March 30th, 2005

i'm ready for my close up mr demille

cool runnins

Last Thursday, after getting all of Jason's administrative odd-and-ends tidied-up at a truckstop in eastern New Jersey, he drove us the remainder of the way to Allentown, PA.  While he was driving, I contacted the training department to be assigned a new student.  I let them know that, in a few weeks, I intended on training stormodacentury.  I wasn't sure if the training department would want to try to find me a student who might have already had a portion of his trainging completed, as to not interrupt the training of a new student.    They assured me that they had a new student for me and that it would be no problem to drop him off when I was ready to train stormodacentury.  They gave me the name and motel room number of Delroy, patiently waiting at a Days Inn in Allentown.  After getting off the phone with the training department I immediately called Delroy.  The front-desk connected me with the room and I was greeted by a groggy-sounding voice, the sound of someone who had just been dragged from slumber.

"Hello", the voice said.
"I'm looking for Delroy."
"You're Delroy?"
[Becoming more alert sounding] "Yeah, yeah."
"I'm Lin.  I've been assigned to be your trainer.  I'll be there to get you in a couple of hours.  Can you be ready that soon?"
"Yeah, yeah. Sure ting, no problem."
This was the first hint of his accent I had detected. "Ok.  Well, I'll just meet you at the motel.  I have to go to the terminal first, but I'll give you a call when I'm leaving there to let you know I'm on my way."
"Alright.  Well, I'll see you soon. Goodbye."
"Ok, mon.  Goodbye."


I get Jason to the terminal and moved out of the truck. After the obligatory farewell pleasantries and good-lucks, I proceed over to the motel. I called Delroy again to let him know I was on my way, as promised.

"This is Lin, again.  I'm leaving the terminal now.  I will be there in a few minutes."
"Ok. I weel meet you at the front.  I weel turn in my key."
"Ok.  I'll see you in a few minutes. Bye."

I arrive at the motel and pull into the parking lot.  There's a person standing beside the lobby, which I presume must be Delroy.  He's a tall, skinny black dude wearing a colorful, colored shirt of red, green, and yellow and blue jeans.  On his head is a grey cap and at his feet are a couple of duffel bags.  He picks them up when he sees the truck and begins walking to where I've parked it.  I hop out and walk over to greet him.  In the closing proximity I can discern he is middle-aged, probably in his late 40s to early 50s, as evidenced by his scraggly grey beard.

"Are you Leen?" he asks.
"Yes," I replied.  I'm Lin, you must be Delroy.  Nice to meet you."

We get his gear into the truck and get settled-in.  As I typically like to do, I drive first, allowing time for general conversation without the pressure of it being their first time behind the wheel.  Coming out of orientation, the new guys often have lots of questions about the company, trucking, and the training process.  In addition, I have my own information to disperse: expectations, guidelines, goals, truck-rules, etc.  I like to spend at least a couple of hours doing this, just to break the ice and get familiar with one another.

Delroy, as you may have deduced, is a bonafide rastafarian.  Here's a picture I took of him the first day, laughing at the surpise of my snapshot.

He's fifty-three (or as Del says, he's fifty-tree) and is a native of Jamaica, but has lived in the U.S. for approximately 20 years now.  From what I have pieced together thus far, he's worked a variety of odd-jobs since he's been here.  Everything from selling clothing for a friend, opearting a steamroller for a road construction crew,  to picking fruit in commercial orchards.  Arguably, this is his very first professional, structured, corporate job he has had.  He smoked weed for "t'irty eight years" and gave it up to become a trucker.  He keeps an amazing mass of long, thin dreadlocks tucked under his cap.  He's very good-natured, easy-going, and mild-mannered.  And he talks really loud, which is a plus for someone as deaf as I'm becoming.  He gets really animated when he's talking about something he's passionate or excited about.  He's not an educated man; he never even went to highschool.  He is smart though, just not terribly well-informed or knowledgeable about certain things.  He's led a simple, uncomplicated life; choosing a consistent path of least resistance and attempting to always be at peace and in harmony with himself and others.  He's very no-nonsense, too... something I can appreciate.  I've always been fond of the straight-shooter; the person who doesn't mince words or gloss things over. 

