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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the last

Today I finished the last of the weekends I have to work for the Instruction Center this year. I was route training this weekend.

One of my students braked hard and put another student on the floor of the bus today. She was hurt, but I think she'll be OK. We had to fill out paperwork. I probably haven't heard the last of that.

I'm glad to be done. I missed a few things in the last three weekends that I would have liked to do.

Last week we went camping at Cascade River State Park. I had to wait to go up on Sunday evening because I had to work. Kassie was already there. But I stayed a bit later than she did because I had Monday through Friday off.

The firewood came in onion bags. Say no to drugs! (?)The falls closest to the campground. Jeff and I ventured out in the rain one night
to make sure no one turned them off at night. They were still falling.
Adventure Dog!The view from very near the top of Lookout Mountain.The view from Lookout Mountain.

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the best-laid plans... pt. 3: Sunday

I got up early this morning. My first driver of the day was supposed to be on the 19 line at Penn and Lowry in North Minneapolis at 8:03. I planned to drive up there, park my car, and ride into downtown, then back to Penn and Lowry with him.

I got up there a few minutes early and it's a good thing I did. When I got up there, I realized that Lowry is all torn up. So I drive around a bit, trying to figure out where the bus was detoured, where I could catch it, and the safest place to leave my car for an hour or so. That is not the most savory of neighborhoods, but I figured that the riff-raff would most likely still be asleep at that time of day.

As I drove around, I noticed a blue minivan behind me. It turned where I turned, which was odd, since I was sort of driving in circles. Then, as prepared to make another turn, it sped up quickly and came up along my left side. The minivan's passenger window was down. There was a guy driving and a rather lovely woman in the passenger seat, showing off her ample cleavage.

She said, "Oh! I thought you were a friend of mine!"

I laughed and replied that I thought their behavior was a bit unusual.

Then she asked, "Can I get into your car and talk to you for a little while?"


Well, I guess I was a very Caucasian man in a new car, driving around and around a relatively downtrodden neighborhood known for drugs and prostitution. I'm sure it looked like I was looking for something.

"Uh... no thanks! I'm.. uh... busy!"

And that was that.

I parked the car and walked to the bus stop. When the bus arrived (late), I noticed the driver had an arm full of patches (5 year safe driver, 10 year safe driver, 15 year safe driver, etc.) and a low driver number. NOT MY GUY. Right work, wrong guy. I drove all the way up to Ruter Garage and the dispatcher confirmed that he was not driving, but he didn't know why.

So I came home for a little while.

My next trip was going to be on the 5 line. I took a 21 to Chicago and Lake. I waited for that bus. And waited. When it arrived, I once again saw a suspiciously low driver number. NOT MY GUY. I confirmed: right work, wrong driver. I don't know where my guy was. Sick, maybe.

I took that bus anyway. I had planned to stop in at Wyatt and Christina's to watch some of the Vikings (stupid Vikings...) game, and that bus goes near their house.

My last guy, who was my first (on vacation) guy from yesterday, didn't pull out of the garage until 3:55, so I figured I could see the end of the game.

Kassie picked me up and dropped me off at Nicollet Garage. I got there about seven minutes before my guy was supposed to pull out. I walked through the drivers' room, into the bus bay, then back through the drivers' room to see him pulling away! Early!

The mighty and capricious gods of transit were surely messing with me in a very big way.

I called Kassie and she took me to Uptown Station, where I caught up with the guy I needed to observe. Amazingly enough, the rest of the day went well.

What have I learned in the last couple of days? Oh, I don't know.

I learned how frustrating it is to miss connections. You know I like to whine about the scheduling department. Well, I experienced several examples of the written schedule being extremely optimistic about the time a bus was going to arrive at a connection.

I learned that I'm going to ask someone who knows (like a full-time instructor) what I need to do to ensure that the object of my ride-along will be there.

And finally, I learned that the reason I'm not in favor of the word f**k in its many iterations is that stupid and ignorant people use and overuse it to the point of complete lunacy. I really, really got sick of that word in two days of riding the bus.

And yeah, I'm no angel, I know...


the best-laid plans... pt. 2: Saturday

I got going a little bit later yesterday, since all my ride-alongs were in the afternoon and evening. I showed up at the garage at noon, with a couple hours to make sure the results of all my muddled thinking the day before still looked OK.

At 1:45, I went outside to the street, where the driver I was going to observe was supposed to make relief on the 18 at 1:50. I didn't see him. At about 1:48, another driver came out and waited at the stop. I asked him what work he was doing. Sure enough, it was the work I was supposed to be riding, but he wasn't the part-time weekend driver I was looking for! Crap. It turned out that he'd taken a vacation day.

