By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/17/2019
Page Views: 193
Last week I couldn't spell 'trucker'. Now I are one.

On Monday, July 22, I began eleven days of truck drivin' training for Schneider National in Fontana, CA, after which I received two weeks' on-the-road training. Assuming I could pass my truck drivin' test (I'd already taken and passed the written tests), I would then be on the road as a long-haul truck driver.

I will be driving the "eleven Western states" and Western Canada, on the road for two weeks and off for two days. Because they've paid for the training, I will be obligated to Schneider for one years' drivin' before I can consider other employers or work.

Because so many people are in the same shoes I'm in, and actually also considering truck drivin' as a career, I am going to post here a narrative of the various aspects of training and, following that, Notes From The Road.

Let The Training Begin!

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/22/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 179
It did occur to me that I left data processing for truck driving, two careers in which backing up is a crucial component.

The group of would-be truckers waiting in front of the Days Inn was pretty terrifying. Guys covered with tattoos, one guy with a particularly bad wig (he'd look much better bald), tough-looking women who'd make Barbara Bush look like someone you'd want to meet in an alley at night. However, Days Inn hosts students from four or more trucking companies; and now that I'm in class, I find that all the Schneider people are much more upscale. More than half are former IT people who have been out of work for most of the past year.

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Cheerios For Breakfast

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/23/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 170
Trucking is not considered an upscale career, so why was I expecting an upscale breakfast?

Schneider had promised to provide two meals a day, breakfast and lunch. Breakfast was "supplied" by virtue of the fact that the Days Inn in which we were bivouacked serves all its guests breakfast. Of course, as we'd been warned, it was a "continental breakfast"; but they hadn't detailed to which continent they referred. Yesterday it was reconstituted eggs and undercooked sausage; today it wasn't as good…just a cup of Honey Nut Cheerios. No fruit, no juice, no Danish; not even coffee for the latecomers. They made two pots of coffee for about a hundred truckers. No wonder the desk clerk sits behind bullet-proof glass.

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Gay Jokes

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/24/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 170
Is a gay joke offensive if it makes a gay guy laugh?

We even relaxed enough to start sharing jokes, and then Charlie (our trainer) said, "I have one about a homosexual." Of course I raised an eyebrow, ready for the worst; but I have to admit I laughed out loud at the punchline:

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Southern California Stars

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/25/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 165
Invisible wonders fail to inspire.

Yesterday evening, when we got back from our road work, one of the other students in my class commented he'd driven on the Interstate. Knowing how tricky the intersections are near the entrance ramps, I joked, "Deliberately?" But today we all did it.

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Drivers

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/26/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 162
People from all walks of life with one thing in common: Unemployment.

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.

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Hunger

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/27/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 167
Someone should make a TV reality show about people forced to eat training center food.

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."

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A Friend

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/28/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 159
We all need someone we can be ourselves with.

I have been out of the closet for years…and have been working hard to not say too much about my private life to my roommate or driver training partner, even though I like them and feel bad to hold back when we are sharing our stories. I am careful not to lie, but it still feels like lying. I always use the word "spouse" to describe my husband, but they still hear "wife".

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Ghost

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/29/2002
Posted: 7/30/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 163
When religion doesn't help.

When she was 18, she babysat for her nieces at her sister's house. While there, after the kids were asleep, she would hear a man's voice, even though she was certain no one else was in the house. At first she ran from it; but, after awhile she asked him what he wanted. He told her he had owned that house thirty years before; he had died in a car accident; his family, which had little money, had illegally and secretly buried him in the back yard in an unmarked grave and then moved away. He told her that he couldn't rest until he knew his family was okay, but he couldn't find them.

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Test Day

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 8/1/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 165
It all comes down to this.

I'm about to take the test to see if the past 10 days of training "took." If I pass, I will be hired by Schneider. If not, I will be kept for another week of training.

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JumpStart

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 8/4/2002
Posted: 8/9/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 164
Training continues: Actually driving a truck.

I had mixed feelings about the sun here. On the one hand, it is hot—the air gets hot, there's dust and sand everywhere, and little breeze. On the other hand, there's always a haze in the air which I know is reflecting a lot of ultra-violet rays back into space. So I was afraid I would lose my Phoenix tan, which one gets while walking from one's house there to one's car.

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Over-The-Road Training: Week 1

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 8/9/2002
Posted: 8/16/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 165
My first week of on-the-road training.

Another photo, which was the favorite of the woman who interpreted the museum, was simplicity itself. Skeletal trees, caught in their winter nakedness, formed a stark backdrop to a man on horseback. The man's head was bowed, from cold or fatigue or both, and the horse trudged through the snow. Fog obscured the top and bottom of the photo, leaving just the trees and the snow in the same surreal isolation that you know the cowboy himself was experiencing as he made his way back to the bunkhouse after an exhausting day's work on that cold, January day in the 1930s.

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Over-The-Road Training: Week 2

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 8/19/2002
Posted: 8/23/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 168
My trainer is a happy guy, which makes me a happy guy.

By now, I also felt very safe with Jack…and as if we were likely to be friends a long time. So, I took a chance and "came out". As I hoped, he was cool. "I had a gay roommate for years," he said. "It's just not a problem." He asked about Michael, and our relationship with my ex-wife (who had picked me up Monday), and thought the fact that we all got along so well was terrific. I shared some of the coffee cake Michael had given me for the trip with him.

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Testing

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 8/28/2002
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 164
A hush falls over the crowd as the judges prepare their panels. The East German judge has already written a '7'.

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."

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