Day Two: Logbook , Driving, More Logbook, Simulator and Backing

I got new boots today.

boots FB

I’m excited. They got dirty fast. That’s probably a good thing, get them used to working.

Today was a weird day. Long, and mixed with many different elements. We had some class time where we talked about logbooks, how to fill them out, what the different lines meant, and spent a lot of time on the various restrictions on hours. Under “Remarks”, we were told to write “First day employed as driver.” This is it for me, then, the true Day One.

I was thinking about this all day, I’ve got a real log book now. Not something that I’m goofing around learning on in school, it’s the real deal, to be shown to real DOT officers. It can cause me to pay out real money if it’s filled out wrong. It also is the start of logging every hour of my life. From here out until I stop driving, every day, every hour, needs to be accounted for. What a thought.

After the logbook class, we got to drive. For some of us, it’s been weeks since we’ve been behind the wheel of a big rig, for others, it’s been longer. God, it felt good to be back on the road.

As I’ve said before, we are the very first class to go through Schneider’s new training facility here in Phoenix. They have brought out some other instructors from different parts of the country. I was in a truck with a trainer from Arkansas. My old boss was also from Arkansas, and she was overflowing with that sweet, uniquely Southern charm. I remember I could forward the angriest, ranting customers to her and after a few minutes she would have them laughing, like they were best friends. My driver reminded me of her. I actually did fine, mostly, but there were times when I missed gears, and I even killed the engine at one point, something I never did in CDL school. He just leaned over and looked at me and just overflowed with that calm and told me it’s fine, just restart the engine and we’ll go. I breathed deep, restarted the engine, and we went. It was fine.

He said, “You can’t be in control of the truck if you aren’t in control of yourself.”

training FB

The other thing that hit me today was that we were in actual working trucks now. They don’t have STUDENT DRIVER in big letters on the back and sides, the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card for all your learning mistakes when out on the road. “What’s that idiot doing….Oh, wait, STUDENT DRIVER…I see….we’ll better just get around him.” Nope, now it’s just, “What’s that idiot doing…”

It was nice to have a clutch that actually had some tension to it. Any job is so much easier when you have properly working tools.

The class time continues to be disrupted by people not really knowing what we should be doing. “What are they doing this afternoon?” one instructor asks another. “I don’t know, ask _____.” “I haven’t seen _____, have you?” “No, I’ll look for him. ______ wasn’t around. So, we’ll just sit here then, yes?

It’s not like the clock is ticking. It’s Wednesday, we are supposed to be introduced to our Training Engineers on Friday. I still have never uncoupled or coupled a trailer. Ever. The other thing they kept saying today was “You’ll learn more about that in your third week.” Oh, right, pawn off everything we should know about our jobs and how to function properly as a driver until the last minute. Brilliant.

Listen, I get it, it’s a brand new facility and there are always going to be glitches. Frankly, I think they’ve done a pretty amazing job overall with what they do have. Well done, Schneider. It doesn’t change the fact that valuable learning time is being squandered every time we sit around waiting for people to come up with a plan for what we’re supposed to do next.

backing 02 FB

We ended the day with some groups going to the driving simulator (only one is in operation for now), and others going to do backing practice. Then switching. My CDL instructor, Military Guy, was amazing and taught me so many great lessons about driving, and I’m thankful to have learned from him for city driving. The caveat, however, is that I don’t think he taught us very well when it comes to backing. I never really got a hold of it, and I just thought it was me. Today, however, I was with another instructor (not Arkansas, another one) who just simply explained, “Do this, then that, look for this, then that.” Simple, basic. Refreshing. I didn’t do horribly. I actually did well.

By the time we had wrapped up, it had been almost 12 hours since we started. I’m exhausted. And really to hit it harder tomorrow.

My first day employed as a driver. Welcome to trucking.


Day One: On-Boarding Paperwork and Pre-Work Screen

Fun fact: Lynda Carter’s childhood home in Phoenix, AZ is now a truck driving school.  Yes, the house of TV’s Wonder Woman, that Lynda Carter, born and raised in Phoenix, is now being used as a home to train truck drivers.

