First, watch this. Then, watch this.

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strangest thing I've heard for a while

I drove the 2 today.

As a woman was exiting the bus, I wished her a nice day.

She said, "Thank you. I hope you (pause, pause) get enough to eat tonight!"

Um... I did.



she said,

"I'm having a seizure."

And she was. It passed and she got on my bus.


hello, it's been awhile

Kassie called me in to the TV to see some bad news last night. A bus hit and killed a woman in Minneapolis last evening. Apparently, the driver was unaware he'd done it until he got a call from Control.

I feel terrible for the woman's family and terrible for the driver, who is an acquaintance of mine.

If I ever have the misfortune of killing someone while driving a bus, I'm not sure I could go back to driving (assuming it wasn't my fault and I got to keep my job). For me, this serves as a(nother) reminder just how fragile life as I know it really is.



sorry 'bout that

The bridge over 494 at Lyndale has been torn down. That means the 4 that ordinarily goes over that bridge has been detoured. It also means that a shuttle has been created to get people from the Menard's east of 77th and Nicollet to the 82nd Street Transit Station.

I think the shuttle is being run by South Garage. I've seen a map of it, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to it, because I figured if I somehow had to drive it, I'd look more carefully then.

I drove the 4 today. I didn't have to worry about Lyndale on my southbound trip (I was on Penn), but on my return trip, I was supposed to go north on Lyndale, so I had to detour. The detour takes us over to Nicollet in Bloomington where we cross 494, and then back to Lyndale on 77th, on the Richfield side of 494.

My paddle (a.k.a. schedule) had a note at the 77th and Lyndale time point. It said to wait for the 4 Shuttle. I saw a notice this morning on the bulletin board regarding that particular note. Now, I'll admit that I'm pretty foggy early in the morning, so I didn't see that it said 4F, which I was not. What I did notice, for some reason, were the words WAIT and REQUIRES. And I could have sworn I saw UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH, but on second look, I guess that part isn't there.

Anyway, I got to 77th and Lyndale and waited. Just like my paddle told me to. I waited almost ten minutes, then put in a call to Control. (I also remembered the part where it said we might be late.) It took them five minutes to get back to me. They must have been busy this morning. I stated my problem, which was that I had not seen a single shuttle in ten minutes, and I mentioned the note and I asked if this was dumb, or if I was doing what I was supposed to. I waited for an answer. Five more minutes later, I was told that the shuttle must have gone on ahead of me, and since I was now twenty minutes down, I could go ahead.

It was really cold this morning. I picked up a lot of unhappy people. I did not blame them one bit. I apologized. They were OK.

I got back to the garage. I looked another copy of my paddle. It was the same. I looked at the shuttle map. The shuttle does not even go to 77th and Lyndale. And that is why I did not see one.

That note is no longer on that paddle.

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today on the 21

One dude to another:
"The first thing Obama should do as President is knock up Michelle as soon as possible!"

Big, mean earworm:

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Well, I guess it's been almost a year since I last drove the 23. I drove three trips on it this morning.

For the most part, the 23 runs north-south between Uptown and 36th Street, east-west along 38th Street, north-south on 46th Avenue, and to and from St. Paul on 46th Street/Ford Parkway. When I started at Nicollet, I was always concerned that I would miss the right turn on 46th Avenue on the eastbound trip. It's just a regular intersection among a series of similar-looking intersections.

So, as I do in those situations, I picked out a visual cue to remind me to turn. It was a fairly unique-looking little blue house on the SW corner of the intersection.

This morning, as I motored along in the dark, waiting for the little blue house to appear, I had a moment of vivid confusion. I didn't know why I was confused, but I looked at the next street sign and it said 47th. Oops! I looked at my lone passenger and laughed. "I always thought I'd miss that turn one day!" She laughed. I went around the block and got back on course without missing a stop.

On my way back to Uptown, I reached that intersection and was, once again, confused. Something wasn't right. At all. Then I saw the problem. The little blue house was completely gone. In its place is a large beige house. New cue, I guess.



first day of the extra board

I had 4:30 call this morning, which meant that I showed up at the garage at 4:28. The block between home and the garage felt like the longest block I've ever walked. Then I realized that I had forgotten my work bag at home, so I walked home, got it, then walked back to work. Then I was really cold.

First, I pre-tripped a couple buses. When we get to our bus, we have to make sure it is in working condition. It's an inspection that takes about five or ten minutes. However, if, for instance, the wheelchair lift doesn't work, and the bus is supposed to pull out in two minutes, there isn't time for another complete pre-trip inspection. The dispatchers make sure there are a couple buses ready to go, already pre-tripped, for such an occasion.

Then a dispatcher gave me a piece of work on the 589. We don't do the 589 out of Nicollet, and I've never been trained on it. And that is why I love the extra board. It's way more interesting than driving the same piece of work every day or every week.

Anyway, the 589 snakes around Prestigious West Bloomington, then works its way up to 394 on Normandale Blvd/Hwy 100, making a couple detours along the way. I wasn't too worried about getting lost, since I'm mostly familiar with the area.

I was, however, concerned about having to pass people up. Some of the women who got on my bus were worried. Apparently, the 589 is usually served by an articulated (a.k.a. accordion) bus.

As new people got on, they'd comment about how it was going to be crowded. The way they were carrying on, I imagined a standing load, packed to the back, and having to tell some people that they couldn't possible fit inside the bus.

Well, by the time I got onto Hwy 100 and wasn't going to make any more stops, everyone had somewhere to sit.

Yesterday there was weather. Today there was traffic. I dropped my last guy off approximately 25 minutes later than my schedule said I was supposed to. Just before he got off, I kind of apologized for running so late. He laughed and told me not to worry about it; he was only five or six minutes later than usual! Sweet, sweet scheduling department.

I got back to the garage and filled a trip on the 17 line. Then I chatted with a couple fellow drivers for a while and got sent home.

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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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art bus

I am aware of three bus graveyards where M*tro Tr*nsit buses go when they die. The biggest one I've seen recently is at I-94 and Snelling. There may be more. I don't know. I assume this bus was in one of those, but it was in my garage one day when I went out to my bus.

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don't gamers have to concentrate?

Guy who initially put his transfer in upside down: "That's right. I gotta concentrate now. I'm in the real world."


tough call

I picked up a guy a couple weeks ago on my early-morning 18. He was wearing an orange t-shirt and matching cap that both said PSYCH WARD, with a number, similar to this one:
Oh, ha, ha! Crazy Casual Friday at work, or whatever.

The next week, he got on again. He was wearing the same t-shirt and cap, but he had another shirt on top of the orange one. It said Lost: My Marbles. Oh, another one! Ha! As he paid, I could hear The Fixx? No... Thomas Dolby "She Blinded Me With Science" coming from his headphones.

Fifteen minutes later, we were killing some time somewhere and I could hear the tinny sound of headphones playing... "She Blinded Me With Science."

I guess I can't decide how funny the t-shirts are.



1 Thessalonians 5:18a

In all things give thanks.

However, if your bus driver greets you with, "Hello! How are you this evening?" and your reply is, "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for the library. Thank you for the bus system. Thank you very much," I'm pretty sure you're going above and beyond the call of duty.

