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To de-stress, look to those with no stress

As many of you who tried unsuccessfully to reach me found out, I took my first week off in almost a year last month.Sitting in the editor's chair, perched watchfully at the controls of the machine tha...



As many of you who tried unsuccessfully to reach me found out, I took my first week off in almost a year last month.

Sitting in the editor’s chair, perched watchfully at the controls of the machine that is Truck News, can make for a stressful existence.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. Nothing compares to the feeling you get when you again scoop the folks across the street, or even the mainstream media for that matter, on a story with dramatic ramifications on the trucking industry.

I suppose it could be likened to winning the latest stage in a never-ending, European road rally race.

However, when the 12-hour days are done and it’s time for a rest, you won’t catch me hanging around.

This year my girlfriend and I decided to turn our vacation into a fishing extravaganza in Manitoba – she’s such a trooper.

Following three days in White Shell Provincial Park tracking down elusive sturgeon, we were off to Knee Lake Resort for the second half of our trip.

Al, Phil and Liz-Ann Reid do an amazing job creating a log nirvana along the old York Factory trade route. (Even on vacation, I guess I can’t escape transportation altogether.)

Our guide for the three-day excursion was a French-Canadian Newfoundlander by the name of Nelson (or simply Nellie if you prefer). After a career spent shepherding wealthy tourists through the bush in search of everything from trophy northerns to caribou, this gaunt gentleman was equipped to deal with our every mood.

If we were, hungry, we ate …thirsty, we drank …bored, we switched spots. All the while, Nellie scurried around the boat making sure everything was done safely and quickly – to say nothing of his exacting standards. Now I should mention, in what now feels like a previous life it was so long ago, I worked as a fishing guide at a lodge near Pickle Lake, Ont. So I do have expectations of what a guided trip should include. After spending three days with this comic little Easterner, I left thinking anyone I took out years earlier may have been short changed. I also remember the way clients can get on their guide, intentionally trying to provoke them with insults, outrageous requests or otherwise infantile behavior. (Some folks will even make bets to see who can piss off the guide first.)

One morning out on the water, I started to pick Nellie’s brain on these issues to find out how he deals with the stresses of life. He simply said, “Look around you, what stress?” as he set the hook on a fat Knee Lake walleye.

After another live release, he continued. He tries to keep the mood light, but when all else fails and it feels like someone is tap-dancing on his last nerve, he tells them so.

Don’t go away mad to stew in your own bile, tell the person calmly what the problem is and let them know how they can fix it.

I assure you, Nellie’s trademark, “Oh, ma nerves,” could be heard echoing across the water on more than one occasion during our trip. It’s just his way of saying, “Hey, neither one of us wants me to get mad here, so smarten up – dumb ass.”

I think there are more than a few truckers out there who could do with just a little more Nelson in their psyche, truth be told.

So often I hear of guys quitting after a series of relatively small problems with their fleet. Now I’m not saying you should never consider switching companies, when something is wrong, it’s wrong.

No, I’m talking about the times a discussion with ops turns into two days of introspection followed by a short, “Screw you buddy, I quit,” over the phone.

Nip these situations in their beginnings. Be up front with whomever you’ve got the problem with and at the very least, they’ll respect you after the fact.

In the case of an owner/op especially, storming off can cost thousands in lost miles and holdbacks. n

– John Curran can be reached by phone at 416-442-2091 or by email at jcurran@corporate.southam.ca.


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