more fair

I was assigned to work the state fair again today, giving breaks to shuttle drivers. Fortunately, when I woke up this morning, I had a stuffed-up nose but not much else in the way of unpleasant cold symptoms.

This is Jeremy. He is a friendly guy and he introduced himself to me on my first trip. As we wrapped up our brief conversation, which pretty much consisted of establishing where we were from, he said, "OK, you've got my number. Give me a call if you need anything."

Later in the day, I got to take a break. This pass gets us into the fair. So I went in and wandered around a bit. I found "Vegas Streets" by Basement Apartment on my iPod. It had been running through my head all morning. I was blissfully walking along when an older woman flagged me down. She then waved her husband over. I took off my headphones.

"Where is 1500 KSTP? Joe Soucheray."
I responded, "I don't know."
"Of course you don't!"


I guess the Transit Staff badge was the clue that I know where every booth inside the fair is, but since I'm not much of a fan of old Joe, I didn't want to tell them. I helped them find it anyway. Then I invited them to hop on board my invisible bus so I could drive them over there.

Shortly after that exchange, Senator Amy Klobuchar and I exchanged smiles.

Oh, it's true. I love the fair.

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I woke up yesterday with a sore throat and a headache. It felt like I was running a low-grade fever, but I didn't check. Sometime around noon my stomach decided that it wasn't happy, either.

Today I woke up with a headache and a runny nose. My stomach was unhappy, but it settled down pretty quickly. I still feel kind of feverish.

I should call in sick. I won't though. If I do, I'll be suspended from doing instruction for a year because I've already been sick four times in the last twelve months.

Starting sometime in October, I can call in sick if I need to. For now, I am not doing my job very well at all.



state fair, again

I was assigned to the state fair for work today. I gave shuttle drivers a break by driving one trip in their buses for them. It was really fun. For a while, I got to pick drivers at random, so I randomly picked a driver who had one of the new articulated buses. It was awesome. It still smells new.

After work, Kassie showed up and I changed my clothes and we went into the fair. We saw Simon, Mollie, Trevor, Wyatt, T-Unit, Dan, Theresa (Teresa?), Ben and Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics. Some of those folks we meant to meet and others we meant to see. Deke Dickerson told a naughty joke at Gabe's in Iowa City when I was there that actually sent a young woman running for the door. Everyone else thought it was kind of funny...

We also saw Pretty Ricky, who weighs 1200 pounds.

He's very pretty from his back side.

He was oblivious to the feeding frenzy going on in the pen next door.

I also noticed that an Israeli mountain is apparently known for its apples...

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state fair pics

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but that's just too bad. This booth is for those who get to the state fair and, when faced with a hundred-gazillion interesting food options, panic and go straight for the soggy-bread-and-processed-meat Mobil station cuisine.

I know this...uh... isn't very nice, but this reminded me of Olestra.


state fair, so far

Kassie and I love the Great Minnesota Get-Together. We decided to take the bus there this afternoon. Bad idea...

We took the 18 downtown, then boarded the 960 at 11th Street on the Nicollet Mall. Supposedly, the 960 gets to the fair from downtown in 15 minutes. We weren't sure when it was going to pick us up downtown, as there is no posted schedule. But we knew it wouldn't be more than fifteen minutes. So when we were on the 18 on our way downtown and Kassie realized that she had to use the restroom, she wasn't too concerned.

A group of young people boarded with us. They announced to the driver that they weren't from here and that they wanted to check out our state fair. Fine.

Then they yelled to each other for the entire trip. And the conversation was incredibly banal. We heard numerous times that CC DeVille was one guy's favorite guitarist. (the '80s are back... yawn...) Their yelling included profanity, even when a young girl got on with her father. One or two of the young women in the loud group attempted to get the guys to quit swearing, and it sort of worked, but they still had no idea how to act in public.


Other than the noise, the bus ride was uneventful until we approached Como Avenue on the U of M's Transitway. There were about twenty buses in front of us and none of them were moving. So we sat on an overpass waiting to make the right turn onto Como. We found out later that the cows were going home. Farmers were loading up their livestock and leaving for the week, I guess. So it took us 25 minutes to get to Como. When we finally got there, we had to stop and wait at the light.

Kassie still needed to use the restroom, and it was getting bad.