It's probably OK to just say, "Fine, thanks." But hey, whatever works for you...



king of the broken buses

On my third trip today, as I was driving down Hennepin Avenue downtown, my bus let loose with the most horrible, shrill racket I think I've ever heard a bus make.

I was losing air pressure and it was the warning that it wouldn't be too long before my brakes weren't going to work very well, or at all.

I had a bus full of MCTC students who needed to get to Laurel Avenue and I wanted to get them that far. The brakes seemed to be doing well. I didn't want to drive too fast, but I didn't have a bus in front of me, and I knew I could use the emergency brake if I needed to stop and the brakes didn't work. But at the same time, I had to hurry, because when the air pressure drops far enough, the emergency brake pops on by itself and the bus won't move.

I got as far as the Basilica. I waited about twenty minutes and a mechanic brought me a new bus. I drove it in service to the end of the line, where I got a very long layover. Control had filled a round trip for me.

My new bus's wheelchair ramp didn't work. I didn't call it in right away. I was hoping that they'd have my relief driver pull out his own bus and I could take mine back to the garage. And that's what happened. I didn't need to use the ramp at all. It would have been fine if I did. The nice thing about the low-floor buses' ramps is that they can be manually deployed and stowed.



amusing myself by accident

I drive one trip every week on the 554, which, in the morning, starts in south Bloomington and runs like an 18 up Nicollet to Diamond Lake Road, where it gets on 35W and goes downtown.

The neighborhood where it starts in Bloomington is pretty nice. Nine Mile Creek runs nearby and there are a lot of woods around.

A woman who I've known on the 554 for quite a while sat up front, as usual. We talked about the snow. It was a bit heavier in Bloomington than up in Minneapolis where I'd been.

I said, "Yeah, it just feels a lot whiter down here."

Pause. "uh... I mean..."

She laughed. And agreed.




On my way back to the garage this morning, I failed to steer around a car that had not completely cleared the intersection. I scuffed and dented his rear bumper. This is the bus. I'm a total moron.

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happy Halloween!

You've seen it before. I went with the old tried-and-true costume today.
"Some Other Bus Driver"
"Deep Undercover at M*tro Tr*nsit"

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pot, kettle, etc.

"Library. Library. Library. Library."

-Guy wearing a button on his jacket featuring the punchline "THEN YOU'RE NUTS!" and who minutes after we pulled away from the stop across from a library, told another guy about a mutual friend who "lost her marbles."



home late

The pictures are terrible and there was not a lot of wreckage, but I got rear-ended by a semi this evening and it did not feel very good.

I had just let off my last passenger of the night when my bus lurched forward, sort of like when you kill your manual transmission car. But it was louder and more violent. I was confused, then it dawned on me. I asked the guy who I had just let off if I had been rear-ended. He confirmed that I had.

I'm going to try to see a doctor tomorrow. I'm probably OK, but if something pops up (or out) in a couple years, I want this on my record.
I don't know if you can tell, but somehow- bus. vs. semi- bus wins!



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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the 12

If I see one single red light tomorrow, I'm going to kill it.



haven't felt like writing anything

I'm done with instruction for a while. I was scheduled to work as a relief instructor yesterday, but was confused because I thought I was going to get back to driving. It turns out there was a mix up getting me back on my schedule. I spent the day on call.

And I got called. I got to drive the 971 for about five hours. That's Great Minnesota Get-Together work, baby! Love it. Everybody was happy, no one had to pay, and I had a good PA system and a captive audience.

When Kassie and I went to the fair later last evening, we got a few extra Sweet Martha's cookies from a lady who rode with me. Perks!

Today Andrew, an online acquaintance/regular commenter/former Cambuser, rode with me. He introduced himself. Good thing, too, because I don't think I would have recognized him any other way.

Well, I suppose I ought to get to bed. 4:50 comes early.

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I started my bus for an eastbound trip on the 2 today.

Apply brake, start bus, put into gear. Put into gear. Put into...

The bus refused to go into gear. I noticed the CHECK TRANS light was on.

I shut the bus off to give it a couple minutes to think about what it had done.

Retry. Nope. It would not go into gear.

Call Control. They're sending a new bus, please let them know if I get mine moving.

I tried a few more times. I got a bite to eat. I tried a few more times. And I kept trying because I just knew that a mechanic was going to show up and it was going to go into gear. And I'd be some kind of idiot.

The mechanic showed up. He started the bus. He put the bus into gear.

DAMN IT! I knew that was going to happen.

I got a two-hour break out of the deal ,though.

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mean as a bedbug

Today I saw a guy get pulled over by two cops on horseback. Is that embarrassing? I think I'd be too amused to be embarrassed or mad.

Yesterday, a guy got on my 11. He was a bit drunk and his face looked like someone had dragged it across the sidewalk.

He told me his ex-wife sent him to get his card so he could get her cigarettes, and threatened to leave if he didn't. The 11 goes by Hennepin County Human Services.

I asked him why he cared if she left, since she was his ex-wife.

"She's five-foot-two and mean as hell! She told me that she wants cigs, drink... I have to take her to dinner and buy her tennis shoes!"

I laughed.

"She's mean as a bedbug! If I don't comply, this is what happens!" He pointed to his scabby nose.




it's going to be me some day, and I hope someone waits with me until help arrives

My last trip of the day today was a southbound 4, starting downtown.

The Nicollet buses are detoured to Hennepin, where the 4 runs, so I can't get out of downtown on time. Too many buses.

I was about five minutes late when I turned the corner from 31st Street to Bryant Avenue. One woman got on, then an elderly woman stood in the door and asked me, "Do you go to where there's a bench?"

"Um, well, where exactly do you mean?"

"There's a bench and I can wait there until the bus comes and takes me home. At the end. Do you go there?"

I asked her if she meant the 82nd Street Station in Bloomington. She looked startled by that question. At one of my passenger's prompting, I asked her where she lived.

"Over there," she said, pointing in the general direction of a retirement home.

But I couldn't get any more worthwhile information out of her. She couldn't really say where she lived or where she wanted to go. It was clear that she was very confused.

At this point, another passenger asked her if she could look at her ID. The old lady was OK with that, but didn't have one.

I called Control and asked them to send someone.

Another passenger volunteered to stay with her until the police arrived. Awfully nice.



the 21

I had a pretty decent day on Lake Street. I can smell Thursday coming, though. It's the 1st.

I kicked one guy, who happened to be wearing a bloody hoodie, off the bus after he sat down in the back very loudly, then I watched him take a swig out of his fifth of something clear.

I talked to old guy who told me he was the first of ten siblings. He was a twin, but his brother didn't make it; he was underdeveloped. The old guy's dad didn't take his mother to the doctor while she was pregnant. He told me all kinds of things. He didn't stop talking from Fairview Avenue in St. Paul until we got to Hamline Avenue. Unfortunately, if it was all as interesting as that tidbit, I'll never know. I could barely understand a word he said.

A very inebriated individual staggered up to my bus at the Chicago Lake Transit Center. As he got on, he said something about St. Paul. I was a 53E, which doesn't even get close to St. Paul. I told him that I didn't go to St. Paul. He assured me he knew where he was going and that he knew where to get out.

I was ahead of schedule at the Midtown Light Rail Station, and made an announcement that we'd have to wait a couple minutes. He told me that he was going to get out and pee. I pointed out that there was no place to pee. It was rush hour on Lake Street. There were people getting off the buses behind me and coming out to the street from the Light Rail Station.

