Jason is 28 years old and is a resident of a small town in southern Illinois. I made mention that he is somewhat daft. I'm beginning to discover that he is like an iceberg; the depth of his unfortunate ignorance I haven't even begun to fathom. In a way it's kind of sad, not to mention scary, that he has been able to survive this long with such a fundamental lack of understanding. Whereas Roger was just crazy, with boneheaded ideas about how the world worked, Jason is more like a child; he hasn't even formulated an idea about how the world works. He has an innocence and naivete that is due in part to his backward, insulated upbringing in Po-Dunk, Illinois but is owed primarily to what appears to be a general mental deficit. I grew up in Po-dunk, Kentucky, afterall; being from the sticks doesn't necessarily equate ignorance. So it's not just that Jason is uneducated or unrefined, he is unintelligent. I'm not saying these things to mean, because, I actually like Jason. He's a nice, easy-going and considerate person. Imagine a real-life Forrest Gump. Even his speech patterns are reminiscent of Forrest, although not as heavily affected as the one chosen by Mr. Hanks in the film.
On the one hand, as his trainer, it's frustrating. I'm finding out I have to dumb everything down to a very basic level so that he can understand it. I think I will be able to show him the mechanics of this profession; the physical act of driving a truck. You remember these guys in high school. We smarter kids might've been smug about the curricula of shop-class, but goddamnit they could build an awesome birdhouse. It's the mental aspects of this profession I'm worried about him grasping: the use of the Qualcomm satellite, route planning and map reading, etc. Of particular concern is the fact that he has almost no experience driving on the interstate highway system. He has no former knowledge of basic things like how to read exits signs (exit only, A-B exits, etc), mile markers, or highway designations (I-70, U.S. 27, S.R. 37).
On the other hand, being with Jason is going to be like an adventure all in itself. His wide-eyed, child-like interaction with his environment makes for unusual conversations that one doesn't typically have with an adult. I imagine this won't seem so novel after a while, but for the moment it's providing countless hours of entertainment. So for the next 2 months, my entries will likely be filled with what I call JasonismsTM. These will be the direct quotes from my resident man-child. The Jasonisms below, are just from today.
"Do all these exits go into towns?"
"I used to be good at algebra and then they changed it and had some tests like SAT's. You know, algebra? Equations and algebraic numbers."
[Driving on I-70] "Is this a superhighway? I saw on the Discovery channel about these super highways that go into certain places to help them out."
"Do they have the same things on TV here that they do in southern Illinois?"
Me: "The truck speed limit in Ohio is 55mph."
Jason: "We're in Ohio?"
[I should add he drove us into the state and we had been parked at a truckstop about ten miles from the Indiana state line for about 5 hours while I took a nap. About 30 minutes later, remarking on an interstate exit sign]
Jason: "Is that Springfiled, Illinois?"
[During the writing of this, I've discovered that Jason doesn't understand that we recycle city names in this country, so whenever he sees a sign with the name of a familiar U.S. city, it goes something like this:]
Jason: "Does that mean Baltimore, Maryland?"
Me: "Does what mean Baltimore, Maryland?"
Jason: "That sign back there.
Me: "I doubt it."
[Still in Ohio, 10 minutes later]
Jason: "There's a Newark in New Jersey, right?"
Jason: "Is that Newark, New Jersey?"
Me: "That's Newark, Ohio."
[After being passed by a garbage truck] "This guy named David Briggs used to drive a garbage truck"
[Blah blah blah, I kinda tuned him out for a few seconds] "Do you know David Briggs? He's on the city council."
[This is actually a regular occurence, his asking me if I know someone who drives a truck. Even after I have explained to him that there are somewhere around 3 million trucks on America's highways]
[I mentioned earlier to Jason that he would drive over a couple of mountains this evening as we entered West Virginia. Between Columbus and Zanesville, OH there is a stretch of straight highway with considerable hills. As he is driving through this:]
Jason: "Is this a mountain?"
Jason: "You said we would be driving through some mountains..."
Me: "Yes you will, closer to West Virginia."
Jason: "Is that part of the Adrionic Island mountains?"
Jason: "The Adrionic Mountains, part of a New York chain of mountains."
Me: "I think you mean the Adirondac Mountains."
Me: "The Adirondacs are in New York... they're part of a larger chain of mountains called the Appalachian Mountains."
[After driving through the western suburbs; after driving through downtown Columbus with its fantastic skyline; and after driving through the eastern suburbs back into the pitch-black night of rural Ohio; in all a 45 minute urban-highway drive with multiple lanes, twisting ramps, and thick traffic. After all of this]
"Are we in Columbus yet?"
I can't make this shit up, people.