This series of journals coincides with an anniversary, one I overlooked at the time though I’m generally pretty good with birthdays and suchlike, my twentieth year back in truck driving. I drove and owned trucks for nearly ten years when I was young, acquired a family, got an accounting degree, did white collar stuff for years while the kids grew up, transport management morphing into freelance computer programming and back into transport management/ownership. Moved the family from sandy, sunny Perth to damp, muddy Melbourne early on (Milly’s sentiments), bought a house, got into the local community around the primary school.
Mid-life crisis. Left Milly, Psyche age 15 leaving too, getting us all into family therapy and back together again, left again, Milly’s decision this time, Psyche and Lou leaving school, leaving home, Gee at a posh girls school living alternately with Milly and me (because I lived on the more convenient train line). Then Milly buying a house near Gee’s school, my transport management/ownership thing falling in a hole, Gee okaying a return to truck driving. And that was 20 years ago last month.
I had debt, no house, we’d sold the family home to pay an earlier lot of my debts. Bad, the guy who’d sold us – we were four partners – shares in his business had played fast and loose with my Diners Club card one time when I was away, and after the receivers came in it turned out he didn’t own the trucks he’d sold into the new business, and wasn’t going to be repaying any debts.
Keith, a transport guy I knew, said I could drive for him and every day I would drive across Melbourne to sit in his lunchroom and sometimes I would get a few hours local work and sometimes I wouldn’t. Turns out his interstate trucks were all b-doubles, for which the states were introducing a new class of ‘Multi-Combination’ licence. Luckily NSW were still in the transition phase, so I got a letter saying I was experienced and had been offered work, hitched a lift to Sydney, went to Liverpool, the nearest DoT. They required proof I was a NSW resident. Caught a train into the city, #2 brother gave me an electricity bill, caught the train back, transferred my drivers licence to NSW, upgraded it using the aforesaid letter and commenced full time employment running Sydney-Melbourne-Adelaide-Brisbane (The guy I came up from Melbourne with, totally pissed off because he had gone down the $750 week-long driver training course route for his MC and I had got mine in a day for free).
The downside was that even after I transferred my licence back to Victoria and then to WA, the ‘system’ in NSW assumed I was still living with my brother and would send my fines (log book offences) there, which was ok until he and then his by then former girlfriend moved away. What happened to any subsequent notices I have no idea.
Keith was good enough to pay Gee’s school fees each term and take it out of my pay. Diners Club progressed slowly through the courts. Bad had put his assets back into his father’s business so was able to go bankrupt as should have I. I scraped by for years, leaving Keith for road train work to North Queensland on lower pay, then falling out with that employer, interestingly an Assyrian who had been a scientist in Iran, but who in Australia ran a small fleet of trucks, underpaying his drivers, frankly admitting he couldn’t afford super, long gaps between trips, but always interesting destinations – I did that Tibooburra trip for him – until one weekend I had a date with Milly and a trip came up late and I refused it.
After that I had other jobs, interstate, Keith again until he went broke, another road train operator who also went broke, then back with the Assyrian. Mum and Dad paid the last year of Gee’s school fees. Gee went away to uni, Milly went to Perth to live with her sister, and the other kids and I took on her house, making the payments and painting the rooms.
Gee’s uni didn’t work out, she tried RMIT for a while, went up north, came back, meeting me in Emerald for the ride home, then heading off again. Psyche did one or two trips with me, and Lou came on a trip to Cairns, hitching a lift with a fridge truck across the Atherton tablelands to see Gee in Normanton. Milly came home a couple of times, making the trip across the Nullarbor in her little Daewoo with her deaf but not mute dog, Daphne, now departed these last two years. Once I went back with her to keep her company, hitching a lift home, and the second time, the house sold, Gee went with her, a few months later I followed, and we were West Australians again. Sam and Dragan snapped me up to run WA – North Qld, Milly began her career in mining admin with a job in Newman, and Gee progressed from Rottnest Is to Broome to Derby to Darwin and eventually home again to motherhood and university.
Lou stayed in Victoria, an almost perpetual student, but eventually a teacher, and Psyche went off overseas, came back, worked in tourism in North Qld, and across northern Australia.
I started a relationship with newly divorced family friend, the Bosomy Beauty, 16 and a schoolfriend of Milly’s youngest sister when I first met her and for a while our babysitter and typist for my commercial traveller business in the old milk run days. We married, I lifted my head, for the first time in years, above the debt parapets to put my name to a housing mortgage, only for the Diners Club debt to reappear, compounded outrageously by legal fees and usury. I was just getting into bulk tanker work and consistently decent pay, so had no option but to reach an ‘arrangement’ with the firm who had purchased the debt for cents in the dollar. A few years of increasingly longer distance work and exciting homecomings, then …
It’s ten years now since BB left, took off interstate with her druggie toyboy. I spent the whole of 2008 angry at work, always on a last warning from one customer or another, crying on the phone to Milly, my kids, anyone who would listen, BB refusing to talk, texting nonsense, assuring me she was on the way home, taking off again as soon as she got home, driving furiously backwards and forwards across the Nullabor, all of this spelled out in detail in the card and phone bills she left me to pay, out of her own money I hasten to add, we were never at financial loggerheads.
All through 2009 and 2010 I would remember each day where she was that corresponding day in 2008 a habit I’ve long since given up I think, though I might remember in a few months on Melbourne Cup day that its ten years since we last spoke.
John Sandford (M, USA), Field of Prey (2014)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (F, Nigeria), Americanah (2013)
David Berlinski (M, USA), The Advent of the Algorithm (2000)
Miles Franklin, All That Swagger