in service

I'm down to two students. We're doing the in-service practice portion of training, so two of my guys went to work with another instructor. They need to practice picking people up on an actual route for fifteen hours each. Having only two drivers really speeds things up.

As usual, we just can't seem to get out there and drive all day. Yesterday, we got a call from Control after the first trip. He informed us we were driving a roach coach and that an exterminator was waiting for the bus at the garage. I didn't want to tell the guys why we had to go back until we got there, but then I sounded all dramatic, so I told them. The guy driving was pretty skeezed out. I was too, a little. I hates cockroaches. So we emptied and shook out our bags at the garage, then got a new bus. And the dispatcher gave us a brand-new bus. It was a pleasure to ride in all day. By the time we got going again, we probably lost an hour.

Today we picked up their uniforms. Again, we lost about an hour.

Fortunately, these guys are good drivers, so I'm not worried about them. They're just getting comfortable driving in service, so I'm not being too picky about details... yet. Learning to drive in service entails a lot of practice making decisions and learning how to keep the bus moving along.

I get to ride the bus all day, which is fun. I see a lot more. However, I find that I get more tired riding than I do driving. My theory is that I spend all day reacting to someone else's turning and braking. When I drive, I know when I'm going to make a move and my body proactively behaves accordingly. I think my core muscles get worked out a little bit riding all day.

Riding the bus also means interesting conversations.

I talked to a brain-damaged woman yesterday for quite a while. She told me all about teaching herself how to function again. I asked her if she was getting therapy and she said that it was the medical community that did it to her and she's better now that she has removed herself from their care.

I had a very nice chat with a woman who works at the information desk at the main library. She wanted to know if I could contact someone about getting a system map to put above the schedules that are in the foyer there. She said that Cesar Pelli wouldn't allow them to hang anything on the walls for a year. I guess they're free to hang up all those READ posters now...

Today I watched, well, the whole bus watched, as a young guy came up front and repeatedly asked an older guy if he was going to ___. The older guy, who is a super-regular rider, didn't want to talk about it on the bus. The younger guy persisted saying that he talked to him at ___. I figured out what was going on and I started to get a little perturbed. The young guy gave up and yelled something about the older guy maybe having MI issues (??? mental illness ???) as he made his way to the back. Then the young guy proceeded to loudly tell a stranger how he goes to AA meetings and how he talked to that guy up there last week and now that guy doesn't want to talk with him, etc. etc. etc.

I've known a few 12-steppers over the years and unless I'm grossly mistaken, the young guy was being a complete asshole. When I was out with one of my friends and she'd say hello to someone I didn't know, I learned soon enough not to ask where she knew that person from. They're all secret about it. And that's cool.

Then, as happened last Tuesday, strange flashing lights slightly interrupted my vision. As soon as they went away, I got a bad headache. Fortunately, Chele was following my Twitter last week and suggested that I may be experiencing a migraine. I think she's right.

Just what I need: I'm not even 40 and my body's giving out on me...



wasps fear me

And I don't mean our neighbors to the west in Edina. Though some of them probably ought to fear me a little...

Here is a wasps' nest in my parents' Japanese Lilac.
This is what it looked like before my brother and I put some holes in it with a pellet gun and then knocked it down with a soccer ball and a football.

There are no after pictures because there wasn't much to see after we finished it off with the garden hose. We didn't get it completely out of the tree, though. It was built around a couple branches pretty well and the top part was still stuck up there.




J passed both his tests today! Most excellent, though I didn't doubt that he would. He missed a day of fare and farebox information, so he'll join some of his other classmates who took their CDL tests today in the classroom tomorrow.

Uh, it seems as though I ran afoul of the CafePress Copyright Police (bad, bad non-practicing librarian!), so I took down my University of Sioux Falls College design. But you're in luck! Just in time for St. Patrick's Day!




Today I took my four students up to Ruter Garage so they could take their CDL tests. M*tro Tr*nsit has our own state-certified testers so we can do it at our leisure.

The two testers took the students to an office for a pre-test meeting. I forgot to grab a book on my way out the door this morning, so I settled in at a table in the break room with a couple issues of City Pages that I hadn't looked at yet. (So I was prepared to kill about six or seven minutes that way...) I had just skimmed the letters to the editor when one of the testers called me back to the office.

I don't know how it slipped by (three or four of) us, but one of the guys, who I will call J, had not taken his written pre-trip or air brake tests. We have new employees take all the written tests for any restrictions they may have on their licenses before they come to their first day of class.

OK. I was told to take J to the Brookdale Service Center where he could take the tests. That looks like this:

They don't do written tests there, but we got a list of places that do. I am almost completely unfamiliar with that part of the Twin Cities. The woman told me that the examination station in Plymouth was the closest facility to Brookdale. OK, cool. I took my motorcycle test there. The only problem was that I had no idea where it was located, other than a random address in Plymouth.

I worked my way down to the Ms on my cell phone before I found someone willing to answer their phone who I knew could help me. MinusCar Mike and his computer pulled through with directions to the West Metropolitan Drivers Examination Station.

That looks like this:

We got there and got in the wrong line. We got to the correct room, figured out which tests J needed to take, and I went to the waiting room to hang out with the parents of 16-year-olds.

J still needed to study, but he felt the time pressure and only looked over the information for about twenty minutes. He passed one test and failed the other. The air brake test covers a lot of things that we don't have to worry about. I obviously passed it at some point, but when he recapped it, he was talking about things I know nothing about. He'll study tonight and take it again tomorrow.

