August '5





Kassie and I had fun at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Mollie and Trevor met us later in the day.

Check out that lamp! Yikes! Dan "The Common Man" Cole is my favorite radio personality.
(I don't listen to the radio very often, though.)

Kassie thinks about dinner. Ovine supremacists.

The biggest boar weighed in at a measly 1040 lbs. Last year's winner weighed 1220.
Mark Wheat is a DJ on
The Current. That's crop art.

Despite the warnings- I have a bad back and both of us had just finished a beer- Kassie and I braved the rapidly changing turbulent forces on the merry-go-round at the Kidway.

Vote Robert Fitzgerald for US Senate in 2006! I will.
I got pretty excited when Kassie pointed out that Adam West was going to make guacamole. Um, just like Kassie suggested, I guess there's more than one
Adam West. Silly me. I read the word celebrity and assumed The Batman was here. This yahoo is a DJ in town.

It took 80 cows to make that boot. Mmmm... butter.

A transit cop escorted a guy off my bus today. Apparently, he'd been causing problems on another bus. Aside from begging me for a new transfer, he was fine on my bus.



My dad and I went to the Great Minnesota Get-Together today. It was pretty great and it was fun to hang out with Dad. I forgot to bring my camera along. Good thing Kassie and I are going tomorrow.

I got a camera-phone picture from Oregon today. I have no idea what's going on, but I like it.




Yesterday on the 21, a young woman ran for my bus. I waited for her, then offered up my standard, "You showed some nice hustle out there." Usually I get one of two responses: they laugh or they look at me like I'm an ass. Not this woman. Without skipping a beat, she said, "I had to go the distance and take one for the team." Yes! That's what I'm talking about!

This is the time and place where I usually cry and moan about the horrible day I had on the 17. OK, we'll get the minutes-late-to-terminals thing out of the way. 2, 5, 9, 5, 8, 18, 21, 18, 17. For about half my day, I did relatively well. It made all the difference in the world. I'm not exhausted. I think the bottled Starbucks coffee thing I drank and the m&m-and-cashew lunch/dinner I ate helped. I had enough caffeine to keep me up all night; I'm quite sensitive to it.

I got on my bus this morning and nearly gagged. It reeked of BO, so I stopped in at the convenience store at the downtown terminal. I hosed down my seat with Febreze and the rest of the bus with Lysol.

I pulled up at Minnetonka Boulevard and three young guys got on. The first one paid two fares, but only took one transfer. The third guy got on. I asked him if those guys were his friends (I knew they were) so he could take the transfer back to them. Without pausing, he said, "No." I mentioned the transfer as he walked away. By then, one of the other guys figured out that he was missing a transfer and came and got it. I thought of fifty reasons why Guy #3 wouldn't want to admit that those were his friends, but it still bothered me how easily he out-and-out lied to me.

About four hours later, Guy #3 got on my bus. He smiled when he saw me, leaned close and said, "My fault. <Something something something>." Well, thanks dude. It was nice to know we were more or less on the same page.

My overhead destination sign quit working a couple hours into my day. I made some signs with white paper and a black marker and attached them to the front of the sign with some 3M packing tape. I only run eastbound as a downtown 17 and westbound as a 17J all day, except my last trip, when I'm a 17B. Just before my last trip, I had to take down the DOWNTOWN and OR J signs and replace them with a B. I had to lean across the front of the bus and reach with my bad shoulder (getting better) so it wasn't very easy. Also, it got kind of windy this afternoon. In the process of getting the B sign up, some of the old signs blew across my face. 3M makes a fine product. My bottom lip is now missing a few layers of skin.

Recently I've seen a guy around fairly frequently. He has a receding mullet and carries a boombox with KQ stickers on it. One day I heard him blasting Warrant or Poison or some other Embarrassment to American Music. Yeah, he's kind of a cliché. He rode with me on my last trip. A woman got on at Lyndale, followed by her boyfriend/husband. As he was getting on, Receding Mullet said to the woman, "Hey, when are we gonna make love?"