When we got to Como Avenue and realized that we'd be sitting there for a while before turning, then sitting in the extremely slow-moving traffic, we asked the driver to let us out so she could get to a bathroom. We were next to a curb. It would have been a perfectly safe place to let us out.

The driver refused to open the door.

So we sat in traffic for what would eventually be another 20 minutes to go five or six blocks. Kassie had to pee so bad (and was so angry that he wouldn't let us out) that she started to cry. I asked again nicely if he would please let us out so that she could use a restroom, and when he refused again, I lost my temper.

I confess that it was not necessarily one of my finer moments. I mean, Kassie was sitting across from him, trying to keep from wetting herself and trying unsuccessfully not to cry and the jackass wouldn't let her out. I lit into him. And by that, I mean I scolded him. ha. He's got a lot more seniority than I do, but I told him he was being a dick and that I didn't appreciate his sh*tty-a** customer service. But I did call him sir, and at one point apologized for being a jerk.

He encouraged me to call the company and I assured him that I would, in fact, be speaking to a union rep because, as I had mentioned, I worked for the company. But he probably didn't hear that earlier because he had an earplug in his ear.

In fact, I'll most likely let Kassie call and make the complaint and we'll see what comes of it. Sadly, I don't think much will happen. Drivers like that give all of us a bad name. Fortunately, Kassie made it to a Satellite when we reached the terminal.

I guess I'll just continue to teach good customer service to my students and remind them that a black-and-white mentality is going to cause a lot more grief than it's worth.

Jeez, that guy was a dick!

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congratulations, Pete and Carys!

Kassie's brother Pete married Carys yesterday.

The wedding and reception were held at the Wirth Park Pavilion. It was very simple and really nice.

The after wedding party was in a salon above the 331 Club. As far as I could tell, a good time was had by all. Especially Kassie's cousin Cam.

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who really isn't who

According to a letter that arrived in the mail today, it is Editor in Chief Jennifer A. Gonzalez' pleasure to inform me that I am being considered for inclusion into the 2007/2008 Cambridge Who's Who Among Executives and Professionals "Honors Edition" section of the Registry!

Ohhhh yes, that's right. I'm the guy they're looking for.

For I am the Executive Bus Driver With the Honor of Throwing Your Drunk Ass Off My Bus.

It took Google 0.26 seconds to find a variety of exciting ways which Cambridge Who's Who has tried to separate a significant number of hard-working, God-fearing Americans from their hard-earned cash.

You really ought to call me Mr. Camp from now on. Thanks.



I have good news and I have bad news that's still kind of good news...

My hire date at M*tro Tr*nsit is 1/29/01. I was a part-time driver until 12/15/01. For approximately ten months, I worked the rush hours Monday through Friday. I had Saturdays and Sundays off.

When I went full time, I usually had Tuesdays and Thursdays off. After a while, I could get Wednesdays and would pair them with a Tuesday or a Thursday.

A couple autumns ago, I experienced a breakthrough: Sundays off. I danced around the pick room a little bit in anticipation of actually getting to see the Vikings play live, instead of watching the taped game well after the fact.

This morning, for the first time ever, I was able to pick Saturdays and Sundays off. I am pretty stoked about it. However, I'm probably on some kind of bubble. There's a good chance I won't be able to pick Saturdays off again for several more picks. But for now, I'm savoring the moment.

My schedule, 9/8/7 - 11/30/7:

Saturday, Sunday- off.
Monday- 6:15 AM - 11:11 AM (r), 11 line; 1:49 PM (r) - 6:01 PM, 2 line.
Tuesday- 6:36 AM - 9:50 AM, 4 line; 12:47 PM (r) - 6:34 PM, 18 line.
Wednesday- 5:43 AM - 8:21 AM, 156 line.
Thursday - see Tuesday.
Friday- see Monday.

11/22 (Thanksgiving)- 5:55 AM - 2:12 PM, 24 line.
11/23- 6:08 AM - 12:03 PM (r), 46 line; 12:45 (r) - 2:52 PM (r), 21 line.

As always, the (r) means relief.

This is by far the best pick I've ever seen, and not just because of getting Saturdays off. My late night is 6:34. My working days are grouped into two days each, with my days off and my short day to break them up. It's about as good as it can reasonably get for me.

I believe I mentioned that there may be some bad news.

