By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 7/11/2020
Occurred: 7/27/2002
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 431
Someone should make a TV reality show about people forced to eat training center food.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Well, I'm halfway through the initial eleven days of training. ("On the sixth day of training, my true love shipped to me…")

It was a half day. We got up at the usual God-forsaken time, had the usual taste of thin gruel (actually, Frosted Cheerios—less nutritious) for breakfast, and took the same bus with the same driver (Emmanuel) to the school. However, from then on it was different. We did "modules"—four areas of training, into which the twelve members of class were divided into four groups to cover. The first item we covered was how to operate power pallet hand trucks to load and/or unload our trailers. "Not that you'll ever actually get to use one of these," our morbidly obese instructor, Daryl, pointed out. "In real life, you'll be using hand-operated pallet trucks. But we have to train you in these just in case, so you won't look stupid if they ever do let you use one."

Then we watched a video, in which the director had used extremely sophisticated graphics to try and punch up an achingly boring subject. Over a computerized graphic of a power pallet mover, the words "MODULE ONE" spelled out in 3-D letters, rotated over and over while the Boston Pops played a brassy musical introduction. After "MODULE ONE" settled into place, the name of the module, "INTRODUCTION" spun wildly into view, over and around "MODULE ONE" while the orchestra swelled with enthusiasm. Finally, just when you thought the title sequence was over, the letters began to sparkle and glow, throbbing in time to the music, as the orchestra reached its final, triumphant conclusion.

The next sequence, of some guy in blue jeans hauling some boxes on his power pallet mover, couldn't possibly meet the expectations of the titles, even though James Earl Jones narrated. I couldn't help but laugh as he said, "Operating your power pallet hand truck requires careful planning and diligence" with the same intensity as his Star Wars line, "Luke…I am your father."

There were six modules to the video, each about five minutes long, and every one of them had a similar sixty-second title sequence.

We also took some time to back trucks with trailers into a narrow slot between other trucks with trailers, as we'd have to do at a truck stop. That activity included pulling through the space between two adjacent trucks, with barely enough room. We all succeeded, but not without a lot of coaching. ("Hard left! Right! A little right! HARD right! Now, hard left!") The physical exercise is actually making me feel better than I did before, though some students have complained of sore legs or thighs (from working the clutch). I actually found myself squatting fairly comfortably to look under the trailer, something I haven't attempted to do in years.

After the modules, they did feed us lunch—I wasn't sure they would. I had some chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. As usual, I had to pay almost three dollars extra over the $5 that Schneider covers, but it was worth it. I'm so hungry, this slop seems delicious. Hunger isn't enough to do it for my roommate, David, however. "I used to be a chef," he declared in his Arkansas drawl. "I saw where they be cookin' the food…now I'm not hongry."

"You'll be hungry later if you don't eat," I pointed out.

"I ain' ever goin' be hongry agin," he sighed, thus inventing a philosophy that might have made life simpler for Scarlett O'Hara.

He lives near here, and so when we got back to the motel his wife picked him up. "You could stay all night," I suggested, hoping to get the room to myself for once. "Come back tomorrow, since the bus won't be picking us up till noon."

"It not that simple," he said. "At home, I have me a sit-u-A-tion." I don't know what the situation is, just that it's a shame when a marriage turns into one. But David will be back tonight around 10.