The truck stop outside of Winnipeg was busy for a Thursday afternoon with all kinds of people taking time out from their cross-country treks to eat, grab a coffee, or otherwise take a break from the endless miles of road that stretched out in...
The truck stop outside of Winnipeg was busy for a Thursday afternoon with all kinds of people taking time out from their cross-country treks to eat, grab a coffee, or otherwise take a break from the endless miles of road that stretched out in every direction.
Mark was hauling a trailer full of boxed, pre-assembled furniture to a distributor in Vancouver.
The weather over the next few days was clear and he’d have no trouble making his delivery time three days from now. That meant he could take his time, chat up an older driver or two, the sort who always seemed to have an anecdote or bit of wisdom to share.
While Mark had time on his hands, there were plenty of other drivers who didn’t seem to have the luxury, frantically grabbing something to eat and brown-bagging it back to their truck.
There was even a guy who ran everywhere he went within the truck stop, then glanced at his watch every minute or so while he stood in line waiting to get something to eat. Talk about a rat race.
But of all the interesting people coming and going, there was one person in particular that truly caught Mark’s eye. The woman looked to be in her thirties with blonde hair, blue jeans and a backpack that suggested she was on her way to somewhere. But it was the way she stood there, looking left and right and talking to everyone who passed her by, that told Mark she was lost.
When one of the drivers she’d just been talking to took a seat at the table next to Mark’s, Mark decided to ask what was going on? He leaned in the man’s direction, caught his attention and said, “What is she, lost or something?”
The man smiled and gave half a shrug as he unwrapped his hamburger. “Sort of,” he said. “She’s looking for a ride to Vancouver.”
Mark looked back at the woman. She was too old to be a runaway or backpacking across the country in search of adventure. And her clothes were too clean and fresh for her to be a vagabond or hobo. Maybe she was a lot lizard looking for a new place to slither, but even if that were true she didn’t have the grittiness or desperation that made those women stand out from the crowd. He turned in the man’s direction again. “She homeless?”
The man shook his head. “Hardly. According to her she was part of a driving team out of Ontario, but the other driver took off.” A slight chuckle. “He gave her money and sent her into the restaurant for coffee, then just drove away.” Mark’s jaw hung slack. He never would have guessed that one.
“So, she’s without work and without a ride. There’s a load waiting for her in Vancouver, if she can get there.”
The man looked admiringly at the woman who was still stopping drivers as they passed. “If I wasn’t heading in the other direction, I might give her a ride myself, heh.” A sigh. “As it is, I’m tempted to double back and make it a four-thousand kilometre round-trip. It ain’t often you get to have company as fine as that.”
Indeed, thought Mark, eyeing the woman more closely. She looked to be in good shape, with a nice figure and a pretty smile. It didn’t make sense that someone would just leave her stranded in the middle of the country. Maybe he could give her a lift. He was going to Vancouver anyway and taking on a driver and doing it as a team would get him there faster, giving him a couple of days to relax on the coast before taking on his next load.
Even if he didn’t let her drive, it would be nice to have some companionship on the long drive west. And, he wasn’t proud of himself for thinking it, but you never knew what might happen when a man and a woman got together in a confined space over an extended period of time…he decided to offer her a ride.
He got up from the table, brushed a few crumbs off his shirt and walked over to where the woman’s backpack sat on the floor.
“Hi,” he said.
“I heard you’re looking for a ride to the coast.”
“You heard right.”
“Well, I’m heading to Vancouver.”
“Perfect,” she said, picking up her bag.
“You’re coming with me, then?” Mark asked, wondering why she wasn’t asking questions like…are you married? Do you have any diseases? A criminal record?
He extended his hand. “My name’s Mark, by the way.”
“Cindy.” She took his hand and shook it.
“My truck’s out in the lot.”
He tried to grab her bag, but she wouldn’t let him have it. In the end he smiled awkwardly, let go of the knapsack, and tried to find someplace to put his outstretched hand.
“Uh, this way.”
As they neared Mother Load, he could tell she was impressed with the truck from the look on her face.
“That’s a nice rig,” she said. “It looks like you take good care of it.”
“I have to look after it,” Mark replied. “It’s pretty much my home.”
“It should be really comfortable, then.”
It is comfortable for one, thought Mark. For two, hopefully it’s cozy. When he reached Mother Load, he went to the passenger side and opened the door for her.
“Thanks,” she said, smiling.
Mark returned the smile and held the door open.
But before she stepped up into the cab, she stopped and glared at him with suddenly narrowed eyes.
“Just so we’re clear. If you think there might be a chance – any chance – of some hanky panky with me along the way, you can forget about it right now. I’m not that kind of girl.”
She looked him up and down, then after a pause, said, “And to be honest, I don’t think you’re my type.”
Mark felt as if he’s been hit in the gut with a tire iron.
“Uh…no, of course not,” he said, doing his best to look insulted that she would even think that he could think such a thing.
She nodded. “Well, alright, then,” and climbed into the truck.
Mark just stood there feeling stupid for thinking this girl – this good-looking younger woman – would be interested in him, maybe even physically attracted to him, just because he was giving her a ride to the coast.
Shaking his head as he closed the door, Mark said under his breath. “Well, maybe at the very least we’ll have some interesting conversations along the way.”
– Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 2 of The Good Shepherd.