If the rumblings I'm hearing at the Instruction Center turn out to be more than rumors, I may never get to work my beautiful pick. I might be training drivers through the whole thing. So while I'd probably really like my week, at least I'll be doing something else that I enjoy.

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you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can't...

I pick new work tomorrow morning.

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Today I took over a class of new part-time drivers from Dan, another relief instructor.

There were two students and I knew them because I rode with them last week to get a feel for what they might need. I guess I had a couple of pointers, but they were token suggestions, really. Dan has a lot of driving experience and apparently, he's a good teacher. They didn't need much of anything from me, which was good, because today was their in-service driving test.

I asked them to be there at 8:00 so they could get in a bus and get warmed up before their test at 9:00.

One of them showed up. He passed with flying colors. The other one eventually showed up at the Instruction Center, where she was "disqualified," due to other late arrivals. That is, she was fired for being late.

I know that people have wildly varied life situations, attitudes, goals, etc. But without any knowledge of her situation, I have a hard time understanding this woman's decision. Driving bus isn't a glamorous, high-paying career by any stretch, but the pay is solid, the benefits are good and while the work can be stressful, it can also be fun and rewarding. And even if it isn't a career choice, it can be a very good job for a while until a career comes along.

I was reminded of a guy who went through the classroom portion of training with my previous class. They got their first paycheck; he called in sick the next day. Two weeks later, when they got their paycheck, he called in sick again. And then he got fired. He was a young guy with a kid on the way. He was also quite personable and seemed pretty sharp. But he sure was dumb. He could have had a good career. What will he do now? I have no idea, but he was driving school bus before he came to M*tro Tr*nsit.

I hope those two get their acts together. They seemed like decent people. I suppose the longer I stick around and the more people I train, the less I'll take it personally if they fail or quit or get fired. I know it's stupid to take it personally anyway, but in a small way, I do.

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road trip

I did something a little unusual last night.

It's been twenty years since I graduated from high school. My parents recently received a notice for my class reunion. My mom threw it away for me. I'm in touch with all but a few of the handful of people from my high school that I want to be.

But I was also active in my church's youth group. My friend Manda, who lives in California, had plans to visit and proposed a get-together with that crew.

Last night was the night. Getting there required a road trip. I packed a lunch, fueled the car and made sure I had a map. I headed south on 35W. I drove past Crosstown. This is where I start to feel a little out of sorts. But if I need to go to a mall, it's usually Southdale. Plus, I drive several buses that go out that way. I continued down 35W. I drove past 494. You may or may not know that I grew up in Bloomington and my parents still live there. So this wasn't exactly out of my comfort zone, as I visit my parents on occasion and a couple buses go out that way, but I can't remember the last time I saw Bloomington on a Saturday night.

Then I got real crazy. I drove over the Minnesota River. To Burnsville. That's right. Burnsville. I had decided to push on without eating my lunch, and even though I'd stopped for a restroom break, I was exhausted when I arrived.

Fortunately, I brought along Surly Furious, to replenish my system like the monks do it. And John and Carol, our hosts, generously provided brats and burgers.

I really enjoyed getting caught up with some people I haven't seen for a while, and chatting with some that I have.

My friend Rick flew in from Oregon. While we were talking, he jumped up in the middle of our conversation and told me had something for me.

He's staying with his brother's family and took his brother's four kids for a walk yesterday afternoon. Rick noticed an elderly man sitting out near the sidewalk on his walker and said hello. They got into a conversation and the man's wife came outside. They were on their way to Old Country Buffet for lunch. They continued to talk as the old folks got into their car. Then the old woman asked him if he'd ever heard of Hüsker Dü. Of course he had and said so. He was a bit taken aback by the question, given the source. The woman told him that her son Grant was in the house sleeping and that he had been the drummer for Hüsker Dü. Nice. They parted ways and Rick continued down the sidewalk. Then old folks' car pulled up next to him and the lady reached out the window with something for him. It was a cassette of one of Grant's solo records. And Rick knew I really like Hüsker Dü, and that I'd probably like it, so he gave it to me. Excellent.

Good thing the old Corolla has a tape deck.

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why I love mary lucia almost as much as ice cream, donuts and kassie

Today on my way home from the Instruction Center where I spent the day proofreading tests, making copies and purchasing cone cups, Mary Lucia played "Icky Thump" by The White Stripes on the radio.

