Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday ... the OTHER Friday

No blog yesterday. I have to admit, with no small chagrin, that I drank a little last night (given that it was Friday) and then entered a Youtube challenge with my sweet Babboo. This one was truck driving songs -- I kicked it off with "Wolf Creek Pass." We got in Eddie Rabbit, CW McCall and Jerry Reed and some others ... then hubby cheated by pulling up Red Sovine (in my opinion, a ringer, as king-o-the-trucker-song).

Sweet Babboo says it was just 'knowledge' that aided his win. I say it was Red Sovine. and stand by that.

I had another good week behind the wheel. My trainers are careful and thorough -- a father/son school with two complementary temperaments, and both have taught me a tremendous amount in a short time. Each brings his own style, but share in a steady, patient approach to teaching. I'm really lucky.

I added tanker and doubles/triples endorsements to my permit this week, too. That leaves the hazmat endorsement test and gov't background check. I think I might test for the passenger endorsement, too, just to round it all out, although I have no desire to drive a vehicle filled with people. People's who I'm hoping to get away from by being in the truck.

Maybe my next youtube challenge to the hubby should be girl-and-her-dog songs / boy-and-his-dog songs. "How much is that doggy in the window?" umm, "Me n You n a dog named Boo" , etc. No peoples.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shifting Gears

Okay, the semantic ambiguity of 'shifting gears' is just begging for a cliche ridden riff on the phrase's physical and metaphorical implications.

In the simplest sense, I learned today how to shift gears without the clutch. Get the rpm's up to 16, 17(00) and while on the accelerator, slip out of gear. Release the accelerator and slide up into the next gear. If you're downshifting, accelerate to get up the rpm's as you slide to the lower gear. (Remember what I said about the conundrum of accelerating to decelerate?) Sounds so simple! ... proof again that simple is not the same as easy.

And on that note, it's certainly true that shifting gears mid-career and mid-life may be as simple as those "50 ways to leave your lover," but easy it ain't. I worry about career happiness, career health, career potential. blah blah blah ~ the voice of anxious unemployment yammering in my brain. Did I mention career paychecks?

I tell myself, "Self, you're unemployed. You were essentially laid off from Three jobs at once ~ all of them the communications career fantasies of most any English major. And when you did those jobs, Self, you were always a little edgy with stress and doubt. Often pulling procrastination-fueled and deadline-driven weekend sessions. Sometimes wondering what the point was."

Honest work, satisfying work, and the chance to shut it down, clock out and go home to my honey. That's the goal, perhaps just fantasy. I hope I get there. I hope that when I get there, I am, in the main, content. What is it Annie Lamott says? Her most frequent prayers are "please please please" and "thank you thank you thank you"? ... Something like that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama won. Although I'm typing even as he's wrapping it up.

Great day driving and parking and pre-tripping. Love my trainers, my school, my fellow students. And I'm looking forward to the jobs coming from the Obama administration.

Solid state of the union. I never agree with all of it (liberal that I am), but solid. I always love the writers of these things, be they democrats or republicans ... good writers are good writers, and they always make me feel gooey-happy about the potential for human communication. Still, this year's writers ... all I can say is kudos. Gravitas and humor wed in one well-spoken speech. WOW.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Props to them Truck Drivers

So I'm home now, hot showered, and jammied. The slippers are on, and they ain't comin' off until bedtime. That's 9pm, if not earlier. I'm beat ... in a really good way. In the way I was beat yesterday, but without the mood. It feels good, and ironically enough, different, to be tired at day's end in the physical sense.

I'm intellectually tired, as well, which is a feeling I've often had with jobs (and appreciated, so long as it wasn't accompanied by the yucky kind of stress). It's satisfying to end a day feeling as though you engaged with your work and did something good. Good being subjective to each of us ~ for myself, it has generally been attached to doing something that contributed to the well-being of others.

When I was teaching, 'good' was helping a student to build communication skills. As a student-driver, 'good' is not running down a pedestrian. (Yes, I had another 'good' day, today.)

It's also lifting that doughboy-pool-sized hood all by myself or unhooking the trailer all by myself with my own limp-noodle girly-strength. (The trick is leverage and/or tools that give you torque.)

I'm starting to get the pre-trip inspection steps, without looking at the book (albeit with lots of hints from the guys ~ who have been flawlessly kind and supportive to me).

Off the top of my head (so pardon any omissions or imprecise language): outside, you check the general condition of the truck from the front; then lift the hood. On the driver's side, check the drive gear elements, air system, suspension and brake system under the hood. Check the side of the cab, the battery box, the frame, drive shaft, air hoses and hookups, electrical. Front trailer suspension, brakes, airbags, lights and plates, kingpin, locking mechanisms. Landing gears. Side of the trailer. Rear trailer suspension, brakes, torque arm.

