December '3

12/30

"It's hard to walk, I bet," said the lady to the one-legged man.

Here's an article about the contract. (Apologies if registration is required.)

12/29

Corey, Tara, Cayden and my grandparents were here for Christmas. Of course, I worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I got my birthday (the 26th) off and I had picked Saturday and Sunday off so that I'd have some time with everyone. Well, I got forced on a hold down and I had to work Saturday and Sunday. Except that, amazingly enough, I got sick.

Corey got tickets to see the Gear Daddies, a regional favorite in the early '90s, who were playing the second of five reunion shows at the Fine Line. So my dad watched Cayden while Corey, Tara and I went downtown Saturday night. A guy from Iowa City, Kelly Pardekooper, opened. I saw him at least once when I lived there, and always had a favorable impression of him. I really liked him Saturday night. The Gear Daddies were never among my favorites, but I like them, and I really like a few of their songs. So overall, I enjoyed the show. Added note: Corey predicted a crowd full of guys our age who were in frats when they were in college. Given the behavior of many of the guys in front of us, I think he was probably correct. I kind of thought after all these years it might not be so obvious...

Sunday we (bus drivers) voted on the contract that we've been offered. I'm quite sure it will be overwhelmingly rejected, as it is, in the words of one of our officials, "punitive, concessionary and a pile of crap." No one seems to have an idea what happens next.

12/27

I drove the 23 on Christmas. The 23 is slow on a regular day. I made a chart to help you visualize my day:

Yeah, that says 37 people in 10 trips. I ran out of things to look at and do to amuse myself after about four hours.

12/26

35. Thirty-five. I'm not really dealing with that very well. How predictable; how banal.

12/25

Feliz Navidad...

12/23

10:00am call. I drove three hours on the 21, then three hours on the 35K. The 35K is an express route that runs between downtown Minneapolis and the retail area near 494 and France. Most importantly, it goes through the Southdale mall area.

So there I was- driving downtown, down 35W, across 62 (Crosstown) and then through the whole Southdale area during rush hour on the day before Christmas Eve. It was your basic bus driver's nightmare. I was 20 minutes late most of the night. But I didn't get too tense. It's just more overtime...

The 35K has recently been adjusted to take a slightly different route around Southdale. As I took a left onto 66th (the new way) instead of going into Southdale to take the perimeter road (the old way), a lady behind me said, "Can I ask why we didn't go into the mall?" And it probably goes without saying that she said it very unpleasantly. I answered, "This route has been changed." And you might think, as I did, that would be the end of the conversation. But you and I would both be wrong.

Lady: "The other drivers all go into the mall."
Me: "Really? All of them?"
L: "Yes, all of them."
M: "Well, if they do, they missed the update and they're wrong."
L: "I doubt it. They're all wrong and you're not."
M: "I assure you, this is the way we're supposed to go. Would you like to see my map?"

At that point someone finally told the lady that we were, in fact, going the correct way and that the 35K had, in fact, been changed.

There are two additional things to note here:
1) The stop at the mall is the same as it always has been. We just take a slightly different way to get there.
2) The lady got off the bus about six blocks south of Southdale.

I just told this story to Mark and he asked, "50-year-old white lady?" And he was correct.

Again, I'd rather be driving the 18 and dealing with drunks than doing express work and dealing with people who like to complain for the hell of it.

12/22

I drove an afternoon stub this evening, then I was on call. While I was on call, I heard a little bit more about the possible strike from a guy who's about to retire. He's been through four strikes and he told the Nic Wit and me how these things tend to go. It seems that the smartest time for us to strike, if it comes to that, would be February 1 or March 1. I have no idea if that's how it will go down, but I don't think it looks good for us.

Wyatt turned 30 Saturday. He looks a lot older now. I went out to dinner with Wyatt, Tina, Ben and Nora. Yep, once again, I was the fifth wheel. (I hadn't planned to go, but they invited me at the last minute.) Ah, well. They swore they didn't mind and we had a good night. I had a musk ox ribeye. It was really tasty- a lot like beef, but slightly tougher and gamier. After dinner, we played darts. I'm no cricket superstar, but I can hold my own. Must've been time well spent learning to play at Lucky Shooters (?) in Sioux Falls.

Yesterday I drove into the heart of 'Sconsin to get my grandparents. Then I drove back. It was an easy drive and it'll be nice to have them around for a week or so.

Last night, Wyatt and Tina had some people over and we played games.

12/19

I went out on the 18 today. It was kind of nice to drive a bus after three days off. I've been sitting in front of this computer trying to get some of this site stuff figured out, to little success.

Here's a snippet of news from the Star Tribune that was hanging up at work today:
M*tro Tr*nsit bus drivers will vote Dec. 28 on a contract offer that has not been endorsed by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005.