Dude stood in front of the only thing on the sidewalk, a Star Tribune dispenser, and took a leak! Right in the middle of the sidewalk.

I didn't even bother to call anyone. I had one more stop before the terminal and I knew he'd be long gone before anyone showed up. Besides, not counting the very public urination, he wasn't terribly obnoxious and I didn't want him to get into real trouble.

When I got to my last stop on Lake Street, I made an announcement to the whole bus that I was only going as far as the transitway next to Wendy's. I waited for him to exit the bus. When he didn't, I left the stop. Sure enough, as soon as I moved into the left lane to make my left turn, he wanted to get off the bus. I let him out at Wendy's, and the lucky folks inside got to deal with him.




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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As I waited to make relief on the 21 yesterday, a cop pulled up to the bus stop. Almost immediately, another one stopped. The first one got out of her car and asked about a kid sitting at the stop. He was with his mother, so they were OK with that. I guess it's nice to see them making sure all the kids get to school.

The second cop left, but was quickly replaced by a third. A guy got out of the back of the new arrival's car and pointed at two fellows walking across the street. Two more cops arrived, including an unmarked car. They arrested the two guys, one of whom asked the pointer, "What I did to you, man?"

So, for those of you not keeping track, that's five cops, one possibly-truant kid, one victim and two perps in about five minutes.

Then my bus arrived.

The 21 has settled down considerably since I drove it last. I was able to keep it on time. But I see the 1st is on a Thursday next month, so I'll be out there again.

An older African gentleman (Kenyan, maybe) got on my bus and asked me if I knew of any law in the United States that said a person can't stand on the sidewalk and ask people if they love the Lord.

I said that I was unaware of any law that said that.

He said a young woman was asking him and another person if they loved the Lord and a police officer issued her a ticket. He claimed that they were simply standing there talking, not shouting, not hassling anyone. The gentleman was pretty upset. Clearly, there's more to the story that he didn't know, right? I wonder why she got the ticket.

My phone randomly dialed Val's phone number while it was in my pocket. Val dated Eric for a while, and we were roommates at Eric's house for a couple months while Eric was out of town. I got a text message:

Who is this

Then another:

Your phone just called me heard you were stopping at lyndale who are you

I noticed the messages and responded at my layover, asking Val how she's doing. I haven't seen or talked to her for at least a couple years, and I'd assumed she'd moved out of the Twin Cities.


From aqua? Or whatever its called now dark hair?

I responded:

You're not Val, are you?

It wasn't.

As I waited for the light to change at 17th Avenue, a young guy ran across the street and launched his Mountain Dew can into the curb in front of my bus.

When he got on, I said, "Aw, man! There's a trash can right there!"

And there was one, about five feet from his can.

When he made no move to go get it, I unbuckled my seatbelt and started to get up. "I'll go get it for you." I do that pretty often.

He said, "I'm not going to make you get off the bus!" and went outside and threw it away.

"I didn't want you to leave me!"

I assured him that I wouldn't have left him.



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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back at it

I went back to work Friday after taking three days off to feel better. I struggled a bit and didn't really feel well until today.

I drive one trip on the 133 in the morning. As I drove by Hale School, I saw a man walking his kid into school. The guy was wearing a Camp Ojibway sweatshirt, just like the guy a couple weeks ago, but in a lighter shade of blue.

I drove the 24 the rest of the day. I met a guy who is getting ready to retire. He told me about a coworker of his who had to retire a little early. He had Alzheimer's, and no one knew it until he got lost on his way home and ended up in Northfield.

Another guy told me he has been working for 56 years! He didn't look that old and I told him so. He said he started as a kid working in the cotton fields and has been working ever since.

Later that day, during rush hour, a guy jumped on my bus downtown. He whipped out his driver's license and showed it to me. It was unremarkable in every way.

"My car's in the parking garage and I just need to get to 17th!"


He could have said, "I have a frozen pizza in my refrigerator at home and I just need to get to 17th!" and it would have meant the same thing to me.

But I was in a good mood and let him ride.



go greener

As most of you know, M*tro Tr*nsit has purchased a number of hybrid buses over the last few years. Right now, they are primarily being used on routes that travel the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Starting in 2010, all the buses on the Mall will be hybrids.

On Friday, though, when I checked in to drive the 24, I was given a hybrid bus.

(not this one)

Northbound, the 24 line snakes through the Longfellow and Seward neighborhoods before taking Franklin Avenue to Park Avenue, through the Elliot Park neighborhood and into downtown on 9th Street.

The dispatcher reasoned (correctly, in my opinion) that the people who ride lines other than the Nicollet Mall lines need to see the hybrid buses.

And really, the Seward and Longfellow neighborhoods have a pretty large percentage of green-thinking individuals, so the 24 was a fairly logical choice of lines on which to put a hybrid bus.

And the people of the 24 were very excited. I answered questions about the bus all day. Yes, I do like it. It's a nice ride and it accelerates very well. Yes, very quiet and much fewer emissions. Yep, we do lose some seats because of the low-floor design. Love the wheelchair and walker ramp (vs. the lifts). Slightly better gas mileage, but given the number of miles these buses will travel, it'll save a lot. etc. etc. etc.

And I felt like an absolute hero every time I drove by the Birchwood Cafe, with the hippies sitting outside, waving and grinning at me all misty-eyed as they nibbled on their grilled abalone mushrooms and polenta...

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The mighty and capricious gods of transit did not smile favorably upon me yesterday.

The teeming masses are still flush with money from their big payday earlier this week, so the 30-ring circus that is Lake Street was full on. I ended up 18 minutes late to my terminal on my first trip on the 21. I pretty much made up that time on my second trip, then ran 12-to-15 minutes late on my third. I had to DROP OFF ONLY for part of that third trip.

I talked to one guy who's awfully concerned about the state of the country (aren't 81% of us!). He told me that he has his money in a bank in Quito and a boat docked in Florida ready to set sail for South America.

The highlight of my day happened when I was driving the 53. A guy ran from the 21 behind me at the Chicago-Lake Transit Center. His transfer had expired and the farebox took money off his card, so he asked me to put it back on and then ran back to the 21. Funny enough, but that wasn't the great part. Although I can say with certainty that he has not been there for at least 30 years, if at all, he was wearing a late model Camp Ojibway hoodie! (My parents directed C.O. for the first 18 summers of my life, and I spent an additional two summers there as a counselor.)


drove the school bus today

Interesting choice of colors, there, marketing...



it's the 1st of the month

Everybody got paid today and I drove the 21. Ugh.

It was crazy out there. I had standing loads where I do not usually get them. I ran five-to-ten minutes down for a few hours. I got tired.

As I approached Marshall and Cretin on my second eastbound trip, a guy jumped out from behind the shelter with his thumb out, like he was hitchhiking. He was Super-Energy Boy. He jumped on my bus and dropped off his groceries. Then he handed me his transfer and leaned in close to me with his head parallel to the floor.

"Still working, huh?"

I confirmed that I was, indeed, still working and noted the strong smell of booze on his breath.

We moved along Marshall without incident and turned onto Snelling.