B/H politely got in RM's face, then sat down, but they continued to exchange words. B/H's main point was that RM wasn't going to get a woman that way. At one point, RM asked, "Did I ever tell you that I'm into Asian women anyway?" As you might expect, there were two young Japanese women sitting across from him. I hope their English is really bad or they were too absorbed in conversation to notice the rude American across the aisle.

I was somewhat saddened to see my old friend Weed get slammed by the New Patriot, a blog I tend to enjoy.



An old lady told me I was cute today. I'll take it.

I think the only excitement of the day, besides the two accidents I drove by, was the guy on the 17F (F stands for Fails to get you where you want to go) who didn't speak English. He wanted to get to a McDonald's, but I had no idea which one. I called Kassie to help translate. I think we all got him headed in the right direction.

I mentioned that the new pick is a system pick. Two of the guys at the garage with whom I have real conversations, Alem and Gary, are leaving Nicollet and going to East Metro. Bummer. At least Operator Driver 2165 is back!



When I checked in at work this morning, the dispatcher told me that someone else had my work. I immediately thought, "drug test again?" There was something wrong, but he didn't know what it was and neither did I. He looked around at some of his other work information and couldn't figure anything out. So he gave me bus 509 and sent me on my way. I got out to bus 509 and saw that the other guy (one of my dad's former students) was pre-tripping the bus and he had my run number up in the window. huh.

I went back in to talk to the dispatcher about it. He'd looked around a bit more and discovered that the guy in my bus had pulled up the wrong paddle (schedule) and was supposed to be pulling out on another piece of work in half an hour. I was supposed to have bus 509. I went back out to the bay to talk to him and he was pulling out. I followed him outside, but he kept going. He accelerated around the corner and I figured he was gone- pulling out a bit early to visit Super America on his way out. I went back in and got another bus. I passed him on Nicollet on my pullout. He was walking back toward the garage with a confused look on his face. I'm glad he didn't get far. He probably won't be in any trouble.

So yeah, I got randomly drug tested yesterday for the first time ever. I went to the bathroom five minutes before I got to work, so I didn't have to go. But I had to try one time right away. I couldn't go; the ladies called it Shy Bladder. I had three hours to come up with a sample. I drank 35 ounces of water. After about an hour-and-a-half, I was able to produce the goods. The testing lady told me it was a "wonderful color." Uh, OK, thanks.

The greatest part about the random drug tests is how secretive everyone is about it. When I checked in, the dispatcher told me that I didn't have a bus and to go see Tony (a manager). I tried to look at the markup and the dispatcher quickly covered it up with his hand. I figured it must be a drug test, but it's not like it's any kind of secret that they happen.

One time when I drove part-time, I got out to my route and noticed that there was another bus on my schedule. I called Control and they said that there was a mix-up and the other driver, who was filling for me, went back to his garage. I pieced it together that I was supposed to have been tested, but something happened. Maybe the dispatcher missed me, maybe the tester didn't show up. But Control was very vague and mysterious about the whole thing. They wouldn't just tell me what happened.

So anyway, back to yesterday. I saw Tony and sure enough, it was a drug test.

I was the second driver tested, so I had to wait a little while. Then I went upstairs with Tony and the testing ladies (one was getting trained). The main lady was really nice. She explained everything that was going to happen in detail. But she kept kind of tiptoeing around a lot of the things she was trying to say. "I can't tell you what to do, but..." Like that. One time she just wanted to tell me that I should make sure that when I needed to go that I should wait until I had enough for a full specimen. She said I was a good listener. I thought I was a good reader... between the lines.

So I finally asked her what the deal was with all the secrecy and coded speech. She said it was because the union was adamant that drug tests not be abusive or intimidating. Ah. And ha ha! Silly, yet I suppose it's a good thing.

By the time I got done with all that, I only had an hour-and-a-half to drive.

I deadhead (run empty) from 46th and Grand to a parking lot by Stadium Village at the U of Minnesota. I take eastbound 46th Street to 35-W. There are two lanes at the intersection of 46th and 35-W, and there's a sign that says buses can take a left from the right lane. The left lane is a left turn only lane. I usually take the left from the right lane, as it keeps traffic moving better and it lines me up for the bus and carpool entrance ramp.

