Apparently nobody told my aunt and uncle that back around 1999 or 2000, but it’s true. I didn’t really think very far ahead when it came to anything in those days.
I was reminded of this at my cousin’s fantastic wedding on the weekend.
We drank some beer and got to talking about the good old days, when talk came around to the time I took my cousin Addison for a ride around Lake Erie when I first started hauling cross-border freight.
I think he was around nine or so, and had just finished school for the year. I had to pick up a load at the mine in Nephton, Ontario, and would be going relatively close to my aunt and uncle’s place on the way back. I gave them a call on my fancy Nokia phone. It was before the flip phones and it had that Snake game on it. You remember Snake, don’t you?
So anyhow, I called them and asked if Add could come for a ride to Solon, Ohio with me. We would be picking up near Sandusky and then coming back to Cobourg, so it would only be a couple of days or so. They asked him and he said he wanted to go, so I picked him up and we went. He threw his fartsack up on the top bunk and strapped himself into the passenger seat of that almost new 1999 or 2000 Stirling and then the adventure began.
Now, I don’t know how many of you have tried to take someone else’s kid across the border, but it turns out that you need to have permission to do these things. In writing.
Because he was so much younger than me, I had always thought of him as a nephew instead of a cousin, so when the US Customs agent asked if he was my son, I said “No. He’s my nephew.”
“Do you have a letter from his parents that allows you to travel into the United States with him?”
“No, I didn’t know I needed one. You can call my Aunt and Uncle and they’ll tell you that I’m allowed though.”
(Turns out Customs folk don’t give a shit when you just tell them it’s okay. Something about proof.)
“Your aunt and uncle? I thought you said he was your nephew.”
“Oh, right. He’s my cousin, but because of the age difference it feels like he’s my nephew. I just said it by mistake.”
“Let me talk to your cousin.”
That was when he got the real story and let us go. I was extremely worried that I was going to have to haul Add the three hours back and hand him off or get the signed note. That probably wouldn’t have gone over too well with my boss, so I’m glad it worked out. We then started trucking down through Erie, PA and on our way to the Cleveland area.
Now the thing about me when I was trucking was that I didn’t stop much. I would eat once or twice a day, and I always had a bunch of coke and speed to keep me going through the night.*
* It’s possible that I’m lying to make myself seem badass.
“I guess we’ll look for a truck stop and get a bite to eat. Whaddya say?”
He sheepishly says “Yes please.”
I may have mistaken sheepishness for a weakened state, because he hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was too polite to ask me to stop and get him some food. I suddenly realised that I had not provided the necessities of life to a child and immediately went in search of the nearest truck stop.
We found a Pilot about half an hour from where we had to go in the morning and went into the restaurant. I told him to order whatever he wanted, but of course he just wanted hot dogs. I figured he should have some food in the truck for if he got hungry later, so I think we grabbed a few extras. I also told him to tell me whenever he was hungry, so I could stop and feed him. We then went to bed because I couldn’t unload until morning, and we were pretty tired from all the foraging we had done.
We got up in the morning and went for breakfast. I noticed in the paper that the Blue Jays were playing the Indians, and he was a huge fan,so I figured I’d look around for some tickets. Who would be the greatest
unclecousin then? That’s right, it would be me. I asked around the truck stop, but everyone said I’d have to go to the park, but they thought they were sold out for the year. I asked the guys in receiving when I was unloading and they said that because the Indians were doing so well, that all the games had sold out. That left scalpers. They said that we would probably be looking at $300 a ticket.
Fuck that. That was like a weeks pay, and I had already spent the next four months wages before I even got to the States. I went back to the truck and broke the news to the kid and we headed for Sandusky to pick whatever it was that we were getting. Luckily they could load me that day, so we could get on our way home.
We got to the border at Detroit and Add wanted to spend his $20 on a Detroit Tigers shirt or hat. I felt bad that he got to go on a trip and was getting something, but his little sister Em stayed home and was getting nothing, so we got her a prize too. I didn’t remember what it was, but she said it was a bear with an outie belly button, and also that she still had it. Are you kidding me? That’s like thirty five years ago, or fourteen. That seems like a long time to keep a deformed teddy bear, but who am I to judge?
It was night time by the time we got across, and after another lecture about travelling with other people’s kids, we were ready for some fuel and a shower. I pulled into a Petro Pass in, I believe, Exeter ON, fuelled and punched in our shower codes. I took one and Add took the other. This was an unattended fuel stop, so it was kind of up to the truckers to keep them as neat as possible until the cleaning person came in the next day.
Truckers don’t always give a fuck about cleaning.
I was grossed out by the shithole I was in, so I got the hell out of there. When I got into the hall, I noticed that Add was just standing there, so I said that mine was gross, so I’d wait until I got home the next day. I looked into the shower room that I had sent him into and it was easily the most vile, disgusting thing I’d seen in my years on the highway. There were shitty facecloths, paper towels, and garbage strewn all over the place. Bits of shit seemed to be all over, but I might be exaggerating a bit. I quickly gagged and told him we’d find somewhere else to get clean. His memory is probably better than mine, so if he ever reads this, he can correct any mistakes I’ve made here.
I think we went to London right away and showered, but it might have been the next day. I spent the few hours after that trying to figure out how my aunt was going to attack, and how I would block and dodge it. I had exposed her son to an awful lot of filth at a very young age, and I figured that as soon as she heard about the state of the shower, she would make sure that my fingers were too broken to punch any codes into any shower door lock.
As it turns out, no one was too bent out of shape about it, so the backlash was non-existent. We made it home in one piece, and had a couple of stories to tell about our adventure. That seems like a pretty good trade.
I’m going to leave you this amazing video that’s set to the song “O Superman”. It’s got nothing to do with the story, really, but it has the Snake game and a great tune to listen to. I hope you enjoy it.
Well you don’t know me, but I know you, and I’ve got a message to give to you,
P.S. It’s the first of the month, so go to Guardian Bells and pick out the bell that you want. Put it in a comment on this post and you could win that bell.