I learned that riding from the hotel to the brand new Schneider training facility in Phoenix.  They picked us up in a bright orange bus.

Schneider bus 01

Back to school, indeed.

We assembled drowsily in the lobby of our nondescript hotel at around 5:00 this morning.  Some struck up conversations, others like me chose just to keep quiet and size each other up.  We were led to a conference room where we were promised breakfast, which turned out to be only small cups of Dannon yogurt, small blueberry muffins, a small basket of fruit and coffee.  Some classmates, who had visions of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes for breakfast, made snippy comments about that for the rest of the day.  Me, I’m always thankful for whatever I receive.  But, honestly, eggs would have been nice.

The training facility is Schneider’s brand new Phoenix training facility.  When I say brand new, I mean I think we’re the first class to run through it.  They haven’t even taken the plastic wrap off the freshly ordered Grainger trash bins yet. Or got power to one of the buildings. “Bare with us, it’s our first week here,” became a common theme throughout the day. Which is fine, it was mostly paperwork.  A lot of paperwork. Like, in all the jobs I’ve ever had, I don’t think I’ve ever filled out this much paperwork. It took all morning.  And there will be more paperwork later on in the week.

The only other event today was the Pre-Work Screen.  They took us outside one by one and ran us through some physical testing, just to make sure we are able to do the tasks expected of us.  Lifting, carrying, crouching, climbing in and out of the back of a trailer. Our heart rate and blood pressure were monitored throughout the screen.  This was the part I was most worried about.

When I got my very first DOT physical back in February, I found out I had high blood pressure.  Not dangerously high, but not good, either. The doctor didn’t advise any medication, only to loose weight and get more exercise.  You don’t have to tell me twice.  At 47, I’m dangerously close to the age my dad was when he had his heart attack.  Since that physical, I’ve made many life changes that, hopefully, will help me avoid the mistakes of my father.

Trucking just might have saved my life.

There are about 14 people in the class.  Two are women, one is with her son, they went through CDL school together and will be doing team driving.  Also, there are more younger guys than went through my CDL school.

Our Schneider guide for this day, I don’t want to say “teacher”, because he acknowledged that he won’t be training with us, did his best to let us know what the schedule will look like for the upcoming weeks.  He explained that what we were taught in CDL school might be completely different from what we’ll be taught here.

Our guide seemed flustered during most of the day, understandably so.  But, toward the end of the day, as we got away from administration and moved into talking about trucking, he became far more relaxed.  And knowledgeable.  It was good to hear him talk about the differences between what we’ve all just learned in CDL school, and what we’ll be doing in the real world.  Throughout the school I knew that we were using simple rote memorization to pass the tests only.  Now, it’s beginning to look like we’ll be learning to get real skills.

We will be in the trucks starting tomorrow.  We only have Wed-Fri, then we’ll break up to be with our trainers.  Oops, Training Engineers.  Sorry.

It does look like a short time.

We received the Schneider handbook, “Your Highway To Success”.  Our guide told us to read up on logbooks for tomorrow, and maybe even look at the chapters on shifting and defensive driving.  “But don’t read the chapter on backing. It’ll just mess you up.”

I guess some things can’t be taught in a book.




Check-in Day (or Thoughts From A Very Long Bus Ride)

Big Rig 01

I rode a Greyhound bus to Phoenix today. For 8 hours. On the bus was a sick guy who had absolutely no business being on public transportation. If the Zombie Apocalypse breaks out in Phoenix in the next few days, I’m not Patient Zero but I’ll have a pretty good idea who it was.

Saying goodbye to my wife at 6:00 AM was not easy, I’m not going to lie.  On the one hand, this will mark the longest time we’ve been apart for a while now.  We have become that old married couple that fit each other like a pair of comfy, well worn slippers.

On the other hand, that’s probably reason enough to do this.  We have lived our lives trying to avoid staying in a rut, and this is the change we probably both needed.  Also, it’s not like I’ve been abandoned on the moon.  I’m in Phoenix.  It’s, like, five hours away.

