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.

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