Back of the trailer lights, doors, electrical, air connections, mud flaps, pintle parts. "Don't tread on me" bumper sticker -- just kidding.

Start up the passenger side -- point out differences like the spare tire rack and missing landing gear arm. Up at the cab, add exhaust system to the inspection. Under the hood, point out oil system, coolant system, belts, battery spark thingy -- um what is that? -- darn, can't think of it right now. ... Alternator! yeesh.

I'll talk about the inside another day. By the way, any one of those I listed may have 2-10 smaller steps within them. And a driver performs this inspection before and after any given driving day. I've always suspected that being a good, professional commercial driver took a great deal of knowledge, talent, skill and experience. When I began dating Sweet Babboo (who has been a class A for some 15+ years), I was further convinced. Earnestly. Honestly. Seriously. Until you're doing it, you can't know the full truth-o-this.

Bad drivers, shame on you. Good drivers, hats off! You rock!

Monday, January 25, 2010

First Blood

What a drag ... Matthew B. Crawford (author of Shop Class as Soulcraft) is saying it ten times better than I could ~ with a great voice and highly readable writing style. ... In other words, I've read pages 1 through 10 to my darling husband, and we're really enjoying it! Drat. No need to blog now.

Also, I pinched my left pinky finger in the tongs tonight (while turning the pork loin). Drew blood. Typing with a band-aid on your little finger is a drag, too. Yes, I'm in a mood.

The day was Fabulous ~ I drove the 'route' through town, parked the small trailer, backed under the long trailer (like a pro), attached the glad hands and electrical, practiced alley docking and just had a lovely 'useful' day. Plus Mr. Crawford offered a very apt, very sharp rebuttal to my 'simple life' yearnings (post #2) ~ lovedlovedloved that. And I found a great new read for me and the Sweet Babboo.

Get. This. Book.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Improper Debrief

The first seven work days have passed, if I count the time I spent studying for my permit on Thursday, Friday and Monday. I've been in the truck for three days ~ and my head is spinning-spinning-spinning! Thank God, this is a blog, not a biographical how-to, a coherent narrative. (hah! that hasn't happened. Maybe this weekend I'll have time for a proper debrief.)

wow. so where am I, this Friday night? tired. in that Best sense of the word. I have an amarretto in hand and a sweet babboo waiting for my attention. ... I won't be staying long.

Ah-hah! I remember what I wanted to say. I spent the morning learning pre-trip inspection procedures, both inside the cab and outside the truck. At one point, I was crouched under a flat-bed trailer, trying to really 'see' the slack aduster. My trainer (I LOVE my trainers!!) was telling me it looked kinda like Princess Leigha's donut-hair. and I was asking, do you mean that thing that looks kinda like the space-ship that took Han-Solo to Jabba the Hut? The thing that looks kinda like a hair dryer, pointed toward the ground? ... God, that was great.

So I learned more about the pre-trip today. (My sweet babboo is working with me on what does what -- like the alternator -- which I have to point out in the inspection, I think -- is part of what gets the battery sparking the engine. kinda. I'm still learning. still confused on a Friday night.)

OhhhhGod. It's Friday. I had a Great Week. I can't remember when I enjoyed work this much.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Five low, Five high

Day two behind the wheel, and I enjoyed it as much as day one. I got wet, cold and grimy. I stood in the rain for half the day, drove some of the rest of it and watched others drive some, too. It's fascinating. Really. The experience behind the wheel is just part of that. And of course the technical information.

Coming from liberal arts academics, I can tell you that the leap from instruction to implementation isn't a big one. You work with words to teach people to be able to work with words themselves. The tools, whatever ~ they're related. Words, book, word processor. Read, hear, write.

And then there's this kind of learning. The written and spoken instruction is invaluable and yet foreign to the act. The act is lifting a hood the size of a doughboy pool (I exaggerate only a wee bit). or shifting by running through ten gears in five slots -- first flip the selector down; then 1 2 3 4 5; then flip it up and slide into the 1 slot which is now the 6; then 7 8 9 and maybe 10. Come to a stop by down shifting to 6th (which is low and inside); then flip the selector back down and at about 5-10mph, slide up and away into 4th.

While you're doing that downshifting thing, brake just a little to lower your speed; let go the brake as you clutch (just part way); then tap the accelerator getting the rpms to about 1700 to slide into the lower gear (otherwise you grind and fight the gear). Unlearn the belief that accelerators and deceleration Don't go together. 

