Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yard Sale

Today is Sunday, my second day off. Saturday-Sunday are nice days to have off, especially if you want to have a yard sale. I live on a street that has an exit off the freeway, so I get plenty of cars going by. I needed some extra money, so I decided to drag stuff out into my yard and have a sale! I had a TV-DVD combo (DVD player didn't work)that was sold for $15 as soon as I got it outside on Saturday morning. Today I sold a dresser-bookcase combo for $65. Not counting those two things, I took in about $20. I still could make something more, since I'm not going to drag the loveseat or the bookcase-bed back into the house. They will either get sold, or they will get given away. It was quite a bit of work to do, getting all that stuff out there, for just $100. But, on the other hand, I spent a good portion of both days relaxing with a book in the shade in the front yard. I even took a nap.
Working my day off makes me lots more money. Overtime at my job is over $30 an hour, and I am guaranteed at least 5 hours and 20 minutes if I come in and work at all. So why have a yard sale? Why not just put in for day-off work and donate everything I don't want or need to charity? Well, for one thing, day-off work has gotten more sporadic lately. Used to be, you could put in a slip, and they would use you, pretty much guaranteed. We used to provide service to the Charger games, too, which was fun, and you got to see the game, or most of it, anyway. We actually used to provide service to the Padre games, too. But we haven't done that for a long time. Not since they moved to Petco Park. Seems like all the fun and easy work is going away, and what's left is the long, hard, grueling routes. I guess, making $21-something an hour, and over $30 an hour on overtime, I should't complain about how hard the work is.
Last weekend I did work my day off on Sunday. They gave me a route 7, going down University, for 8 and a half hours. Problem was, that day I pulled a muscle in my back unhooking a wheelchair, and had to do light duty for two days. They only pay you 85% of your pay on light duty, and NO overtime. Plus, I had missed a day of work the last Wednesday because I overslept, and then they exercised their option of letting me stay home with no pay for that day. This Friday I'll find out if I actually came out even after the whole thing, or not.
Anyway, the yard sale might have been hard on my back, too, but I wore a back support for the heavy lifting, and I seem to be all right. The yard sale was also easier on my nerves than driving a bus would have been. Plus, I was at HOME. There is something to be said for being at home. I picked up the house a little, and got my laundry done.
Tomorrow, back in the saddle again. I'm grateful, really grateful, that I have a decent job. It can be grueling, boring, maddening, even occasionally dangerous. But I see people on the street corners with signs asking for help, and I know things could be a lot worse. I have a home to go to when I'm done. I have a yard to have a sale in. I have stuff to get rid of. I have people (and animals) who love me and want my attention. I have a computer! I may have a weak back, broken toes, torn up toenails and fingernails, and god only knows what's next. But life is good.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Haven't posted anything for a long time. It's not that I ran out of bus stories. I just got tired of telling them, I guess. I could talk about the old drunk man in the wheelchair who fell over backwards on his head. That was painful to watch! He was fine, except for scraping the top of his head. I guess all the alcohol limbered him up for the fall. They took him away in an ambulance, anyway. At taxpayer expense... Not that I begrudge him that. I'd want them to take ME if I needed it, even if I couldn't pay.
Another thing I could talk about. The time when the Border Patrol boarded my bus on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve, about 5:30 at night, on a northbound 34, just around Nautilus and La Jolla Bl., here they came. One by the back door to get the would be escapees, and one coming in the front and asking anyone who looked foreign to show papers. They took a few people away with them, mostly women. Women heading home from work on Christmas Eve. Women whose families were expecting them home any minute to start celebrating the Holiday. Now, I am not religious. But Christmas is much more than a religious Holiday. It's a traditional time for families to be together and exchange gifts, eat a special meal, stuff like that. I'm guessing a few of those border patrol agents WERE religious, and probably thought they were doing the right thing. I can only shake my head at that. Where is the compassion, the love that Jesus supposedly talked about? It still makes me mad to think about it, and this was at least 15 years ago!
A lot of people are worrying about illegal immigration these days. I spent the last two days on light duty, riding buses and counting people who got on and off buses that service National City, Chula Vista, San Ysidro, Imperial Beach, and Coronado. Buses full of Mexicans going to and from work. Illegal? Who knows. Probably some of them. Taking our jobs? I doubt it. Unless you are up for cleaning rich people's houses in Coronado Cays. Using our services without paying into the system? Maybe, some. But no more than that old drunk in the wheelchair. They're PEOPLE, people! At least let them enjoy Christmas with their families before you go dragging them back across the border. That's all for tonight. I need to help April with her Spanish homework. ;-}

