I have some stories, but I don't feel like writing. I've been running around and getting ready to move. More later...
In the meantime, did you know that there were 625 "significant" terrorist attacks in 2004? That's a couple more than the previous record of 175, set in 2003. Sounds like good news for W; his policies must be working. That's probably why his administration wants everyone to read about it.
I should be packing. I'm going to try to get most of my stuff out of here by Monday.
My week was pretty uneventful, except for Wednesday night on the 21.
I pulled up to a stop in the Midway area of St. Paul and a little guy who was obviously drunk got on my bus. He paid and sat down in the front seat to my right. We went a few blocks and he was already making himself comfortable on his backpack, ready to pass out. So I yelled, "HEY! Don't go to sleep!" He said he knew where he was. I asked him where he was going. He said downtown. OK, fine, I thought, go to sleep.
Shortly after that exchange, I stopped for a few people, including a woman who sat a couple seats away from the little drunk guy and a guy with salt-and-pepper-hair who sat across the aisle from her.
I think the little drunk guy was mad at me, though, for yelling at him. I'm pretty sure he was mumbling things in my direction. I could only make out a couple words here and there, but he was so far gone that I wasn't really too worried about it. I figured he'd pass out soon enough.
However, the woman and salt-and-pepper somehow thought he was mumbling at them and got involved. Maybe he was talking to them, I don't know. But even if he was, I have no idea how they could understand what he was saying. The woman repeatedly asked the little drunk to stop talking. She was actually quite polite about it. But salt-and-pepper seemed to be getting agitated. And I'm thinking to myself, "He's a little drunk guy, folks. Ignore him, he's just talking stupid drunk talk. Ignore him."
As we neared Lexington Parkway on Selby, the drunk guy and salt-and-pepper were exchanging "You want to see what I'm made ofs" and I decided that the next time we stopped, I was going to tell the drunk guy that he could only talk to me. But I was too late.
Salt-and-pepper launched himself across the aisle and pinned drunk guy to the window by his throat.
I got mad. I pulled over and not very nicely told salt-and pepper to get off the bus. The woman protested, "He called me a bitch and you're going to kick me off?" Well, I hadn't realized that she and salt-and-pepper were together, but I just said yes. I expressed my displeasure with the act of violence as a response to a bit of drunk mumbling. They actually both got off without incident.
I had to call Control. As you would expect, we have certain procedures to follow. We are supposed to ask the victim if he wants to file a police report and if he wants medical attention. The guy was angry, but he was OK. Control asked me to check to see if he wanted to file a police report. I was pretty sure he'd be unable to, and said so. But I asked. Of course he wanted to file a police report. Great. At least he was going downtown so we could meet the police there. Does he want medical attention? I told Control that he was fine. But I asked. Of course he wanted medical attention. <sigh!> We had to stay where we were until the paramedics showed up.
The transit cops showed up. The drunk guy was outside smoking a cigarette. One cop came in and got my story while the other one tried to figure out the drunk guy's name and story. Then they both stood outside and talked to the drunk guy. Now I can probably think of every reason that the cops would do it, but it still bothered me that they were telling him that if he wanted to file a report, the woman and salt-and-pepper would want to have him arrested for ____ (couldn't hear what that was). So... arrested for what? Mumbling? Maybe calling someone a name? I'm not sorry to say I think that was a real dickhead move on the part of the cops. But it worked. Little drunk guy decided not to file a report.
The paramedics showed up. Of course, it had already been determined that drunky didn't need medical attention. So we went on our merry way, thirteen minutes late.
I am single again. The answers to the bigger questions can't be laid out in black and white and that made it horribly difficult. But I think it was the right thing to do. I'm still sad, though.
My weekend trip to Sioux Falls was just what I needed.
Kevin and I headed out early Friday morning and we stopped at Caribou on the way out of town. It caught up with Kev on a particularly desolate stretch of I-90...
When we arrived in Sioux Falls it started to rain, and we eventually found ourselves at the destination which claims more victims visitors per year than Mount Rushmore: the Empire Mall. But that turned out OK. We ran into Josie, who was a friend of an old girlfriend of mine. We chatted quite a while. She didn't know that Elvis Costello was playing that night. Married with kids will do that, I guess. She was excited to hear it, and we saw her that evening at the show.
