This morning the parallel park seemed to click almost as much as the double-clutching did yesterday. After one quick false start, I set up, pointed the ass end of the trailer in the right direction and cranked the wheels at almost the perfect times. I might have been a little far out from the curb, but it all made sense.
One of the only things that is still giving me a hint of a problem is keeping track of what is behind me. Like yesterday I was pulling into the convenience store / Greyhound bus station where we change drivers in Conroe and noticed a big truck right on my tail. It was my own trailer. Speaking of the bus station, every time we stopped there was a different pair of travelers waiting for their bus. The people who take the bus do not appear to be a great deal different than the people who drive trucks. Just sayin’.
Like yesterday we spent a majority of time in Conroe where we will be taking the road test. Today I ran a slightly different course than I did on Day Ten. I killed the engine on the uphill start, made a crappy right (according to the Limey) and then got my but chewed for making a sloppy turn around a curve, not handling a stop sign short of an exit ramp properly, and another cursing out for my handling of right curve just ahead of a stop sign to get on the main drag that would take us to the freeway. While all my moves may have registered short of perfection, I thought I executed decent driving technique and tried to disagree with the Limey. I yielded to his superior experience and wisdom. It don’t matter. He won’t be with me during the road test. And I expect to pass. The engine-killing was embarrassing though.
My shifting remained stellar today even though the first driver du jour continued his herky jerky ways. I can kinda understand why a proper double clutch can be hard to grasp. The Limey spends most of his time commanding us to be slow, resolute, cautious and deliberate, not necessarily in that order. This advice applies to everything but shifting where we have to “Boom. Boom” as quickly as an automatic transmission. A bit of a contradiction, yeah?
“Yeah?” is the Limey’s second favorite word. His most favorite word starts with an “F” if you know what I mean. He ends most tirades or simple instructions with the question, “Yeah?’ He just wants to make sure we are getting it, yeah?
A bit after noon, he got a call from the lead trainer saying there would be another trade. This time, we lost our two already licensed trainees, Bubba and Hibachi, for two trainees who failed the road test last Thursday. Seaman was a crappy shifter. He made two or three start-ups that rocked the cab side to side like a fishing boat in gale force winds in the television show “Deadliest Catch.” The Limey thought that might fail him again if he did it in the road test. We don’t know what he would have done in last week’s road test because the exam was halted before he even got on the road. He ran over one of the parallel parking cones on the way out of the P-parking area.
The other new trainee, Big Bubba (Bubba’s older brother), took most of his corners on two wheels. Uh, make that nine wheels. He was quick enough around the corners than Ali or I would have been roundly berated for such aggressiveness. I think because they were Johnny-Come-Latelies to our team, the Limey didn’t really give a rip and said nothing. We have been told that cornering too fast is a dangerous practice, ESPECIALLY when you’re pulling an empty refer unit. The refrigeration equipment is quite heavy and mounted on the top front of a trailer. With an empty trailer this means the unit is quite top heavy making a too fast turn a dangerous proposition. (Wow! Listen to me. Mr. 18-wheeler expert.)
We ended the day back in the classroom where we were told that last week’s four failures and the other trainer’s love interest would be taking their road tests tomorrow and the rest of us would take the test on Thursday. This means that if I (and the other three) want to make the trip to Stevens orientation in Dallas this Sunday, I (we) would have to pass the test on Thursday. If the proven losers fail their tests on Wednesday, they would have the opportunity to retest on Thursday. I say, give the fresh test-takers a shot on Wednesday so we can retake if a brain fart automatically disqualifies us. What I say obviously means diddly squat.
All-in-all, I am quite confident. I will be even more confident after another day’s practice. So practice I shall.
High Point of the Day: A return trip to the Flying J truck stop. This is the place were I went before I signed up to gain a little insight into the trucking business and the trucking life. Our team had stopped there last week to fuel up the truck. We picked up Pilot myrewards cards so that when we hit the road we would be entitled to all the benefits a Pilot myrewards card would offer including free showers with fill-ups and deals on soft drinks and other merchandise. Unfortunately, last week we picked up “Preferred” cards that were targeted to civilians. Hey, we didn’t realize they had three card flavors. We needed “Professional Driver” cards. We were not sedan or pickup-driving pond scum. We were, or soon would be, professional drivers. The third flavor was “RV.” For the record, I did not see Robin Williams.
Most interesting discussion: While were talking during a Limey smoke break, he asked me how long I had been married. Forty three years I replied. Were my wife and I still “functional” he asked? Of course, I replied. He said that after being on the road for five weeks it was important not to get too intense on the first night back home because I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the action for the rest of the visit home. As the group discussed the frequency of our romps, it became clear that one of our number might have a hard time adjusting to this business. They believe in frequent “togetherness.”
News Update: Bubba’s son who cracked some ribs in a four wheeler accident is 22-years-old. Not that I don’t feel bad for the young lad, but I was picturing an 11 or 12-year-old as the victim. He was expected to be released from the hospital today.