Thursday, December 31, 2009

Road Test

Three rentals from Penske, and all were the same truck.

Road test day? Different truck. ~sigh~

And this one, of course, was the toughest bitch to shift yet.

The clutch grab was nearly at the top and the brakes were very touchy, all easily surmountable with a little time getting used to them. And I had exactly that - a little time to get used to them. The pre-trip had to be modified, too, as it was a completely different make.

We headed to our McYuppie's practice area and ran through a few pre-trips. I've been forgetting the parking brake stress and the fifty foot brake test as of late, so we played with the routine to fit them in where I'd be sure to not forget them. As is always the case, there was one item I consistently forgot: pointing out the reflectors on the rear of the truck (but in my defense, these were unique to the truck model and I wasn't used to them being there). I solved that by picturing the number 4 as I looked at the back of the truck - four items to be pointed out. And to ensure I didn't forget the fifty foot brake test, I purposely kept my gloves in my lap until it had been done. Stupid little tricks, but for me they work, and that's all that counts.

We again hopped 481 down to 690 and practiced call-outs, then got in line at the testing area. After only a few minutes, we saw a tiny woman wearing the latest in dreary DMV fashion approach. She abruptly motioned us both down from the cab and demanded our licenses. Joy. She's one of those. She rapped the passenger side fender and barked "Start your pre-trip from here."

I think Hoss felt a twinge of panic at that point, because we'd worked so hard to stick to two pre-trip routines - a full and a curbside - so I wouldn't freeze up or forget anything.

I said "Sure. Let me go back and get my gloves," and I started back toward the cab.

"No, you won't need them. Just talk through it."

I hesitated for half a second. "Er, okay." I was in front of the truck, and started by pointing out the box lights ---

"No, here. Start it here." She again rapped on the fender.

Dammit. She hates me already.

So I started under the fender, pointing and talking, while she walked down the length of the truck and disappeared behind the rear end. I kept talking, but looked at Hoss with WTF expression on my face. He answered with his own WTF expression and shrugged. I dogged on. She met me at the back and ordered me back to the cab to do my lights tests. Sheesh, it felt like being sent to my room.

Lights checked, she climbed in the cab, and instructed me to start my in-cab pretrip, during which she set up her handheld unit and reviewed the registration and insurance paperwork. Watching her fumble between the seat cushions to retrieve the seatbelt buckle that Hoss obviously hadn't used on the drive down seemed to stretch into an epic that would require an intermission.

"Ok, pull out."

A phrase she's used innumerable times, I have no doubt.

She directed me with disturbingly vague instructions ("take a left up there" - "at the stop sign?" - "no, the one after that") and told me to point out hazards I saw along the way. Lady, the most imminent hazard to my safety is sitting to my right. Sheesh.

Heading toward the first overpass, I started my call out: "Approaching overpass, no height restrictions poste---" when she interrupted with "So what's the maximum height you could drive under it?"

"Fourteen feet."

"Correct. Continue."

This woman could curdle vinegar.

She directed me to the Bear Street onramp of 690 West, a 2 laner that quickly merges into one just prior to the main highway. Upon turning left onto the ramp, I hit my right turn signal to move into the right lane when she began jabbing her handheld at the right lane and announced "You should be in THAT lane."

Yes, Dearest. That's why my right turn signal is on and I'm turning the steering wheel. Thank you.

After a few bridges and overpasses, she told me I could stop announcing them. I took a chance and commented that it probably got on her nerves after hearing it for a while, but she replied with "No, I'm just trying to make it easy on you guys." What's this? An unexpected thaw?

After a few minutes of driving, she asked who I was going to work for. When I told her we were looking at expediting as a husband / wife team, she got downright perky. We discussed relationships in close quarters, what we planned to do with our house, and the ability to take pets with you on the road (including a rather lengthy description of a truckdriver with his "cute little white dog" that she met on the road once in Pennsylvania). Meanwhile, she directed me to a quiet area of Van Rensselaer Street for the straight back and parallel. She had become so casual that I wasn't sure how formal to be with this portion of the test. I stopped the truck and put on my hazards, then said "At this point, I would jump down and walk around the truck before I back." She nodded and said "Yes, go ahead with that." Okey doke. I did my walkaround, took a good look at the distance to the curb, then climbed back in. I did a ten foot straight back and a nice tight parallel. She didn't even unbuckle her seat belt, roll down her window, or open her door, let alone get out to inspect the results. "Okay," she said "Drive us down to Spring Street."

Huh. This was difficult?

At the stop sign at West Kirkpatrick, I struggled with getting into a gear. No luck with third. Second wasn't cooperating, either. I told her that despite using the same truck in the past for practice, my luck ran out and they'd given me an unfamiliar one for the test. She said "Oh, don't worry. You're doing fine."

I am? Oh. Good.

I think.

Back to Plum, where we'd started. Hossman was just down the street, hands in his pockets, kicking snow boogers. She printed off the results from her handheld, turned it over, and proceeded to draw a diagram on the back with purple ink. "Look, when you're in a two laner, you need to move to that right lane. Got it?" Yes. Yes, I do. Got it. "Okay. Sign this. Wait seven days, then take it to DMV to get your license. Good luck."

Huh. I passed with only one violation: Improper Lane of Traffic. I guess I can live with that.

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