March 2nd, 2005

i'm ready for my close up mr demille

more Jason tales

Ahhh, March.  I can smell the madness, just around the corner.  One of my favorite times of year filled with basketball games and horse races.

Spent the night in Limon, CO last night at the Flying J.  Jason was driving last night, so he was the one who turned off the freeway, drove to the truckstop, into their lot, and parked the truck for the night.

This morning, leaving the parking lot, he turned the wrong way to get back to the interstate.  Apparently, in the future he plans to "write it down."  How can someone LIVE like this?  I'm just waiting for the night when he parks in the back of some really large truckstop and can't find where he parked the truck.  I know he hasn't taken the care to memorize the truck number. I have visions of him climbing up on every red truck to look in the windows until he finds it again.

JasonismTM Of The Day
[reading exit sign]
Jason: "Is that Peoria, Illinois?"
[I decided to not just respond "No." as in the past and try to help him with this]
Me: "We're in Colorado, Jason."
Jason: "There's a Peoria, Illinois.  Does it mean that?"
Me: "This is Colorado."
Jason [increduously]: "You mean there's a Peoria, Colorado?!"
Me: "Yes."

Then later this morning, we were navigating through Denver's packed freeways.  We were taking I-70 east to I-225 south, eventually taking us to I-25 south, en route to Pueblo.  While on I-70, the signs began appearing the for I-225 junction.  I pointed the sign out to him, insuring he understood that he needed to be in the right lane for the upcoming exit.  He properly signaled and made his lane change.  As we neared the junction, another huge, green sign informed us that "Two lanes exit". Another sign just below it, indicated that that the furthest-most right lane was exit only and the other lane provided both an exit and continued through-traffic on I-70, by means of little arrows.  As the two lanes were breaking off from I-70, he followed them as he should have.  Then, without warning, signal, apparent reason, or checking his mirrors he began moving into the left lane.  Luckily I was on top of things and immediately checked his sight-side mirror and spotted the minivan beside him.  This was kind of a repeat of the incident in Indianapolis last week.  I lost it.

Me: "WHAT'RE YOU DOING?!?!?!!?"

He hesitated a moment and, for a split-second, drifted back to the right a little.  At first I thought he was coming back into his lane properly and had seen the van.  Apparently I was wrong and he began to go into the left lane once more.


He swerved back into his lane.  Of course, the minivan had already taken to the shoulder to avoid us.

Jason: "Do I need to be over here?"
Jason: "I got confused by the sign and I thought I needed to be over there. I never saw an exit sign pointing that way."

We have been working on basic sign reading on the interstate for the past couple of days.  I had shown him how, in the rural stretches of interstate highway, there is a standard lay out to exit signs.  There are typically three: 1 mile away, 1/2 mile away, and one at the exit with an arrow pointing to it.  I've also explained that in the city, especially with multiple lane highways this is not always the case.  Since exits are much closer together, there can not be as much warning.  In addition, sometimes signs for multiple exits will be bunche together and one has to be pay extra attention to the exit numbers and which one they need. Moreover, due to the multiple lanes, signs are typically hung over the freeway where all lanes can view them.  Apparently, he had focused a bit too literally on the standardized layout from our previous lessons and when he hadn't seen the arrow on the sign pointing in the direction, it threw him.  I was beginning to calm-down now, so the volume of my voice reduced, however my general tone was not.  It was firm and overbearing.  We are now into our fifth full day of driving and some things have GOT to start making sense to him really soon.  I haven't told him this, yet, but I probably will when we do his progress report for the week.

Me: "Regardless of how confused you were, you were going to change lanes without signaling or checking your mirrors?!?!?"
Jason: "I thought I had taken the wrong turn and needed to be over there."
Me: "Over where, Jason?  Back out on the freeway?  What were you going to do after you changed lanes?"
Jason: "I was going to get back over there."
Me: "So, after changing lanes without signlaing or checking your mirrors you then were planning on crossing the the shoulder of the ramp and the shoulder of the freeway to get back on I-70?!?!?!"

Keep in mind we were already on the exit ramp.  To get back onto I-70, he would had to have done just this.  Cross a lane of traffic, then cross the "triangle" where the ramp had already split from the freeway, then into a lane of travel.  You've seen boneheads do this all the time on the freeway, although usually in the opposite direction, from the main freeway onto the exit ramp because they ALMOST missed it.  Naturally, Jason had no response for this.  What could he say?  I presumed his silence as guilt.