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Today my mind was boggled by a man who wouldn't move his feet. He was sitting in the first sideways-facing seat, his feet sticking out into the aisle about a foot. There was a woman in a wheelchair trying to exit the bus, and his feet stayed right where they were. "Watch your feet, sir", I said, expecting the usual, almost reflexive response of the feet being pulled back. "My feet are okay", said the man, not moving them at all. "Your feet are in her way" I said. "I don't think so" came the calm reply. I want to ask him if there was something wrong with his feet. I wanted to push is feet back myself. I wanted to say that I had never heard of anything so rude in my life! I wanted to call him a jackass. I did none of the above. I just waited, while the woman squeezed her wheelchair by and went down the ramp. Then I put the ramp back in and went on my merry way. Then a friendly aquaintance named Paul got on the bus, and we struck up a conversation. Paul was standing near the front of the bus while we exchanged how-do-you-do's. Suddenly the man pointed to, and read aloud the sign up front that says "Information gladly given, but saftely prohibits talking to the bus driver while the bus is in motion." I moved my lips in the shape of a couple of choice words, one of which was the word I hadn't called him earlier. But no sound came out of my mouth. Paul was conveniently blocking anyone else who might see me in the mirror. I laughed and asked Paul if he could read lips. He said, yes, he could. He only went a few more stops, and then we exchanged goodbyes. The other man was still there. When he got off the bus, I said "Thank you, have a nice day". I didn't mean it, but I said it. He pointed again at the sign and told me not to forget to report myself for having a conversation while driving the bus. "Thank you, have a nice day" I repeated. So he left. It's a crazy world.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I hear a lot of converstions on the bus. Sometimes I want to join in, but it's none of my business. They're usually too far away, and anyway, I probably shouldn't be expressing my personal political opinions while I'm representing San Diego Transit. But it really annoys me when I hear people use faulty arguments to prove their point, right or wrong. One 'argument' I've heard recently is this: "What part of illegal don't you underSTAND?" Now, that's not really an argument, it's a put-down. I suppose they think they are being clever. The implication (if it were aimed at me) is that I would realize you were right if I weren't so stupid. But since this is my forum, and I can say what I want, I'll tell you which part I don't understand. I don't understand the part where you tell 15 million people living in this country to just disappear! You're 'illegal' so just go away. Where? Back home? What makes you think they have a home in Mexico? What I'd like to say back to them is, "What part of 15 million don't YOU understand?" What you don't seem to understand is that most of those 15 million are working. A good number are children in school who've never known any other home but the United States. Their little brothers and sisters are American citizens, having had the good fortune to be born in this country. Their whole family is here! Send them HOME? They ARE home!
I'm not saying there isn't a problem. I'm just saying these people are not the villains in this story. They are our victims, just people trying to survive. Our victims, because we are happy to have the fruits of their labor (forgive the pun). We actually think we are entitled to prices kept low by an endless supply of cheap labor. People have a funny way of wanting to move up in the world; to do better for themselves and their families. There is always pressure to find new sources of cheap labor if you can't keep the underclass down.
We used to solve this problem by keeping slaves. Slaves were our 'permanent' underclass. Many ran away, and were punished cruelly by law if they were caught. After all, running away was illegal! And what part of illegal don't you understand? But slavery turned out to be more expensive and less workable than we thought, and we had to end it. It wasn't economically feasible, not with slaves getting sick, dying, refusing to work hard, running away, being incapacitated by beatings, etc. And there was always a chance of revolt, which was not only expensive. but dangerous. So we ended slavery, but still tried to keep those Black people as our permanent underclass. We needed them to do the farm work and the cleaning, cooking, and such. We needed an oversupply, so we wouldn't have to pay them too much. But they didn't want to stay in 'their place'. As human beings do, they moved onward and upward, in spite of enormous pressure to stay down.
