not too smart

So the economy is in tough shape and if you have a job, you ought to be happy to be employed. If you are a M*tro Tr*nsit bus driver, what would be a good move? Drink while driving a bus? Uh... sure. If you're this guy.

If you really want to see what he looks like, it's easy to find a pic...

There was a lot of buzz around the garage today, of course. His BAC was .24, which is pretty amazing. Naturally, I feel sorry for the guy. He clearly has a problem. I hope he gets some help. Um, I guess he probably won't have a choice, will he? I hope he accepts it.




M*tro Tr*nsit, together with MillerCoors, is offering free rides tonight from 6:00 PM until the last trip of the night.

We have hoods to put over the farebox to remind our passengers that the ride is free.

One of our dispatchers is pretty funny.

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As if I don't find the BUS STORAGE sign amusing enough...




Today marks my eighth anniversary at M*tro Tr*nsit. It's by far the longest I've ever been employed at one place. And I still like going to work, even when I drive the 21, like today.




Well, I got my official letter of suspension from relief instruction today. Six months, no sweat.

My manager actually told me about it on Friday. She wheeled herself (foot surgery) into the tiny instruction office where I was entering training records into the computer and closed the door behind her to tell me. Ever since my chargeable accident, I figured it was coming, and I'm not at all upset about it.

I think she was relieved that I didn't fuss. I did, however, tell her that since it took so long to get around to suspending me, I sort of figured that maybe I was getting a Get Out of Jail Free card, since a number of relief instructors have gotten them in the last year or so, on two separate occasions. My record was clean both times, so I didn't need one. ha. No luck. Well, I thought I'd ask...

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do I need to put on eight layers?

The city of Minneapolis is beginning to enforce an ordinance passed in June that limits cars' idling to three minutes per hour. Buses and delivery vehicles (I think) can idle for five minutes.

M*tro Tr*nsit's policy is that we are supposed to let the buses idle at layovers if the temperature is over 80 degrees or under 36 degrees. Buses don't like to restart if they get shut off in very warm or very cold weather. Additionally, drivers don't like to sit in very hot or very cold buses. The memo we got at the garage says that our policy is in compliance with the city's ordinance.

Drivers do our share of complaining about our short layovers, and it's true that we often barely have time to get to a restroom before we have to leave again, but there aren't a lot of layovers that are shorter than five minutes.

The ordinance also says that if the temperature is below 0 degrees, idle away.

I asked a manager at the garage how our policy is in compliance with the ordinance if we are supposed to let our buses idle between 0 and 36 degrees for longer than five minutes. He said he thinks MT hopes that the police will understand that we can't shut them off.

I hope they do, too. But I'm not necessarily counting on it.

Kassie pointed out this somewhat different ordinance. It says that we have five minutes with the following exemption:
(8) A passenger bus idles a maximum of fifteen (15) minutes in any sixty-minute period to maintain passenger comfort while non-driver passengers are onboard.
So... passenger comfort is what we're worried about. And I think most layovers fall in the ten- to fifteen-minute range, so this wouldn't affect as many layovers. But there are plenty of instances of fifteen- to twenty-minute layovers. What about the driver??? Where are we supposed to go when we're sitting for seventeen or eighteen minutes at 27th and Washington St. NE? I guess we just get to freeze our butts on the bus. Nice. Thanks, Minneapolis.

However, later, it says:
(10) An occupied vehicle idles for purposes of air conditioning or heating while waiting to load or unload.
Uh... I'm just going to interpret that as good for me, since we're always waiting to load passengers, right?

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fare increase

Bus fares increased an additional $.25 today. I won't necessarily go into how most of the people paying it very likely didn't vote for Governor Smiley and are therefore, once again, being asked to carry a burden not of their own doing. We all know he's very good at saving the state money on the backs of its poorest citizens. I'm really not the one to ask about the fare increase anyway- I think it should be $1.00 to ride everywhere, only because the buses would be overwhelmed if the fare were free.

