating habits so drastically -and all at once. He liked breakfast sausages and bacon because, well…they tasted so good.

However, Mark knew they were tasty because of all the fat they contained. He didn’t know all that much about fatty foods, but he did know that they made you feel lethargic and drowsy after you ate them and those weren’t good things for someone to be while behind the wheel of a semi-truck. The only thing worse for you was alcohol, and no-one needed to explain the dangers of that to a professional driver like Mark.

Of course, he could drink a gallon of coffee to keep him alert, but that only helped in the short-term. Sooner or later the caffeine would wear off and you’d be struggling to stay awake. If you had to drive any distances -and Mark was hoping to get deep into Saskatchewan by nightfall -it was better to have some juice. After all, when people tried to set records for hours without sleep the doctors always recommended juice to them instead of coffee and that was a good enough endorsement for him.

When Mark was done eating, his stomach felt full but somehow lighter than when he ate a meal of bacon, eggs, pancakes and coffee.

“You want anything else?” Patty asked him as she cleared the plates off the table. “A donut, maybe. Or an apple fritter.”

Mark thought about the offer and felt a slight pang in his stomach. He loved apple fritters, especially the big bulbous ones that looked like giant mutant potatoes. Those things were like meals in themselves and there were many late night hauls that had been fuelled by apple fritters and large double-doubles.

“I, uh…” Mark could feel the weakness come over him as he considered giving in to temptation. After all, he’d had a healthy breakfast and he’d earned a little indulgence -one fritter wasn’t going to kill him.

Just then the door to the diner opened and a driver stepped in who was every bit as big as Bud. Big hands, broad shoulders, big boots, and one of the largest waists that could be crammed between a seat and a steering wheel. Mark looked at the man, nodded and said “Hi” and knew he was looking at himself 20 years down the road.

Sure, one fritter might not kill him, but maybe the hundreds, or even thousands he would eat over the next 20 years would do him in one donut at a time.

“No thanks,” he told Patty. “But I’ll take an apple if you have one.”

After a few days on his new diet Mark started feeling better, about himself and behind the wheel. He didn’t get tired as easily, and he slept a lot better at night.

Another bonus he hadn’t anticipated but was glad to have all the same was… regularity. Eating fruits and whole wheat bread, and cutting out fried foods and anything that came out of a bag with an expiry date in the next decade had made Mark’s bowel movements arrive like clockwork.

These days, Mark ate breakfast, visited the restroom and was good for hours. It sounded strange, but fewer bathroom breaks gave him more time on the road and that meant a better bottom line.

Finally, at the end of each working day, Mark had enough energy left over to read a book, see a movie, or go for a run. At first, it had been little more than a couple of laps around Mother Load, but after a few days he’d broken away from his rig and ventured out around the truck stop parking lot. After that, he felt strong enough to venture onto the side of the highway and run a few miles.

It all felt good and he knew that over the long-term, he would feel better, live longer, and quite possibly become a better driver, because of it.

And if he became a better driver, it meant he’d also be a better person. All that from a change of diet and a bit of exercise. Who could have known?

-Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Survival of the Fittest.

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