So who fills that demand now? Who picks the produce, cleans our houses, our pools, mows our lawns, cooks for us? You got it! Our new 'permanent' underclass! We've learned that slavery isn't feasible, and anyway, it's not fashionable anymore. But we still need a way to keep them from moving up in the world and abandoning the cheap labor jobs we so desparatley need them for. How? By making sure they stay invisible. They still manage to find a way to move up the ladder, though. They find ways to GET legal. They buy forged papers, they send their children to school. They even have the audacity to bring little American Citizens into the world, people who, when they grow up, aren't going to be satisfied with menial labor. They won't be stuck doing it, either, as long as they get an education. But that's okay, because there are always more coming across the border.
So what's the solution? I don't know. The president is talking about a 'guest worker' program, where people come here to do the farm labor and then go home. Right. And Santa Claus comes down the chimney and leaves presents under the tree every Christmas. It's time we realized that there is no such thing as a 'permanent underclass'. Maybe we could train chimpanzees to do the work, and they wouldn't demand equal rights. Maybe we should build robots to do the work, and just pay people to buy the stuff that is produced. This sounds farfetched, I know. The point is, I don't have a solution, and I'm not even sure there is one. One thing is for sure, though. You won't find a solution if you can't even identify the problem. Blaming the Mexicans for coming here to take jobs we offer them and want them to do is ridiculous. Expecting human beings to work forever without any chance to move up, at least for their children if not for themselves, is just plain denial of human nature. That's my take on the situation. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It always bugs me that fundamentalists think there would be no morality, and life would have no meaning without a belief in god. They honestly believe that morality was delivered to Moses on the mountaintop. Before that, I guess, people were just running around doing anything they wanted, because they didn't know it was wrong to lie, cheat, steal, kill, or covet your neighbor's wife. People from other cultures who coexisted with the Jews obviously had no moral code, either, and their lives had no meaning at all. I guess that's why god want the Jews to kill every last one of the men when they invaded their land, and take the women and children as their slaves. When they didn't do this properly, god punished them! (I should provide a refernce here, but I am to lazy to go look it up. Maybe one of my followers can help)
I think the ten commandments encoded morality as it had developed up to that time. People developed this themselves over time, by trial and error. Conscience evolved as our societies did. People who want to stop the clock at the time the ten commandments were written down deny that our morality and conscience could possibly evolve over time. So what was wrong then (read:homosexuality) is wrong now. And what was right then (read: slavery, genocide, polygyny) is still right today. Oh, wait...
As far as the meaning of life goes, I don't think life has any meaning in and of itself. Saying life has some inherent meaning is like saying that the sounds of our language have inherent meaning. They don't. But in context, in a society that has assigned meaning to the sounds and gestures, it means a whole lot. Live is like that, too. Your life means nothing to the earth. The earth was here before you and will go on after you are gone. The earth may very well swallow you up in a gigantic sinkhole tomorrow, and it wouldn't be anything personal. The stars in the heavens don't give a hoot for your life. Neither do the comets and asteroids which bombard us from time to time. But in context, from you point of view, and from the point of view of others whom you affect, it means a whole lot. What you leave behind has meaning too, as long as there is someone who understands. In a few thousand years, no one will understand the language we use today. There may be some who study ancient languages who can decipher it. Society will be so different from what it is like now, that they may not have the context to truly understand the way we thought, and why we did the things we did. Maybe they'll judge us by their own standards and find us lacking. Maybe there will be sects who look back at our moral code and deplore the morals of their own society! Who knows? It's happened before!

