What the morrow brought was a training partner from Hell. Why don’t the devil be leaving him alone? he would ask himself. Because he don’t want to, he would answer.
A little psychosis, the paranoid variety, and yes, he spent more time talking to himself than he did talking to me. Like a jukebox, he had a number of tracks. Of the ones I could understand, there were ones about:
the devil not leaving him alone,
people messing with his business,
people pushing they religion on him,
sticking a knife in someone messing with his property,
sticking a knife in anyone he caught in his basement.
I found the knife in question one morning. He had a habit of dropping things on me at night from the upper bunk (candy wrappers, underwear), and one day I woke up to find one of those urban combat knives, a slick little 3-inch folding number, laying on my mattress. I prudently decided that it would fall a bit further, so tucked it down between my mattress and the wall of the truck. Several days later I noticed him perusing the knife selection at a truck stop, so probably he noticed it was missing. He never asked me if I’d seen it, and I felt no great compunction to bring it up.
Asking anything would have implied conversation, which was a thing he did not generally indulge in. Which was one reason he so frequently took us on interesting detours. Interestingly, once he eventually admitted to himself, muttering all the while in his thick Florida patois, that he was lost, he would pull the truck over and run into the nearest business to ask directions, which he then frequently misunderstood and so got turned around even further.
We showed up two days early for one delivery, and ended up being forty minutes late. He’d gotten north and south mixed up, and had headed ten miles in the wrong direction before he pulled off the road to ask directions.
Yes, I know I could have tried to help out. The first few days, I did try. He didn’t seem to notice there was anyone talking to him.
Another of his tracks, which came on a few times early in the trip, when I was still making efforts to solve the communications problem went like this: “They told me, I got to talk to you about the operation of the truck, and about trip planning.” In practice, he almost never spoke to me about either of those subjects.
It was a very long, and quiet, three weeks.
But our manager got us back to the yard after twenty-one days exactly, which I had not counted on at all, and when I got back, I found out that my original partner, with whom I had been so looking forward to spending that time with, had ended up abandoning the truck he finally did get on, leaving his partner in the lurch to the tune of having to start the three weeks all over again. Heartbreaking for said partner, but it could have been worse; it could have been me. So what if I had to share a broom closet with a paranoid schizophrenic? At least I lived to tell about it. And in less than forty-eight hours, barring the always possible unforeseens, I should be in my own truck at last. And on my way, though probably not directly, to dear old Colorado Springs for seven glorious days of well-deserved rest and relaxation.