As I prepared to make a stop at the first stop on Snelling, the car in front of me inexplicably opted to stop. I had plenty of room in front of me, but I had to slow down faster than I would have liked.

A woman who was making her way to the front of the bus lost her balance and had to catch herself. Of course, it's not easy to catch yourself when you're holding a phone to your ear.

One of drunk dude's grocery bags fell into the woman.

"It's not your fault," he said.

"I know, it's the one who's driving this thing! It's the driver who's a damn idiot!"

Uh, that's me. "Have a nice day!"

A few blocks later, I hit a big water-filled pothole as I stopped to let Drunky off the bus. This time, the stop would have been as smooth as usual if it weren't for the pothole.

He said something about my brakes and something, blah, blah, something, something. Yeah, have a good one, dude. You might be able to keep your balance if you weren't loaded...

Fortunately, I turn into the 53 midway through the day. Everything settled down by then.

I was glad to get home this evening.



made me laugh

Today an old man boarded my bus.

"I don't ride the casino bus! I like your buses. I gamble that my transfer'll work!"


what were they talking about?

Yesterday morning, as I drove by WCCO on the Nicollet Mall, I saw the MIC ON and ON AIR signs. The anchors sit with their back toward the mall when they do some of their broadcasts.

As I approached the intersection, the anchorman turned around, looked out the window and waved at me.

I waved back.

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Yesterday on the 11:

An old lady boarded the bus. A young guy stood in the doorway. "What bus takes me to the Convention Center?" The old lady said, "This one, freeloader!" The guy paid me with a 31-day pass.

Yesterday on the 24:

A woman exiting the bus turned to me and said, "The robber barons are starting to get their comeuppance!"

Today, at a layover at Uptown Station, another driver said, "Hey CJ! I heard you were going to go full time as an instructor!"


I assured him that I was very low on the list of relief instructors, so the opportunity wouldn't be there for quite a while.

That's an odd rumor.

I paid $.25 for this cup.
It's a pretty nice cup and everything, but I wish it would have come with the hot chocolate that I thought was going to be in it.


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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more fun on Franklin Ave

I kind of miss the 2. But I drive the 24 twice a week now, and it goes down Franklin Avenue, so I get a small taste of what I'm missing.

Friday evening, on my last trip of the night, I got behind an older green Bonneville headed west on Franklin. We caught a red light at the stoplight by Aldi. The light turned green, the first few cars moved along and we... sat behind the green Bonneville.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Franklin Avenue is a showcase of the worst driving in the state. So this wasn't really anything new. I gave the driver about fifteen seconds and honked my horn. Nothing.

The fourth rule of the Smith System of Driving is Leave Yourself an Out. It was written for times like these. As I slowly passed the Bonnesville, I checked out the driver. He was an older guy, sitting upright, and his eyes were closed. Hmm...

I pulled into the stop that was just past the stoplight and called Control. As I was explaining the situation to the Control supervisor, I watched a woman run over to the car, open the passenger door, talk to the driver, and walk around to the driver's side. By her gestures and behavior, I am almost certain that she did not know the driver.

The driver got out of the car and got in the passenger seat. The woman got into the driver seat. She drove the car around me and down the street to my right. She found a parking spot, parked the car and got out. The woman briefly spoke with the original driver and left. The original driver got out of the passenger seat and back into the driver seat.

Meanwhile, I had detailed the entire episode to Control. Since I wasn't sure of the guy's condition (seizure of some kind? drunk?), we chose to treat it as a possible medical emergency. The reality is that it's very likely he was drunk.

Whatever it was, I hope he's OK. And that woman who got him out of the street deserves a medal.



back on the 21

It's been quite a few picks since I drove the 21. I think. Maybe it hasn't been all that long, but it feels like it.

I drive it twice a week this pick. I thought it might be too much, but I change over to the 53 midway through the day and that, as I think I've mentioned, is like turning into a breezy, floaty butterfly after a long, meaningless existence as a slow, plodding caterpillar.

Yesterday, a woman got on and recognized me. She'd ridden and chatted with me on Tuesday. I think she might be about my age or possibly a bit older. She's in grad school at the U.

The woman sat down next to me in the peanut gallery. There was a young guy sitting behind me, across the aisle from her. She said something about school- it's tough right now and she's looking forward to Spring Break. He said, "That must be hard. I'm glad I only went to MTTC." (Yes, he was talking about MCTC.)

He told her (us) that he had gone to school to get his gemology certificate, but had to drop out because of non-school related stress.

Then he looked at her ring. "It's sapphire! Is it real?"

She assured him that the ring, sapphire encircled with diamonds, was real. He asked her how much it cost. She said $2500.

He told us about where sapphires come from. Then, he leaned closer to her ring, looked carefully and said, "I think some of those are zirconia."

ha ha!

When Gemology Dropout got off the bus, the woman told me her boyfriend, who bought the ring, was going to get a kick out of that!



bus 2372

When I got my bus assignment this morning, I thought to myself the same thing that I've been thinking for the last week or two every time I see a 23XX bus. Shouldn't that pile of junk be in the bus graveyard? The 2300s are fourteen years old, and as far as I know, the goal is to get rid of the buses by the time they're twelve.

But I wasn't too annoyed. Some of those 2300s are pretty fast. Bus 2372 is a fast one, and it seemed to be a decent bus. After one-and-a-third uneventful trips, however, my passengers and I found out otherwise. We were headed north into downtown when I noticed that the bus was getting jerky. Very soon after that, it was clear that the transmission was not right. Then, when the DO NOT SHIFT (TRANS) light came on and the bus refused to move, I knew we were in real trouble. I shut the bus off, restarted it, and called Control as soon as we got moving. Control advised me to shut it off for three minutes, so that's what I did at Franklin. But it did no good. We were late and only going to get later.

The bus was super jerky. It quit every few blocks, requiring me to restart it. I hobbled through downtown and into NE Mpls. My follower caught up with me and took all my passengers except one lady, who seemed to enjoy the adventure.

Finally, the bus got stuck in 4th gear and didn't quit on me, so I was able to make it to my northern terminal about seventeen minutes late. I waited for a replacement bus (2379!) and left about fifteen minutes down. Control filled part of my trip, so I put up my DROP OFF ONLY sign at DeLaSalle High School. I was empty at 10th Street, and I actually got back to the garage early.

It's my short day, so I'm done for the day. I'm ready for a nap.



never did like the maths

It's common for passengers to ask me what the fare is upon boarding the bus.

Today, though, I got a new one. The fare was $1.50. A lady boarded and put a dollar into the appropriate slot. Then she asked me, "How many quarters?"


Division? No thanks. I quickly decided to add 25 until I got to 50, keeping track on my fingers. The answer was 2.




My very early Wednesdays are always pretty quiet. People aren't inclined to talk very loudly at 5:00 in the morning, I guess. I like that, because I'm already annoyed that I got up at 4:00 and I'm often in just-don't-hit-anything mode.

The other day, though, a guy boarded my bus on my second trip and almost immediately started talking. To me.

Fortunately, he was a very Daff-ish individual (does that link work?). I had a hard time understanding much of what he was saying. He was pretty excited about his new cowboy boots. And he has a long goatee that he's planning to braid. Excellent. I hope I see him again.

The next day I was driving the 2 and a guy got on the bus and sat in the peanut gallery. He asked me if I'd ever played a role-playing game. Sweet.