Or at least it would if you don’t take Greyhound.

And, lastly, this is the job.  Driving Over The Road means being away from home for long stretches of time.  “Truckin’…’s a lifestyle….”  I’ve heard that from several different people.  And they all say it the same, too.  It’s a phrase you say as you exhale a long, weary breath, like you are preparing your listener to receive some Yoda level wisdom you know their Luke Skywalker minds just can’t wrap their heads around.

I brought all the necessary items for a long bus journey, a book, my MP3 player, my phone and all it’s games, but I ended up just staring out the window for most of the trip.

I was watching the trucks drive past.  So many trucks on I-40.  All the names I’ve come to recognize; Swift, C.R. England, Werner, CRST, ABF hauling doubles, Fed-Ex hauling doubles.  Lots of tankers, flatbeds, intermodal loads.  And all the companies I didn’t recognize, Owner/Operators or small local companies just trying to get by.  There is so much variety in the business, I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of the opportunities.

I was also thinking to about how different this highway looks from the mean, gritty and congested streets of North Las Vegas, where I just was.  So many different problems.  6% downhill grade, how would I handle that.  Strong crosswinds, how would I handle those?  I saw trucks stopped on the side of the road with their hoods up.  That will be me, someday.  How will I handle that.

One of the reasons I chose Schneider was that their training program was only 3 weeks long, as compared to being with a trainer 6 or 8 weeks, or longer.  Now, I’m not sure.

Or, maybe, that is the point. Maybe they know that you’ll never be able to cover all the problems that will crop up on the road.  Not in 6-8 weeks, not ever.  Best to just give you a good grounding, and set you out to learn for yourself.

Well, we’ll find out tomorrow what’s in store.  Goodnight, everyone.



Roll With The Changes

I should have called my blog Roll With The Changes.

Dammit. Oh well.

I leave for Phoenix tomorrow to start my three weeks of training.  I decided to go with Schneider, The Big Orange. Previously known from my blog as Big Blue Trucking. Get it, because blue is the complimentary color of orange.  They sit opposite on the color wheel.  Anyone else interested in color theory?  No?  Fine, whatever.

Training involves one week in the classroom, one week out driving with a trainer, then one more week in the classroom, ending with final testing.  If I pass all that, then somewhere around the middle of April I will be handed the keys to my very own truck. All of this has happened so fast.

Schneider calls their trainers “Training Engineers”. I’m not even joking. Early in my life, I had several jobs as a File Clerk. On my resume, I always changed that job title to Records Distribution Coordinator. That’s what Training Engineer feels like, like someone paid a marketing firm to conduct some focus groups on how people feel about the word “trainer”. Probably the same firm who got us to change from “used cars” to “pre-owned cars.”

Three weeks in Phoenix.  One full day to get there.  I’m going to be on a Greyhound bus almost 10 hours tomorrow, what would normally be a 4 or 5 hour drive.  I could fly from Vegas to London in that kind of time.

Full confession, I haven’t even packed yet. I have spent this last week ticking off boxes on the Schneider packing checklist they e-mailed to me, acquiring things like a flashlight, work gloves, and the like. I bought an old Acer laptop off craigslist for $80.00 and have spent a disproportionate amount of time this week installing photography software and making sure that will be up to the task for when I start taking my camera on the road. I won’t be taking my camera to training, however, I’m sure I’ll be too busy learning.  And sleeping.  And hopefully writing.

And missing my family.  I guess this is where it starts, the separation.  My wife put on a brave face for most of the lead up, but only just recently confessed how much she will miss me.  I had also mentioned that my wife lost her father recently. Now I’m going to be on the road for weeks at a time.  Our son is in the Marines and our daughter will be studying overseas after her graduation in June.  We will be empty nesters soon, and I think being separated from each other as well is going to amplify that to a distressing degree.

My God, our kids were just in diapers.  Only last month, it seems like.

All of this has happened so fast.

Roll with the changes.

Day Sixteen – Test day

I passed.

