Coffee with Barb and Paul Curran
Is blogging worth it? That’s the question asked here by writer Sue Vincent, one of the best bloggers out there. Her answer was… not really. At least, not if you’re a writer expecting to see a direct relationship between that blog and fame, fortune, and especially book sales. But, as Sue says, there are other good reasons—the best reasons in the world, in fact—that we blog.
And then there is the other side of blogging… Not the side that looks at what it can gain, but the people. Blogging is an excellent way to meet and engage with people. The other bloggers… the writers, poets, reviewers and humourists. The ones who make that moment when you press ‘publish’ feel like a worldwide party. The ones who leave that surprise review that makes you feel like a million dollars. The ones who ‘get’ what you are saying. The ones who share your stuff unannounced and give your flagging belief a lift. The ones who rally around to help when things are tough and who celebrate the high points with you. The community that over and over shows it has a heart of gold.–Sue Vincent, Is Blogging Worth It?
For me, the absolute best thing that’s happened since I started this blog is that I have made so many new friends—brilliant, funny, supportive, articulate—from all over the world. One of them is the incredibly insightful Paul Curran. He’s the one who has been leaving those fabulous comments full of entertaining snippets and stories from his days on the road. Paul regularly shares his thoughts as the Sunday barista on willowdot21, but for this month he’s visiting my friend Mark Bialczak’s always-entertaining blog for Sunday coffee and chat. (Stop by and tell them I sent you!)
But right now, I’m absolutely delighted to report that Paul is joining us here today from his home in Canada. He’s sharing one of his trademark loving profiles of a unique and wonderful character.
For me, Paul Curran is one of the true rewards of blogging.
When Barb asked me to do a guest post, I inquired as to the topic she would like to see. Her response was that she enjoyed my people stories. I must say it really is the characters that made my trucking career memories so vivid. And of all the characters, my best friend Elroy stood out heads above the rest for his complexity and humor (amongst other traits). He had a special relationship with the owner of the company to which we were leased. This post shall be a quick primer on Elroyisms enjoyed in the battle against Dale. Enjoy!
“The last time I saw anything that looked like that, there was piss coming out of the end of it,” Elroy said to the owner of the company as we stood in the office. Dale had just had another life changing epiphany – the most recent of many in his somewhat odd life- and stood in the office without a single hair anywhere on his head – even his eyelashes and eyebrows had been plucked smooth. From Dale’s shoulders hung a black cape and he had a carved walking stick in his hand. We had all learned to ignore Dale’s eccentricities and it was just another day at the funny farm. He was a competent manager and a good boss who cared about his employees who leased and operated tractor-trailers under his company’s operating authority. His mannerisms were just superficial and I had a theory that he hadn’t gotten enough attention as a child and was trying to make up for it.
Before Dale could frame a reply to the comment, Elroy had grabbed a tube of red lipstick off of Sheila’s desk (our dispatcher) and said, in a big voice, “Here Dale let me draw a hole in the top of your head.” He lunged for Dale, but Dale feinted right then ran left out of the office, evading Elroy’s clutches. The two had a, shall I say, adversarial relationship – Elroy was Dale’s adversary. Elroy was much more intelligent and quicker than Dale even though Dale was no slouch. The problem was that Elroy and I traded places monthly as the first and second highest earners in the company. We consistently pulled in more revenue than any of the 80 other owner-operators that leased to the company. For that reason Dale was quite careful around us and tried to do what he could to keep us happy – and that included putting up with Elroy’s shenanigans – not always an easy task.The company had their own insurance into which all lease owner operators (called “brokers”) had to pay. The policy was with Markel Insurance – a company that specialized in rolling stock insurance, a difficult and expensive category. Markel survived by being ruthless and demanding that each client produce a profit for them or they would drop the insurance. They employed monitors who checked and followed trucks they insured – too many bad reports and they would refuse to insure the driver and he would be out of a job. In order to more easily identify their customers, Markel insisted that every insured unit display an 8 inch by 8 inch 5 fingered white hand on a red background – their company logo. Many drivers colored all but one finger the same red color as the background – I don’t think I need to tell you which finger was left white.
Elroy and I were in the company yard leaning against Elroy’s truck while we chatted one hot summer day when Dale came out of the office and walked over. He checked out Elroy’s truck and not seeing the Markel sticker anywhere, asked Elroy about it. Elroy was adamant that he was not putting that sticker on his truck – especially since his truck was forest green and the red sticker looked ugly. Trying to placate him, Dale said that the sticker could go anywhere – it was up to Elroy – as long as it was on the truck somewhere. That was a mistake. Elroy’s face lit up:”Anywhere?” Thinking he had finally won (and he should have known better), Dale agreed: “Anywhere” and he actually handed Elroy a Markel sticker. Elroy walked behind the cab where the frame rails were visible leading to the drive wheels, leaned over and stuck the logo on the driveshaft. Straightening up, he turned to Dale and grinning said:”There, now it will be in plain view when I run over the bastards.”