Well, I have, kind of. I think it was in about 7th grade. I joined my friends Billy and Reed a couple of times when they played a remedial version of D&D. And that's what I told him.

He got kind of excited and asked me if I'd ever heard of online role-playing games like World of Warcraft. I have heard of them. I've never looked at anything like that, though, unless you count the three or four minutes I was on the Second Life site.

But I told him that I have heard of the online games. He got even more excited.

He started talking about ten-sided dice (percentile dice?), whiteboard (?), how I only have to make one chart (?), something called Mythic, and all kinds of other stuff. I think I gathered that it was a way he was going to set up role-playing games with friends and family around the country without a central host site.

But really, I had little-to-no idea what he was talking about. However, he assured me more than once that I already understood way more than his psychiatrist did- so I have that going for me.



so... we meet again

I saw 2165 a few times today. Here he is the first time I saw him:
Here he is the second time I saw him:
Here he is the fourth time I saw him:

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couple things

The other day at around 6:00 PM, a young guy bounded up my stairwell and dropped two quarters into the coin slot. Then he stood there and dug around for his dollar. I was wondering, as I always do, why people don't wait until they have all their money together before they give it to me. (Of course, I can't figure out why they don't have it in hand when they get on the bus, but that's another bitch session.)

So I got the $1.50 and informed him that the fare was $2.00, because it wasn't 6:30 yet. He looked at me with a straight face and said, "You shoulda told me that before I put 50 cents in!"

Today, as I sat eastbound on the SW corner of Franklin and Nicollet waiting for a green light, a guy ran across the intersection diagonally, from the NE corner, where Acadia Cafe used to be (sniffle).

That's a busy intersection. I really hate it when people stop traffic and nearly get hit trying to get to my bus. Obviously, it's not my fault, but you know, I feel a bit responsible. So far, thankfully, I haven't seen anyone get hit. Sometimes if I'm in the wrong mood, I don't pick them up. No need to reward stupid behavior. Sometimes I wait for them and scold them when they get on the bus.

Anyway, this guy avoided at least one car and then stood in the middle of the intersection waving at a left-turning car, indicating for them to go. They did not go. He ran in front of them (and at least another car) and to my bus. The occupants of the left-turning car whooped the car's siren, put on its red and blue lights and presumably wrote the dude a ticket for jaywalking. Idiot.



glad to be home

I make relief, or take over the bus from someone in service, on Tuesday mornings at 46th and Nicollet. Then, after a round trip on the 11, I get relieved at 46th and Nicollet. I save a lot of (nap) time by driving our car there.

This morning, however, I had to pull out and wait. I pulled a bus out of the garage and drove it down to 46th. That meant that I had to catch a bus back home. I lost several minutes of valuable nap time.

Turns out, I could have used it.

The mighty and capricious gods of transit turned on me this evening. I'm not sure what I did to deserve what I got, but I just downed a sacrificial Old-Fashioned in hopes of appeasing them. I hope they're cool now.

My first three trips on the 2 were pretty decent. The U of M is back in session, so I was a lot busier on that end than I have been for the last few weeks, but you know, thank the aforementioned gods for Go-To Cards!

On the fourth trip, I picked up a customer in a wheelchair. After I dropped him off, I was only a couple minutes down. No problem. Then it took me almost four minutes to make a left turn off Franklin at 26th Avenue.

And everything went downhill from there. Traffic was bad. Super-drunks wanted to go downtown, where I was not going. My bus filled up.

I lost my whole layover and then some; I left the eastern terminal about six minutes down. Then I hit traffic and my bus filled up. I was ten minutes down when I picked up the same guy in a wheelchair going the other direction. Then I picked up another guy in a wheelchair. Then there were people screaming and arguing behind my bus at the light rail stop.

Then I was 17 minutes down.

Then a brave and kind Control Supervisor was made aware of the trials and tribulations foisted upon me by the mighty and capricious gods of transit and intervened. I hope his actions did not incur their wrath. He filled my last trip (got someone else to drive it) and I came home early. Sweet.



customer complaint

As soon as I got to work yesterday, the dispatcher handed me a customer complaint, and for once, it wasn't someone claiming that I'd "passed them up."

Apparently, somebody felt that I cut them off.

Of course, it's entirely possible- probable, even- that I did. The person who complained seemed relatively reasonable and perception is reality, right? They noted that they were aware of the fact that they are required to yield to a bus coming out of a stop, but claimed that we were even at the stop until I bolted out in front of them and cut them off.

We were sitting at Chicago Avenue, eastbound on Franklin Avenue. The bus stop is in a right turn only lane. One lane continues straight and one lane is a left turn lane.

Here is what I do at that stop, and every stop like it.

When I'm ready to go, I put on my left turn signal, to indicate that I'll be leaving the stop. When the light turns green, I'll have already scanned the intersection, so I... wait for it... go.

I go straight forward, toward the parked cars on the other side of the intersection. That gives the cars on my left enough time to get past me. How many cars? Two. That's typically how many have time to get by me by the time I'm going to move back into traffic. Two cars sit next to the bus at a stop. The third is back far enough that they can wait for me to get in front of them.

Of course, it doesn't always work like that. Sometimes, the third car rides the second car's bumper and refuses to let me in. Then three cars get by me. Sometimes one of the first two cars is not paying attention when the light changes. Then I move forward and they do not. At that point, I often make my move to their lane and "cut them off," as they figure out that the light is green about the time I'm almost past them.

I can't remember the incident in question for sure, but I'm guessing that the complainer was someone who was not paying attention. I do remember having to stop in the middle of that intersection sometime last week because the first car next to me started too late, then rode alongside my rear tires. But they didn't pass me as I slowed and stopped, so I went ahead and got into their lane. I guess an argument could be made that I had cut them off. Again, I have no idea if that was the person who complained, but if it wasn't, then I have absolutely no idea when I would have cut someone off.

However, something about the story didn't quite ring true. The complaint stated that we were sitting side-by-side at the light and that I "bolted" out in front of the car in question. Really? I "bolted" somewhere, anywhere, in my 0-to-60-in-three-minutes rocket ship? Awesome. Um, or... not likely.



homeless guy, not too cold yet

One of our more well-known mentally ill homeless guys, or as I like to call them, Ronnie's Boyz, rode with me today.

He rides with me fairly frequently and I kind of enjoy his company.

Today he started by asking me if I knew there was a possum season in Minnesota. I did not. He said that people eat them; I guess that doesn't surprise me. Then he told me that he likes raccoons, but only if they've been killed by a dog, not if they've been shot or run over by a car. Apparently, the glands get destroyed and ruin the flavor in the latter two instances.

At this point in the conversation, he had thawed out pretty well and I could really smell him. Ah, whatever. It wasn't bad enough to apply a layer of deodorant under my nose.

He told me about animal research that gets done in a building behind "Mariachi" Arena.

Then we didn't talk for quite a while. As he got off the bus, I saw that he'd pulled out a full bottle of rubbing alcohol. Bummer.




Three people were waiting at a stop on 38th Street yesterday. Two of them were older women, the third a younger man.

One of the women was first on the bus. She leaned in close to me and half-whispered, "The lady on the bench isn't riding the bus!"