The pre-trip went good. Maybe even great, who knows. The skills test got dicey at times, but on some of the maneuvers I was allowed two pull ups and two GOAL’s* before I was docked any points, and you bet I took most of them. For the driving test, I screwed the pooch on a downshift almost at the very beginning of the test. But I remembered to breathe, and I remembered that I wasn’t doing anything I hadn’t done before. I nailed the very next downshift, and knew it was all going to be ok.

On a couple of turns, I watched my rear tandems come inches from the curb, but never hitting, and certainly never going over. My examiner gave me one or two “You got lucky there, son.” kind of looks after a turn, but I just smiled and kept running.

I feel like the weight of a fully loaded trailer just lifted from my shoulders.

I got the rest of the day off. I’m going to take a nap.

I want to thank Trucking Truth for all your resources and help, I definitely couldn’t have done this without this site. Thanks.

Now, on to actually finding a job.

*GOAL = Get Out And Look

Day Fifteen – 2 Hours of Pre-trip Inspection, then driving, then some skills at the end of the day

Guy One got it together today. He didn’t do great, but he did much better. And whenever he would make a mistake, he made a visible effort to shake it off. It worked. He wasn’t letting his mistakes get to him. He’ll be fine.

We had another recruiter today, from a company that I have no desire to work for. He was supposed to be here yesterday, but cancelled. As he was passing out his company’s pens and tri-fold pamphlets, he told us that he had been stricken with the stomach flu. He looked horrible. Just what I needed the day before my test. I didn’t touch his brochure and just left it on the table.

He made his presentation in the classroom, where this all started for us. For a four week CDL school, two weeks are in the classroom, and two weeks are out in the range, in the world. Walking into that classroom again after only a week and a half of being in a truck, it felt like years since we had been up there. So strange, like going back to your old high school for the 10 year reunion. You recognize the buildings, but you just feel out of place, like you’ve outgrown it. And moved on.

This month has ran past me at a ridiculous pace.

I only drove once today, but that was fine, it was a long ride, and it went well. Military Guy took me out of our normal routes into some virgin territory for real world experience. It was both nerve wracking and tedious at the same time. It was refreshing to start looking out for different signs, different intersections, different traffic patters. Different dangers. At the same time, I’m starting to see that a right turn is a right turn, a left turn is a left turn. Every intersection is different, but if you have enough tools in your toolbox, then new challenges can be easily bested with your old, well worn skills.

Ha, I’ll be an old salty trucker yet.

Speaking of that….

Towards the end of the day, most of the trucks were back into the yard early, and everyone was scrambling to get one final crack at skills before testing. A few trucks had been set up, and all the other students from the other trucks were now milling about and mixing, vying for a chance for one last try. While some of the instructors had taken it upon themselves to run these desperate students through their paces, most of the other instructors were shooting the shit in the smoking area. Myself, and other students, hovered around asking questions and waited for any of that ancient trucker wisdom to drop. They were talking about hazards like cars and pedestrians. I piped up and joked, “I bet you probably have to deal with old salty truckers, too, pressuring you to do things you don’t think you’re ready for…”

I meant it jokingly, and the other instructors laughed in agreement, but one looked me straight in the eye, and with a steely expression just said, “Fuck ’em.”

Not the jovial response like the other drivers, but straight, almost somber. Almost angry. “Fuck ’em.” Like he was saying that to a specific old salty trucker who had somewhere, somehow, wronged one of his students.

I like to think that in those two colorful words, he was saying, “Don’t do it, don’t let them push you around. You are responsible for you, and don’t let anyone interfere with that. Ever.”

It’s comforting to know that there are old salty truckers looking out for us young pups.

Test day tomorrow. 6:00 AM.

Good night, everyone.

Day Fourteen – 2 Hours of Pre-trip Inspection, then driving the rest of the day

No skills today. Dammit. After the disaster that was parallel parking yesterday, I was hoping to get more time on the range, but all the other trucks are fighting for that space now. Therefore, we went out driving most of the day.

I got the time for my test, this coming Thursday, 6:00 AM – 9:00 AM. Perfect, the exact slot I was hoping for. Get ‘er done before the traffic starts picking up.