We got back to Ruter a couple hours after we left. The other guys all passed the driving part of their CDL tests.

I feel bad for him. He's taking it in stride, but we should have caught that he needed to take the tests. He's driven school bus, so he (and I guess we) figured he'd already taken them.

Ah, well, it's just another glitch on the training process. It won't be the last.



big day

Oh, yes. It was a big, big day here at the Church-Camp house!

The paint faded to pink. The inside door handles are broken. There's no air conditioning. A key won't open the trunk; one has to do it from inside. The passenger-side window will only go up from the driver's side control. But after three long, arduous years of slaving away for The Man to come up with the dough, the sweet, sweet 1994 Corolla is ours, all ours!



are you ready for the circus?

Here's my ever-so-modest contribution to the cause...

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rude boys

Did you see this yet? It's a Fox 9 investigative report on rude M*tro Tr*nsit drivers.

All in all, I think it's pretty fair. I am embarrassed by the way some of our drivers behave. I hear about it from passengers and I witness it myself. But it's a minority of drivers.

The video also comes off as Fox 9 getting their sensational story. Most of the positive information was followed by "but" or "however." I guess their spin is that some drivers are getting away with it. Unfortunately, I think they're right. A couple of those guys have had a lot of complaints. Maybe it's just not the job for you, dude.

I swore a long time ago that if I ever got really crabby on the bus I'd look for something else to do.



well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well

"Action" Robert Fitzgerald is back in the ring!


new drivers

I am now in charge of teaching four drivers to drive a bus the M*tro Tr*nsit way. That's one or two more drivers than we'd like at one time, but apparently we're short on instructors right now. (Solution: hire more!)

Fortunately, all four of the guys I'm training have driven buses before- mostly school buses. Also fortunately, they are willing to unlearn bad habits and listen to what I'm telling them without getting defensive.

Plus, they're pleasant. I like them as people.

I don't think I'll have any trouble of any kind with these guys. Sweet.



in the news

Maybe you've heard that we M*tro Tr*nsit drivers have rejected the first final offer from the company.

And when I say "we," I only include myself in solidarity, because I didn't vote.

Our union president spoke to the class of new drivers I'm working with and indicated that it was probably going to be an overwhelming vote to reject. So I didn't go. I'll go when it gets interesting.

One of our upper managers also spoke to the class last week. He gave a very nice pep talk. Everything he said was true. We are the face of M*tro Tr*nsit. We are, for the most part, doing a good job. Ridership is way up. Etc. etc. etc.

I looked at the contract very briefly today.

What he failed to mention is that for all our hard work we have been offered a 1% raise this year, 1% the next and 2% the year after that. From what I understand, there are other problems with the contract, but frankly, I'm insulted enough by the pay raises that amount to pay cuts when inflation is accounted for that I don't need to know them.

No one wants to strike. No one wants us to strike during the Great Minnesota Get-Together or the Republican National Convention, so I hope we get offered a little more when we see their next final offer.




Well, once again, I got lured to the Instruction Center under the premise that I'd be there a week or two and it looks like I'll be there for at least six weeks, probably more like eight.

It's fine. It's good for me. It's good experience. But I still feel kind of burned out from last summer's three months of all-instruction-all-the-time.

I was kind of enjoying my picked work and my schedule, even though three nights are relatively late.

Oh, well.

The instruction hours are really nice. It'll be just fine.



the good stuff

My very good friends Wyatt and Christina happened to be in Iowa at the very same time that I remembered that I needed something from Iowa!

If you're nice, maybe I'll share...



battlestar galactica

My brother and I watched Battlestar Galactica when we were kids. We were Star Wars freaks and it was just more of the similar. (I remember a Newsweek or Time cover with BSG on the cover and the big headline: Son of Star Wars.)

I don't remember much of the original show.

Kassie and I started watching the new SciFi channel "reimagination" of BSG.

Remember when Life cereal decided they needed a new Mikey and the new Mikey was... a girl? That was almost predictable, huh? Well, on the new BSG, Starbuck is a woman. Wow, what a twist. That's fine, though. I can certainly live with that.

I'm having a hard time understanding what the fuss is about with this one. We're only the pilot miniseries and two shows into the first season and I'm already sort of annoyed with the acting, the plotlines and the consistency. Does Mr. Terrorist, played by the original Apollo, have huge name recognition and a big following among the people, and is, therefore, dangerous? Or is he nearly forgotten, wasting away in prison for the last twenty years, therefore in need of getting his name out there again? (Um... where???)

I don't know. I want to like it and I pretty much do, but I thought it would be smarter than it seems to be so far.

So, I'm asking the four of you: Have you seen it? So you watch it? Does it get better? Should we continue to watch it?


the grunt

then: 0-1
now: 86-40, so far



After my morning piece of work on Monday, I took sick time at work. I had a low-grade fever, a sore throat, and a cough.

My fever broke last night and I'll go back to work tomorrow. I still don't feel well, but I'm hoping that by tomorrow morning, I'll be OK.

Monday I'm going to the Instruction Center for an as-yet undetermined amount of time to assist with the classroom portion of new student training.

The Instruction Center has gone through significant changes since I worked there last summer. I believe IC in the process of an overhaul, so I'm not really sure what to expect in the way of personnel, general atmosphere, etc. I haven't really been in the Instruction loop for the last several months. But as far as what I'll be doing, I don't expect it to affect me too much.

I'm looking forward to it.

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