I screamed, "Not if I have anything to say about it!" and jumped off the bus, grabbed that lady sitting on the bench by her arm and dragged her on the bus. I threw her into a seat and took off. Now she was riding the bus, dammit!

Or maybe I just kind of said OK or something...

A woman got on with her two daughters. They sat behind me and discussed the girls' day at school. Much of the time, they talked about a spelling (or some kind of word) test that one of them took.

The mother had some kind of Caribbean accent, I'd say medium-heavy. The little girl had me in stitches because she kept telling her mother that she was saying the wrong word.

"No, not sheep! Ship!" And the mother would say one or the other, and they really did sound very similar. Eventually the mom gave up and moved on. And lest I sound like an insensitive clod, mom was laughing, too...

Two Roosevelt High wrestlers got on and sat in the back. A few stops later, a South High wrestler got on. He sat in the middle somewhere. I'm not sure if he noticed the Roosevelt guys right away or not.

I got on the PA and suggested a tournament to see who would be the Bus 528 Wrestling Champion. I mentioned that my dad used to be a wrestling coach and that I probably remembered enough that I could be the referee.

Once again, my passengers were not nearly as amused as I was.

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I went to my niece's 2nd birthday party last weekend. Her great-grandmother fell down the stairs and landed a few feet from me. She broke a rib and a collarbone, but it sounds like she'll be OK.

A couple days later, I stopped for a woman along 38th Street, while driving the 23.

I could see that she was unsteady on her feet. Because of the snow banks, I had to stop a few feet from the curb. She made it to the bus, grabbed the handrail on the door, hauled herself up and then her legs folded under her. She sat on the bottom step and tried to pull herself up. She did not appear drunk. It looked more like she might have a neuromuscular condition. She was very unresponsive to me and seemed disoriented. I asked her if she wanted the lift. She eventually agreed to that. As she tried to get off the bus, she fell backward onto the ground. It wasn't a hard fall and she didn't hit her head, but it was still rather alarming.

I got outside and asked her if she was OK, if she wanted medical attention, etc. She laid on the ground and stared at me with wild eyes. Something was clearly wrong, but I couldn't figure out what it was. She eventually told me that she was trying to get to a store for some Gatorade. So she was dehydrated? It crossed my mind that maybe her blood sugar was low- I bought a diabetic passenger a Coke once when he needed some sugar in his system- but I didn't have anything but water.

I sat her upright and she sat on the ground with her elbow on the bottom step. I asked her again if I could call an ambulance. She asked me if I thought they'd have Gatorade. I said I thought they'd have something. She said to call.

I called Control and asked for an ambulance. The ambulance arrived and they took her.

I was talking to a friend 0n New Year's Eve who is diabetic. He and his wife were quite sure that the woman was suffering from hypoglycemia. She exhibited several symptoms of neuroglycopenia. And now I know.



the 2

I pulled up to a small crowd at 26th Avenue and Franklin Avenue this evening. As they were boarding, a guy walked across the street in front of me. He was carrying two snow shovels. As he walked in front of me, I could hear him saying, "You're a good bus driver! I'm impressed! God bless you!"

And I, of course, assumed that he was going to be looking for a favor.

Sure enough, he told me that he didn't have any money, but that he was "only going" to ___. I explained to him that he still needed to give me $1.50. He said he needed to go find his money.

He walked to the back and set down his shovels.

I was watching traffic and pedestrians, so I wasn't watching him. I figured he'd come back up and give me a few cents. As soon as I pulled away from the stop, a woman who was sitting behind me and to my right jumped out of her seat. I thought she realized that she had wanted to get out at the stop where we had just been. But when I looked in my interior mirror, I saw the cause of her alarm. One of my passengers had his hand on the throat of Shovel Guy, and was saying something about how he was a paying customer. He called SG a drunk. (I had smelled it on him, too.)

I pulled over at the next stop. I told Shovel Guy that he had to get out. He was saying that he thought the other guy was going to shoot him.

I assumed that SG was the problem, and frankly, I didn't care if he wasn't. I don't usually need much of excuse to boot someone who hasn't paid or has shorted me.

He went to the back and grabbed his shovels. He came to the front and pulled out a pile of bills. OK, great, dude. You did have money all along. I told him to get out. He left, but not without running his mouth. I don't know what he said.

On my way back the next trip, I picked up the other guy again. He laughed when he saw me and said he hoped Shovel Guy wouldn't be on the bus again. I assured him that I wouldn't be letting SG back on. Then he told me that SG had spit at him, and he apologized (several times) for doing what he had done. I told him that I figured he hadn't started it and that I was more than happy to unload Shovel Guy. The guy told me that SG spent a lot of time in the area where I picked him up trying to hit up elderly people for change. The other guy told me that his mother lives near there and she's had trouble with SG, so he wasn't too happy with him to begin with.

Then, on my final trip of the evening, I pulled up to three people at Franklin and Chicago. The first two were young women. The last guy was, naturally, Shovel Guy. It was dark out so I didn't recognize him at first. But he got on and said, "I'm better now." I stared at him and told him to get out of my bus. He repeated "You're still a pussy!" over and over and something about how he'd find me again. But he got off the bus without incident. I'll remember him.

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accidents, other stuff

Yesterday, on the 23 line, I was waiting to finish my right turn onto Lake Street from Hennepin Avenue. The light was about to turn yellow. As I checked traffic to my left, I heard a THUD and looked back to my right. All I saw was a blue-green Chevrolet Cavalier and a lot of cans of food rolling down the street.

I had to ask my passengers if that car had just hit someone. It had. It was kind of weird. The driver didn't brake, at least that I could hear. He was clearly finishing off his turn in the yellow light. She must have been in his blind spot. I absolutely don't want to excuse not looking where you're going, but it happened in the middle lane, so the woman who got hit very likely should not have been there.

I hope she's OK. I haven't seen anything in the news, so I assume she's still alive.

I got to the 17W terminal yesterday up in Northeast and a street supervisor showed up. She asked me if I'd written an Operating Conditions Report about the westbound trip I was about to make. I hadn't. Apparently someone is having trouble with overload and time issues.

I've driven that work on Fridays in previous picks and this pick I drive it Monday and Friday. I've never had a real problem, but Mondays and Fridays tend to be lighter days of the week.

So the supervisor followed me and I kept it on time. But I noticed something interesting.

BREAKING NEWS (and it's not good):
Kassie just pointed out to me that Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, the food writer for our biggest local free weekly, City Pages, is leaving next month. Oh boy, does that suck. Unless Demko has written a cover story, I barely pick up CP anymore, other than to read Dara. Yeah, that poor paper has really declined ever since Village Voice Media put some turd named Kevin Hoffman in charge. And no, I don't know him, but I do know that a lot of really good writers have left that paper because of him.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh. I probably picked up 35 people on that trip and all but about five of them paid with cash! See, we have this great little thing called a Go-To Card now, and pretty much every route I drive has a large percentage of people who use it in one form or other.

I think the marketing department needs to get themselves to Northeast Mpls and spread the good word. That would certainly make that trip easier to keep on time!