The school is in a light industrial area, so normally traffic doesn’t really start picking up until after noon. By 4:00 it’s a nightmare to drive around that area. So, hopefully, I’ll hit the road around 8:00 AM(ish). Perfect. Still, if you are awake that early this Thursday, and want to throw some thoughts, prayers, and positive vibes my way, I would appreciate it.

I drove the most today. From light traffic in the morning to the heavy stuff in the late afternoon. Today was the first time I actually looked around when I was driving and thought, “Yeah, I think I can do this for a living.” It was a nice thought. My next thought was that if I do actually go OTR , then I probably won’t be driving in heavy city traffic all day, every day. Hopefully. We’ll see.

The tables have totally turned on fellow students Guy One and Guy Two. Guy Two, who started out as timid, unable to shift and was literally taken out of the drivers seat by our trainer Military Guy early on, has now grown into the best shifter, and probably the best driver, out of the three of us. Guy One, however, continues his downward spiral of grinding gears, missed shifts and terrifying stops. With each mistake he gets more frustrated with himself, and the more frustrated he gets, the more mistakes he makes. Military Guy, who I once said had the patience of a saint, is close to losing that divine virtue. He has cajoled, soothed, yelled, explained, taught, yelled again, and done almost everything in his teaching toolbox to turn this around, but it’s not working. Guy One is defeating himself. And sometimes that is the most terrifying and destructive enemy you can battle.

He’s got one day to turn it around.

I’m off to study for my Pre-trip.

Properly mounted and secured. No abrasions, bulges or cuts. All hardware present. I keep chanting those words like some ancient charm, a spell to drive away the spirit of breakdowns. Which it is, in a way.

Day Thirteen – 2 Hours of Pre-trip Inspection, 3 hours of practicing for the skills test, then driving the rest of the day

This is getting serious. Over the weekend, I had a dream about truck stops. I needed to get to one ASAP, but the lots were all full. I couldn’t stop my truck. It was a nightmare. I’m dreaming about truck stops.

Next day, awake and not dreaming, I’m in my car, at an intersection and waiting to make a left turn. Oncoming traffic is in the distance, but I sat there for 30 solid seconds saying, “Nope, don’t chance it, you won’t make it with that trailer.” I was in my car.

This is getting serious.

We did parallel parking practice today. I nailed it on the first try. Then proceeded to screw up every single attempt after that. It was a nightmare.

Overall, though, driving is getting better. Our trainer Military Guy is getting more laid back, and isn’t yelling at us that much anymore. Guy Two is actually coming along by leaps and bounds. He’s shifting better than all of us now. He strung together a sequence of upshifts so silky smooth Barry White would have taken notice. He’s still a bit timid, but getting better.

It was actually Guy One who got the brunt of it today. He does this thing when shifting, he tries to do this dramatic flourish with all his shifts, waving his arm and hand as if he’s following through on a golf swing. Or conducting an orchestra. It’s weird. And it’s not helping.

He better get it together. We all better get it together, it’s test week. I honestly can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I started this school. And now it’s almost done. Testing. I previously wrote that the actual driving test was going to be the Everlasting Gobstopper of stress. I can already starting to feel that stress starting to creep into my thoughts.

It’s a nightmare.

On the job front, I think I’ve decided to go with Big Blue* Trucking. I got a pre-hire letter and I’ve been talking with a recruiter over the phone. Already, however, I am starting to see the little discrepancies between what the recruiter said in the classroom, and what the recruiter over the phone has been telling me. I know, I know, I need to start getting everything in writing.

I’ve put in a half-dozen more applications, mostly to the Big Mega Huge Carrier companies. Because, frankly, it looks like those are the only ones who hire people straight out of CDL school. But, really, it’s only been Big Blue Trucking that’s bothered to get back to me. Driver shortage, indeed.

I figure I’ll put in my year, the mandatory “1 Year Experience” that every other trucking company seems to require, and then see what happens after that. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’ve got to get back to studying for my Pre-trip. Maybe tonight I’ll dream about everything being properly mounted and secured, with no abrasions, bulges, or cuts, and all hardware present.

