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Day 10: Serpentines and Sharing Dreams

December 20, 1999

SHARING TOOLS        | Print Subscribe
Editor At Large Bette Garber is training for her CDL at Bordentown Driver Training School in Bordentown, NJ.
Friday. Two words. Frustration. Exasperation.
Today was Reverse Serpentine day. That's where you weave the tractor-trailer backwards, in and out of three cones. I'm told this is difficult to master but useful in teaching how to handle and control the trailer in reverse.
I joined classmate James and instructor Gary Houlis in bundling up to protect against a strong cold wind, then marched uphill to the practice area.
While waiting for the truck to build pressure and warm up, James offered more insight on his determination to learn trucking. Just five months out of prison, he longs for a good life, to be a good provider to his family, to earn a respectable wage, and build his self-respect. He sees trucking as his means to that end, and his resolve is admirable. He works in the truck wash from late night until 8 a.m., then comes to class. He sometimes gets by on two to three hours of sleep.
What keeps him going is the promise of a better future. He shares the dream of every student I've met here: they all are hungry to improve their lives, and they are not afraid to work towards that goal.

I admire each and every one of them for having the spirit, courage, and commitment to follow through. Particularly because I understand how physically and mentally demanding this effort is, especially when you're tired.
Dennis, the other member of the class, is equally determined to succeed. When told he would need to memorize the air brake test, he did it overnight. He spends his lunch time practicing on the simulator.
They have put their lives on the line and they will make it. My motivation may be different, but I want to succeed just as badly as they do. And I share their frustrations. Today, for instance, I couldn't "get" the serpentine. Not in two four-and-a-half-hour practice sessions. Once behind the wheel and into the maneuver with the first right wheel steer, it's as if someone opened a plug in my brain and drained off everything relating to left-right relationships. The harder I tried, the more frustrated I became.
I give Gary credit for never once losing his cool. Instead he just kept saying, "Let's try it again," while offering methods of attack. None worked. Not yet, anyway. I am told that one day it just "clicks."
Is there an ETA on click arrival?

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