I had to detour today on the 11 because there was a rollover on 3rd Avenue a couple blocks north of Franklin. As Kassie pointed out, it would take some serious effort to get going fast enough to roll a car in that area.
[update: the story, thanks to Kassie's sharp eyes]

Today, as I was waiting for a bus, a school bus pulled in to the convenience store across the street. The driver (I think) got out and went inside. About two minutes passed. Then someone inside the bus started honking the horn. The driver came out of the store, appeared to make a walk through on the bus, then went back inside. She was still inside when my bus showed up. I thought it was odd that a driver would stop at a store with kids on her bus. Maybe it wasn't the driver I saw. I don't know...

Jesse rode my bus this evening. He was our wedding photographer.

I have to get up very early in the morning. That does not please me.

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the 2

I'm back driving bus again. It's been almost two weeks.

Today is my straight nine hours on the 2 line, a.k.a. Connect the Drunks, a.k.a. The Distracted, Disinterested, Desperate and Dangerous Driving Showcase. It went quite well, but I lost track of the number of other vehicles that either turned out in front of me or cut me off. It was the worst I've ever seen it today. Ah, well, it keeps me on my toes.

The highlight of the day was my brush with fame.

That's right, Mr. Chocolate Rain, Tay Zonday himself, rode my bus. He did not sing us a song.

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last week

I spent last week teaching five new extra board drivers all of the routes we drive out of Nicollet.

You may recall that I used to work the extra board. It was a good way to (occasionally) get decent work when I had very little seniority. The extra board is a list of pieces of work. The work can get put on the board for a lot of reasons. I won't list all of the reasons, but when drivers are sick or haven't shown up, or take a vacation day or go to a Transit Ambassador or Safety Keys class for the day, their work gets added to the extra board.

The extra board gets created every day. The dispatcher who compiles the board needs to know by noon if a driver will be back to work the next day. If he doesn't know that a driver will be back, their work will go back on the board.

If a driver doesn't show up for work, and no one knew a day in advance that they wouldn't be there, a call driver has to cover it. On-call shifts are built into the board. Some can be picked, others get added to the mix. Call drivers sit at the garage and do bus changes, fill in trips for late or broken down buses, and go out for drivers who don't show up.

I really enjoyed working the extra board. I did something different every day. The drawback is that I never knew what I was doing on a particular day until 5:00 PM the day before, which is the earliest drivers can call in to get their work.

Anyway, the point is that to work the extra board, a driver has to know every route out of a garage and everything about each of those routes. It's a lot of information.

The drivers I trained last week each knew some of the routes they needed to know. But not everyone knew the same routes. Some knew parts of some routes, but not necessarily the same parts that others knew.

So we just pushed through. I can't remember if we actually looked at every single route out of Nicollet, but if we didn't, it was close.

Six bus drivers, one van. The only thing that everyone is guaranteed to have in common is buses. So what do we talk about? Buses. Bus stories. Passengers. Bus stories.


I'll confess that I'm guilty, too. But I try to keep my stories relevant, short and on the positive side of things.

The group I had was pretty good, really. Nice people. I heard plenty of negative comments about traffic, passengers, whatever, but it never got out of control. I've been in group situations with drivers where the negativity took over and it became a black swamp of bad stories. Thankfully, that never happened.

Sometimes when I tell people that we take drivers out to show them the routes, I get asked why we can't just give them a map and turn them loose.

Here is a map from a hand schedule. Our maps are similar, but with additional notes all over them.

It's not rocket science by any means, but it can get very confusing. There are turns and lane changes that need to be explained. For instance, on the route above, there's no way to know that to get to the Southdale Park and Ride, one turns into the second driveway on 69th. But for some pieces of work, we go into the first driveway and wait in a different place.

So I did a lot of talking. Way more talking than I like. I was hoarse every day. I didn't go to trivia on Wednesday night because I was sick of talking.

It was a nice week, though.

I have the next couple of days off. I might actually get holiday cards sent this year. We'll see.

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some things I forgot about

A couple weeks ago I was driving the 2. As I approached the bus stop at 3rd Street and Cedar Avenue, I watched a guy take a run at the bus shelter and kick the glass. He backed up and did it again. And again. And again.

As I neared the stop, I honked my horn. He stopped when he saw me and walked over to the curb. By then I had called Control. I pulled over and stopped. But I didn't open the door. When he realized that I wasn't going to open the door, he started screaming obscenities at me. I had, of course, stopped so that I could get a better description of the guy for Control.

You know I love it when I get asked if I go to Cubs or Targets. The other day a lady asked me if I stopped near White Castles.

Just one, ma'am.

That same day, a guy kept telling me that I drive like a pimp.

The day after that, I was amused to see a woman hand two free (M*tro Tr*nsit) bus ride coupons to a guy who had a sign that read:

I've seen Oz a few times recently. It had been quite a while since I'd seen him. He wasn't doing very well. That is, I think he was messed up on a couple things. But still, it's always good to see him and chat with him. He offered to give me money if I wanted some. I declined. Then, ten minutes later, he wanted to talk to me about maybe giving him some help. Which means money.

Monday I got the finger twice. Sometimes I deserve it. Sometimes I don't. I think these were unwarranted. Either way, it's been a while.

In the morning, I got the finger from a guy who was mad at me because I pulled out into the lane after making a stop and he couldn't take a right turn in front of me at a stop light. No one was immediately behind me when I pulled out. I noticed that the bus was really sluggish getting through that intersection.

In the evening, a woman making a left turn from oncoming traffic lost her turn arrow and gave me the finger when I had the gall to lay on my horn as she turned in front of me with my green light and I braked my way through the intersection.



move it

Everyone got in my way this morning.

Most notable were:
  • The semi backing into a parking lot north of Franklin, stopping all southbound traffic on Lyndale shortly before 8:00 this morning.
  • The firefighters who had Lyndale completely blocked off at around 9:15.
  • Minivans.
I think I'll take a nap now.




I think everyone knows that being a bus driver is pretty glamorous.

One of the sweetest parts of the job is finding a restroom. We use them when and where we can and really can't afford to be too picky.

Today I lived the Great Reactionary Dream: I wiped my backside with the StarTribune!

Cool, eh?



back in action

I got up at 5:00 this morning, drove the 11 for a while, took a break, then drove the 2 for a while.

I was pretty rusty this morning. I forgot to grab schedules before I went to my bus. I forgot to log in to my farebox. I forgot some other things, too, but now I've forgotten what they were.

The day went pretty well, though. I hope this work is always as easy as it was today.

Tomorrow, the 4 and the 18. Plus, I pick my new work tomorrow.

Oh, and this is pretty much what I look like.




I witnessed an accident the other day.

It was a completely preventable accident and I'm surprised that I haven't seen one just like it before.

I was on the 5 line with a student who was practicing for his in-service test. He's a good driver; he was an instructor at First Student. We were northbound on Chicago at 42nd Street when he pulled over for a red light.

The woman in the SUV behind us, who had been "pushing" my student driver from behind, took that as her opportunity to get around the #!&% bus.

But apparently Ms. Andretti couldn't be bothered to look at the stop light. It was still red, of course.

She accelerated into the intersection and plowed into the front of a older, smallish Honda or Toyota driven by what appeared to be a Latino immigrant.

We stayed long enough to make sure everyone was OK. My student wasn't comfortable making a call to Control to tell them that he was a witness, so since I'd seen the whole thing, I called them. I filled out the appropriate form later.