*please note that blue does not indicate the actual color of their trucks.

Day Twelve – 2 Hours of Pre-trip Inspection, 3 hours of practicing for the skills test, then driving the rest of the day

Can we talk about shifting? I am learning to like it.

When I went into traffic the first time, I was horrified. And shifting sucked donkey’s balls. When I hear about Mega-Carriers all going to automatics, I though, “Thank the Heaven’s above.” But, by the end of today, I’m starting to get more into the rhythm of it.

Release the clutch/allow the truck to get moving/press clutch/get into neutral/release clutch/press clutch/get into the next gear/release clutch/accelerate…

Rinse and repeat. You all know the drill.

I like shifting.

What I never knew is how complicated driving a truck is:

Green light/release the clutch/allow the truck to get moving/press clutch/get into neutral/release clutch/press clutch/get into the next gear/release clutch/accelerate/make sure that guy in the silver sedan doesn’t pull out in front of you/press clutch/get into neutral/release clutch/press clutch/try to find the next gear/grind gears/curse/grind gears/curse/look in mirrors/make sure that pedestrian doesn’t walk out into the street/press clutch/finally find the right ****ing gear/light turns yellow/brake/brake/press clutch/get into neutral/tap accelerator/press clutch/downshift/release clutch/light turns red/brake/brake/BRAKE/try to smoothly come to a complete stop with adequate distance between your vehicle and the car in front/have some random car pull into that space you just created/curse/brake/press in clutch/come to complete stop/splitter down/place into 3rd (because our student trailer is empty, we don’t need to start in the lowest gear)/look in mirrors/monitor intersection/green light/release the clutch/allow the truck to get moving/press clutch/get into neutral/release clutch/press clutch/get into the next gear/release clutch/accelerate/is that cop behind us?/press clutch/get into neutral/release clutch/press clutch/get into the next gear/release clutch/splitter up/look in mirrors/look at gauges/look at road/press clutch/get into neutral/release clutch/press clutch/get into the next gear/release clutch/HOLY ****, THAT GUY JUST PULLED OUT IN FRONT OF US/BRAKE/BRAKE/curse/look in mirrors/press clutch/get into neutral/tap accelerator/press clutch/downshift/release clutch/check mirrors/remind yourself to hug the ones you love when you get home/press clutch/get into neutral/release clutch/press clutch/get into the next gear/release clutch/look at upcoming intersection/how long has the light been green?/check mirrors/hey, that chick walking on the sidewalk is kind of cute/wait, what gear am I in?/do I need to shift up again?/what are my rpms?/dammit, I should have shifted already/make sure that woman in the PT Cruiser doesn’t pull out in front of you/check speed/check mirrors/press clutch/get into neutral/release clutch/press clutch/get into the next gear/release clutch/accelerate/uh oh, the light ahead just turned yellow, I just upshifted for nothing/break/break/break/press clutch/get into neutral/tap accelerator/press clutch/downshift/release clutch/light turns red/brake/brake/BRAKE/BRAKEBRAKEBRAKE/try to smoothly come to a complete stop with adequate distance between your vehicle and the car in front/hey, nobody pulled into that space this time/smile and be thankful for small victories…..

That doesn’t even cover turns.

Honestly, how do you guys do this every day? I’m exhausted.

I said at the beginning of this diary that “…after decades of bookkeeping and office administration work, I am looking forward to a change…if I can at least look out my window and see an open road and wide expanse of prairie, or mountains, instead of the same lifeless office block, that alone will be an improvement.”

I was thinking about this today. At my old office job, I know exactly how this past week would have been. I don’t even have to step foot in that office to know what happened. I was there about five years, I know. I know the calls I would have taken, the e-mails I would have sent, the conversations about TV shows I would have had with my co-workers. How do I know? Because that was how every week had been.

Since I’ve started this adventure in trucking, every day has been different. New experiences, new things to learn, new skills to practice. I got to watch the sunrise as we did our pre-trip practice this morning. My old cubical didn’t have any windows. The office didn’t have windows.

