The Switch

Posted By Dennis Sova: I was always interested in the big rigs, so when a chance to retire early from my lifetime career came up, I took the gold watch, got my class 1 and hit the road. On 2021-07-13 15:13:03

The boss called me into his office
and said, “We need someone to
do a switch every Saturday around
noon in Clearwater with a truck from
Edmonton - would you be interested?”
After a quick calculation in my head
(a ten-hour round trip, in daylight, no
rush hour traffic), I said, “You bet!”
The scenery was great, and I usually
had enough time on the way back to
treat myself to the old Kamloops to
Merritt road as an antidote to the I-5
blues...

My switch partner from Edmonton
was Mike. I secretly nicknamed him
“Mother Mike” as he always insisted
on helping with the landing gear and
the lights...I’m sure he would have
done the windshield and checked
under the hood if I asked. But all good
things are inevitably discontinued, and
Mike was offered a full-time position
and his own truck, so a new guy would
be taking over the switch.

I did a double-take as my new
partner got out of the truck the
following weekend. The dude could
have stepped right out of the front
cover of George Harrison’s “All
things must pass” album, including
the oversize gumboots. He was nice
enough to talk to but seemed very
distracted; wherever his mind was,
it wasn’t in the A&W parking lot in
Clearwater, BC.

“I’m gonna miss Mike,” I thought as
I started on my way back,” and, who
the heck wears gumboots in a highway truck?” I would soon find out.

It was a sunny summer day (ever
notice how many bad hair day stories
start out like that?) when I started out
that Saturday morning from Delta.
After passing through Kamloops, I
noticed that the opposing traffic was
unusually light with virtually no trucks.
Oh-oh! The radio confirmed that the
highway was closed in both directions
just outside the Jasper townsite due to
an accident. All the best-laid plans of
mice and men!

But, things were looking up as
I arrived in Clearwater. Convoys
of southbound trucks were rolling
through town; this meant that the
highway reopened at least four hours
ago.

By the time I finished my
Teenburger, traffic was back to normal,
but no sign of Gumboot. I asked the
weekend dispatcher to GPS him and
was assured he was on his way and
should be arriving shortly. Ditto two
hours later, I was starting to smell a
rat!

I was in a full Yosemite Sam mode
when finally, four hours behind
schedule, the company truck rolled
into town. Sheepishly, my new partner
confirmed that an accident closed
the highway just outside of Jasper
townsite, causing a considerable traffic
jam. Another truck driver opined
to him that the road would surely
be closed for hours. That was good
enough for Gumboot, who (sensible footwear or not) set off on a kilometre
or so hike to town for a little bite to
eat, leaving the rig in the middle of the
road.

What could possibly go wrong?

He was reluctant to elaborate on
what happened when he returned from
breakfast, and I did not have the heart
to ask how much the ticket and the
towing bill amounted to.

Eager to get going, I hooked up to
the new trailer, only to discover a flat
tire and no brake lights. A tire shop in
town fixed the flat just before closing,
but I decided that the brake lights
would have to wait for now as I had no
idea where the problem might be.

My crime spree was short-lived. I
carefully rolled across the weigh scale
in Kamloops with a friendly wave
at the officer inside - I should have
known better! (I can’t raid the fridge
without getting caught, and today was
no different) STOP. BACK UP. PARK,
BRING PAPERS, the sign flashed.
Apparently, my undoing was that on
top of everything else, the bogies were
a couple of hundred kilos over the
limit. Thanks, Gumboot!

But, it turned out that amid all
the bad luck, I got lucky. The young
officer was one of the nicest I have
ever met, and after listening to my
tale of woe, he explained where, in
the dark recesses of the fuse box, I
might find the problem. He was right!
Another stranded driver gave me the
appropriate fuse; I adjusted the bogies,
and after happily receiving a warning
ticket, I was on my way.

By the time I got to Merritt, it was
obvious that I would not make it home
that night. The Wagon West Travel
Plaza would have to do. I rolled up my
jacket into a pillow and drifted off to
sleep.

I may have dreamt of truck-driving
garden gnomes that night, but I can’t
say that for sure. 




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