Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Is There Anything Good About This Job?
____ I was born too late to be conscripted into the British Armed Forces; so never had to do "National Service." But after five days of orientation at Penner International, I now know what 6 weeks of basic training must have been like for those poor squaddies. Sergeant-Major Rick was in command of our subterranean boot camp and he certainly knew his stuff. You could not fault his facts and figures but he had the misfortune to present all his messages in the style of an old know-it-all trucker, holding court at the counter of a truckstop diner. I had been given the heads-up on his abrasive teaching methods; so pre-conditioned myself, for the week, by pretending to be conscientious Captain Cautious. If he said "Slow"; I said "Slower."
____ We were a quartet that quickly dwindled to a trio. But I'm pretty sure Rick would have emptied a complete classroom of driving-school rookies in less than two days. Any novice would have abandoned the transport industry and returned to a safe career of burger flipping after the brow-beatings received by Adolf, Bob and myself. Adolf from Kazakhstan seemed to take it all in his stride. Maybe it was similar to his Red Army training. He looked the sort of guy who could still knock-down and re-build an AK 47 in under a minute. He also showed a good command of the English language and passed every end-of-day written test. There was homework too!
____ Bob from Gimli had chosen truck-driving as a retirement job after twenty years of running his own metal fabrication company. He was looking forward to a life of relaxed driving; poodling around North America without the stress of finding work for 22 employees and the day-to-day running of a business. He had jumped in at the deep-end as an owner/operator by buying a six year-old Mack tractor-unit and putting it on with Penners. Orientation by Rick was a big wake-up call. By mid-afternoon on Wednesday he was exclaiming, "Is there anything good about this job?"
____ I told him that it was him and his truck against the rest of the World, same as it always was; same as it always would be. Rick pretty much agreed. Later, I tried to cheer-up Bob with stories of Winter week-ends in Florida and nights-out in Nashville but I could see he was being over-come by a great sense of foreboding. There was a relentless onslaught of lessons to be learned and how to do things the "Penner Way." Compliance to all regulations, all aspects of transport industry safety, hazardous goods, log-books, cross-border Customs procedures and advanced driving techniques: all new to Bob and real eye-openers.
____ I can't remember if I learned anything new but stuck it out for the whole five days. I found out later that a certain group of people were having bets as to when I would throw in the towel and walk out. There is a thin line between forcefully presenting your company's ideology and bullying in the workplace. Maybe Penners only want the type of driver that is willing to endure that method of orientation and it separates the wheat from the chaff. But I came home every evening feeling like a toddler who had been severely told-off for shitting in his first-ever pair of underpants; after forty carefree years of wearing nappies.