Keep on Truckin'
I earned my driver's licence as a teenager after much studying and practice, and have been driving ever since. In the intervening years, I have had the opportunity to drive a few different car models, but it was only this weekend, 10 years later, that I had my first experience driving a truck.
I enjoy driving as much as any Montrealer can on our cracking pavement and poorly-designed roads. (Most locals notice their mood behind the wheel improves significantly upon leaving the province - goodness knows why!) While I try to take public transportation as much as possible, keeping my driving skills sharp is quite important to me. I may still not quite feel the need to learn to drive standard, but I always like trying new things.
Thus, when my friend Etienne asked me to help him pick up a bed he was getting rid of, I was all too happy to help. I had access to a family member's SUV, which I had used to help friends move before. When Etienne revealed that the bed was a queen-size, however, we realized we had to change the plan.
We arrived at a truck rental service just as they were closing, and the employee graciously set us up with a vehicle. We took the keys, thanked him, and went to meet our truck.
"This is a really big truck," I observed as we took our seats and admired what felt like an aircraft cockpit, where we were the pilots.
"Yeah. I'll bet the bed would fit in one of the smaller ones," Etienne said.
"I'm not so sure. But this really is huge."
"We could ask if they'll give us a smaller truck?"
"I like the sound of that," I replied.
We gathered our things and went back inside to talk to the employee. It was then that we learned that the smaller trucks had already been reserved. It was the big guy or bust.
"You've got this," said my trusted co-pilot as he adjusted the GPS on the dashboard.
I was apprehensive, of course. I had no idea how well the truck would drive, how well it could turn, or how big my blind spots were. Could I even get us out of this parking lot?
I went slowly at first, of course. There was no rear-view mirror, and the side mirrors did not provide a wide field of vision. I soon learned that both pedals were extremely sensitive, and the truck had poor shock absorption, which meant that every bump in the road (and Montreal has many bumps) created a rattling jolt.
Despite this, I acclimated to the truck fairly quickly. Etienne was in charge of the navigation, freeing me to focus on the truck. The rental company was in an industrial area with wide, empty roads, which made it significantly more pleasant to get used to the controls and learn how the truck drove. I drove carefully on the more populated roads, and noticed that other drivers were quite respectful and patient when it came to being around vehicles three times their size. We were even taller than the city buses, giving the impression that we were flying far above the road. Even parking wasn't so bad, as we still managed to find monster-sized spots on a Sunday afternoon.
The move went without incident. Etienne and I dragged his new queen bed into his third-story apartment, found a place to park the truck overnight, and enjoyed a celebratory dinner. We could finally relax.
The next day, as I picked up Etienne for the drive back to the rental agency, I realized how sad I was that my time with the huge hunk of steel was coming to a close. I had become accustomed to the sensitive gas and brake pedals, acclimated to the truck's dimensions, figured out how best to check my blind spots, and learned how to navigate around all of the significantly smaller cars that seemed to buzz all around me. It was thrilling, and it made me feel powerful and confident.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. We handed off the keys to the rental service employee and went on our merry way. Being back in my sedan made me realize how small I was compared to the larger vehicles around me, and gave me a newfound respect for the truck drivers who work long hours to carefully navigate our narrow streets teeming with tiny, vulnerable cars. Still, I won't soon forget the feeling of owning the road, and flying above it all.