Friday, December 12, 2014

The Immigrant : Part Four.

The Interstate 94; week in-week out in Winter 2007/2008.
____ Five weeks passed before I returned to Canada after my father's funeral. My future now looked to be in North America and the exodus of British truck-drivers was peaking at the same time. Big Freight had mailed a LMO [Labour Market Opinion], the necessary paper needed for another year as temporary foreign worker. Two more new recruits, John and Kevin, were on the same plane. The Steinbach haulier was the main point of entry for a lot of Brits trying for a better future. Things worked out fine for some, some returned to the UK quite quickly.

____ The job was advertised as long-haul flat-deck work, which was hard work, especially in Winter. Those who hadn't done it before either adapted quickly or left to find something easier. Most drivers had a secret agenda based on the needs of their families. For some, Big Freight was just a way of getting into Canada. I felt sorry for Eric Slatcher as driver after driver came and went; but the company were just as much to blame for driver turn-over. If it had been a really good job with good wages then I am sure that a lot of drivers would have stayed. Then again; if it was a good job then the company would not have needed to recruit foreign drivers; Canadians would have done it.

____ There was a brand new truck waiting when I restarted work. C616, another Kenworth T800; the same as before but with the ceramic re-generation emissions filter and associated environmental advantages. It went well for a couple of months but then started to play-up; showing flaws in the engineering developments of the Caterpillar C15 engine. It was frustrating; endless engine-check lights and nobody who knew how to put things right. So frustrating to Caterpillar that they gave up completely and stopped making diesel engines for road-going trucks. I gave up completely in November; telling Eric that I was losing money due to all the down-time on the truck. Within a week, I was driving C596, one of the last batch before the emissions rubbish arrived.

____ There was not a lot of variety in the work at this time. The economic crash caused by the banks was starting to effect the road transport industry as the recession began to bite. Most of the trips seemed to be up and down Interstate 94, to and from the Chicago area. But one thing made me think that Canada and I were made for each other and I was in the right place at the right time. I had never thought of becoming a Permanent Resident of Canada as the paper work looked too involved. First you needed a nomination from the province of Manitoba; then a whole lot more paper work for the federal government. Then by a lucky twist of fate; I met Paula on an on-line dating site. The nice lady worked for the immigration department of the Canadian government. So much easier when the forms are filled in for you; I didn't even have buy a stamp and the envelope went straight on to the top of the pile. Some things are meant to be.

____ The closure of Canada's only glass-making factory was a big blow for Big Freight; along with the crash of the house-building and construction industry in the US. From a fleet of 160 units they quickly shrank to just one-hundred by March 2008. British drivers were leaving on a weekly basis; so many that I thought I was missing something but none were going to jobs that I would have preferred better than Big Freight. Any way I had another more serious problems than work; my health.

____ Although the Provincial Nomination Program had been a piece of piss; my Permanent Residency application was having problems because of my piss. During the rigorous medical examination; blood was found in my urine and further tests were ordered. There was a one in 7 chance that I had prostrate cancer and judging by the awful tests used to find the cancer; it must be pretty awful too. Sending in the camera crew to photograph the inside of my bladder was particularly disturbing. Although I was pleased that my first-ever body cavity search was carried out by medical staff  and not customs officers.

____July 2nd 2008 and my PR came through; the cancer scare was a false alarm. I bought a Mustang to celebrate. Big Freight finally got their act together and a hatchet man cut the office staff down to size. The complacency had cost them a lot of customers as competitors found easy pickings amongst them. Suddenly the "Welcome to Manitoba" mat had been whipped out from under the feet of any British drivers hoping to come to Canada. It was never going to be that easy again. I did have the satisfaction of knowing that I had finally arrived in the heyday of a particular job. Both in car-transporters and Middle-East work; I had arrived as things were tailing-off. Thinking about it; Middle-East and North American work have a lot in common: a lot of very hard work for not much better than average pay.  

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