My new office is going to have really great windows. I’ll finally get to see the sun rise and set once is a while. It’s all worth it just for that.

Have a good weekend, everyone, I’m going to bed.

Day Eleven – 2 Hours of Pre-trip Inspection, 3 hours of practicing for the skills test, then driving the rest of the day

Day 11 – 2 Hours of Pre-trip Inspection , 3 hours of practicing for the skills test, then driving the rest of the day.

I love the instructors at this school. Some of them look like they’ve driven ten million hard miles. True old salts. Their faces lined like the interstates they ran. All of them give great banter. That’s something I need to work on, my banter skills. Truckers have great banter.

My instructor is Military Guy.

We all know Military Guy. He’s served in Iraq and Afghanistan, then took a job with a private company driving trucks and is always cryptic about his work overseas. He alludes that’s it’s all classified and hush-hush, and you wouldn’t believe it even if he told you. Military Guy wants everyone to know he’s seen some shit.

I disliked Military Guy when I first started.

I naturally dislike men who have a touch of braggadocio about them, walk with a manly swagger and use words like “swole”. Getting bullied as a kid will do that to you. Also, I didn’t understand his teaching style at first.

He’s the kind of instructor that allows you to make mistakes, then just looks at you and says, “Now, why did that go wrong?” While it is annoying when you’re in the thick of it (“It went wrong because you didn’t tell me how to do it right, nimrod.”), the reality is that by learning from your own mistakes, and letting you build knowledge on your own experiences rather than simply being spoon fed stuff, what you learn sticks better and quicker.

And the reason he tells all those military stories while you are driving is as much about bragging, but to keep you distracted from focusing on your own mistakes. And to relate what you’re going through to a real world experience.

Also, Military Guy has the patience of a Saint.

As I wrote yesterday, I’m in a truck with two other students. We’ll call them Guy One and Guy Two. Yesterday, if I may say so myself, I was the star of the show, leaving Guy One and Guy Two in the dirt. So, today, in the afternoon, I’m first out to drive in the city. I thought that today would be about my comeuppance, that everything that went right for me yesterday would go horribly wrong today. But it didn’t.

I’m still making copious amounts of shifting mistakes, and I’m still not really nailing the point in an intersection when you start to turn the wheel. That’s still a mystery. However, no actual damage, no carnage, we all made it back to base camp safely. Again.

Guy One is up next. He actually did pretty great in the skills practice in the morning, and he’s feeling confident. And he does good. Military Guy has to beat some bad habits out of him, and it gets dicey a couple of times, but it did with me too. I give Guy Two a fist bump as we get back to base camp.

Guy Two is up next. He did ok in the skills practice, but he just doesn’t have that aggressive, confident gene you need to make this work. I don’t know much about truck driving, but what I’m learning is that it’s not for the timid.

Guy Two is timid. And after about five minutes on the road Military Guy has had enough and orders him to pull over and stop. Military Guy takes us back to the empty industrial complex we were at yesterday so Guy Two can practice his shifting for an hour. Or, however long it takes. In my head I’m actually thinking, “This guy is not going to make it.” I glance over to Guy One and he’s thinking the exact same thing.

Military Guy keeps at him, though. Military Guy does not give up, does not surrender.

By late in the afternoon Guy Two is back in traffic. It gets dicey a couple of times but Guy Two is slowly getting it. You can almost see the connections being made in his brain. He starts nailing more shifts than he misses. He is able to stop at a crowded intersection without the rest of us loudly gasping and covering our eyes. Guy Two gets us back to base camp safely. He’s even smiling.

What I didn’t mention is that while we were back at the shifting range today, we passed all the other instructors who were parked on the side of the road, talking with their students. Who were all not driving. We drove right past.

I wrote yesterday that I was angry at Military Guy for making me go out into traffic with so little practice. What I realize now is that if I had waited until I was “ready”, I probably wouldn’t have gone out onto the streets until Christmas.

Military Guy might actually be the best instructor in the school.