I've mentioned that I'm not really a fan of Meg and Jack, and I'm not really tuned in to their whole scene. As I listened to "Icky Thump," I thought, "The White Stripes: Making it cool for hipsters to like Led Zeppelin."

Then I wondered, "Do hipsters already like Led Zeppelin? Do hipsters even like The White Stripes? Or since a 38-year-old bus driver knows them well enough to have an opinion of them, are they way uncool?"

Then I thought, "I'd sure like to hear some Led Zeppelin."

And then Mary played "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" by... Led Zeppelin.

Thanks, Mary. I love you. (But not as much as ice cream, donuts or Kassie.)

Now playing: Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love
via FoxyTunes

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so far, so good

One of my students drove his work this morning. He wasn't supposed to. It wasn't a real big deal and it sounds like it went well. Lucky for me. I guess I wasn't clear enough about our schedule. Fortunately, the other guy showed up when he was supposed to.

I was at the Instruction Center for a while today. I'll be working for them as a full-time instructor until early October. We have to train 42 part-time drivers who will be hired as full-time drivers. We're going to put 75 (I think) new buses on the road every day in response to the ex-bridge.

My boss at IC sort of apologized for not having the time to get out of his office and see how we (the relief instructors working as full-time instructors) are doing. He acknowledged that we aren't getting a lot of support. It is kind of hard to move into instruction after not having done it for a year or so. There are a lot of procedures and techniques that I had forgotten.

I am getting a lot of help, though. First, I was working with Tom, a FT instructor. He showed me how he runs a classroom and reminded me how to get started in a bus with new students. Then I moved back to Nicollet and I talk daily to the FT instructors who are based there. They've been a big help, reminding me of meetings I need to schedule, forms I need to fill out, etc. And they share their instruction techniques. Also, our safety supervisor at Nicollet has ridden with me and spoken with me and my students on numerous occasions. He's been very supportive and very helpful.

So really, I think everything is going the way it should be going. And I have a couple more months to enjoy it.

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Simon brought this to my attention:

"Mississippi" Tim Pawlenty is willing to retreat from his firm opposition to a state gas tax increase in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse and approve a transportation funding bill during a possible special session, a spokesman said Friday.

I guess one of the victims was a Mercedes. Time to take action!

And not surprisingly, Lt. Governor Carol Molnau still has her head up her ass.



uptown art fair

I'm going to the Uptown Art Fair this weekend. I always kind of enjoy the crowd. I like art, even if I can't afford it, and I haven't been able to go for a couple years. I decided to check out the program to see if Tim the Iowegian was making the trip this year. He's not. But as I looked through the program, I was struck by the inclusion of the following article. I assume it was deemed necessary based on conversations and comments made in the past. Wow. I know the Uptown Art Fair draws a lot of people who may be more interested in the spectacle than the art itself, but I really have a hard time imagining anyone saying some of these things to an artist.


small scramble

The last time I looked, the ex-bridge is still all over the television.

As might be suspected, there has been some impact on M*tro Tr*nsit. And I probably only know the half of it. Our buses had already been detoured to avoid the construction on the bridge while in service, so fortunately, there were no city buses full of people on the bridge when it went down. But a lot of buses use that stretch for more than just hauling people.

When I got to work yesterday morning and checked my email, my inbox was full of new detours. I really only paid attention to the ones that affected routes out of Nicollet Garage. Several of the routes we do require pulling out to and pulling in from terminals in NE Minneapolis.

Other garages also do those routes and other routes that pull in to and out from those areas. Some pieces of work deadhead (travel empty) from one terminal to another terminal or to another terminal on a completely different route. I don't think it got too crazy, but the poor street supervisors were kept busy finding ways for all the buses to get where they needed to go. They were sending and revising detours all day.

One driver found the detour that explained how she was going to pull out to the furthest reaches of the 4. But she was supposed to pull in from a terminal that is several miles from her starting point and there was nothing written for that trip. Fortunately, she's a veteran driver and she had a pull-in route in mind. It made sense and we agreed that she should go that way.

Overall, I think the street supervisors had everything pretty well under control. I'm pretty sure I would have heard otherwise if they hadn't.

Now playing: Dolly Varden - Overwhelming
via FoxyTunes




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