For all the truckers out there…
Write about a character driving in the rain…
Start of the trip
Harvey loved his job. Driving got him out of the office and out in the world. He couldn’t stand being tied to a desk. He’d tried that for a few years. Now he was free again.
Many drivers felt the same way about being on the road. But Harvey was different. He loved driving…especially in the rain. For many, hazardous driving conditions were the worst part of the job. But not for Harvey, that was his favorite time to be out. The rain reminded him of her…
So it was with a smile that he picked up his packet and dropped a bag of BBQ chips on the desk. Sally, the load broker, was a middle-aged woman with a kind heart and nerves of steel. She had to be tough dealing with truckers all day.
“Thanks for the chips.” She said as she crumbled up her empty bag of Sour Cream and Onion. Harvey always made sure Sally had a bag of chips handy as she juggled multiple schedules for her team of 25 drivers. “Not surprised you were the only one who showed up for this load.”
Harvey winked at her as he said, “You know me and the rain, Sally.”
“Yeah, I know,” Sally began, “whenever there’s a storm and I need a driver, I know I can count on you. Been that way for the last five years. What gives, what’s your story?”
Harvey’s smile widened as he repeated his tease, “I told you, Sally, the only way you’ll ever know this secret is to come out on the route with me one time.” He finished this with an exaggerated gesture emphasizing the number one.
This time she surprised him. “It just so happens,” she began, “I’ve got no more loads to schedule and as much as I hate the rain, I’ve got no plans for the weekend. So I’m riding shotgun!” She finished with a grin and a spin of her chair as she grabbed her raincoat.
Harvey couldn’t believe his ears. Since starting this job he and Sally had casually flirted. But he never expected her to take him up on an offer of a road trip.
All he could say was, “Don’t forget your chips!”
On the Road
Harvey finished up his pre-trip inspection as Sally sat in the cab of the truck. She knew what he was doing and there was no reason for both of them to get soaked. The deal was that she would do the post-trip inspection.
Sally keyed their destination into the GPS and organized all the paperwork. She complained about why she should have to do anything. After all, she was the one paying him. Harvey’s response was simple, “Do you want to be out here in the rain?”
Sally had never gone on routes with the drivers before. Not since she started working in the office. But then again, no one had ever asked her before. She and Harvey were friendly coworkers that was all. Though she had to admit, she did give him an extra smile especially when he would get her out of a jam when a delivery absolutely had to be made on a rainy day.
She had inherited the trucking business from her father. There was no question that he had intended it for her older brother but he just never seemed interested. And he had no ability to juggle multiple customers and deadlines at the same time. Not to mention dealing with all the drivers and their attitudes.
She had worked in the office over the summer while in school and knew most of the older drivers. After she got her own rig and had logged a few million miles, she had gained their respect. But it was her computer savviness that saved her once she parked her truck for good. Her father knew trucking had changed.
Like everything else, it was all computerized. From the GPS tracking of trucks and all the safety regulations, there was a lot to handle. He also knew that trucking had changed his daughter. So when he retired, it seemed only natural that she would take over the business. And Sally loved the job.
But looking out the windshield as Harvey thoroughly checked the vehicle while the rain poured like water from a bucket made her wish she’d picked a better day. But, of course, everyone loved to be out on the road on a sunny day. How many times had she daydreamed about being back on the open road in springtime?
Harvey was different. He was a solid worker but he especially showed up in the rain. That was usually the time when other drivers would call off due to a “surprise” doctor or dentist appointment. She knew what was up though, they didn’t like the foul weather. Why was it different with Harvey?
Now just like a good mystery that keeps the pages turning, Sally had to find out the answer to this riddle. And she had to admit, spending time with Harvey was not a bad way to spend a weekend. He was kind and handsome in a rugged sort of way.
Maybe this trip could be the next step in putting her past behind her.
Securing the Load
As they drove down the highway, they enjoyed a comfortable silence. Perhaps the constant back and forth of the windshield wipers made up where the conversation waned. Neither of them seemed to mind at first.
