By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/28/2020
Occurred: 8/28/2002
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 263
A hush falls over the crowd as the judges prepare their panels. The East German judge has already written a '7'.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Although I was ready for my SQT (Skills Qualification Test) last Friday, and met with Jack for extra practice on Monday, this was the first day Schneider could schedule it.

Michael and I drove up from Phoenix, meaning he had a chance to see the infamous Days Inn for himself. We arrived too late to use the Jacuzzi, but not too late for him to discover some ancient movie on TV that he had to watch until I finally asked him to turn it off around 2:30 am. After all, I had a test in the morning.

My tester was Gennipher, one of the instructors at Schneider I had seen but never actually met. She and Bob are friends, though; and, apparently, he had told her about me. So we started off like old pals. I ran through the pre-trip inspection and brake pump-down parts, following the Arizona rules (which differ slightly from the California rules). The road test went fine—I didn't run over any curbs.

When it came time to demonstrate backing, Gennipher discovered that someone had stolen her traffic cones. When she asked another tester if she could borrow his, it was discovered that, the previous night, someone had gone and stolen all the cones from all the training trailers where they are normally kept. Jennifer wondered, who in the world would steal traffic cones? I said, I had no idea, unless there was some big traffic cone festival in Mexico we knew nothing about. That got a big laugh from her; then I said, "I don't really need any cones for backing up, anyway."


"We won't have them in reality, anyway, right?" I then proceeded to slide the trailer alongside another (the cones would have marked the vacant, other side of the "hole" I was to aim for), perfectly straight and just the proper distance from its neighbor, with only one small, corrective pull-up. That week of backing training with Jack had really paid off!

Now, I had passed my SQT. If I lived in California, I would have my CDL; because Schneider is an authorized third-party tester for the state. But, since I live in Arizona, I would have to return home and take the Arizona state CDL exam there.

Friday, August 30, 2002

Today's CDL exam was held at a branch of the US Truck Driving School in Phoenix. Huh…I didn't even know they had one, here. It's instructors are also third-party testers.

Michael and Mom dropped me off; Michael was going to take Mom shopping and then come back in a couple of hours to get me. A couple of hours—that's how long Charlie, the guy who said I was his "next victim", said it would take.

But then, he passed me on to another guy, who was busy. I sat and waited and waited. Finally, another fellow came in, a student, it seemed. He caught my attention because, except for the fact that he was Hispanic, he looked exactly like my junior college buddy, John Griffith. John is blond, and probably twenty years older than this guy, but the resemblance was stunning.

Once, in the comic books, there was a story about this Kryptonian device Superman obtained that could alter a person's racial characteristics. Lois Lane used it to temporarily become a black woman. And, in the Navy, I knew a black guy who looked exactly like Bob Hope would, if Bob Hope were black.

So, this was like that. John Griffith morphed Hispanic.

I began to chat with him. He was from Puerto Rico, so I told him about my friend, Manny, who is from there. He told me about his ex-wife, who had done something or other that really upset him, so they were now divorced. I gathered he may have hit her—which instantly made him nothing like my friend, John, in a way that counts.

When he left, an instructor who had entered the room chuckled softly. When I looked at him, he said, "What a loser. He's quit the school at least three times. Every time he has trouble backing up, or shifting, he jams on the brakes, jumps out, slams the door and quits. He's got way too much temper to be a truck driver."

Finally, my guy showed up and the testing began. His nickname, I had learned was Gilligan, and I asked him about it. "It's my hat," he said, indicating the old fishing hat he wore. "I've taken way too much shit for this hat. But it's my favorite, so I wear it."

I'd like to say the testing was just a formality, and most of it was—the pre-trip, pump-down, and road test were simple. But this was the first time I had to do the serpentine backing in a test, and I was a little nervous. I wound up doing all right—not as lined up as I'd have liked, but good enough to pass. However, the arrangement for the alley dock test was different than I'd ever seen and I couldn't seem to hit the target. Finally, Gilligan told me to ignore all that and do it any way I wanted. That made it a lot easier, and I nailed it.

The parallel parking was also tough, because the space Jack had me practicing in turned out to be a lot longer than the one in the test. After a couple of tries, though, I did it—and that was that.

I had my CDL.

There was another formality; I had to drive the papers to the Motor Vehicle Department offices and have them actually create the physical license. But we did that before they closed; and by nightfall, August 30, 2002, it was official: I had my CDL. I was now, officially, a truck driver.