My turn signal was on, but a flake in a little black car (who was on her phone, of course) thought she was going to whip around me on the left, going straight through the left turn only. Well, I couldn't tell that that was her plan. I just assumed that she's one of the 350,000 people who can't find the turn signal in their car.


Some screeching brakes and honking horns later, I hope she learned a little lesson about buses and left turn only lanes and street signs.



Mel in Iowa City Ithaca sent me a couple photos that she knew I'd enjoy. I know I'm kind of an ass about this stuff, but it pains me to see grammatical and spelling errors in very visible, very public settings- especially if it appears that more than a little work went into making the sign, document, whatever. (I don't really sweat the emails I get, the blogs I read, etc.)

Is that apostrophe showing ownership or a contraction?
[Update: As I started to doze off a couple minutes ago,
it occurred to me that the apostrophe
is for a contraction.
My apologies to the person who made the sign;
I'm sure that was intentional...]

Spelled like our fine president, right?

I also forgot to show you the random jumble of letters and numbers that appeared on my bag on the Saturday Nightmare. I have no idea if this is somehow against company policy. I suppose I could read the manual. Or I could not care too much...




Well, let's see...

There seems to be a technological barrier keeping the pics from me, so I'll just have to tell you that I'm going to be a little more uncle! Corey and Tara are expecting my niece!

Mark and Amy got married Friday night. While Kassie and I did not look quite as good as Mark and Amy did, I didn't take many photos, so you'll get one of us...


Kassie and I went to a wedding yesterday, too. I took a lot of very bad pictures. I realized that the only passable photo I have of the bride and groom is really one of the bride and her new brother-in-law. It was a good time, though. I haven't seen Kassie's friends for quite a while and everyone seemed to be cool. I like them. The bride welcomed me back. heh.


This pigeon got close.

I got behind a Dodge pickup on Thursday. There was a big sticker on the back that said WHY DODGE IT WHEN YOU CAN [RAM] IT!!! The Dodge ram logo was where I bracketed RAM. It was similar to this:


I realize that I'm not all macho and stuff, but does this even make sense? And never mind that there are exclamation points after a question. I get the double meaning and all that, but doesn't one of those meanings seem to indicate that you have an either/or choice? "Duuude! You can either Dodge it or Ram it!" But obviously, that's a false choice, since you're going to do both as soon as you buy one.

I spent most of Saturday behind schedule on the 17 again. Minutes late to my terminals: 4, 9, 15, 17, 24, 23. Then I gave myself a ten-minute break and arrived at the next terminal 34 minutes late. Control filled a trip for me, so I got a twenty minute break downtown and arrived at my last terminal 2 minutes late. Read the next couple paragraphs for a bit of startling news.

I picked my work for the next pick this morning. It was looking kind of ugly. This pick is a system pick, which means we can move between garages. By the time I picked my work, 27 people came to Nicollet, while three people left. So there were 24 people with more seniority picking their work before me than there have been for the last few picks. I did OK, I guess. My work looks a little like this (it's 9-hour work):

Sunday, Monday - off
Tuesday - 17 line, 2:19-5:43 PM
Wednesday - 17 line, 7:16-9:06 AM; 21 line, 12:38-7:27 PM
Thursday - 156 line, 6:31-8:58 AM; 21 and 53 lines, 12:54-6:59 PM
Friday - 11 line, 6:26-11:25 AM; 11 and 587 lines, 2:34-6:11 PM
Saturday - 17 line, 9:32 AM-6:32 PM

So if you think that Saturday work looks familiar, you've got good eyes. Yep. It's the same miserable hell that I'm doing now. It's the same work; nothing's changed. I picked it because I pretty much had to. Everything else that was left on Saturday came in very late (and I won't get Saturdays off for another few years at the earliest). The 8- and 10-hour work was worthless. So I'll be dreading my Saturdays again through December 2. Oh, well...