“Looks like it’s going to rain the whole trip,” Harvey said before the silence became too embarrassing. “You sure you want to know my secret? It’s not too late to turn back, ya know.”
This gave Sally the opening she had been waiting for. “Oh no, you’re not getting off that easy! What is so special about the rain that you love to drive in it? I mean, no other driver does…” she trailed off waiting for him to answer.
Harvey’s smile settled on his face like a waterbird landing on a lake. At once graceful with outstretched wings, then folding up neatly to be used once again when necessary. Sally saw a hint of sadness in his profile.
“Is this a secret I really want to know?” She asked, now very serious.
Harvey was quiet for a few moments before answering. “I don’t mind talking about it,” he began. “I’d been driving for a few years when I met Rubber Ducky. I say met, but I really only talked to her on the CB. We never actually met in person,” he finished.
“I knew it,” Sally interrupted, “I knew there had to be a woman involved somewhere!”
“Now don’t get too excited,” Harvey responded, his smile returning. “It wasn’t like that at all. On those long hauls, it’s good to have conversation, someone to talk to, that’s all. And the first time we talked it was a rainy day like today. After that, we kept in touch whenever we were on the road. Whenever it was raining, she would say ‘it’s a great day to be a duck!’”
“So, how come you never arranged to meet up somewhere?” Sally asked, now really intrigued and awaiting his answer.
“Because,” Harvey said no longer smiling, “the last time I talked to her was on a rainy day.”
“Did you make her mad or something?” Sally asked turning to face him
“Are all of you women connected by radar or something?” Harvey asked smiling again. “Over the months we had become close and had even made arrangements to meet. But I was the one dragging my feet.”
“Why’s that?” Sally asked genuinely interested now.
“Well”, Harvey began, “it had all been going so well. I didn’t want to mess it up. Know what I mean?”
Sally started filling in the details, “And I’m guessing, this lady, this Rubber Ducky, wanted things to move a little faster? Why did you call her that anyway?”
“Everybody goes by different names on the CB, we used to call them handles,” Harvey continued, “And yeah, I admit it, I was afraid of commitment and all that junk you read about in Cosmo.” He took his eyes off the road long enough to see her reaction to that remark.
“Sometimes, a girl just wants to know where she stands. We don’t want to invest all these emotions into someone who doesn’t really want anything more.”Sally spoke up in defense.
“So that’s the conversation we were having,” Harvey began. “But this time, the rain was really pouring down. I should’ve known better…”
“So what happened?” Sally asked
“That’s what really gets me, what keeps me out here on rainy days. I don’t know, she just stopped talking.” Harvey said sadly.
“Just stopped talking…what do you mean?” Sally asked incredulously.
“That’s exactly what I mean,” Harvey began, “one minute, we’re in the middle of an argument, then nothing.” He finished, looking exasperated.
“So you never tried to contact her again?” Sally pressed for more details.
Harvey responded, “All I had was her callsign, we never exchanged names. Looking back, I know it was stupid. But this was before cell phones and all that jazz.”
He paused briefly, then continued, “I thought it added to the appeal. We would share all that personal stuff once we met in person. You probably think this is pretty crazy.”
“No,” Sally answered looking out the window at the rain. “No, but I do think you should consider all the possibilities.”
“All the possibilities? What possibilities?” Harvey asked shaking his head. “First she’s talking to me. We have one little disagreement, and she ignores me. I dunno, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.” He trailed off as they drove on in the rain.
The silence lengthened between them. The only sound in the cab was the swish/swish of the back and forth of the windshield wipers. That sound reflected the back and forth of Sally’s thoughts over the past few years.
She finally spoke, “Have you considered the possibility that she couldn’t answer? What about the possibility of her being so distracted by the conversation that she missed a sharp turn?”
Sally tried to straighten out her leg. It always tightened up after being in the same position for too long. And her leg wasn’t the only lingering pain since the accident. Working in the office made it easier, but sometimes even all the potato chips in the world couldn’t get rid of the taste of her painkillers. She could keep her secret no longer, “It’s a great day to be a duck!”