I'll just say this now. I'm probably supposed to somehow check if the drivers are actually at work on these days, but I don't actually know if I am supposed to do that or not. And even if I did know their status, my schedule gets less and less flexible as I have to make connections, etc. to get to the next ride.

But he was my first of the weekend, so it wasn't too bad. I went back inside the garage and reformulated my entire weekend. I decided to cram four rides into the rest of Saturday and ride three on Sunday.

I caught a bus with the next guy with whom I was going to ride. We rode to Franklin, where he relieved a driver on the 2 line. I rode with him for a while and planned to hop a 16 to St. Paul's Midway area, to intercept a guy driving the 21.

We approached Oak and Washington a couple of minutes late and I watched the 16 that I'd planned to catch pull away. I wasn't too worried, because I knew the next one would also get me there on time.

So I waited for the next one. And waited. And waited. She finally showed up about six minutes late. That bus was packed. Then we picked up a passenger in a wheelchair. I wasn't going to get to the 21 on time.

And I didn't. But the mighty and capricious gods of transit smiled upon me, ever-so-briefly, and the 21 was late. OK, not bad. I planned to ride with him to the end of the line and back, where I was going to catch a 16 going back to Oak and Washington so I could ride with another driver on the 2.

And we ran a little late on our return trip. Just as we turned the corner onto University Avenue, I saw the 16 I wanted to catch a few blocks ahead of us. *sigh*

So I waited for the next one. It was a few minutes late, and this connection was tight. Sure enough, as we approached Oak and Washington, I saw the 2, with the driver I needed to observe, a few blocks out of reach.

The mighty and capricious gods of transit were clearly toying with me. There was one car at the intersection as I crossed the street. A cab. I waved at him hopefully and he responded in the affirmative.

"I have $10 for you to catch the bus that just turned this corner!" -or maybe it was- "FOLLOW THAT BUS!" Take your pick, whichever sounds cooler...

I had a $10 bill and two $1s, and I thought $2 was too cheap for a special order.

We caught the bus and I got on. This driver did not run late.

At the end of the 2 line, at Hennepin and Franklin, I caught a 6 into downtown. There I caught a 675 which I rode west until I could intercept another 675, with my last driver of the night on board.

I rode with him back into downtown. There, I caught an 18 and came home. I got home around 9:30.


the best-laid plans... pt. 1: the setup

Every year, in my capacity as a relief instructor, I have to make myself available to work three weekends for the Instruction Center. This weekend was my first. I found out Friday that Darell, another relief instructor out of Nicollet, and I were going to do ride-alongs.

We do ride-alongs for a few reasons, but the most common one is to see how new drivers are doing. We ride along with a driver on their work and observe their behavior to make sure they are driving safely and providing good customer service.

Between the two of us, Darell and I had to ride with thirteen new (or new-ish) part-time weekend drivers over the course of the weekend. Each driver has two paddles, or schedules, one for each day. This is a paddle.
On Friday, after I got up early and spent the day getting pummeled by the 18 line, I spent an additional two-and-a-half hours, some of them with Darell on the phone, trying to get the twenty-six paddles organized and arranged and assigned so that we could get to everyone. We only needed to ride with each person once. Many of them, since they're relatively new, have night work, so we had to make sure we each got some mornings and afternoons, again, so we could get everyone covered. Basically, if one of the drivers had a piece of work in the morning or afternoon, we had to ride with them then, since several drivers worked only in the evening.

I was super tired and there are a lot of numbers on twenty-six paddles. It was quite the scheduling nightmare. But we got something worked out and everything was cool.

I was going to ride with three drivers on Saturday and four drivers on Sunday. Darell was going to ride with four drivers on Saturday and two drivers on Sunday.



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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the last few days

My two students passed their in-service tests on Thursday. One of them didn't look in his mirrors enough and got chewed out by our safety supervisor. I told him and told him to get in his mirrors more often. He rolled with the scolding pretty well and I think he got the point.

Friday night I went to a party. Saturday night I went to a party. I had a most enjoyable time at both. I kind of enjoy this photo from Friday night.
Today we went on a pontoon on Forest Lake with some of Kassie's co-workers. I drove a jet ski for the first time. Sixty-something mph on the water feels really fast. It was a blast.

Now I'm really tired.

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in service

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

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

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

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

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

Riding the bus also means interesting conversations.

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

That looks like this:

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

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

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

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

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



new drivers

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

Oh, well.

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




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

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

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

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

I'm looking forward to it.

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