While we did some training, the highlight of the day was taking and passing the CDL A permit test. Of course that highlight required a lowlight in the form of a visit to the legendary DPS office in Conroe. The day balanced out. Got to the DPS office and it was relatively busy. I instantly knew it would be trouble because there were two lines. Why would they do that? Why couldn’t they have one line and have the next person in line advance whenever a clerk opened up? It’s not that complicated. Banks and many other institutions have figured it out.
Since the two lines looked pretty even, I flipped an imaginary coin, picked the line on the left and promptly got left in the dust by the line on the right. Although it wasn’t labeled, my line was obviously the queue for the mentally deficient, each with hugely complicated drivers license issues, and a collection of family members who couldn’t be bothered to actually stand in line. The only slack I would cut any of them was the guy in the wheelchair with no legs. His daughter was helping him and his rather frail looking wife who had band aids all over her legs. They took about five minutes before leaving empty handed because they didn’t have the requisite number of proof of address documents.
The guy I started talking to when we were both seven people back from the front of the line was walking out with his new license (or whatever he was there for) by the time I got to my mentally deficient clerk. That took perhaps 35 minutes. I then waited another 40 minutes for my number to be called to the next level of bureaucratic hell. There they took my $11 along with my picture in front of a blue background (surprisingly, I could not conjure up my happy face) and gave me the key to the touchscreen that would fire out special requirements and combination questions.
Ten minutes later I was walking back to the clerk who would give me my temporary permit and usher me through the lobby with the fast and slow lines – where, by the way, there was NOBODY waiting in line – and out of the building.
Actually, while it was an uncomfortably slow experience, all the personnel, with the exception of the clerk behind Window 6, were very cordial and I imagine they have the same conversations about what they see every day because I know they have to deal with some real zombies. For the record, I was 100 percent on the special requirements test and 90 percent on the combination test. (The names didn’t make sense to me, but what the hey.) The second test had probably half a dozen questions that weren’t covered in class. There were a few questions about multiple trailers and I just wan’t prepared for those. I’m glad I only got two wrong.
Flashback: Before we were deployed to our test taking, we finally got a chance to sit in a tractor, and Pammie even cranked it up for us. This was part of our introduction to the ever important pre-trip inspection. There are 33 steps, and I can’t believe anybody other than the truly clinically anal actually checks off each and every item every time. I mean, if you checked out the windshield washer level yesterday, and didn’t use it since then, why would it be gone today? But the inspection will be part of the road test so we will inspect the everloving crap out of the rig, including testing the air brakes (which is at least seven steps), because we all want to pass the road test. Oh yeah, I’m sure our company will want us to pre-trip inspect so we will all do it and we will all like it. Trust me when I tell you I will inform you when the inspection directly or indirectly saves my life one day in the future.
Flashback Note: The training tractor we inspected was a 1994 model POS. For a company that provides the best equipment, Stevens evidently makes their field equipment seem even better by comparison to the clunkers they use in training. Guess it only makes sense. Why put a bunch of inexperienced boobs into a shiny new truck?
The whole class is getting to know each other. One of the black guys, the one sitting next to me, is from Nigeria and his last real job was an IT analyst for IBM. I used to work for IBM. Whoda thunk that the classmate I would have the most in common with would be from Lagos. While I don’t expect to be bosom buddies with all of them, we’ll all be cordial when we see each other at the random truck stop, and there are a few I’m sure I’ll be staying in touch with.