Today was one of those days where I had to dodge a lot of cars and people who seemingly wanted to get hit. And it's not even Friday. One genius in a BMW thought he should try to take a left on the left side of a bus... that was turning left. Mr. BMW stopped about a foot in front of me. I was waiting to take a left.



A lady wet her pants on my bus this evening, so I had to get a bus change. I felt bad for her and thankfully her issue wasn't acknowledged in her presence.

There's a bus driver who I privately call Happy, because he's always grumbling about something. I've had conversations with him and he's been pleasant enough, so I've always kind of assumed he doesn't really like the passengers. Today I saw him on a layover, sitting at a bus stop chatting with three people who were waiting for the bus. They looked enthralled. huh.



In an effort to save money on fuel costs, M*tro Tr*nsit changed the software on the transmission in some of the buses. I had one of them Saturday. I got the explanation from a mechanic, but I've forgotten the terminology. Basically, if one of those buses is stopped for three seconds, the engine drive disengages and it goes into neutral. When the accelerator is pushed, it engages and we go. I could hear it working, but I didn't notice any real difference in performance. I wish I could remember the number of dollars they expect to save, but it was quite big- I want to say $800,000/year, but it might have been $100,000. Yeah, nice detailed, informative post, dude...

I picked up four old Russian (Ukrainian?) women Saturday on the edge of downtown Minneapolis on an outbound trip. They were going to the Target in St. Louis Park. I picked them up five blocks from the downtown Target. I guess part of the fun is getting out and about. They taught me the Russian word for thank you, I think it was, but I guess I didn't really learn it, because I don't remember it.

Earlier, at around 10:30, I had picked up a woman on her way to work at White Castle. She sat next to me and chatted. Her once-black jeans were grey and she asked me what color I thought they were. She was disappointed when I said grey. Apparently, she was getting some grief from her manager about them. She told me she had to work until 9:00. I picked her up again at about 1:00, going the other way. I guess she got in a bit of trouble and was sent home.

I saw a guy kick a newish Mazda whose driver made the mistake of stopping a couple feet into the crosswalk. The guy then stood in front of the car and berated the driver. I thought it was kind of funny at first, but of course his reaction was more than a bit extreme. Judging a book by its cover, though, I don't think he was the kind of guy who would, or could, respond to a rational discussion about the situation.

I smiled when I saw a gutter punk walking down the sidewalk wearing a t-shirt that said HERE IS A REAL WINNER.

Things seem to be going well with Kassie. The whole situation is plenty weird, I guess, but we are discussing things that we (I) should have been discussing before. We're giving it a couple months to see how it goes. Things get more difficult when she goes back to school next month.

Kassie was dog- and house-sitting over the weekend and I went out there to hang out. It's a nice house with a wooded back yard. We were sitting in a hammock and the dog, an ancient beagle, brought a gift. It was a nasty maggot-filled ex-squirrel. I didn't throw up, but I'm gagging right now just thinking about it.



Minutes late to my terminals on the 17 yesterday: 8, 8, 15, 10, 19, 11, 18, 11, 5. Nine hours of work, total layover (break) time: 8 minutes. I was tired, but not too unhappy.

Andy and Christine's wedding Friday night was fun.


I arrived fifteen minutes late and saw the important stuff. I was in the very back, so since A&C ushered out each row themselves, I sat another twenty-five minutes. I probably could have moved up and chatted with Wyatt, Tina, Ben, Nora, Angie, Corey, Dan and Teresa, but I was happy to sit and relax.

Then we ate and danced. (I didn't dance much.)


This weekend was Skooter Du, a scooter rally. I am somewhat disappointed that I missed all of it. Corey and I went outside and watched the midnight ride go by. So this was the closest I got to the rally:


I have some bus stories, but I'll get to those later.

If I told you that Kassie and I got back together, would you call me a headcase?



According to his t-shirt, #1 Grandpa got on my bus today. He was probably about 20 years old. I knew the kids were doing these things at a very young age, but wow.

The Driver Groupie rode with me for quite a while today. I didn't mind.

I drove the 11 twice yesterday, pretty much for the rush hours. I kind of like it because I take people to work in the morning, then I take many of the same people back home in the evening. I saw a lot of the same people twice yesterday. Some commented on it.