Monday, May 31, 2010


I WAS going to go to work on Friday. But on Thursday Ramona got sick. My older daughter, Ramona, who is 24. She is in the hospital, with pneumonis, still in intensive care. They removed her breathing tube yesterday, though, and she is maintining her oxygen level just fine. So she is improving. On the other hand, I am finding myself extremely disoriented. She was entubated for three days, and she couldn't talk. Now she can talk, softly, but she doesn't believe she is as sick as she is. She wants to go home, and I don't blame her. But she isn't ready; she's still critically ill. I am starting to get worn out by all of this. I'm scared. Not that she won't get better this time, but that she isn't taking it as a sign that she needs to take better care of herself. She just wants to get back to her regular life. I, on the other hand, am afraid to get back to mine. I feel like this is all I can pay attention to, and if I forget, something may go wrong. Do I really have that much control? No. I am supposed to go back to work tomorrow, and I have to decide whether or not I will. She is an adult. Then again, if I work all day, I'm not there to get doctors reports in the morning. I'm out of the loop. Ramona doesn't seem capable of managing her own care yet. She's in denial about being so sick. But is it my place to take over? I don't know, I don't know. Will she need care when she comes home? Will she accept care? I don't know. In the meantime, I did manage to pay my bills yesterday, and I came home and took a nap after sleepig at the hospital on Saturday night. I slept at home last night. I need a shower, but don't want to get my toe tape wet and have to change it again. I want to get to the hospital before the doctor comes around, and yet I am sitting here on my computer. I didn't do my laundry over the weekend, but my uniforms are still clean because I haven't been working. The pets are cared for, but the trash cans, the sink, the recycling, all sit in the same condition they were in when Ramona got sick. I'm afraid if I concentrate on getting my life in order, hers will fall apart. I don't even feel like I have a job, although I dimly remember that I do. In short, I am feeling indecisive and disoriented. I suppose it will come back together with time. Even this blog is disjointed. Just one of those 'other rantings' rather than a 'bus story'. At least, being in my 50's, I have enough experience to know that things will get back to normal. Or else we will adjust to things and they will become normal. I need to get up if I don't want to miss the doctor on her rounds. So I'll leave this post as it is, a disjointed, meandering blob of cathartic expression.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

back to work...

On Friday I get to go back to work. I say 'get to' because I will surely start to put on weight if I don't, and I don't want that! Also, I say 'get to' because I am lucky to have a job in this economy, and get sick leave. I should also apply for State Disability, but I probably won't, since they don't pay the first seven days you were off, and all told, I'm only going to be off for nine days. Going back on Friday is strategic. Monday is a Holiday, and I am off. I want to get paid, so, just like my birthday, I have to work the 'day before' and the 'day after'. I've already sacrificed my birthday pay on the altar of the broken toe. That's enough! So I go back for one day, and then have a three day weekend. I can live with that.
On my last day of work, May 14th, I was having a conversation with a man named John Allen. John Allen likes to talk to me, and he is a conserative Christian, so I think he probably has an ambition to get me 'saved'. He suggested to me, on Friday, that I was 'taking a chance' by not believing. I've been 'saved', a couple of time when I was younger. I can't imagine why you would need it more than once, if you needed it at all. I used to believe in that stuff unquestioningly. I mean, I was raised a Baptist, for Christ's sake! ( Ha ha, the irony is intentional.) But now, after having given it a half a lifetime of thought, I can't see that the idea of needing a blood sacrifice to appease an angry god is anything but barbaric. So if anyone ever tells you I 'accepted the lord' on my deathbed, don't believe them. It ain't so. I'll go to my grave looking forward to my eternal rest, perhaps wishing I could have had more time, maybe regretting some things I have done, maybe not even remembering. But I won't suddenly get scared that just in case there really is a hell, I'd better cover my ass. I hope my humanist friends will be there to fend off any attempts by well wishers to convert me. Or maybe I'll still have it in my to make the case against them. So I'm looking forward to seeing John Allen again, to make my case for not believing. Who knows, maybe I'll convert HIM!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

broken toe

Yesterday was my birthday and I broke my toe. I have never broken a bone before, at least not for sure, but this time there was no question, even before the x-ray. The picture says it all, I think.
I'm not terribly distressed about having to miss work for a few days, although it may cost me my birthday pay. Our contract stipulates that to get paid for a pesonal holiday, you have to work 'the day before, and the day after'. Even though the toe has been reset, and looks less scary now, I can't put it into a shoe yet. Being a bus driver means that you have to wear something with closed toes. I don't know how long that might take. We shall see. So tomorrow I get to sleep in. Even getting hurt has it's good side. ;-}

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

vacation week

I'm on vacation this week. No bus driving for me. Just sleeping in, being lazy, and trying to get a little of the housework done.
There was a fire in an apartment in Golden Hill on Friday. I saw is as I was coming up Broadway on the 15. When I had the 2 I went right by there. The next day in the paper there was an article about it, and it turns out a man died in that fire. An old man named Sam Taylor. It just happens that Sam had been riding our buses for years. He was a older, light skinned, slender black man. I didn't know how old he was, but the article said he was born in 1926. So he was 84, or close to it. He was always really friendly, and remembered my name, as I remembered his. He was still in good shape, and probably would have lived well into his 90's, if not 100. But now Sam's gone. And I feel sad about it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

People ask the dumbest questions sometimes. My personal favorite: "Do you go up this street a little ways?" Me:"Yes" "Will you tell me when we get there?"
Of course, they all think I remember them from the beginning of the trip, even though I am not looking at them, and probably wasn't looking at them when they (I assume) told me where they wanted off. Out of nowhere, I will hear, "Is this my stop?"
Some famously unanswerable questions: "Do you go by the Starbucks?"
"Do you go to Mission?"
"Do you go by the Hospital?"
"Do you go to the mall?"
"How do I get to Wal-Mart?"

