By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/28/2020
Occurred: 7/26/2002
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 268
People from all walks of life with one thing in common: Unemployment.

Friday, July 26, 2002

I use the pool here every day and once in a while (rarely) someone else is in there too, and we get to talk. I was talking today to a 32-year-old who just got his doctorate from a college in West Virginia for Macrobiotic Technology. He couldn't get a job in that field, or any professional job at all; so he is training to be a truck driver. My drivin' partner, Wayne, was a salesman who two years ago made $80,000,000 but two months ago had his car repossessed. My roommate was a chef. Kurtis, who drove me here from Phoenix, is retired from both the Army and the Navy but can't live on his pension and can't find other work.

This is, in fact, very much like being in boot camp. Men are here from all walks of life, thrown together by the common enemy of unexpected unemployment.

This may be what work was like in the WPA and other government programs.

Except the food was probably better.

We spent the whole day in the truck. The morning was spent backing up, over and over, at a pretend loading dock. I finally got it and my last five attempts were pretty successful. The afternoon was spent at a deserted Air Force base, practicing "button hook turns". This is where you start out by aiming left, before turning right. It's used for tight turns on narrow streets. Usually we are able to do regular right turns, which are easier. All turns are complex, though, because you have to adjust your gear shift while slowing down, ending up in the gear you need to turn in (4th or 5th for a right hand turn; 5th or 6th for a left turn) just as you actually do the turn. You have to watch in six different mirrors, too, while turning, paying special attention, of course, to the view of the trailer as it comes entirely too close to the curb or the telephone pole on the corner.

The truck we drive says "United States Truck Driving School: Caution Student Truck Driver!" on both sides and the back. At least that keeps the traffic from getting too close to us.