Today we review Carolyn Steele’s Trucking in English: a memoir of being a woman in what is very much a man’s world: that of long-haul tractor-trailor driving in North America. A Londoner born and bred, Carolyn is now a Canadian citizen and lives in Kitchener, Ontario, where she ran a Bed & Breakfast for five years before trying her hand at negotiating 18-wheelers. Depending on who is asking, she “maintains that she is either multi-faceted or easily bored”. Confirming this, her résumé states that, in addition to being a lady trucker, she has also been a psychologist and a London Ambulance Service paramedic, while her hobbies include tatting, a form of lace-making.
Trucking in English is available from Smashwords, Amazon (Canada, USA, UK), and Barnes & Noble, but this week we at TDN are in luck: Carolyn is giving away 3 ebook copies to Displaced Nation readers! (Details below.)
TITLE: Trucking in English
AUTHOR: Carolyn Steele
AUTHOR’S CYBER COORDINATES:
Blog: Trucking in English
Website: Carolyn Steele
Facebook: Trucking in English
PUBLICATION DATE: November 2012
FORMAT: Paperback, Ebook (Kindle)
SOURCE: Review copy from author
“So here’s the plan. I’m going to train to drive a truck and go long-haul. I can get paid and maybe write a book at the same time. What do you reckon?” “Go for it Mum, how bad can it be?” This is the tale of what happens when a middle-aged mum from England decides to actually drive 18-wheelers across North America instead of just dreaming about it. From early training (when it becomes apparent that negotiating 18 wheels and 13 gears involves slightly more than just learning how to climb in) this rookie overcomes self-doubt, infuriating companions and inconsiderate weather to become a real trucker. She learns how to hit a moose correctly and how to be hijacked. She is almost arrested in Baltimore Docks and survives a terrifying winter tour of The Rockies. Nothing goes well, but that’s why there’s a book. Trucking in English began as a blog from the cab and became a popular podcast before taking book form. It is part of Carolyn’s ‘Armchair Emigration’ series.
“Why would a fifty-something, nicely brought-up mother suddenly decide to go trucking?”
Indeed. Until I read this book, I’d considered trucks to be part of the roads’ parallel universe: menacing beasts that slow you down going uphill, hurtle dangerously fast behind you downhill, or who scatter remnants of blown tires across three lanes, strategically positioned to rip open your door skins like sardine cans.
Carolyn Steele, however, has given me a glimpse inside this parallel universe, and I’ll say this: she’s braver than I’ll ever be. If I announced to my own family my intention of learning to drive one of these shiny monsters, the reaction would be unflattering: “You?” (Cue gales of incredulous laughter.) “You can’t even reverse a Mini.” I’m not one of Life’s natural drivers, which makes me all the more admiring of people who are, particularly “fifty-something, nicely brought-up mothers.”
Trucking in English starts at Carolyn’s pipe dream to become a truck driver:
Why not get paid to see North America? I’d driven for a living before, I’d seen little of Canada and nothing of the States, how hard could it be?
— takes us through the training period which was more demanding than she’d anticipated:
I’d assumed it was merely a matter of getting used to where the corners were and developing a technique for climbing in.
— and recounts Carolyn’s adventures once she was let loose on the road.
These long-haul expeditions across Canada and the USA are peppered with frustrations deriving from red tape (seriously — Campbell’s Chicken Soup requires a Customs’ Meat Inspection certificate before it can cross the border?) and the sexism, both unintentional and blatant, that a female truck driver will encounter.
Red-faced squaddie escorted us outside and managed not to look too confused when we [Carolyn and her male co-driver] headed for the wrong sides of our vehicle and it became horribly apparent that I was driving.
Throughout the book shines Carolyn’s good humor, frankness, and sense of the ridiculous. The characters and events she encounters are described so vividly that they seemed as real to me as they were to her, and in such a way that I had to stifle snorts of laughter if I was reading my Kindle in a public place.
Finally, as March is Style and Beauty Month at TDN, it would be remiss of me not to share a few of Carolyn’s style tips for lady truck drivers:
1. Do not go anywhere without a large supply of baby wipes. You never know when or where your next shower will be.
2. Use a bathroom whenever you see one, even if you don’t need to. (Ever wondered what happens when truckers are taken short in the middle of nowhere during a Canadian blizzard?)
3. Most important of all — dress androgynously. Do not, under any circumstances, let other truck drivers on the road know you are a woman.
A chap in a slower truck does not like to be overtaken by a woman and some of them can get quite snippy about it…With a cap over my eyes (so long as it isn’t pink) hair tucked up into it, large sunglasses and a golf-shirt I can just about pass for anybody… I left the cap off one day due to being so hot that even my hair was sweating. Overtook a truck just south of Toledo and he tried extremely hard to run [me] off the road.
And now it’s your chance to ENTER OUR DRAW TO WIN A FREE COPY!!! You can either:
1) Leave a comment on this post, saying why you’d like your own copy of Trucking in English, or
2) Head across to Twitter and tweet the following:
“I want a copy of Trucking in English by Carolyn Steele: http://wp.me/p11cxT-55G via @Trucking_Lady @DisplacedNation”
Don’t forget, you double your chances if you’re a Displaced Dispatch subscriber!!!
The winner will be announced in our Displaced Dispatch in April.
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s author interview!
Image: Book cover — “Trucking in English”
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