Of course, these all have a common theme. This is a BIG CITY, people! We have lots of Starbucks, lots of hospitals, lots of malls, lots of Wal-Marts. And every other damn thing is named Mission, or Scripps, or Sharp, or Balboa.
Once, just to pass the time, I mentally went through every route in our system, and EVERY ONE went by a Starbucks! So that one would be easy to answer, I guess. "Do you go by the Starbucks?" "Yes". Never mind that I've given you absolutely no information at all. If you're satisfied, so am I.
Some people don't want to give you any information at all about where they are going, but they still want you to tell them how to get there! Then there are others who want to tell you and everyone else on the bus exactly where they are going. "Do you go by the Welfare Office?" they shout. Or, "Can I have a courtesy ride? I just got out of jail and I have to get home." There used to be some shame in admitting these things, but no longer.
Speaking of shame, I haven't seen the alcoholic whose pants would always fall down in a while. I wonder if he is okay. He never seemed to be ashamed when his pants fell down. He could never make up his mind which to do first, finish paying, or pull up his pants. If he pulled his pants up before he finished paying, there was a good chance they would just fall down again before he was done. And in case you are wondering, he DOESN'T wear any underwear, and he is a natural blond. Once he got seated, he loved to tell about how he lived at the Golden West in the men's dormitory for $14 a night when he had the money, and slept on the street when he didn't. He was always getting robbed, because he carried around a bunch of cash, and was drunk all the time. Unless, or course, I picked him up at UCSD hospital. In that case, he was sobered up and on his way home to start the whole process again.
A lot of these bus stories are funny, yet sad at the same time. On one hand, I love the variety of things I get to see and hear in a day. On the other hand, some things are not so pretty. I try to be amused rather than annoyed. But annoyance comes with the territory, I guess. Sometimes the passengers say they are amazed at my patience. But I am not really that patient of a person, to be honest. It's just that I've been at this for so long, I've learned which way of handling things actually turns out to be quickest. Being rude to people is not going to shut them up or sit them down. My goal is to keep moving, NOT to educate the public on how to act. Their mothers either did that, or they didn't, and there's nothing that can be done about it now. Of course, sometimes I let my annoyance get the best of me, but it never fails to cause new problems, and slow me down as a consequence. So I am NOT acting out of patience. I'm just hiding my impatience because I've learned it's faster in the long run .

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The worst thing about my job is that you have all day to be alone with your thoughts. This can be fine if you are in a good place. It can be torture if you aren't. Luckily, lately I have been in that good place. I sing in my head, chat with passengers, even plan my day after work (usually futile, since my daughter will have different plans for me when I get home). But there have been periods of time when I absolutely DREADED getting into that seat for the day. As soon as I would sit down, here would come the negative thoughts. I'd chase them away, but they'd come right back. Usually this has happened during difficult times such as relationship breakups, or the time before the breakup when things just aren't going well. Those are the times when I wish I had been a mathemetician or something. Nothing like a good math problem to get your mind off other types of problems. Right now the biggest problem I have is setting the clock forward and having to get up an hour earlier. Lucky me, my life is boring!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Dry Spell