At one point in the afternoon, six young teens got on my bus. They were quiet and well-behaved. When they got off, they didn't leave any litter behind. This is not uncommon. I just wanted to point it out because I've been asked quite a few times recently if I have trouble with the kids on the bus. I really don't have much trouble with them at all.

I have to iron a shirt and try to mend my new jacket (it's vintage) because I'm going to Andy and Christine's wedding tomorrow night. It's at 6:30. I pull in at 6:11, if I'm on time. I couldn't get off sooner. I might miss a few minutes of it.



Looks like some excitement in my 'hood this morning...



Wyatt has sort of warned me off the sushi one can buy at the nicer supermarkets like Lund's and Kowalski's. I usually buy it when the sushi chef is right there making it, so I know it's fresh. But Wyatt says he still wouldn't completely trust the fish. I've eaten a lot of that sushi in the last few years. It's not the greatest sushi, but it's good, and it sits well with me. Until Friday night. I bought it late in the evening. I even questioned a piece of tuna, but ate it anyway. So... I got caught up on some reading at about 4:00 in the morning.

Of course, there's one condition that makes driving bus out of the question, and that's it. But there was no way I was going to call in sick (see last post). I chowed on some Pepto Bismol tablets. I drank a bunch of water when I woke up, then threw it up. I chowed on more Pepto and went to work. My stomach settled down and I had no further problems with it.

Ah, the Uptown Nightmare. My day on the 17 was silly. Minutes late to my terminals: 8, 13, 21, 38, 65, 77, 84. Control sent repeated messages asking for drivers to work overtime to help the 6, 12 and 17 routes get back on time. Those are the routes that were most affected by the Nightmare.

When I'm running late, I become more aware of the things that slow me down. The 17 is known for its wheelchairs and elderly people. I sat through a lot of extra red lights yesterday waiting for old ladies to sit down. But I was in a great mood again and I didn't even care. In fact, once I got twenty minutes down, I totally relaxed. It's very freeing when the notion of getting back on time has been completely destroyed. I assumed that there weren't going to be any call drivers available to do fills, so I figured I was just going to be more and more late as the day went on. I just relaxed and drove.

Of course, when it rains it pours. On my second trip, a lady set her new bottle of laundry detergent on top of her baby carriage. It fell off and broke right in the middle of the aisle. I hadn't even moved yet. Classic line: "It wasn't my fault!" She blamed her daughter (not the infant) because she was busy yelling at her when it happened. Sweet. A (super nice) passenger, not the lady whose detergent it was, cleaned it up the best she could with my limited number of paper towels. Then a little girl dropped her slushie on the floor. The floor was very slippery, which is a huge hazard. So I stopped at a bus stop with a bunch of Employment News and Job Dig papers. I laid them on top of the puddle and it wasn't too bad. I didn't think I'd be able to get a bus change even if I wanted one, so I bought a roll of paper towels at a convenience store downtown and cleaned up most of the rest of the mess. I laid paper towels and more newspapers on it. I got enough detergent off the floor that the rest started to dry and it eventually got sticky.

Later in the day, a couple yahoos got on at 12th Street, near the edge of downtown. They monkeyed around trying to find their transfers, trying to figure out who was going to pay, etc. I sat through a whole green light (and the following red, naturally) waiting for them. One of them was on crutches and he wouldn't sit down. The other one is from New York and he kept trying to talk to me about riding on the back of buses, but he was sitting behind me and I couldn't hear him. They rode with me to 24th and Blaisdell, got off the bus and then suddenly decided to get back on. New York said, "My cousin's on this bus!" He yelled "Wayne!" into the rather crowded bus. No response. "Wayne! Wayne!" Nothing. The light in front of me turned green. On or off, buddy, whatcha gonna do? They left. I made it through the light.