I have never seen Elvis Costello before. I think it's been about 25 years since I first knew I liked him, and I have no idea why it took so long. Wow. He put on a great show. Two-and-a-half hours. He played songs that spanned his entire career, he played covers, he threw snippets of other songs into his own and best of all, he didn't play the encore game. Oh, how I hate the encore game. He played what he wanted to play, then he was done.
The next morning, we got up and played disc golf. I had never played before. I quite liked it, and I did OK.
That afternoon we looked at houses for Kevin to move into. Kevin and I walked around our alma mater, the University of Sioux Falls College. Things look a lot different around there than they did ten years ago, the last time I was there.
Kevin and I came back to Minneapolis yesterday afternoon, but before we left Sioux Falls, we made a couple stops...
And this goes out to everyone who knows what it all means.
I went to my parents' house for dinner with my mom and dad and Aunt Judy and Uncle Jon. As I pulled out to leave, my dad told me that my scooter's rear tire was low. I went to a gas station near their house and filled it up again. Then I drove to work to pick up my paycheck. On the way home, I sort of got a skidding sensation when I went around one corner. But I was close. I figured I'd try to get to one of the gas stations near my house. I got about five (long) blocks from home and my rear tire was completely flat.
Fortunately, I was able to coast into a gas station. Unfortunately, they did not have an air hose.
So I slowly drove my wobbling scooter back home, where I changed the tire. While I was at it, I figured I'd go ahead and change the 3 too...
My new apartment lease arrived in the mail today.
I went golfing this morning with Eric and Wyatt. I suck.
Though I can't find it, I know I've mentioned a guy who is both sight- and hearing-impaired. He rides the 4 with me every week from 7th and Hennepin to 54th or 55th and Lyndale. He has a stack of signs on his rolling luggage. They ask that he be tapped when the conditions on the sign are met. When he gets on the bus, he holds out his hand and I tap him to acknowledge that I understand the situation. Then he flips over the sign that tells me where he's going. He sits up in the front. He usually doesn't need to be tapped when we get to 54th or 55th and Lyndale. I assume he keeps track of turns and the stoplight at 54th is pretty long.
Today, he wanted to get off at 54th. There was a guy in a wheelchair on the bus who wanted to get out at 26th. It was a pretty large electric wheelchair and he wasn't going to fit past the sight- and hearing-impaired guy. So I had to figure out how to explain to the S- and H-I guy that he needed to get out of the way. So we went to a well, and I pumped some water... oh, um, sorry...
The S- and H-I guy was kind of confused at first, because we were obviously not at 54th and Lyndale, but he figured out the situation quickly enough and with help from other passengers, we got the chair off and him back into position and we went on our merry way. About ten minutes late.
So yeah, Kassie and I are taking a break. I've been doing some thinking and I'm trying to make some sort of decision.
We went to the Decemberists the other night. It was pretty great. Then we had a long discussion that lasted well into the night. It started with a simple question: "Are you happy?"
On a day-to-day basis, I am happy. I'm a happy guy, my mood is usually upbeat, I enjoy my friends, people I meet, life. In the larger picture, sometimes I question my happiness. I worry that I'm not using enough of my god-given talents and abilities. I worry that the decisions I've made will ultimately be the wrong ones. How did I become a bus driver? I followed the path of least resistance.
Of course, the question the other night was more specific to our relationship. And it's the hardest one to answer. I'm still thinking...
A 200-pound piece of metal fell off a plane headed to Hawaii and landed in a field in Inver Grove Heights. Elizabeth Cory, a spokeswoman for the FAA, reassuringly noted that it's "very, very unusual for something to fall off."
But that's not all. According to police Sgt. Greg "Sherlock" Olson, "If it had hit somebody, it definitely would have taken them out."
Making another person very sad makes me miserable.
I went to a MN Senate Transportation Committee yesterday. (uh, I think that's who they were...)