I guess I either ran out of stories, or got tired of telling them. Life is going on in bus world as usual. Today a guy was trying to point the way to a blind lady carrying a white cane. I told him she couldn't see, and she said "I can see". Way to make me feel dumb!
Putting my foot in my mouth is a habit of mine. Apparently I like the taste of my own toes. So I might as well tell the story of the girl with the big feet.
This happened a long time ago, when San Diego Transit still operated the 115. I had a student driver that day, so I wasn't doing all the driving. As we arrived back at the bus at the El Cajon Terminal (from the restroom), there was a crowd of people waiting to board. One of them was a tall, overweight young woman dressed in jersey shorts and a T-shirt. No bra, and she needed one, but it was very hot that day. She was very chatty as we got on, and we were carrying on a conversation, probably about there being a student driver, but I don't really remember. She was seated behind the driver, and I was across from him, so I could see where we were going and make sure he didn't make a wrong turn. As we headed up Marshall, I noticed that the young woman's feet were so large that they stuck out halfway across the aisle. Like a dork, I blurted, "Damn, girl, you've got some BIG feet!" "Size 16. " came the reply, "And I'm a boy."
There is NOTHING like making a fool of yourself in front of a whole bunch of people. I could have died. In my defense, his voice hadn't changed, he didn't shave yet, and he really needed a bra. "Oh, you're young," I said, lodging my toenails more deeply into my tonsils. "That's why your voice hasn't changed yet". He was nineteen. I didn't know what to say after that, and honestly, I still don't. If I had been a passenger on the bus, I think I would have gotten off and waited for the next one. He didn't seem too disturbed, though. He continued talking to me about the place he lived, (a group home), and how he wanted to get a job. Finally, he got off, and I never saw him again. Whew!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dave got on my bus today. I didn't see him, just his pass, until he said "hi Ellen". Dave is a good friend of my ex-fiance, Philip. I had months and months of difficulty getting over Philip. Only a few months ago it would have made a knot in my gut to accidentally run into Dave, or Bob, or Philip himself. I see Philip too damn often, since he is also a bus driver. But lately it's getting better. I don't play a constant rerun of one of our fights in my head all day anymore. I hardly think of him at all. When I saw Dave, it was a genuine pleasure. So I AM getting over it. It's about time!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Old Friends and Auto-pilot

Today I had my mind boggled by one of my passengers who, in talking with another passenger, mentioned my high school boyfriend! He didn't just mention HIM, but a couple of his brothers, too, so I could have no doubt who he was talking about. I asked him about it on his way out, and he said, yeah, he was friends with them growing up on 69th St. in Lemon Grove. Yep, that's where he lived, all right. Strange, small world.
One time a guy put a bike on the bus, showed me a pass and sat across from me. As soon as I pulled away from the curb, I was startled to hear him say "Hi Ellen". I looked over at him, and there was Frankie, a neighbor of mine growing up. He didn't look particularly different than before, but I hadn't seen him. I watched him put the bike on, probably looking at the bike. I glanced at his pass, but not up at the face. That is a strange feeling, to realize you have been dealing with people in such an automatic way that you don't even look at them, don't even see people you know! It happens with my regular passengers, too. Someone I've frequently talked to will get up to exit the bus, and I will be startled to see them, because I didn't know they had been there!
A sophisticated robot could probably do my job, and someday probably will. There are some of my passengers who apparently think that time is already here, judging from the way they ignore my greetings when they get on. Probably because of that earphone in their ear. About half the people who get on treat me like part of the furniture. But who am I to judge? I am herding them into the bus like sheep, not knowing one from the other half of the time. I guess it's a consequence of our crowded cities, our "fast lane" lives. We see so many people that they become part of the background, while we focus our attention on our Ipods and cell phones. Not ME of course. Not while I'm driving, anyway.
But I can still be in another world, just practicing the fine art of daydreaming. I've had arguments, tried to balance my budget, written an essay, and planned my future, all in my head, and all while driving the bus. After 23 years, the auto-pilot is well developed. It guides me down the street without an accident, but sometimes forgets to notify me when someone has rung the bell and wants off the bus. It's pretty good at getting me to stop for people waiting at bus stops, but it has failed to warn me when a turn was coming up more than once, especially when I've recently changed routes. THAT'S embarrassing! You've got a bus full of people watching you make a silly mistake. I missed a turn once when I had a bus full of middle-schoolers from Horace Mann. There's nothing like screwing up in front of 'tweens and teens. I shudder to remember it, and it was over twenty years ago!
But lest you think you're not safe on the bus, let me reassure you that I've never had a preventable accident. But as paying attention to the road becomes an automatic behavior, your mind gets freer and freer to wander, sometimes drifing into areas you'd rather not visit. That's when it's good to remember where you are, what you are doing, and who you are with. Back to the Present.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Back in the saddle