Another time I pulled into the yard and Elroy’s truck was backed up with the trailer wheels inside the garage having work done while the cab stuck out into the parking lot. I went into the office and the insurance rep was in Dale’s office with the door shut and through the glass I could see that he was busy giving Dale a hard time – with his finger pointing as he paced and Dale sat behind his desk with his head hung. I dropped off my paper work and went back out to Elroy’s truck. He had a cab-over at that time, so it was quite a climb into the cab. I opened the passenger’s door and climbed up. As I plopped down into the passenger’s seat I took in the ¾ full 40-ouncer of Jack Daniels sitting on the doghouse (the hump over the engine in a cab-over) and a sea of log sheets scattered on every flat surface in the cab. Elroy sat in the driver’s seat with his log book propped on the steering wheel. I raised my eyebrow in question. He explained that he had gotten a bit behind in his log sheets which had to be turned in with each trip envelope and now he had three months worth to do or they wouldn’t pay him – the standard inducement to get paperwork in. I just nodded and Elroy passed me the bottle of Jack. I took a swig and passed it back. He wanted to know who was visiting Dale in the office. I told him that it was the insurance rep from Markel, and that one of the other drivers had rolled a load of frozen fish over and written it off the previous week. Dale was obviously hearing about it.
Always one for a challenge, Elroy’s eyes lit up. “Oh, so that’s who parked and marched in there a few minutes ago. Come with me.” At that he opened his door and jumped out, so I did the same. Elroy walked into the supply room and asked the attendant for about 20 Markel stickers. The poor guy was not the brightest bulb on the circuit and obliged. He should have known better and he got a serious talking to later. Elroy gave me half the stickers and bending down low instructed me to follow – which like a fool, I did. We scooted behind the parked cars bent over so we couldn’t be seen from the office windows, and especially from Dale’s window which faced the parking lot. Once we reached the back of the insurance rep’s car Elroy peeled the backing off one sticker, and placed it on the rear bumper of the car. “Come on, hurry up, we have twenty stickers to get on this bumper before he comes back out.” So we worked away, got all twenty stickers on the bumper, and skittered back to Elroy’s truck without being noticed. As we sat there drinking Jack Daniels (neither of us was leaving the yard until the next day) and chatting, the insurance rep came out of the office and went to his trunk to put in his briefcase.
He turned bright red and slamming his trunk shut, marched back into the office. A few moments later he came stomping out with Dale in tow, his shrill voice audible across the parking lot. The two of them walked to the rear of the car and were standing looking down at the bumper while the shrill voice raised an octave and Dale hung his head. Dale tried half-heartedly to peel off one of the stickers but the insurance rep must have told him he was in a hurry, and got into the car, slamming the door. Dale backed away and watched as the guy drove out of the parking lot with the twenty Markel stickers gleaming on his rear bumper.
Dale walked over to Elroy’s truck, opened the driver’s door and climbed up the steps so he was level with us in the cab. He just looked at both of us and Elroy, with a shit-eating grin, offered him a swig of Jack, which Dale refused.
Dale finally spoke: “I assume neither of you are leaving here today?” he said as I took another swig of Jack. Both of us shook our heads.
“You guys have an immutable sense of humor.”
I couldn’t resist: “Ooooh, ‘immutable’, that’s a big word Dale.”
“Yeah well he was here wanting an increase in our rates after the accident last week and I was trying to keep the same rates. You could have picked a better time for your prank. But, I have to admit, it was very funny and I had a hard time not laughing at him.” At that he climbed down from the truck, closed the door and walked back into the office.
Elroy fell in love with a young woman in Deer Lake Newfoundland. Prior to meeting him, she had spent a lot of time travelling with other drivers and because of that she had a reputation, whether it was deserved or not, I doubt anyone knew. When it became clear that Elroy was serious about her – the woman who would eventually marry him, have two kids with him and settle down in his hometown as a loving partner – a number of us who cared, took Elroy aside and questioned his choice. I will never forget his reply, a profane yet profound comment that I have taken to heart: “Ahhh, she may be a whore but she’s my whore.” And so we all were to Elroy, even Dale – he accepted everyone for who they were, warts and all, and we were all his.