One of the most common questions, I’m asked is how I transitioned from my tastefully furnished, softly lit east coast office – working for a Christian organisation – to a diesel, dust and sweat infused life driving trucks in one of the nation’s most dangerous, politically incorrect work environments.
Short answer – it was a baptism of fire! Casting my mind back a decade, I’m still traumatised by an early encounter I had with two women – local Pilbara identities who still – to this day- are the roughest, toughest truckies I’ve ever met!
Later, I learned Rose and Ranga both thought I was the most princessy, ditzy female they’d ever met! Both seasoned drivers, I first set eyes on these ‘ladies’ at a ‘do’ at a local Karratha watering hole.
I still remember being stunned at the level of profanity in red dog country! Pilbara swearing is hard core and pervasive. Not for these souls, the odd bugger or shit. Profanities are used as greetings, insults, exclamations, adverbs, nouns, adjectives and verbs – in fact – in any grammatical sense the user sees fit – and these two ladies had their swearing down pat.
Introduced as the town’s newest truckie, I remember standing there in awkward silence enveloped in a haze of cigarette smoke. Both women – dressed in matching flannos and ugh boots – gave me the once over taking in the baby blue cashmere sweater I’d carefully teamed with a soft pink pashmina, designer jeans and suede boots.
Rubbing my sweating palms together, I tossed some witty repartee into the uncomfortable silence which was met with deadpan gazes through simultaneous plumes of White Ox smoke expelled in my face. “How long’ve you been drivin’ for?” these goddesses asked in unison. “Three weeks” I muttered – struck by the stark realisation that these ladies viewed me as the funniest thing they’d ever seen.
A momentary diversion allowed me the grace to slink away however – like two school bullies – I could see both sniggering at my expense from across the room. Clearly, I was obviously a complete failure as a truck driver before I’d even started!
Undeterred, I decided I just might be able to alter their misguided view of me as a suede and lace aberration with a few strategically dropped “F” bombs – a technique I’d found quite effective breaking the ice in this no-frills environment – the idea being that even though I mightn’t look the part, I could certainly sound the part!
Soon after, I saw my opportunity when they headed over to order dinner, so I quickly made my way across the crowded bar – arriving just as they were being served. “How’d you like your steak?” I heard the bistro lady ask Rose. “Just knock its horns off and wipe its fucken arse – and she’ll be good to go thanks mate,” she replied.
Stunned, I looked round expecting equally shocked looks from nearby patrons, but no one batted an eyelid as the two R’s – ignoring me completely – brushed past me to go for a “smoke outside before tea.”
Returning from the bar, I was gutted to find the only available seat at the dinner table was straight across from these two lovelies. Taking a deep breath, I put my lemonade in front of me in between their schooners of beer and sat down – pushing my food around my plate – wishing the floor would open up and swallow the both of them.
Over the coming months and years, I worked with these incredible women on a regular basis and eventually earned the of respect of both – if only for not having turned tail and run back to the eastern states when the going got tough.
Whilst I’d never admit it, there were days working in that unimaginable heat and red dust – that all I could see through the blood, sweat and flies – were tears, but I was determined to earn my truckie stripes – so pushed on.
In looking to raise money to fund a road-safety campaign some months later, local truckie gals decided to pose for a calendar. Running into the two R’s one morning out at the Dampier wharf, I broached the possibility of them posing together as Miss July. Their reply – predictably in unison – was “Yea, but we’re not wearing any f**ken make-up!”
After much discussion, both agreed on some extensive top lip and chin hair-removal work and a dab of light foundation to even out the redness and sunspots. Both decided on dual, sultry pouts to hide the cavernous gaps in their lovely smiles.
Excerpt from Lyndal Denny’s Book – Stilettos to Steelcaps
- Lyndal Denny is CEO, Women in Trucking Australia