Started the new route today after a restful weekend. I'm doing an 11, interlined with a 15. A lot of drivers were against interlining when they first started it. Interlining is when you don't drive the same route all day. You stay in the same bus, but switch routes. That's different from a split shift, where you get relieved or pull the bus in, take an unpaid break, and then start out again on something else. Drivers were against interlining because it allows the company to save money by shortening our breaks. But the good thing about interlining is that it makes the day SEEM short. Driving one route all day is monotonous, and can seem to take forever. Switching from one route to another, especially from a long route to a short one (and vice versa), breaks up the monotony. I am working 8 hours and 45 minutes, exactly the same amout of time as I had on the route 2. But it seemed like a short day, And I was less tired than usual when I got off.
People ask me sometimes, 'how long do you get for lunch?' The answer, 15 minutes, often shocks them. 'How can they not give you a lunch break?' 'Isn't it required by law?' It is required, but with some exceptions. If you belong to a Union, as we do, you may bargain away yor lunch break. Why would we do that? Because a longer lunch break would be unpaid. So, if you can work from 6am to 3pm with an hour unpaid lunch, you get 8 hours of pay. If you can work 6am to 3pm with a 15 minute PAID lunch break, you get 9 hours of pay, and the last hour is at time-and-a half. An unpaid lunch break amounts to a split shift. There are enough of those available if you really want a long lunch. But most of us would rather do our work and go home.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Early Hours

I start my new shift tomorrow! Earlier than before. I have to get up at 4:15 instead of 5:00. In the bus driving world, you either work early or late. There's no such thing as banker's hours. I would rather come in at five and get off at two, than come in at 10:30 and get off at seven. Or come in at four and get off at midnight! But I'm a day person. Not a morning person, really. I'll be yawning and guzzling my Rockstar. But it's worth it when you get off at two o'clock.
Short blog today. Gotta have one day of rest, right?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The crazy ones.