So you know I'm kind of cynical. There was at least one other witness and everyone appeared to be OK, so I probably wouldn't have had to call Control or fill out the report. But all I could picture was the woman in the SUV telling the cops that she went through that intersection on yellow and that Pedro over there jumped the green by a few seconds. And "Pedro" might not have the English skills to explain otherwise.

Yeah, it's a complete and total stretch, from top to bottom. But I felt better for having done it.

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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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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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new drivers, kind of

Last week the class of thirteen new drivers that I was helping with got broken up into five groups of two to three drivers each. Each group is assigned an instructor to teach them to drive and pass the Commercial Driver's License test. (This is what I was doing a couple weeks ago.)

Based on my experience with the larger class, I'm guessing that no one is unhappy with the students they got, but I have to say I think I lucked out. All three of my guys have driven school bus, and they don't have many bad habits. I've had to get picky about a few things, but for the most part, it's been smooth sailing.

We saw a new bus parked at one of the garages. I like the headlights.

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sk8 rats

Yesterday I was driving the 17 up the Nicollet Mall during rush hour. As usual, the Mall was busy. Buses lined the blocks going both ways. There's about three feet between the northbound and southbound buses.

I was loading passengers at 7th Street when group of kids on skateboards exploded through the opening between the buses, down the middle of the street. And they kept coming. I'm terrible at estimating numbers, but there must have been at least a hundred of them. I saw a cop yelling at them, but most of them just kept going. And the ones who quit only did so temporarily.

It was really cool; they made me laugh.

Update: Ryan pointed out in the comments that it was Go Skateboarding Day. Aha. I had looked around a bit online to figure out what was going on. I think it's kind of odd that 3rd Lair didn't mention a thing. (Or at least I couldn't find anything about it on that mess of a site...)

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mustang convertible (top up)

Yesterday, as I was finishing a pretty decent afternoon on the 2 line, I stopped at a bus stop at a four-way stop to drop off all but one of my passengers.

I checked my left mirror and saw a silver Mustang coming up behind me. He was about a block back. I put on my turn signal and started to go. In the meantime, Duuude must have decided that he didn't want to be behind a bus for the three or four blocks until we reached Hennepin Avenue. As I was pulling out and into the intersection, he accelerated very quickly. He blew by me in the oncoming lane of traffic, totally janklowing the stop sign in the process. Then he slowed down and gave me the finger.

Car drivers, anxious to get in front of my bus, blow through stop signs relatively often. I understand that my bus blocks the stop sign. However, both the law and simple physics dictate that you ought to yield to a bus coming out of a stop. Additionally, if you're paying even the slightest amount of attention, you can see the back of the stop sign on the other side of the intersection.

Yesterday, unlike every other time it's happened, I caught up with the guy. I opened my door and informed him that he blew a stop sign. And, because I always take the high road, I believe I called him a genius. He started to whine about me blocking the stop sign, but I closed my door and drove away.



are you sick of hearing about the 17 yet?

Another Saturday, another 3:45 AM alarm.

But I didn't get much sleep that night. I couldn't get to sleep in the first place. I was still looking at my clock at 11:30. Sometime between bedtime and actual sleep, in addition to the simple inability to fall asleep, I had to attend to the noisy air conditioner and Jeff, who was licking me and growling at me to let him out of the room. Then, in the middle of the night, I was awakened twice. When the compressor in the air conditioner stopped, I could hear what was going on outside. And what was going on outside that roused me from sleep, finding my ears through the white noise of the air conditioner's fan? Our neighbor plays drums in a band and they had been practicing in his basement. They were long done practicing (I think) but someone was on his front porch, right under our bedroom window, with his guitar, singing his heart out, presumably to one or more of the lovely ladies who I'd seen hanging out there earlier. Eh, can't really be too upset about that.

I woke up at the aforementioned Hour of Evil and walked to work. I was pleased to note that I was assigned a decent bus for the day. So far, so good. Then I realized that I forgot the bananas that I wanted to bring with me.

On my way out to my first terminal, I stopped at a Holiday Station and picked up a banana and an orange. Back to doing just fine.

I had a pretty good morning. There were a few more cars out and about in the very early hours, but very few of them actually got in my way. I was tired and a bit cranky, especially for the first few hours. I see I wrote in my notes that annoying people = any people. Nice.

The only thing that really amused me was at the stop near Central and 4th Ave. SE. An older guy was waiting there, kind of checking out my bus. But he didn't want to get on. I had about 45 seconds to kill, so I sat there wondering what he was doing. I was just getting ready to leave when he finally approached me. He said, "My friend is supposed to be getting off this bus and meeting me here." Then he poked his head inside and looked around. "John! Get off the bus!" And John got off the bus.

And so I drove, mostly on autopilot, just concentrating on not hitting anything or anyone.

Then, on my last eastbound trip, my farebox began acting up. It didn't want to take dollar bills and it acted like it was shorting out. I called Control and was told that my relief driver would pull out and wait. So instead of a relief driver taking over my bus for me at Uptown, that driver was going to get his own bus at the garage and drive it to Uptown. When I got there, my passengers would get on his bus and I'd drive my bus with the bad farebox back to the garage. Excellent. Now I'd be done one block from home instead of a mile and a half. (Though Kassie was planning to meet me at Uptown with our car, saving me the hassle of catching a bus, then walking home.)

When I got to the terminal in NE Mpls, I saw a street supervisor. She pulled her van in behind me and walked up to the bus to talk to me. She said she planned to follow me and count passengers because she was aware that we were "working too hard out here," as she put it.

Well, that's good news and bad news. It's really nice to hear that someone cares about the conditions on the 17. But to keep it on time, or even close, I often have to, uh, bend some rules regarding speed limits and green-to-yellow lights. So I'd have to be on my best driving behavior and my relief driver would have to wait a little while for me to show up at Uptown because I was pretty much guaranteed to be late.

And then the trip went really well. The passenger load was light and traffic wasn't too bad. My farebox was completely useless, so no one had to pay. I picked up a woman in a wheelchair at 7th and Nicollet, but that only put me down about five minutes getting out of downtown. If I didn't have a street supervisor tailing me, I probably could have made most of that time up before Uptown. Instead, as we got within a block of Uptown Station, we were due to arrive about seven minutes late.

As I sat at the light at 28th and Hennepin, I could see my relief driver at the station. Then, just before I got the green, he turned off his four-way flashers, put on his left turn signal, and left!


By that time, I was really, really ready for a nap. Add angry to the equation and I was not thinking clearly. I called Control, which was what I should have done. But I sat at the station, which is what I should not have done. We sat there for about three minutes while I waited for Control to tell me that I would have to keep driving. If our relief driver is not at the relief point, we are expected to continue to drive the route until someone can take over for us. I know that, so I should have known what I was supposed to do, but my muddled head prevailed. Of course, by then the street supervisor's numbers were messed up and she was kind of ticked off.

I turned the corner on Lagoon and headed west. Thankfully, when I talked to Control again, they had contacted the driver and had him wait for me at Market Plaza. I got there ten minutes later than scheduled and the woman in the wheelchair was still on my bus. So, for the second week in a row, my relief driver had to start his day about fifteen minutes in the hole. That's tough.

I got 37 minutes of overtime, but I'd much rather have had that time at home napping in my bed.

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