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Day Seven: One Mission Accomplished

December 15, 1999

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Ahem—a limited degree of congratulations are in order. This afternoon I passed the general knowledge and air brake exams for my CDL.
The man at the license bureau looked me up and down as he stamped my learners permit with notations that I successfully negotiated both tests. “Well, well, well. So you’re going to be a truck driver. Congratulations.”
This moment almost didn’t happen.
When I entered the testing office with my instructor and told the desk attendant which tests I was to take, he shook his head. “Sorry, the general is a two hour test and you only have one hour.”
What?
Witness this prime example of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. I can’t take the test, he tells me, because Harrisburg (the state capitol) shuts down the computers at 3 p.m. It is presently ten minutes to two. However, just last week someone from this office told my instructor we could arrive anytime before two o’clock and complete the tests.

We have just driven a half hour in blinding rain to get there. I have studied until not even the tiniest additional fact could wriggle into my head. And this guy is saying go home. We are too late.
Hasty conference. We decide I should take the air brake test. It’s fairly short. The desk man agrees and gives me a number.
When it appears on the overhead call board, I walk to another fellow who glances over my papers, looks me right in the eye and asks, “Why aren’t you taking the general test today?”
I tell him. He shakes his head. “Not a problem. You can take it now.” Go figure.
Elated, I bounce over to the assigned station, a computer terminal with a “touch screen.” In a half hour I had completed both the general knowledge and air brake tests.
I also passed my CDL physical I’m not color blind, and my reflexes work. (America can sleep safe. Drivers are tested for hernias, too.) Oh yes, I got to use a “ladies bottle” for that special test.
On the morning’s simulator exercises I was shifting easily, up and down, even succeeding in several “double down” shifts.
A word about the school. I had been taught so much more information than appeared on the tests. On Monday, I was grilled on over 450 questions and could answer most of them. I am a motivated pupil but the Bordentown Driver Training School staff did a great job teaching by the book—exhaustively, correctly.
Tomorrow we start yard work maneuvers and pretrip inspections. I expect the training will be just as thorough.

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