Monday, February 25, 2008

Ugh and more ...

Well, today unfortunately started out horribly. And in general went down from there.

As usual I arrived fifteen minutes early for class, and was out the driving range at the truck ready to go. However, it seems that our old instructor is gone and has been replaced with a new guy named Paul. He's pretty cool, and even though he's only been driving about six or seven years he seems to have a bit more knowledge than Steve did. And is a bit more detailed in his explanations than he was. However today, he was 20 minutes late. But I can excuse this since he has NEVER been to the college campus before and got stuck in really bad traffic in the mixmaster heading in.

So, once he arrived and I got over the thoughts that something had happened and I wasn't called and informed of a class location change (this has happened before) we got acquainted and got started on backing runs.

We ran straight line backing for twenty minutes each, then he decided he couldn't live without some coffee so we took a fifteen minute break. After our break is when the 'fun' began.

When we got back to the truck, he put the key in the door to unlock it and broke the key. And it was the ONLY one he had. He called the main campus to get them to send out another key and low and behold they do not have one. Or at least they can't find it.

So, they called a locksmith service to come out and make new keys. This took about an hour and fifteen minutes or so. So now it is almost 10:30am and the keys are made and we are set to go. But the truck now won't start, something is wrong with the electrical and no one can figure it out.

They call the shop to get a guy out to look at it, and after Paul and the mechanic talk about it for a while on the phone he pops open the breaker panel and hits the ignition reset switch. Why it got tripped is anyone's guess.

Ok, so finally 10:45 rolls around and we finally start going again. I hop in the truck first and start going. I do about twenty minutes or so and am doing pretty good once I got the truck lined up correctly, then I have to give it over to my classmate.

For the next fifty minutes I watch him nearly jackknife the thing repeatedly, up to and including completely destroying every cone on the range. One completely beyond repair. I and the instructor both tell him repeatedly what he's doing wrong. But he just won't listen or won't comprehend that you have to steer in the direction the trailer is going or you won't get lined up properly.

Now I have to state I haven't gotten this down myself completely but at least I can get it with one or maybe two pull-ups. He hasn't been able to get the truck back in a straight line at all.

And only once was he able to get it parked and that was with Paul hanging off the drivers side of the tractor giving him second by second instructions.

Backing training is going to be long and laborious I can tell already, unless he can start to get instructions through his head.

Once we are all done with the morning cone destruction we go off to lunch for half an hour and come back to head out on the road.

Due to traffic and other stuff it took us nearly an hour to get to the area where we do road training to practice shifting and stuff. So we finally get going about 1:30pm after he shows us the route, points out issues and what not.

The trip is a seven mile circle of four streets. It goes down a straight highway service road for two miles, then right down a straight road for two miles past a very active intermodal container yard. At the end is a right turn which goes down a road with one small s-curve that is two miles long, then a right turn to a repeat of the previous road but contains two s-curves with a 7-10 degree upwards incline hill which is three miles long. Then we stop in an abandoned gas station parking lot. It is a pretty good route, with both downgrade and upgrade hills of various small sizes, and several good long straight-a-ways which to practice downshifting, including double and triple downshifts.

We take a break, then I'm the first behind the wheel because I'm so damn eager to get this stuff down.

Now, my first trip around is not to bad, but definitely not perfect. I know what my strong areas are, double-clutch upshifting I have down pat. And down-shifting isn't to bad, but needs quite a bit of work. My other issue is breaking my habit of stopping using the service brakes, and using the down-shifting and engine retarder to slow down.

My right hand turns are not bad either, I only hit one small curb and cross the lines two or three times. Left turns are a ton easier, turning right is gonna take a bit of work and effort on my part. I think the issue is that you have to pull out so far into the next or oncoming lane to be sure your trailer makes the trip properly. But hey, today was only the first day of our road work. And at least Paul didn't have to tell me step by step each and every thing to do. If anything the only real thing he had to tell me was not to rev the RPM's so high when accelerating to upshift. I keep going up to 2000 instead of 1500 RPM's before shifting.

I made two full circles in a row and pulled into the stopping point after about thirty minutes or so, for a total of 14 miles driving.

Then in popped my classmate. Now, to date I've refrained from giving his name and I'm still not going to give his real name, so we'll call him Perry just to have something to call him.

As I've stated on several previous entries, including this one, Perry is a bit slow on the uptake. But now, I'm convinced he has a learning disability or is just a plain idiot.

I'll be upfront and state that I absolutely HATE being a passenger in a vehicle. I can't even get in the car if my wife is driving, everyone scares me. And it isn't because I don't like to not be driving, it is because I'm one VERY CAREFUL and safe driver.

Think about it this way. I've been driving four wheelers for twenty-two years. In that time I have and ONE at-fault accident (I was sixteen at the time and a total idiot and had only been driving for about three weeks. And I've had TWO tickets in all that time as well. One for for doing a rolling stop at a stop sign, again when I was sixteen, and a 63 in a 55 speed zone ticket driving from Dallas to San Angelo when I was eighteen.

So what I'm saying is I have a next to perfect driving record. My MVR is so clean, folks run it twice just to make sure it is actually not an error. Recently I actually saw a copy of my Texas MVR, it was blank with a 'No Incidents Reported' line item on it. Neither of my tickets or the accident is even on it. Swift even turned me down originally about three months ago (before I got smart and stayed away from major newbie companies) they said I was unsuitable because I had no driving history.

But I degrees, back to Perry. He's an idiot, and I think even Paul was starting to get actually frustrated after about ten minutes of having to tell him exactly the same thing repeatedly.

I don't want to get to much into Perry and his training, this isn't about him. But in all honesty if anything is going to hold me back and make me completely frustrated with my driving school experience, it is going to be him.

Ok, just one example of what he as doing today. Every time he hit the clutch to either shift, or move into neutral on the first part of double-shifting he would remove his hand from the shifter and put it back on the steering wheel. And every time he put it in neutral he would swing the shifter around for about five seconds to make sure it was in neutral. Well maybe not five seconds, but at least for a three count. And he could NEVER keep his foot off the accelerator, even when he was trying to show down during downshifting, he would ride the accelerator while trying to punch the clutch. Ugh.

That is just one example, and frankly I could probably go on for another two hundred words on him, but I'm not. I think you get the picture.

I made my third and final trip of the day at 4pm after he finished his two laps and we took a fifteen minute break, and then he ran again. Then we headed back to the campus and finished up at about 5:30pm, right on time.

We are supposed to drive first tomorrow and do backing in the afternoon, hopefully tomorrow will be a MUCH better day and I get more than twenty-one driving miles.

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