Damn all of the tests and exams I did in high school, university and college. Yes, I graduated from all three institutions. In doing so, I succumbed to the opinions and whims of many teachers, professors and instructors.
You want to know what’s the most damning? Look where all that learning and eternal quizzing got me: a career path that’s disheveled and endlessly discouraging. Sometimes I long to live out the rest of my years on an Nepalese mountainside, actively practicing Buddhism. This past summer, I decided on a career path that’s designed to rescue me from visions of eternal career failure. Guess what I unwittingly pitted myself against? That’s right: more tests and exams.
In the truck driving business, you get trained to get tested. Yeah, I realize life in general is like that. But for the longest time I was evaluated on the type of work I was very good at: writing and relating.
Now I’m being tested on my ability to drive a 70-foot-long tractor-trailer proficiently along highway and city streets. That, while keeping a close eye out for people and inanimate objects that might cross my path. I’m also being judged on my skills in connecting the tractor to the trailer, backing up the entire rig, completing the pre-trip inspection, finding my way to and from trip destinations, and my understanding of the limitless laws and regulations that predominate the industry. I may get very good at all of these things, but that will take time.
I Got A 90!
My first major test went off without a hitch, figuratively. A few weeks ago I passed my road test on a soggy winter day. I was psyched for it to be a juggernaut. I had every last bit of knowledge gained at the Ontario Truck Driving School ready to show off proudly to the examiner from the Ministry of Transportation. But I wasn’t going to get the chance to share all of it. While covering her head from raindrops, she passed over parts of the test and went straight for the nitty gritty: just drive and don’t screw it up. She didn’t say that but it’s the clear objective.
I nearly aced that exam, finishing with a score of 90. That’s not bad at all considering the rain and poor visibility. And I missed the first turn she instructed me to take. I was on a bit of a high after learning my test result. But that high didn’t last too many days. I still had to do the four-hour written test and quickly learn how to shift gears in a truck with manual transmission. And I had to get a job.
Shifting gears has turned out to be my biggest challenge. Until January of this year, I’d never once touched a stick shift. Now I’m enveloped in a world of clutching, double-clutching, upshifting, downshifting, braking and accelerating – all done while driving the truck without incident.
I’ve worked hard at shifting gears – or “driving stick,” as many truckers call it. But I’m still a beginner. I actually landed a position at a company where the entire fleet of trucks are standard transmission. This company is letting me train until I get up to speed on shifting. They’re evaluating my progress. Again with the testing!
I could have joined another company that drivers only automatic trucks, but I would have viewed that as taking the easy way out. After all, I’ve been told that real truck drivers “drive stick” while the rest just steer.
There was another big consideration: if I learned only automatic transmissions I may be limiting my career options. So, I decided to test my learning curve now and set myself up for future success. Once I’ve mastered the stick shift and gotten my first year of trucking under my belt, I’ll be all set to do any kind of trucking.
Hopefully that means a long term position with these guys. I’m not telling you yet who they are. I’ll wait to see how it goes. I’ve learned enough in life to know that I’m going to keep my mouth shut until I’ve got the job all figured out. Right now, every day is about learning … and testing myself.