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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Training Days

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/23/2024
Page Views: 1919
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, a journal of my travels and adventures.

Let The Training Begin!

By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/22/2002
Page Views: 2168
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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, as it turns out, 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, like me, 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
Page Views: 1753
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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's breakfast was reconstituted eggs and undercooked sausage; today's 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
Page Views: 1655
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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
Page Views: 1658
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/26/2002
Page Views: 1678
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
People from all walks of life with one thing in common: Unemployment.

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.

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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/27/2002
Page Views: 1738
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
When not even James Earl Jones can make a video interesting you know you have a problem.

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
Page Views: 1992
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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 I know they still hear wife.

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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 7/29/2002
Posted: 7/30/2002
Page Views: 2153
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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
Page Views: 1669
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 8/4/2002
Page Views: 1812
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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
Page Views: 2018
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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
Page Views: 1952
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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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By: Paul S. Cilwa Occurred: 8/28/2002
Page Views: 1820
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
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 his way, he shook his head in bemusement. What a loser, he said 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 way too short-tempered to be a truck driver.

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