I especially prefer this sort of quality in my own supervisors, but even in my interpesonal relationships, I tend to gravitate toward people who are genuine and honest; people who won't bite their tongue. I respect people who are honest to the point of brutality.  Similarily, I hate being in the presence of people with whom I feel I'm walking on egg shells around, constantly.  You know these types, the type who "reads" everything you say as some sort of sleight concerning them.  Blech.  Probably worse are people who take a statement of fact concerning them and perceive it as a personal attack.  I have bad teeth.  I know I have bad teeth.  I'm losing hair. I know I'm losing hair.  Mentioning these things casually in conversation as a statment of fact is not a big deal, nor should it.  Whether you can safely joke about it or make a zing depends on what you know about my feelings on the matter and how well you know me.  I'm eternally annoyed when the role is reversed and I'm made to feel like a bad guy for making a statement of fact concerning someone's weight, or a missing limb, or graying hair.  These people know these things about themselves; it is a truth.  Unless I'm being rude or cruel in my statement, it should not be construed as anything else.  It is hard to be honest with people who are not honest with themselves.  You can tell, when in mixed company, who those people are, too, when you go "So, how did you lose your hand?  Was it an accident or a birth defect?" with all earnestness of interest.  Some people will visibly shrink and avert eyes; they can't believe you just asked that question.  Quite frankly, I think it's worse when people skirt the obvious.  It's like not acknowledging the sky is blue.  You can't treat a blind person, just like any other person, but you can treat them with respect like you would any other human being, this one just happens to be blind.  He may not like that part of himself and, if self-conscious about it, I certainly wouldn't poke-fun at it, but ignoring it all together is even more insulting.    All of this politically-correct bullshit codification of language like "differently abled" or "physically challenged" doesn't do anything to change that fact that being blind, or missing a limb, or whatever is part of who he is.

People come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and configurations, kinda like Ipods!  Ignoring something that is obviously part of who they are in deference to their feelings is twisted if you ask me.  I had a co-worker who eventually became a really good pal of mine named Steve, with a fairly severe stuttering problem.  I never ignored it, from day one.  I even asked him wat it was like in his head.  Like, was it stuttering in his head or was the word there in his mind but he couldn't put together the motor skill to execute it with his mouth.  It was general curiousness and a statement of fact, nothing more.  As our friendship grew, I discovered that he was comfortable with poking light fun at it.  I have a bit of hearing loss, so I have been known to ask people to repeat themselves.  Of course, this was maddening for poor Steve.  When he perfectly uttered whatever he said and I didn't hear it and went "Huh?" or "What?", he would always retort sarcastically with the cliche "Did I stutter?" .  I always shot back, "Not that time."  Of course, you can't do things like that without knowing their level of insecurity of self-concsiousness about things of this nature.  That's how I differentiate the two, I guess.

I've always been of the opinion that a true friend is the person who will tell you what they really think, not necessarily what you want to hear.  They're not there to lend you validation but to kick you in the ass when you need it and stroke your ego only when its warranted.  To paraphrase something pharminatrix once wrote, they'll call a spade a fucking shovel.  Straight-shooters expect nothing less in return.

This is a quality that makes training soooo much less stressful.  Often times, training/teaching is a balancing act of tact and diplomacy with honest appraisal.  As an instructor, you do a great disservice if you are not honest with your pupil.  But at the same time, a certain level of professional tact is typically expected.  They cannot possibly learn something properly if they are led to believe that everything is fine when it is not, yet you can't say "Hey moron. For the 20th time: dim your headlights when there is on-coming traffic."  Being honest about their mistakes and deficiencies - and communcating it effectively - are crucial to the learning process.  Some people prefer to live in constant states of delusion.  They constantly surround themselves with friends that supplicate their egoes disingenuously and never become capable of reconciling their own inadequacies.  They can't be honest with themselves and won't tolerate criticism from others. 

This was one of Jason's many problems.  Jason was not equipped for receiving constant criticsm, it would shatter him completely, yet at the same time, his performance necessitated it.  I tried to find positive things to bolster his ego amidst the barrage of criticism, there just weren't that many from which to choose.  I'm sure one of Jason's "problems" with me was that he was being made to feel like he couldn't do anything correct.  Maybe, but, he couldn't do much of anything correct.  Leading him to think otherwise is not only a disservice to him, but a disservice to the company for whom I work and the public at-large driving on the nation's highways.  What's worse, he couldn't be honest with himself and see the level of his own inadequacy, accept responsibility for it, and strive to better himself.  I would call Jason on something he had just done incorrectly, things which were obvious which I had just witnessed and he would try and convince me that he hadn't just done it!  Roger was very similar in this as well, though, he took it a step further by blaming anything/everything else rather than take responsibility for his own actions and ability.  Everything that was wrong in Roger's life was always because of something someone else did, or part of some vast, cornball conspiracy that thwarted him.  Folks like this are virtually impossible to teach if something doesn't come naturally to them.  I think people who are the most successful at learning are not necessarily more intelligent, they simply have the capacity to take an honest assessment of their skill or knowledge and apply themself to the task of personal improvement in the areas they deem inadequate.  Being intelligent AND having this capacity? The world is their oyster when punctuated with ambition.

