by Don Taylor, excerpted from “Stories from the Road” used with permission
After we returned from our “tour”, I went back to driving for Roach’s Taxi again. Later in 1986, another friend of mine told me he had taken a truck driving course, and had received his licence.
I was extremely interested. I had always wanted to be a truck driver, but the opportunities in Thunder Bay to get proper training at the time were somewhere between slim and none. The school he attended was, as I recall, “GHA Truck Driving School.” They offered both in-class (usually the instructor’s living room) and in-cab training.
Back in 1986, the $1,800 course ran for two weeks of evenings and weekends. Fortunately, Mom and Dad were very supportive, loaning me the money for the course. I’m not one-hundred percent sure I ever repaid them. As I remember, the in-class portion was just enough to teach you how to pass the road test. Back then, you didn’t need a separate air brake endorsement. All we really learned about air brakes was how to tell if they needed adjusting, and how to adjust them.
The in-cab training was also just enough to qualify for a Class 1 vehicle. It was a cab-over Mercedes single axle tractor with an 8 speed manual transmission, with a twenty-eight-foot single axle trailer loaded with some scrap metal to give it some weight. At the time, it seemed long enough to stretch into the next time zone.
The day of the road test, was miserable. Snow, windy, slushy roads, a typical late-November day in Thunder Bay. Despite the weather, I passed the road test, earning my coveted Class A licence. I was ready to go forth, and join the glamorous life. Or so I thought. It would be eight years before that happened.
After a few months of diligently filing out applications, and receiving just as many “Sorry, no experience, no job” replies, I stayed with the taxi job. A life-changing event occurred when I met the woman who I would eventually marry. She, too, worked for Roach’s. When work was slow, we’d have chat sessions as we got to know each other better. Then one day, she invited me to dinner. On the way to her place, I stopped to pick up a bottle of wine. I wasn’t a wine drinker then (I’m still not), but, as far as I knew, it was the “gentlemanly” thing to do. While she served her homemade Chicken Parmesan, I opened the wine. Of course, the cork went ballistic (it was several months before we found the damned thing), along with about a quarter of the wine following it. There was wine on the ceiling, floor, walls, table, dinner, even on her eight-year-old son. I stood there, frozen in shock thinking: “Way to make a good first impression, asshole!” Then I realized she was actually licking it off my arm! (Okay, maybe not such a bad deal after all!) The rest of the evening was fairly unremarkable.
The next morning, I managed to almost break my neck getting out of her bed. She had a waterbed, without a pedestal, which meant that the sleeping surface was eight inches from the floor. Getting up (I learned later) was best accomplished by rolling over the padded side to the floor, getting up from there. Not that morning. I sat up, swinging my legs over the side. With a mighty heave ho, got myself to a vertical position. Sort of. In my efforts, I pushed too hard, toppling forward into the wall, almost knocking myself out in the process. She, of course, laughed her head off. After a few minutes, I was laughing at myself. As time passed, we became more attached as a couple, eventually moving in together, much to the dismay of my family, who really didn’t care for her. When we announced we were getting married in 1991, my younger sister immediately turned to my fiancée, asking “Are you knocked up?”
“Stories from the Road” by Don Taylor is available in hard copy, paperback and downloadable electronic file at Friesen Press.