Fortunately, today was my short day, working early in the morning, so I didn't have any hassles with people who were short on fare. There were plenty of folks who didn't have the quarter, of course, but I reminded them gently that the fare went up today, and they were generally apologetic. Some found the extra quarter, some didn't. I didn't care. It's going to be a little while before everyone knows.

That's why I'm very glad to have the next four days off work.

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no strike in my future

Contract approved 83% to 17%.

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I voted on our latest best and final contract offer this morning.

I briefly talked with Michelle, our union president, before I voted.

It's a two-year contract with 2.25% and 2% raises. Health care goes up, but it doesn't look like it's by a lot. Overall, aside from the fact that the cost of living is more than 2% per year, it doesn't look too terrible. I think we also gained a couple things. One important thing we got is that all work between 8:00 PM and 3:00 AM is worth an extra $.50/hour.

The executive board recommended approval. I'm pretty sure it'll be approved.

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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.



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.




As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, the National Weather Service issued simulated tornado watches and warnings Thursday. The warnings featured all the sirens. The bulletin in the garage at work said that we were not expected to physically respond to the sirens when we heard them, but that we should "think about what we would do" if there were a tornado. ha.

Since our instructions are pretty vague- "you and your passengers should take shelter if you think you are in danger," I usually just keep driving and hope for the best. I usually have little idea where we'd go. When I was part time, I got caught in Prestigious West Bloomington during a severe storm with nothing but trees around. I kept driving until I encountered a huge tree across the road.

On Thursday, one thing I thought about was how when I was in elementary school, I figured the Russians would be smart to attack us at 1:00 on a first Wednesday of the month when the air raid sirens were being tested.

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new bus design

In an effort to brand M*tro Tr*nsit, to tie together all aspects of transit in the Twin Cities, the buses and trains will get a redesign. I've been sitting on some images of the new bus and rail designs for a few weeks because I talked to a guy in marketing who had a few reasons that he didn't want them revealed. You know, to the two or three of you still reading this...

But now that a couple buses with the new design are on a tour of the garages, I figure it's fair game. Obviously, they're out and about with them.

So here's what the buses will look like.

All the new buses will come painted this way. The rest of the buses get repainted every few years (every couple years?) and they will get this design as they move through their normal rotation. As you can tell, it will cost no extra money to do this. (That was something the marketing guy wanted me to stress when I got around to posting this.)

Anyway, I like the design pretty well. It's clean. I'm not real crazy about the primary colors, and of course, it'll get mucked up with advertising on the side, but there's not much we can do about that, is there?

The bus pictured is a low-floor bus. The regular buses, when they get repainted, will have the yellow and blue stripe on the side, where the current blue, red and green stripes are.

The light rail design, which I will not include, looks exactly like the current design, with some color changes. In other words, still U-G-L-Y.

(current light rail design, courtesy M*tro Tr*nsit)

The heavy rail (North Star line) looks pretty decent, not counting the engine.

So I hope I haven't jumped the gun here. I like the design. Probably most of all, though, I like change.

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My body says I'm sick. Due to having four Occurrences, M*tro Tr*nsit pretty much says I'm not sick. Tonight, though, my body won and I called in sick for tomorrow. I guess I'll just have to deal with the consequences.

And as dumb as it is to not be able to use my sick time without being punished, even worse is that I have to use vacation time next week to get some (UNPLEASANT) medical tests done, as ordered by my doctor. I could use sick time, but it would be another Occurrence. That would put me at six. Seven and I'd get a Record of Warning and I don't want to deal with that.




So, ridership is up, we're told we're doing a great job, but all the signs point to an offer with no significant raise again this contract.

I don't want to strike again. I think negotiations are on; I hope they're going well.



thanks, random passenger

When I checked in with the dispatcher the other day, he gave me a note to see my manager. There are always two sheets of paper. The first has my name, my manager's name, etc. and the reason for the note.

This one said Customer Service Call. "Oh, geez, what now?!?" I whined as I opened it to the second page.



Customer Description
Caller said driver was kind to everyone. Caller said he is just a good person to everyone.

Um, cool. I make light of much of the positive feedback I get from M*tro Tr*nsit. I appreciate it, I suppose, but I don't really have a lot of use for certificates and pins. It's the time off I really like.