As noted, I arrived at what would be my last terminal of the day 84 minutes late. It was a little after 6:00 and I was in Hopkins. I was scheduled to be done driving at 6:32. I had called Control when I was a couple miles away so they would have time to figure out what they wanted to do with me. I still had two trips to do on my schedule, but I pretty much knew I wouldn't have to do them. I offered to drive in as a 17X, which would have ended Uptown, close to the garage. I hadn't seen many 17s out and about, so I thought there was a chance that there weren't any out that way. After I called Control, I passed two 17s and there was another at my terminal. Control told me to go home. Thanks, lady!

Hey, did you see this study? huh. Interesting; not terribly surprising. (Tip o' the hat to Moses...)

Eric and Nancy went to Canada last week. It looks like they got to experience some driving excitement!


#48 Coach Shawn Meth is coming to the Twin Cities tonight to pick up his wife and daughter from the Amtrak station in the morning! Excellent. He'll stay here. I still haven't unpacked, but he won't care. Besides, my bathroom is clean.

I couldn't get Devo out of my head yesterday:



I forgot to mention that the Weeble rode my bus Wednesday. I don't think she recognizes me, but I'm prepared to tell her that I got fired if she says anything.

It's Uptown Art Fair Nightmare time again! The detour started this morning. I barely had to deal with it.

But you know that 17 on Saturday that I can't stop crying about? It goes through Uptown. I can't keep it on time on a regular Saturday. I have a heck of a day ahead of me tomorrow.

Coincidentally, or not coincidentally, there were a lot of people calling in sick for work tomorrow. I think the dispatcher was nearing his wit's end.

The soundtrack in my head was a cover by the Replacements:



Our radios were on fallback mode again this afternoon, so it's like listening to a scanner. Two people, within an hour of each other, called about their fareboxes! Every single time we're in fallback, Control has to remind us that they want priority calls only and that farebox issues are not priority.

There were an unusual amount of cars on the (bus-and-taxi-only) Nicollet Mall today. I was a bit confused, as the Iowa football team isn't in town. One of my passengers told me it was a (the?) Melaleuca convention. Yippee! Apparently, Melaleuca will cure everything but the inability to read road signs.

It's 9:45, getting sort of close to my bedtime, but I had an ice-cold Coca-Cola at about noon. I'm not even close to tired yet.

The soundtrack in my head was busy today. Kevin Tihista, Brendan Benson, the Replacements, Magnetic Fields, Jason Falkner.



Soundtrack in my head this morning: The Bangles - "Walking Down Your Street"



It's really, really hot. And humid. I could really, really go for a Pimm's Cup right now, but alas, I have no Pimm's. Or sparkling lemonade. Or cucumber. Or ice.

mmm... Pimm's Cup

I got my scooter. Let the worrying re-commence. I drove to Scooterville after work, paid ($233.54), locked up my scooter outside, and drove back home. Then I caught a bus back to Scooterville and drove home again.

When it's hot like this, it's fun to be on call, because buses have problems with the heat. I enjoyed making multiple bus changes on days like this a couple times. My bus held up just fine this evening.

Soundtrack in my head today: Badfinger - "Come and Get It"



I planned to pick up my scooter today. I forgot to call Bob at Scooterville before I left, so I called him from the bus. He said that he needed to check with Stephen to make sure it was ready to go and Stephen doesn't get there until noon. It was about 10:30. Fortunately, I was two blocks from home.

Brendan Benson, one of my all-time favorites (yeah, I know I have a lot of those) played the 400 Bar last night. When I agreed to go to the baseball game (not that it was actually an either/or choice- I could have easily walked to the 400 after the game), I had already decided that my hatred for the 400 Bar overwhelmed my love for BB. Besides, I saw him last time he was in town. At the 400 Bar. It was a solid show, but I was also beginning to solidify my severe dislike for the venue.



I haven't delivered the check yet, but I bought Nora's 1994 Toyota Corolla today. My 1993 GMC Sonoma's heater core died, so I figured I should get something else before the cold weather gets here. So if you know someone who wants a 1993 Sonoma with no heater core, balding tires, minor electrical issues, no A/C and TWO BRAND NEW HEADLIGHTS, let me know. It'll probably go pretty cheap...

Wyatt, Tina, Corey, Angie and I watched a relatively boring Twins loss this evening.

Johan Santana lost.



July '5