Me: "That's not only illegal, Jason, but very, very dangerous.  Driving a vehicle, whether it be a car or a truck is all about commitment.  You commit to what you have done.  Erratic driving is what causes accidents.  You never, ever leave your lane of travel unless it is planned and properly executed.  If you HAD made a mistake and taken the wrong exit, or made a wrong turn, then you finish it.  Then you find a place to turn around and go back. But you don't just go leaving your lane and crossing shoulders because you've taken the wrong turn!"

I felt this was the best course of action to take.  It's not so much a problem that he got confused by the signs, but that his actions were so heinously wrong.  Sign reading will come with exposure to all these new-fangled super highways run by the satellites which they don't have in Harrisburg, Illinois.  It's his judgement about basic driving techniques and getting him used to the demands of driving such a large vehicle (mirror usage, shifting/braking, backing) that concerns me most.

Again, to his credit, he is making progress, but we're doing these in baby-steps.  His shifting is becoming more solid.  After a brief conversation this morning after a missed turn on the way to our first customer, I think it's finally soaked in that he needs to get down into idle gears (those in low range below 5th gear) when approaching turns.  He has had this bad habit of running-up on his turn in 5th or 6th gear, then having to do one of two things: try and lug through the turn in an inappropriate gear, or stop in the highway and shift back to his take-off gear (2nd).  I've been trying to impress on him his need to get down to a minimum of 4th gear when approaching a turn, but until today I don't think he's ever fully grasped that.  He's beginning to plan his deceleration further in advance and get through his downshifts.  I'll keep reinforcing it positively until it becomes habit.  I think once we get his shifting solid, and he's not spending inordinate amounts of time thinking about it, it will free his limited resources to concentrate on other things. 

This is the general case with all new drivers, actually.  The chore of learning to downshift in the first few days requires an immense amount of concentration.  Not only are you learning the gear pattern, remembering the splitter, coordinating your feet to operate three pedals simultaneously, AND learn to match road-speed to RPM's for gear synchronization, but you are doing this while attempting to make instant assessments of the traffic around you (front, side, rear), clearances (beneath and above), the distance you have to travel before you stop/turn, and the particulars of a specific turn you may have to make.  In time, all of these things become automatic; you don't really think abot it, you just do it.  But for the new driver, it's a lot and things get missed.  This is why I sit here during the first couple of weeks, to be the other set of eyes and to offer guidance. 

In Jason's case, not only is he dealing with all of this, but he's hindered by a sheltered existence in Bumfuck, Egypt and his limited mental processing resources.  I don't think it's impossible for Jason to become a good truck driver, but I think it will require an immense amount of effort on his part to do so.  So far, he's been up to the challenge, but the progress has been slow.  We'll see how patient he remains with me as my patience shortens as I'm already beginning to feel happen.  I may have a conversation with him to this end; to let him know that I will be riding him harder and harder about things until he picks it up, especially with these fundamentals.  The part I won't tell him is that this will serve one of two purposes: either I'll hammer some of this into his thick head or he'll get so frustrated with me he'll want off the truck.  At this moment, either option is acceptable to me.

Oh Mike, Mike... wherefore art thou, Mike?

After the conclusion of this trip to Pueblo this afternoon, we're scheduled to take a load to Georgia.  It is rare for me to go to the south, so I'd definitely be interested in meeting up with a southern LJ-friend if things work-out toward that end.  Currently, details are sketchy as to time-tables, but perhaps the notion of a cup of cofffe in Atlanta could be entertained with kinkerbelle or partial_reality.  The mind races with the possibilities.  More as/if this develops.

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I know most people reading my journal won't care about my ramblings on my Slint-capades over the course of the next month.  I mentioned I had started a blog for this at my website.  Now you can have the best of both worlds.  You can have it syndicated to your friend's list if you like, or ignore this if you really don't give a hoot. And I won't cross-post them here. :)

A photo of Jason

And finally, the answers to yesterday's little homage to the current meme making the rounds.. everyone was so gracious with their comments, my e-mail inbox was bursting!  I thought it only appropriate to offer a little effort in my answers, by presenting them in PICTURES.
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