A customer commendation, on the other hand, is something that I genuinely appreciate. It's common behavior to call and complain, and to take the time to call and praise a driver or say thanks is really a nice gesture.

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feeling loved

When I got to the garage this morning, I was met by the smell of a lovely breakfast spread and the sound of everybody's favorite upper-management-type guy. It was employee appreciation day (driver appreciation day? whatever...)

I nabbed an Appreciation Banana.
You are welcome.

On my way out the door this evening, the dispatcher handed me this:
Yeah, it's on the fridge. Of course, if I want to continue to be a relief instructor, I pretty much qualify for OOA by default. M*tro Tr*nsit's draconian sick policy looks positively enlightened compared to the more-specific Instruction policy. If I recall correctly, I can't call in sick more than four times in a rolling year. (That's why I sometimes go to work when I shouldn't.) Good thing we don't have kids.




I forgot to mention that January 29 marked my seventh year at M*tro Tr*nsit. I also forgot to take the day off, because I forgot all about it until yesterday. It's not a big deal, but Tuesday is my least favorite day this pick.




When I stopped in at the garage this morning, 2165's BFF Peter Bell was there. Sonic Youth had come up on my iTunes a few minutes earlier, and I decided that my ears could not take any more abuse so early in the day. Mr. Bell stepped forward to speak. I left.



once again...

Someone at M*tro Tr*nsit has gotten a bit casual with my name. This is my new ID. Someone else did the same thing when they assigned my MT email address. I am seriously annoyed.

I don't go by Chris. I've never gone by Chris. You can call me Christopher if you'd like. My Auntie Diane does that and I like it. You can call me CJ if you'd like. Pretty much the rest of the world calls me that and I like it. My dentist and my swimming instructors and my driving instructor called me Chris. That's it. But I didn't care because I didn't like them anyway.

And yes, I, too, find it amusing that I get so riled up about being called Chris one day after I didn't give a rat's ass about being called a pussy.



state fair driver, the rest of the story (I think)

From the comments:

Anonymous said...

Ideally, how would you like the bus company to respond regarding the horses ass state fair bus driver? Had you your drothers, as a man and a husband, not an employee, how would you deal with, or what would you like to say to the actual horses ass?

I don't think I ever told the rest of the story about the driver who wouldn't let Kassie off the bus to go to the bathroom, did I? Sorry about that.

Here's what happened.

A few days after the incident, I looked that guy up on the computer at work and found out that he is a miscellaneous driver. That means that his job classification is not "bus operator," but that he is allowed to drive buses. I think miscellaneous operators are usually mechanics or other shop workers. I asked my garage coordinator (who is my boss when I work out of Nicollet as an instructor) about the guy in question and apparently he used to be a driver who now works at the Overhaul Base. Overhaul, as the name suggests, is where they do major work on buses.

I knew that was going to be trouble. I don't know what kind of disciplinary procedures can be taken on miscellaneous operators, but I assume it's not anything like the ones for bus drivers. That is, I really doubt that there is anything in the contract regarding customer complaints for mechanics.

Kassie filed a complaint right away. She did not hear from anyone for quite a while. I heard that I was looking like the bad guy in the situation, swearing at the driver, etc. That came from someone asking my coordinator about it.

After a little over a month, Kassie got tired of waiting to hear something and emailed Brian Lamb, General Manager of M*tro Tr*nsit. I have always had positive interaction with Mr. Lamb, and Kassie knows it. I'm sure she would have sent him an email anyway.

He responded very quickly, promising to have someone look into it.

I might be a bit fuzzy on details here, but this is the gist of it.

Soon after that, Kassie got a phone call from a manager. I know the manager and I was glad to hear she was taking care of it. She told Kassie that there was no set process to deal with complaints about miscellaneous drivers, especially those at Overhaul. Apparently, the complaint had been shuffled around because no one knew what to do with it.