... So. Find your gears. Downshift. Plan your position for any turn. (Plus have other possible tasks come up, like your wipers, defroster, etc.) And do it while in motion in light traffic. ... The book is completely forgotten. But you're totally Engaged. It's very cool.

Another fascinating thing, speaking as a girl here now, is the comradery of men. Do they have ESP or something? They stand in clusters, hands in pockets, watching others do pre-trips or alley dock the truck. In the 40 degree rain. No talking. No problem. What's that about??

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Evening Showers

My calves are sore. My shoulders ache. My thighs are thinking vicious thoughts about me. I feel great!!

and ohhhh, I now understand the bliss that can be found in an evening shower.

First you have to spend the good part of a bone rattling, rainy day in the sleeper of a big truck, watching the other drivers go through the route and practice their skills. Then, take your turn behind the wheel. It's familiar (if you know manual transmissions), but different. Like that chicken / frog legs thing. I've had frog legs -- they taste vaguely like flies, if you've ever swallowed one and know what I mean.

Anyway, I'd talk more about driving, which I love love loved. But ohhhh, the shower when I got home. Hot shower, I love you.

(Sweet babboo welcomed me to the 6-feet high club tonight. Nooo, not that way. A kiss and an appreciative ear as I shared my first war stories.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I have my permit!

I'm tempted to leave it on that jubilant note, but for my bro-in-law who's thinking of a California class-a one day, I'll add just a bit-o-what-that-means:

4 Multiple Choice Tests
  • Strangely enough 18 questions of the class-C test (where I missed the 2 booze questions, go figure). 
  • 50 questions of general CDL knowledge
  • 18 questions on combination vehicles (tractor trucks with 1 or more trailers, generally speaking)
  • 20 questions on air brake systems
My trainers recommended (very wisely) taking one at a time and studying for each one individually, although certainly there's some cross-over info. I spent five days with practice tests and the cdl handbook, covering everything. Then, school is close to the dmv, so this was my day today: studied for the A, took the C and general knowledge A tests, studied for the combo's, took the combo's test, studied for the air brakes, took the air brakes test.

Badda bing, badda bang. Permit in hand!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rainy Days & Mondays

Both rainy and Monday here, plus Dr. King's birthday holiday. All good things.

"Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man" (MLK). So many ways to think about that statement. For myself, it's about letting go of burdensome attachments to things (and holding dear my attachments to those people I love).

A buck and half got me a coffee at Starbucks, a dry and caffeinated study day with my CDL (commercial driver's license) book, and a parade of friends coming in from the rain. The benefits of a small town.

It's not hard to imagine that for Dr. King, the question may have been, "What are your 'right to assemble' regulations at city hall compared to the rights of those who are assembled here?"

Tomorrow, I take my tests for my permit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Place Just Right ... What's That?

Why "The Place Just Right"? My favorite favorite song/hymn/dance is "Simple Gifts". (Well, isn't it everyone's? I mean, really.)

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Aren't we all seeking that place "just right"? I think I have that white-collar delusion / romantic ideal of the blue-collar arts. I'm itching to read Shopclass as Soulcraft and maybe find a kindred spirit. I would love to bend and bow in delight. I hope the honest labor of understanding a big piece of mysterious machinery and controlling it -- well, I hope I find soul satisfaction in that. I ain't ashamed to say it.

Why sign off with Copland? Shaker elder Joseph Bracket rocked, but WOW, Aaron Copland took it to another plain.

I have to admit, so far, I'm finding far more complexity than simplicity:

brake adjustment on S-cam brakes.
air compressor governor cut-out pressure test.
don't confuse "trailer hand valve" with "tractor protection valve".
proper braking: a myriad of factors confused by myriad hazards.
pounds, psi, feet, inches -- #s, #s, #s to memorize. to understand.
brake drums, shoe lining, air suspension, main spring.
glad hands -- no, they're not the Glee cast in white gloves

Still, I've LOVED days one and two. (Remind me of this a few weeks or months from now. Deal?)

You be your delight, and I'll be mine.

And Sweet Babboo is still amused.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day One: The beginning of the beginning

Day one at truck driving school. "Oh My God, that's so cool!" -- My friend tells me he lives vicariously through me.

"I want to go work in Costa Rica," I announced and did. That was back in '93. "I'm starting truck driving school tomorrow." That was, well, yesterday. I tell him I like looking at my life through his eyes. It looks interesting. Not random. Not dumb.

My life through my husband's lens, I think, would be a comedy. Right now, he's amused. My sweet babboo.

So day one. Woo-hoo! I'm mid-life, and I took my first pee-test today! 20 years as a white-collar 'professional' and nary a drug test. I had to pee before I could even crack the books. Peed and studied the CDL book. That's what I did.