With folks like Delroy though, all of these concerns are alleviated.  They want to know how they are doing, honestly.  They crave it.  In some cases, as I'm finding with Delroy, they can't function without it.  If there's one fault I have with Delroy it's that he needs to be reminded a little too frequently, even about matters which I've already told him he has performed "awesome" or "perfect" and are no longer a concern of mine.  Perhaps 5 decades of dealing with the average bullshitter has made him suspicious that everyone will white-wash things and in time he'll learn that I'm being completely honest with him and this will subside.  I hope so.  Hardcore INTP that I am, this need for redundant validation and criticism grates on my nerves.  Redundancy is the bane of an INTP's existence.  Once I've stated it clearly and succinctly, there should be no need for me to repeat it - much less multiple times daily.

So how's he doing as a trucker?  Totally, awesome.  I mentioned the other night that the first time he drove he went through all of his gears without grinding a single one.  This is the first student I've had to do this.  I was super-impressed.  He had a small issue with lane-control at the outset, but he corrected it in a matter of minutes and it has not been a problem since.  He was a bit iffy on downshifting, but that's the norm rather than the aberration for the new driver, as I've stated numerous times.  If there is one thing about the basic act of driving one of these monstrosities that is the most difficult to master it is the art of deceleration and downshifting.  I told him that, on Tuesday, while traversing U.S. 50 across southern Indiana with its stop-and-go traffic outside Cincinnati, I would help him tighten-up his downshifting and have him shifting like a pro by the end of the week.  He seemed suspect of my claim.  Yesterday, when we got on U.S 50, I spent about 15-20 minutes identifying the things he was doing incorrectly in the process and talked him through 3 different downshifts as he approached traffic signals.  He took the instruction, implemented it, and was down-shifting superbly almost instantly.  He still gets lost in the gear pattern, which will be corrected by a function of time and familiarity; with nine gears, it can be easy to forget in which gear you are.  In time, it becomes second-nature.  He is a very cautious driver, at times a bit too cautious.  I've had to prompt him on occasion to get his speed up from 35mph on the highway while driving at night in the rain, but otherwise clear and visible.  I realize that with the nervousness of being a new driver this can be daunting, but at the same time he can't be a 35mph obstacle in the middle of a highway going 65.  At the same time, I don't want to discourage his cautiousness.  I usually coax him up to about 50mph and let it be.

His backing sucks in every aspect.  Like I, he learned in a Volvo at trucking school.  The trucks with more modern body styles, sans the smokestacks on the side, can make people very lazy backers with respect to the use of their mirror.  You are able to look out your window and see your trailer as you're backing into a lane.  Unfortunately, this is encouraged by the trucking schools as it's easier for the new driver to perform the basic manuever and get their CDL.  The smokestacks obscure that view on the classic-style tractors like my Peterbilt, making this impossible.  You have to use your mirrors for the entire manuever.  So, we have that to conquer.  It's kind of funny to see him look out the window over his shoulder like he's going to see something other than the big, metal stack.  He also has no idea how to set-up, which is arguably 75% of the battle.  If you have the truck/trailer properly set-up before you begin backing, it makes the job a lot, lot easier.  None of this really concerns me, though.  Again, it is par for the course with new drivers and something he will likely have no issue learning.  He just needs time and guidance, and he shall have plenty of both in his time with me.

The biggest obstacle with Delroy will be with the Qualcomm.  I haven't talked in great detail about the Qualcomm in my writings.  Essentially, it is an onboard computer which facilitates communication with various company departments via satellite.  There is a small, laptop-sized device with a monochrome display and QWERTY keyboard built-in.  Essentially, it is one big IM machine. Various information, mostly related to dispatch, is relayed through this device.  Messages are sent and received to the Qualcomm and stored in a buffer until they are removed or the storage space (100 messages) is exceeded.  Delroy has had very little exposure to computers.  Very little, nearing zero. I'm easing him into it very slowly.  Last night, after parking for the day, I spent nearly an hour formally introducing him to the Qualcomm.  For the guys I get that are less than tech-savvy, I generally liken it to a fancy notebook or a deck or cards.  Messages are stored in the buffer in the order in which they are placed there and one cycles through them page by page.  When one page is deleted, it's like ripping a page from the notebook or removing a card from the deck: the order is maintained, just the one you have chosen to remove is gone.  I did this last night with Delroy, physically tearing a sheet of paper from a notebook as demonstration while also deleting a message on the Qualcomm and comparing the two.  We also tackled basic message sending and reading a select few messages.  It will take him some times, but I have full confidence in his ability to conquer it with repetition and pracitce.

So there you have it.  That is Delroy, to-date.  I shall keep you posted. :)