Monday, 25 January 2010

On the relationship of trucker to truck

I'm not the kind of person who names vehicles. I have never assigned a gender to any car I have driven, let alone a name. But a truck is different.

I have driven the same truck pretty much every day since I started the job two and a half years ago. That is over 5000 hours I have spent in the same vehicle. There can't be many people in whose company I have spent 5000 hours - my family obviously, my best friend probably - but only people I have known a long time and love. I know all its foibles, I know when it doesn't feel quite right, I know how often it has developed certain faults and how to persuade it to get over them. My lorry also has a crane, so it even has a limb. So it has always felt like a living being.

She has always been a she. Her gender was established early on. She is extremely capable, large and perfectly formed, as am I. Added to that, when I first started the job I was extremely nervous but felt I had to hide it, to avoid any suggestion that I shouldn't be in the job if I couldn't handle it. For that reason I felt a solidarity with her, as if, together, we could take on the world, or the job in hand at least.

I never intended to name her, but she named herself.

After I had been in the job about 6 months, she had been in for MOT so I had had to drive another much smaller truck for a few days (truck MOTs take at least 3 days). Everything was in slightly the wrong place and it had a crane that could do little more than drag things off the bed of the lorry and drop them on the floor next to it. When I got mine back at the end of the week I was ridiculously pleased to see her. It was so comfortable to be back in that driving seat, with all the controls where I was used to them. I was aware I was very pleased to be reunited with her but I thought to myself that I still wasn't going to name her, but then a voice in my head said, 'unless she's called Diane'. So Diane she became.

She is not the kind of Diane who wears a twinset and emphasises the second syllable. No. She is the kind of DI-ane who runs a greasy spoon, has gold earrings up each ear and has forearms you would never want to challenge to an arm wrestle. But she's the kind of woman you would want on your side in any argument and who would look after you if you had had a row with your boyfriend, but who would also tell you if the argument was your fault.

I am no longer nervous in the job and have driven quite a few other vehicles recently. Many of these are much smaller and now that I feel I have proved myself, I sometimes wish I drove a more manoeuvrable one. But then I get back in mine and think, 'Nah. You'll do.'

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