In my 13-year driving career, I’ve experienced a phenomenon within the trucking industry. In EVERY orientation class I’ve ever been involved in, there is an annoying guy or gal. To my shock, this phenomenon was cracked during my recent job switch.[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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Usually you know who “The Annoying One” is the second you meet them. The unfortunate sucker that gets stuck in a hotel room with TAO, is the first to know it. I have the most sympathy for this guy. At least the rest of the people in class can avoid TAO once class is over. The roommate is screwed.
TAO will grind on you and every other person being hired. Sometimes it will even frustrate the instructor. So what is it about TAO that gives me fantasies of reenacting the torture scene from the Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale?
Sometimes TAO is just born that way. It’s nothing in particular; they just drive you friggin’ crazy. Maybe it’s in their DNA. I’m sure you know a TAO too.
Sometimes it’s because they feel the need to tell a trucker story for every policy that gets brought up in class. If the instructor starts discussing the bad weather policy, TAO will pipe in with a story about getting stuck in a blizzard on Donner Pass. If it’s about cash advances, he’s got a story about how it took him 5 hours to get a cash advance. New policy, new story.
But most of the time it’s because this TAO hasn’t figured out that he no longer works for his old company. This time, when the instructor addresses the bad weather policy, this guy feels the need to inform everyone how his old company handled bad weather. Same with cash advances. And that’s where I stepped in for the first time.
You could feel the tension in the room every time this husband/wife team started talking. At the time, I had never heard of the company they were whining about, but to this day I remember the name of their old company. “Armellini did it this way… Amellini did it that way… Yadda-yadda-yadda.” This had gone on the entire first day of orientation, and although I could tell that everyone, including the instructor, was getting annoyed, no one said anything to Mr. and Mrs. Armellini.
The second day, they started up again. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a confrontational kinda guy. Especially when the guy was big enough to smoosh me with his pinky finger. I told The Evil Overlord that I was going to say something and she urged me keep my trap shut. Perhaps I should stop to explain.
Orientations suck. I hate them more than the taste of liver and onions; and that’s saying something. I’d rather have each individual taste bud plucked out with tweezers than eat liver and onions. Orientations are filled with boring subjects. Filling out paperwork, discussing company policies, and watching slobber-inducing videos on defensive driving and hazardous materials is NOT my idea of a jolly time. Most drivers just want to get it over with. Any extra stories or useless information is just making things more difficult. So back to the story.
There are few things in this world that are more dangerous than defying The Evil Overlord. Yet I did. I was sitting right behind the offending couple and as soon as one of his stories ended, I said, “You know, this class would go by a lot quicker if we could all keep our trucker stories to a minimum. You ARE aware that you’re not working for Armellini anymore?” It got a few laughs from the rest of the group, but The Armellini’s didn’t think it was all that funny. Luckily, the instructor finally piped in and backed me up.
Although Mr. and Mrs. Armellini didn’t talk to me the rest of the orientation, I was a hit with the other drivers. Nearly all of them came up at one point or another and thanked me for saying something. Even the instructor thanked me. While I was glad that I had spoken up, I really didn’t like singling this couple out. They kept to themselves the rest of the class.
This incident did teach me something though. Do like Barney Fife and “Nip it in the bud.” Now when I go to orientation for a new company, I wait until all of the drivers are together for the first time. It may be at breakfast in the hotel lobby, or it might be while we wait in front of the hotel for the shuttle van to pick us up. When I get the chance, I’ll say something like this: “Hey guys. I’d like to ask a favor. I hate orientations, and this class will go by a lot quicker if we could all keep our trucker stories and talk of our former companies to a minimum. And reach over and smack me if I start doing it.” You’d be surprised how well this works. Not only does it get the job done, but it also does so without singling out TAO. Try it at your next orientation and you’ll see.
I do need to say that this will not keep you from identifying TAO. There are still breaks and lunch at orientation, and the time you spend at the hotel. When I first went solo, The Evil Overlord drove me to orientation and spent the night in the hotel with me. The company paid for my part and we had to pay for the extra person. She was going to leave the next morning, so while I was at breakfast, I quickly identified TAO, and casually asked who was rooming together. Sure enough, TAO was in a room by himself and they were planning on transferring me over to his room that night. He seemed ecstatic to have a verbal punching bag, but I told him I was paying for my own room. Best money I ever spent.
So back to my recent orientation experience. I couldn’t afford my own room this time. My roommate, Andrew, was a man in his 50’s. I had been dreading having a roomie, but he was clean, nice, and hilarious. We had a lot of laughs and some good conversation. The only woman in the group wasn’t easily offended, as shown by her retaliating fart on the final day of class. She did have the decency to get as red as a baboon’s butt as we all scattered. She was a solo driver. Brave woman. I kept getting her name wrong. It was Kathleen… Katherine… Kathy… oh screw it. Mark, was middle-aged and extremely quiet, so much so that if the instructor hadn’t asked me to teach him how to use the satellite system, I might have forgotten he was there. Elliot, the 32-year old single guy was funny too. And then there was the old guy in the group.
Rocky was quiet the entire first morning. So naturally, I looked over at him at lunch and said, “Rocky, you should really quit monopolizing the conversation.” He chuckled, but didn’t say much. Everyone else thought it was a hoot. The instructor was new to this company, and he had read in the files that I had worked there almost 2 years. Since I knew the company better than he did, he was asking me a lot of questions as the day progressed. During one such question that afternoon, I mentioned that I had been Driver of the Month for this company. And THAT’S when Rocky decides to break his silence with, “All the other drivers must have been off duty.” Everyone, including me, erupted in laughter. Rocky was a smart-ass and I liked him on the spot. He wasn’t nearly as quiet after that. And guess who he liked to target?
The rest of the class, we all ribbed each other, helped each other out, and generally had a good time. We called Rocky and Elliot perverts, Elliot commented on how loud Andrew was and how much I talked. I know that probably shocks you to find that out about me. Still, we didn’t have one annoying person in the whole class. Although, I suppose the old, “if there isn’t a TAO in your orientation class, you’re probably him,” could be in play here.
Photo by tourist_on_earth via Flickr