The manager told Kassie that there was already some discussion about how and when miscellaneous operators can drive a bus in service. She assured Kassie that someone would speak to the state fair guy, at the very least about wearing ear plugs while driving the bus. Kassie said the manager was very professional and I was not surprised.

So 38 days later, Kassie was satisfied that her complaint had been heard and dealt with.

And to address the commenter's questions:

I feel like I already said what I wanted to when I was in that guy's ear the day of the incident. He was, uh, acutely aware of my displeasure, which was important. I also apologized to him for losing my temper, which was even more important.

As far as how I would like the company to respond, well, I can't really separate my personal opinion from my professional opinion because I think the answer is the same. I believe that anyone who is going to deal with the public in any job or profession needs customer service training. At M*tro Tr*nsit we have a decent customer service curriculum called Transit Ambassadors. I think attendance should be mandatory for anyone who is going to pick up passengers in a bus.

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my paychecks will be smaller again

Yesterday was my last day acting as a full-time instructor. Earlier in the week, I taught some new mechanics how to drive a bus. They passed their CDL tests.

I spent yesterday with a new driver who failed his CDL test the first time. He got four hours of one-on-one training with me, then he took it again. He passed, which was no surprise. He was just taking his left turns a little too tightly. We fixed his tendencies in about fifteen minutes. Then we drove around for three-and-a-half more hours. Fortunately, he was a friendly guy.

I really enjoyed my time as a FT instructor. I learned a lot, got to do some things I wouldn't have if I were driving and I met quite a few interesting people. The hours I've worked and my paychecks have been awfully nice.

But I'm ready to get back to driving. My back has been sore most of the summer and fall from riding in the bus all day. And I'm ready for a break from responsibility. I know that a $275,000 (?) vehicle and 50 people equals responsibility, but you know, it's a different kind.

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minor bus geekery

I sort of think Dan S. might be the only person who enjoys these posts, but I can't withhold pics of a brand-new hybrid bus! I would have liked to take more, but my phone was acting flaky.

It's not even marked yet. We're getting a bunch of these at Nicollet, so the Nicollet instructors who happened to be at the Instruction Center today got to take it out for a spin. We ran some people off the road and tore through residential areas at about 50 mph. We figured no one could identify us. The bus does accelerate very quickly. It's almost as fast as our '94 Corolla. However, the majority of M*tro Tr*nsit's accidents are people falling inside the bus, so I'm quite sure that the acceleration will be adjusted. Too bad. Oh, and nice aluminum rims!

The interior is kind of ugly. The seats were really hard, so we're hoping/assuming they'll get changed. Yes, that's the spare on the floor. You'll just have to walk around it.

Both of the exterior mirrors are split and remote-controlled. And heated. I thought the mirror on the left was usable, but I didn't care for the one on the right. It was kind of hard to tell what I was looking at.

There's a handy compartment behind the driver's seat. That's for toilet paper, a chocolate bar and a bee sting kit.

I like the font used for the numbers on the speedometer. Those numbers look fast!

The person leaning on the door cracked me up. That can't be comfortable. It looks like he/she is just trying to prove a point.

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big brother

When I returned to Nicollet Garage after dropping off my class at Heywood Garage today, one of the guys working in the garage told me that there was a bus in the yard that has recently been outfitted with the cameras mentioned here. I don't know much about the cameras, other than that they're digital and color.

I know that some drivers will get nervous about having more cameras on board. One of the cameras is pointed out the front of the bus. That will make it easier for our safety department to charge drivers with accidents, I suppose. Of course, it will also help absolve drivers of the blame for accidents. There are plenty of other things that drivers would probably rather not be seen doing, with or without passengers on board. (Not that I've ever peed out the back door at night at a terminal without a restroom or anything!)

But I think it'll be great to have more, better cameras to photograph and help capture the handful of miscreants who ride the buses doing the things that miscreants do.

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I'm still working with the Instruction Center, and will be for almost another month. I like it, but riding a bus, often sideways, for six or seven hours a day hurts my back. I have the day off so I went to the chiropractor today and I already feel much better.

I don't ordinarily post the horrible misspellings and grammar atrocities I see at the garages. For one thing, the signs people put up are often temporary. Another reason is that there are so many, it's all I'd write about.

