My woeful case of protracted training time is not a unique one. My current trainer’s last student was on his truck for 42 days. Other students have waited four days, and longer for all I know, after all the snarling, to be assigned to a truck in the first place.
And even one day with a bad trainer can be like a foretaste of purgatory. I know, because my first trainer was horrible. He hated his job, as many truckers do, and naturally took it out on his trainees. Constant nagging, belittlement, temper tantrums; in short, he was a typical tyrant, emotionally stuck in the terrible twos. Appropriately enough, he even had the same square face, watery eyes, surprisingly delicate nose, jowls flanking that weak yet defiantly-held chin of the older Hitler. If he had clipped the ends off his moustache he would have been the spitting image of der Fuhrer in his later, tired, drug-addled days.
The list of things that were verboten was both extensive and petty. I could not, for example, change the angle of the seat backs, which as he was built something like a gnome meant that I had a backache for the twelve long days I spent on his truck.
The very worst Verbot was that I was not allowed to touch the radio. He had one of those satellite radios, tuned, permanently, to some special right-wing, hate-all-Democrats-and-liberals talk radio channel. It was loud, too, as the gnome was slightly deaf. Waking and sleeping, for twelve solid days, Rush Limbaugh and his minions poured their vitriol into my unwilling ears.
A less stoical trainee than your stalwart correspondent would surely have cracked under the strain.
This evil gnome was what is known as a dedicated driver, which means that he drove the same routes again and again. For that reason, I was supposed to be on his truck for only two weeks, then reassigned to complete the regional requirements. Unfortunately, he was so pleased with my driving (though you wouldn’t have guessed it from all the tantrums) that he began, early in the second week, scheming to keep me for a third. (A word of explanation: Trainers get paid for all the miles driven by their trainees. Trainees get paid fifty bucks a day.) He began to speak of the ‘gravy’ that he felt he deserved, after having spent so much tender care on me. (He was spending ever more of his time back in the sleeper berth while I drove, and a third-week trainee is allowed to drive as many miles as his trainer tells him to. When in the sleeper berth, he turned the radio up even louder than usual.) You may imagine my state of alarm, especially when it appeared as though his nefarious plan would succeed.
Fortunately, I was pulled off his truck after only twelve days instead of the fourteen I had expected. Unfortunately, the two days I then spent sitting around on the yard waiting to be assigned to my next trainer were then held against me, despite what I had originally been told, though I would not find that out until almost two weeks later.
Do I seem obsessed with this question of days? Well, they have been creeping along in a rather petty pace, the rhythm of each one completely out of my control. Actually, that’s not quite true; my second trainer was a most pleasant, communicative, and reasonable chap. We had a number of things in common, were getting along very nicely, had some fine conversations. Then we made the mistake of stopping on the company yard. They decided to do some work, and install an APU, on his truck. We’d come in late on Friday. Monday morning we found out the extent of what they would do, and that the work would be delayed. Rather than have me sit around any longer, the powers that be reassigned me. And added two more days to my sentence.