Transit for Livable Communities and State Senator Sharon Marko introduced Transportation Choices 2020, a "funding proposal for statewide transit expansion and metro investment in bicycling and walking."
It wasn't all that interesting, really. The Senate is controlled by the DFL, so they are transit-friendly. There was some debate from the Republicans, including my personal hero Peter Bell, who spent their time talking out both sides of their mouths. "Everyone agrees that we need to do something about transit, but..." The biggest decision seemed to be whether or not to amend it to make it a referendum. That amendment was defeated and TC 2020 passed. But really, that was probably the easiest hurdle that thing will have to step over. Of course, the biggest problem is that our governor is held hostage by a small group of wealthy businessmen who got him to sign a "no new taxes" pledge, and he's stupidly sticking to that one. (Of course, he'd better stick to it if he doesn't want to lose all his votes after he recently did a giant flip-flop on gambling... but hey, at least that money isn't from taxes...)
Remember when The Decemberists' gear was stolen the day Kassie, Corey, Tara and I saw them in Portland? Well, most of their equipment was recovered. The Portland police department has some kind of methamphetamine task force and they found the equipment in a pawn shop as part of a raid on a meth lab. Hopefully, The Decemberists will be in a great mood when we go see them tomorrow night!
Just last month, I mentioned that I was getting relieved at 8:45 at a dark intersection. Nicollet Garage is in a somewhat-shady neighborhood, as evidenced by that March 2nd shooting. I don't really worry about it, but I do read the police reports from the area and I know that there are quite a few muggings every month. It's simply a safety issue. I don't think after-dark reliefs are the wisest scheduling option.
Last night, as I waited to make relief on the 21 at Lake and Blaisdell, I called Eric. I mentioned my concerns about the after-dark reliefs. A young hippie-ish guy walking by overheard me and screamed at me, "Don't talk about my neighborhood like it's f*cking shady!" And he kept at it until he was out of earshot.
Um, see, here's the thing. I don't believe I've ever been the object of an obscenity-laced tirade by a random pedestrian in the decidedly un-shady neighborhood where I live (which is kind of why I'm going to move closer to downtown soon).
If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
So the bus I was there to relieve showed up. I drove one block. There was a guy standing over my shoulder.
"I'd like the name of the union goon who's in charge of this operation."
Naturally, I asked him to repeat that. He was angry about something, probably everything, as he was a fiftyish white guy who put "union" and "goon" next to each other in a sentence. I suggested that "goon" was a bit derogatory and he said it was supposed to be. He started in on me about the "second-rate transit system," how we were "a bunch of scandihoovian hillbillies," how Minneapolis was a "goddamn cowtown." Et cetera, et cetera, mostly about the poor transit system. It was awesome. I did my best to keep him talking. I asked him if name-calling was how sophisticated, cosmopolitan people behaved. At one point, he asked me if I was married and then told me he hoped I'd die of some kind of cancer.
When I worked in restaurants, we'd often talk about how to deal with difficult customers. In an update of Solomon's proverb, we were advised to "kill 'em with kindness." Throughout the exchange with my urbane adversary, I was exceedingly polite. (OK, admittedly, I did goad him a bit in the interest of keeping him talking, and that's why I'll get no rewards from the Lord, unless you count a good story...) But I told him I was sorry he'd had a bad experience and I wished him a good night, etc. etc.
The odd thing is, given the fact that he was drunk and was sporting a mustache, I think it's safe to assume that he's probably from Milwaukee, which I'm not sure is recognized as a hotbed of sophistication.
Later in the night, as I sat at a time point in front of the Xcel Energy Center, I heard yelling. It was slow-people-who-don't-want-to-miss-the-bus yelling. Some of my passengers saw them before I did. I heard at least an "oh oh" and some laughing. Then I saw them. Two men, one of them so drunk he couldn't walk straight. He fell into a leaning position against the bus while his buddy, also quite drunk, tried to get my attention. I saw him, all right, but I wasn't going to open my door. I started pointing out over his head into the parking lot behind him. I just wanted his buddy to quit leaning on my bus. My ploy worked well enough. I confused them with my pointing, and as soon as the guy peeled himself off the side of my bus, I pulled away. (Then I called Control to tell them that I'd left them because I had safety issues with letting them on the bus.)