Today is Saturday, so there is no bus driving for me. Time to go back and talk about something I promised to get back to later. The crazy people. The nuts. The 51-50's I have no idea where that term comes from. If anyone knows, please leave it in a comment for me. I should probably be more politically correct and say 'the mentally ill'. But no. Because mental illness takes a lot of forms, and there should be no stigma attached. I'm not talking about your everyday person who struggles to keep on the sane side. I'm talking about the people who have long since given up any attempt at normalcy and have embraced the wild side.
There is one woman who walks up and down Broadway topless. I don't mean on the sidewalk, either. No, she walks out in traffic, hoping (I suppose) to call more attention to herself, or maybe to get hit by a car. If it weren't so sad, it would be funny. Sometimes it's funny anyway, except when she's blocking your way and making you LATE! Bus drivers hate being late because it means we get no break at the end of the line. But the time we get there, it's already time to leave again. YOU try driving for eight hours straight without stretching your legs or going to the bathroom! I would be as crazy as some of my passengers if I didn't take a few minutes to collect myself at the end of the line. But I digress...
Aside from people who like to walk out in traffic, (and they are numerous) probably the most common thing we see is people who talk to themselves. Or, more acurately, they talk to people who aren't there. Since the advent of the cell phone, they often talk on the phone, with one minor variation. There's no phone! No ear piece. Nothing. Their conversations range from wildly angry ravings to imaginary conversations with important people, like the President. Or Paul Jablonsky. I always wonder this: do they think they are really talking to someone? Or do they think anyone believes they're talking to someone? You can't ask.
One thing I've learned in my years as a driver is NOT to engage a lunatic in conversation. The mildy delusional, maybe. But only if you go along with their delusion, and only for laughs. They often love to talk to the bus driver, telling interesting stories which couldn't possibly be true. I once had a bum, a stinky one, who claimed to be highly educated, but no one would give him a job because of reverse discrimination. I wanted to ask him if he tried taking a bath before going to the interview, but I bit my tongue. It's one thing to be amused at someone's delusional thinking, but it's really not nice to make fun of them out loud. Anyway, he probably WAS highly educated.
It really is sad, and yet somehow amusing at the same time. I don't like to dwell on sad feelings (unless I'm feeling sorry for MYSELF) so I try to stay on the bemused side. It's easy to become impatient with or scornful of the mentally ill. It's not always easy to have compassion for them, especially when there are so many, and they all seem to be bent on making your day more difficult. But they ARE people, and they ARE sick. And I feel better at the end of the day if I have made at least some effort at kindness. Or at least abstained from being unkind.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Today was the last day (weekday)of the Fall shake-up. Monday begins the Spring shake-up. Shake-ups are when we all have to choose our work for the next few months. Everything becomes available for bid, and one by one, we sign up for what we want to work. Sometimes you take the same thing you had; usually you don't, or can't. Either the people in scheduling get to it and change it all around so you don't want it anymore, or a higher seniority driver decides it looks good, and it's not there when your turn comes to bid. Sometimes it's still available when it gets to you, but you see something you like better, so you take that instead. Three times a year we go through this process. On the whole, it's a good thing. It gives the company a chance to make schedlue and route changes, and gives the drivers the opportunity to change the hours they work, or the route they operate.
You get to know a lot of the regular passengers. Sometimes you don't even know their names, but you know their faces, where they get on and off. A few you may chat with, and say goodbye to on the last day with some regret. But very rarely, at least for me, do you keep in touch with any of them. One notable exception was a man named Doug, who rode my bus to work every morning about 18 years ago. We dated, eventually moved in together, and had a daughter, who is now 15. I guess you could call that 'keeping in touch' ;-} Our relationship didn't last forever, of course. None of mine do. We were together for seven years, until our daughter, April, was four, and after that...well...we stayed in touch. Actually, we remained friends, although not close ones, until he died a few years ago. April was 12 then. She had only known her father as a sober man because he quit drinking before she was born, but the heavy drinking of his past life caught up with him and he died of liver cancer. He was only 53.
I'll miss my regulars from the route 2. Many of them I'll see again on other routes. Some, mainly the crazy ones, I hope I WON'T see. (I'll talk more about the crazy ones in a future post.) This time, though, I'm keeping in touch with a couple of my regulars. One is Kim, who is on Facebook, and plays Scrabble with me. I like Kim, I like Facebook, and I love Scrabble. The other one is Bill. Bill for short, Dollar Bill for long. Of course, that's not his real name, but that's the way he's known. Bill has become a friend of mine. Every now and then you meet someone who manages to worm their way into your heart, not in a romantic way, necessarily, but indelibly nonetheless. Bill is that guy. I don't know why. He isn't... well...there are a lot of things Bill isn't. But he IS my friend, and I am his too.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In this blog I want to tell bus stories. I have been a bus driver for public transit for 23 years. I got the idea for a blog the other day, when one of my passengers told me about how a drunk driver had plowed into his 1960 Corvair and four other parked cars. His empty Corvair was totalled. Now, he says, he's just waiting for the guy to get out of prison (three years) so he can KILL him! A couple of other drivers reassured me that he will probably cool down in three years' time. Let's hope so. But who knows, three years from now I may read a newspaper article about a guy who was murdered over a 1960 Corvair, and I'll say, "THAT GUY RODE MY BUS!" Stranger things have happened, and I've seen my share of them.
The other day a lady who walked with a cane got off my bus at the courthouse. Another passenger told me, after she got off, that she was attending the trial of the guy who had allegedly murdered her son four years ago. Suddenly I flashed back to another day, about four years ago. A lady in a motorized wheelchair often rode my bus to the Mesa College stop. That day, as I was strapping down her wheelchair, I casually asked her how she was today. She replied, "Not so good. My son was shot and killed last night." He was one of a set of twins, only 18 years old. It happened in the parking lot of College Grove Shopping Center. I read about it later in the paper. My question to her was this. "WHAT are you doing here?" I can't imaging losing a child one day and going to work the next. I can't imagine functioning at all if that happened in my life. I think I would just curl up into a fetal position and cry, like, forever. But she said going to work kept her mind occupied, and made it easier to cope with. Since it's never happened to me, I won't argue. Doing MY job doesn't take your mind off anything. It gives you plenty of time to dwell on things and brood. (More on that another time.) But here she was, four years later, attending the trial of her son's alleged killer. She no longer used a wheelchair; she had progressed to a cane. I didn't recognize her from before, nor did she recognize me, but I'm sure it was the same woman. No point to this story, really, except for this: Bus driving is a trip, an absolute trip.
As for the other guy, the one who wanted to kill the Corvair killer, I wonder if I will run into him years down the road and find out if he ever followed through. Maybe I'll meet him on the way to see his parole or probation officer. Maybe I'll just see the article about it in the paper. Most likely he'll get over it. It's a car, after all, not a child.