Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Tails From Life

A Christmas Eve

Imagine the mall, the last shopping day before Christmas. Imagine how busy, how hectic and frantic everyone is. There isn’t a parking spot to be found, and everyone is harried and short-tempered. This is what I was sent to, as my last load of the day, noon Christmas Eve. So what’s the big deal, you might ask? Well, I drove a gravel truck, eighteen wheels of tractor and trailer, and I was to deliver a load of sand for the mall. The instructions were at best, minimal. I was to meet someone by the small, brown door. I certainly had worse instructions with less to go on in the past, and of course, I had much better, too. At least I knew which mall I was going to, and that was a pretty good start. One of Winnipeg’s busiest, it wasn’t a great place to go at any time, for a last load on Christmas Eve, I figured it was going to be interesting if nothing else. The pit was only open until two, and though it was just before noon, I was pretty sure, this would be my last load of the day. No one would be ordering this late in the day, I hoped anyway. I was the only truck that had come in that day, and had sat since opening without a load. I would haul this one then head home. I could most certainly be back before the pit closed, but unless there was a water main break or the like, this was probably it for my work day.
Negotiating traffic took time and patience, so much patience as well as more than a few eye rolls. I eventually arrived at the mall. It only took one round of the mall, to realize that there were many little, brown doors. In fact, I’m pretty certain that every store that had an outside wall had its own, little door. There were so many brown doors, dozens of them all around the sprawling building. Oh so many, and not a single thing to differentiate one from the other.
Now, circling a shopping mall, an exceedingly busy, rather big truck unfriendly, mall with a semi, isn’t the most enjoyable of experiences. On top of the tight turns and lack of room, I was driving what I call a forty acre truck. As soon as I approached a jobsite that was tight, I would start singing, “Give me forty acres and I’ll turn this rig around.” Look it up, Google it, it’s a real song, and fit the truck perfectly. Preplanning was absolutely necessary, when entering a tight job with that truck. Anyway, it was a mall with tiered parking at the back that my truck certainly didn’t fit under. I had to get turned around, to work my way back. I did this several times, working my way around poorly parked cars, cars that crowded the lanes and extended beyond designated spots. There was nowhere to stop, so the best I could do was phone the pit. Maybe Christina the shipper, could sort things out, call and get better instructions. While I waited for a callback, I had to keep driving around. I had no choice in the matter. There wasn’t an extra inch, for me to stop the truck, not anywhere.
The call came, and I headed back for the front of the mall. No word of a lie, I had probably worked my way through every parking area at least a half dozen times. I was fed up with the rudeness of other drivers and the bad attitudes. All I wanted was to dump the load and go. It was almost two. The pit would be closing and I would lose my connection with the customer within minutes. Thank goodness, it was sorted out, but was it? As it turned out, whoever had promised to wait on the sidewalk and flag me down, had been telling stories. There was no person waiting, no one making any attempt to flag down a semi. Away I went, circling once again. Irritated, I was wondering if I would have to take the load home where I would have to dump it goodness knows where, or have it freeze solid in the trailer, I wasn’t too happy at all. I should’ve long since been home, yet there I was, still circling. Again, I called the shipper. Again, she said she’d get a hold of someone. She wouldn’t go home, until the load was figured out. I had to hang on, keep doing my giant circle, and wait to see what she could figure out.
Well, when she called me back, she said this time, there really would be someone waiting and watching for me. I was to call her when that happened. She wasn’t going to leave work until she knew what was going on. It took some doing, but I worked my way to the front of the mall once again. Lo and behold, there was a person, a real live person, and they were waving … at me! I could hardly believe my eyes. Christina had finally managed to get someone to do, what they’d said they would, meet the darn load. As I slowly made my way towards the man, I called Christina and told her she was good to go. There was no reason to keep her at the pit. Things were sorted.
This is where the story gets a tad amusing. The man who was waiting for the load, motioned in a circle that he wanted the load dumped just off the pavement onto the sidewalk. The sand was going to be used on the sidewalks all around the mall. I would have to stop traffic in both directions, then jackknife up to the sidewalk. Of course I couldn’t put the trailer onto the sidewalk. It was too heavy. The weight would break concrete and dropping off the sidewalk onto the pavement as the load came out would also be risky. Dumping jackknifed had its own risks. The potential for going over was higher, especially on uneven ground in the winter. If part of the load stuck to one side, over she could go. This was something I wanted to avoid. The second I stopped to wait for a break in oncoming traffic, there was a honk from behind my truck. It was the last straw. Hopping out of the truck, I walked purposefully towards the perpetrator of the rude, impatient act. The expression on his face was priceless. The nearer I got, the more he shook his head and raised his hands in apology. None of that was good enough, not after the nonsense I’d had to put up with, driving around that mall’s parking lots. He practically cowered as I walked up to the driver’s window. I motioned for him to open his window. Surprisingly he did, though he shrank away a bit, as soon as he did so.
“Don’t,” I quietly warned, shaking a finger slowly at him, “don’t be doing that. I’m not in the mood for it.”
“I’m sorry,” he began, but I didn’t have time for it. There was a load to dump, and I wanted to be clear.
“Don’t do that again,” my words ever so serious and quiet, I shook my head a bit, “You’re going to sit right here, and you’re going to patiently wait, until I get that load dumped … got it?”
“Yes ma’am,” with a rapid head nod, he swiftly agreed. I glanced at the cars now lined up behind him, and saw they all intended to behave. There must’ve been something about my expression that said, I’d had enough, enough being honked at and enough rude gestures. Clearly, they were all very hurried, but they weren’t stupid, at least not that time. I walked back to the cab and climbed in. All I wanted was to get done and out of there.
Having a big truck come towards them, almost always stops oncoming traffic, not always, but usually. Over the years, I’ve seen some stupid things, like cars zipping around flagmen and almost hitting them, so I’m well aware of the things, some people will do. This time, the oncoming traffic stopped and waited. I now blocked traffic in both directions. Not a sound came from any car, as I backed to the sidewalk and dumped that load. Not a honk or vehicle tried to peek by, to see if they could pass, (they couldn’t). Because it was cold out, the oil in the hoist was thicker and the trailer lowered very slowly. There was no option, but to allow it to do its thing. Driving around with a box in the air, would only ask for trouble. While it slowly sank back to the frame, I went to the back of the trailer to brush sand off the Mansfield bar and the top of the mud flaps. When I glanced at that first driver in the row, I almost smiled when he gave a little wave. Instead of smiling, I simply nodded my head a little in response. Maybe the next time he came upon a trucker doing their job, he’d think twice about being impatient. Sure, things are crazy and too stressful at times, but it’s no reason to forget that it’s the same for everyone. We all want to get done and get home.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB