The long journey to Canada is littered with stories of hopefuls who didn’t make it. Let us tell you a cautionary tale.
ByBig Ron, told to Dougie Rankine.ILLUSTRATION STEVE SHAW.
Andy had arrived in Alberta having been recruited by a large company, which hauls fridge trailers. He arrived the day after me, having been recruited in England. For some reason, he’d been on a flight to Ontario, then transferred to Calgary when it was possible to fly direct, and he was spitting feathers about that, right from the start. All these drivers were in this big hotel together and a few of us were pretty excited, taking the attitude that we had burned our bridges and we were here in Canada for an adventure, come what may.
We did our medical, flipped our driving licenses, sorted out a bank account and social security number. I ignored the company advice to go with their bank and found my own, which would give me a debit card. Those who went with the company bank did not get a debit card, but could get wages transferred onto their fuel cards. The only drawback to that was you were being charged 12% for the privilege, so for every 100 bucks, you’d only see 88! That’s what Andy did, and it would become a bone of contention later, but you really need to find this sort of stuff out and not take everyone’s advice face value.
Loads of drivers stayed at the hotel, including those who were now out on the road. They would come back to the hotel with their trucks when they needed to reset their logbooks and, as you’d expect when drivers got together, they would swap all sorts of daring stories. Andy seemed keen, often saying “ay up lads, that’ll be me soon, out on the roads”. He started hanging out with a group of lads all from the same place,’ and they would start to talk each other out of the job. If one got fed up or depressed, it would spread to the others, and soon there was plenty of moaning about this and that, and how they were getting screwed over. It didn’t make sense to me to come all this way over to hang about with a bunch of lads who came from the same place as you – it’s all part of the experience to meet new people.
Alarm bells started ringing when one of the other new drivers told me about his Facebook page. We had all friended each other but I couldn’t find him, then I got told I had to search for ‘Ice Road Andy’ – he had adopted the name and was telling people how he would soon be running on ice roads. Seriously. When we found out about this, we quickly rechristened him the “Slush Puppy”. Getting out on the road would help, but he failed the simple theory test four times! Eventually he managed it and was then able to go on a mentor trip in a truck with one of the experienced drivers, which seemed to go ok.
Once back at the hotel though there was a wait for trucks. There was little to do other than to wait. I had booked a hire car for a month to get about, but Andy was stuck at the hotel for five weeks, with the bill for staying in the hotel ultimately being charged to him. I used my initiative and bypassed the guy we had been dealing with, who was no use, and spoke to a manager who got me a truck.
After five weeks, Andy got fed up and said he was going to “pop” home for a while until a truck was ready. I had managed to sort out a house, so I said he could leave his gear at mine to avoid the storage charges at the hotel. On the way over in my pick up truck, he said “I can just see myself in one of these, with Daddy in the front and Mummy in the back,” which I thought was pretty odd as, well, who the hell says “Mummy and Daddy,” apart from anything else? If it was suspected before, we knew then that he wasn’t going to be cut out for life 6000 miles from home.
He went home for three weeks, then got a call that they had a truck ready for him. So he flew out on a Sunday, arriving in Calgary at 10pm on Sunday night with this weird expectation that someone would be there to meet him at the airport. Of course, there wasn’t, and he wasn’t able to contact the guy who deals with the drivers. He did get hold of someone who said they would book him into a hotel at the airport for the night so he could travel down in the morning. For some reason, Andy took a mega huff at this, turned around, bought a ticket to England and got right back on the plane! The flight takes eight and a half hours! A representative of the company sent to collect him discovered he had never booked into the hotel, so they began enquiries as to where he was. I found out via Facebook, where he had been tagged in a post by his girlfriend saying she had just got the best present ever as “Ice Road Andy” had come straight back. We couldn’t believe it – what on earth was he thinking?
A couple of months later I got a call from him, and I was surprised to hear he was in town, “on holiday”. Why on earth you would go on holiday to an industrial town you had already spent several weeks in was beyond me, but there he was. I think the real reason was he just wanted to get his stuff from my place, including his company thermal overalls ($400), and an unused Rand McNally road map of North America. For the price of the flights, I would have left them where they were!
Of course, by this point he had racked up substantial bills with the company. They got wind he was in town and were phoning about looking for him. The thing was, even at that point they were willing to try and sort the situation out, as they had invested so much in training him. But he never met with them and flew home, where I guess he’s back driving.
He will owe the company somewhere in the region of $3000, but I don’t know if they will go after him to recover it. Not only that, but he flew to Canada and back FOUR times in total – that must have cost a fortune, not to mention he didn’t really earn anything in all the time he was out here. All that time, money and effort for nothing. ‘Ice Road Andy’, aka ‘The Slush Puppy’, never turned one wheel on his own, returning to the UK with nothing more than some overalls, a map and a much-reduced bank balance. We’d like to hope he learned from the experience, but let’s not bet on it.