The newest driver seniority list came out yesterday. I'm #928 out of 1179 full-time drivers. There are 357 part-time drivers.
Me, upon reaching my bus, number 388, this afternoon: "What a piece of junk!"
Grizzled mechanic: "She'll make point five past lightspeed. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid. I've made a lot of special modifications myself."
Some of the old buses are like that. Bus 388 couldn't make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, but it was surprisingly fast for an old bus.
I found out today that I've been downsized, sort of. There are big cuts on the horizon and that means no hires. No hires means that the full-time instructors have less to do. That means that the relief instructors don't have anything to do. So my relief instructorship has been pretty much put on hold, I guess.
I drive one trip on the 39 on Tuesdays and Fridays. It's a quick little limited stop from Wells Fargo and Abbott Northwestern Hospital into downtown. It takes about ten minutes. There's one guy who got on at Wells Fargo a couple weeks ago and asked if I went downtown. I said I did, but when we got to Abbott Northwestern, which is on Chicago Avenue, he saw a 5 and got off my bus to take that one. The 5 is notorious not only for the rough clientele, but also for being incredibly busy. Busy = slow. Then that same guy got on my bus last week, then bailed for an 11 when he saw that. That bus will also take longer than my bus. Both times people tried to tell him that he should stay on my bus. Today he stayed on my 39 all the way to downtown, because the 5 is on a detour. I think he was surprised that it was as quick as it was, because he came up and grabbed a schedule.
Would you like to see what a winning NCAA Tournament bracket looks like?
I may or may not have won around $40, depending on who's asking...
A bunch of us watched the championship game last night at Fabulous Fern's in St. Paul. Hennepin (Mpls) and Ramsey (St. Paul) Counties recently went smoke-free. However, Ramsey County left a loophole that based smoke-freeness on the percentage of food and alcohol served. In spite of the smoke eater-lined ceiling, Fern's was mildly smoky, but it wasn't too bad, I guess.
I think the smoking bans are 1) totally fascist and 2) completely wonderful. And no, I can't reconcile those two positions and make them one coherent, logical position. I've tried. I love it and I hate it.
I drove the 18 on Saturday. An unscientific, informal poll showed that half of my passengers were in favor of me and the other half were not.
One guy stopped on his way out the door and said, "I'd like to make a comment."
I thought, "Oh oh, here it comes..."
He said, "God, you have such a fantastic..."
(And I'm thinking that, since he clearly bats for the other team and is staring directly into my eyes, if he says "pair of eyes" or some such thing, it could be a little uncomfortable...)
"...attitude. With the sh*t you guys have to put up with."
(Whew. Not that I haven't gotten complimented from men and taken it in stride before, mind you.)
50% not for:
Around 4:00 PM, I pulled up to 31st Street and a guy staggered toward the bus. He initially missed the door by a couple feet, but managed to successfully navigate himself to the door and up the stairs. I'm not really sure why I let him get that far, but I think it crossed my mind that if I closed the doors and started driving, he would surely end up under my rear tires. He was a pretty big guy. He started in on the old, "I'm only going to..." and I knew he had no money so I told him to get out. By then I was quite sure that he was going to perform the Drunk Trifecta: fall down, puke and pass out in my bus. No time for that, thanks very much. He needed to sit down on the bus bench and sober up a bit (a lot) before he got on a bus. Surprisingly enough, he started to make his way back to the door. He turned to me and said, "One thing before I go... You suck."
I was pretty busy on Sunday after church. Check out my scooter now:
And yesterday, Kassie and I went to pick up her new scooter!
I have to admit that this is the day that I have a hard time taking the news of a comedian's death seriously.
I bought a donut and they gave me a receipt for the donut. I do not need a receipt for a donut. I give you the money, you give me the donut. End of transaction. We do not need to bring ink and paper into this. I can not imagine a situation where I would have to prove I bought a donut. "You didn't buy a donut." "Yes I did, I have the documentation right here. No wait, I left it in my files at home. Under D... for donut."