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.