But I'm making an exception today because I looked at this sign and I genuinely thought for a second that I might learn a new word. But it was not to be.

Kassie and I went to her parents' cabin for a long weekend. Jeff jumped on my lap.

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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, 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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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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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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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



a few pics from the last week

Kyah and Cayden, my niece and nephew.

I thought it was a good idea to pitch with one hand and try to get a photo with the other. This was right before the ball hit Cayden on the forehead.

Jeff, Sammy. Sammy, Jeff.

Kassie said she sees this all the time, so she didn't find it nearly as funny as I did.

Banjo, tail end of the dump. I believe the next move is: consume what has been dumped.

Andy, Ben. Ben, Andy.

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change in venue

When I applied at M*tro Tr*nsit, I filled out an application and turned it in. I went to a meeting with a dozen or so new employees at the Human Resources office where we signed up for a physical. I passed the physical and I was hired.

Now, applicants go through a relatively lengthy and rigorous process. They take at least one written test (I think they might take two or three) and have an interview.

Naturally, I'm in favor of the more selective process. Better drivers make a better company, which means more job security. (At least I'd like to think that's the way it will work...) At the very least, it means that on the whole, it ought to be easier to train new drivers. Approximately 15% of all applicants make it to the first class. Of course, that includes people who choose not to take the position for whatever reason.

I spent Monday through Wednesday in a classroom with brand-new part-time drivers.

I have a few minor pet peeves when it comes to group situations at MT. I'm guessing that these might be universal, but since I've never been to a business meeting or conference, I don't know.

One of them is the person or people with an endless supply of really stupid questions. (Yeah, yeah... no such thing, right? Wrong.) Another is the avalanche of stories started by one person with an anecdote about, say, someone driving like an idiot while on their cell phone. Everyone has at least one of those stories and some groups want to share all of them. And finally, there always seems to be someone who doesn't know how to listen and take turns speaking.

I'm happy to report that this class has none of those flaws, at least to the point where I want to shove an icepick into my ears. As far as I know, I will be back with that class tomorrow.

I arrived at the Instruction Center on Thursday and was told that I'd be doing something different for the rest of the week. I was assigned to three students from the class ahead of the one with which I'd been working. It was their first day on a bus.

I had to tell them how to turn on a bus. And drive it. Cool.

When I was at The Coo studying to be an elementary teacher, the teaching of reading was of particular interest to me. This kind of felt similar, and it was fun.

It's been at least a year since I went out with drivers on their very first day, and the last (and only) time I did it, I was being mentored, so I just watched. I got some quick advice from some of the full-time guys and took off. My assignment was to begin to get them prepared to take their Commercial Driver's License test.

Day 1:
I showed them how to pre-trip a bus. We spent a while working on left turns. Then backing. Then right turns. And right turns some more. If they hit a curb on the driving part of the CDL test, they immediately fail. We drove around southern Bloomington for hours.

Day 2:
We drove around. A lot. We worked on what their eyes, hands and feet were doing, and how what they're looking at and how they're moving affects how and where bus is in relation to everything. We also went over the air brake part of the test and practiced the straight back and the alley back. Here's one of the guys practicing the alley back:

The rear bumper is supposed to end up in the box created by the four cones at the back.

I enjoyed my two days with those guys. I was asked to leave comments in their jackets (training folders). I left them in a crass approximation of haiku.

I hope someone finds that amusing...

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the past is now

I thought today might be an ordinary, average day. But as soon as I got to work, the rumble of an approaching tidal wave of goodness was so huge that the garage mice were building rafts.

Yo ho! M*tro Tr*nsit is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into, I don't know, the '80s (?)!

You must be thinking, "Aha! It's some sort of new management structure!"

No, rest assured faithful reader(s), M*tro Tr*nsit will still be a Top 5 exhibit in the Museum of Companies Run the Way Your Grandfather's Father Ran Them.

Well, then, what was the fuss about?

Direct deposit of our paychecks, my friend(s), at any institution of our choosing!

Dig it.

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