So it looks like a strike could very well be in my future. I'm quite sure the main issue in question is benefits. Our governor, hallowed be his name, thinks we have it too good. I simply cannot fathom the nature of this argument. Why is it "oh, they're getting way too much" and not "gee, why doesn't everyone get that kind of coverage?" It's almost enough to make me want to move to a First World country.

People lie to me all the time when they get on the bus. "I don't have any money." "I just got out of jail." "I just got this transfer.' etc. etc. So when a guy got on my bus and replied to my hello with, "Hi. Sun shinin' today," you can understand that I was a bit suspicious. But I looked out my window and, sure enough, the sun was indeed shining.

A Scottish guy rode my bus today. And how did I know? He was decked out from head to toe in some pretty serious Traditional Scottish Wear. Furthermore, he talked like a Scottish guy. Sort of. At first, I sort of thought he was putting me on. His accent sounded kind of like a Minnesotan trying to do Scottish but getting it mixed up with his Ole and Lena voice. But if he was faking it, he faked it all the way from Richfield to downtown Minneapolis while he conversed with another guy. Plus, he said "schedule" like "shedjewel."

And in very exciting news, at least for my mom, my dad finally saw me while I was driving the bus. We were headed north on Nicollet in Bloomington. He was right in front of me and got out of his Explorer to wave at me. Maybe now he'll keep his eyes on the road every time a bus gets near him.

12/17

After some concern, speculation and several visits to various doctors, my mom's doctor confirmed that she has mono. It's kind of a relief, as one doctor was sure that she didn't have it. Until we found out that she did, I imagined all kinds of scary possible diagnoses. So while it sucks, at least it won't suck for long.

My Christmas cards are just about ready to go out. And I've been slowly getting some content on the rest of this site. I think I'll get more done tomorrow, unless I go to my parents' house to help them get ready for their holiday visitors.

12/15

The Force is not with me. I was on 2:30 call today and the call came my way. "CJ, you will drive the 21 tonight and you will like it."

So I did, and though I'm not sure I really liked it, it went pretty well.

I caught up to two other 21s by 27th Avenue on my first trip to St. Paul. That's about thirty minutes into the trip. I had about eight people on my bus. The other 21s were full. I followed one of them all the way to downtown St. Paul. He got to the terminal in time to use the restroom, smoke a cigarette and leave eight minutes late. So I had him in front of me the whole way back to Uptown (Minneapolis). That's kind of a lousy scenario, especially if you're the bus getting swamped. He was keeping up just well enough to keep me right on time. So it was nice to be on time, but I couldn't get in front of him and help him out. It was rush hour and I drove an empty bus for fifteen minutes. That never happens.

A seventh-grade kid rode with me for a while. He's in the most advanced seventh-grade math class at his school, but he's still being taught things he already knows. And his parents won't give him free access to their computer. So we tried to figure out a way for him to crack their password.

I have the next three days and five of the next six days off.

12/15

I was out late last night on the cakewalk we call the 6.

For the first three hours I was out, our radios were in Fallback mode. I think we go into Fallback when they are updating the software. The best thing about it is that we hear all the calls to and from Control over the loudspeaker. We didn't get a lot of excitement last night, but I did learn that a 4 had broken down. That information may have been somewhat helpful to a couple of people on Hennepin Avenue who were wondering where it was.

A condo/loft/townhouse (?) project going up near NE 2nd Street and 1st Avenue North has a big banner that says: Custom Homes for Custom People. Does that make sense? Custom people? Maybe that's a common phrase that I've never heard and it does make sense and I'm missing it. Maybe I want to be a custom person and I don't even know it.

There's a woman I see around town who went to my church and/or Camp Ojibway. I've seen her at a couple shows (Kathleen Edwards and maybe Wilco) but I've never talked to her, as she is a few years younger than me and I don't know her. (I've been tempted to say hello, but I've already freaked out enough women by remembering who they were when they didn't remember me.) The other day when I was driving the 21, I saw her running toward the Ordway Theater in downtown St. Paul. She was fairly dressed up and I assumed she was going to see "Oliver!"

Last night, as I sat at 7th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis, she ran by me again. So I'm wondering if she was simply cold or if she's always late. I guess the next time I see her, I could say hello and ask her.

12/13

I drove the 21 today. If you asked me what I don't really ever look forward to doing, I'd say it's the 21 on Saturday. So I kind of put it on autopilot today. But I only had three drunks and only one of them was bloody. That's pretty good for a Saturday morning. When I drive the 21 on Saturday or Sunday morning, I often get folks who have been up all night and are trying to go home.

A thirty-something male was wearing a cap that said: Caution! Grandmother with Pictures!

Eric, Nancy, Wyatt, Tina and I went to First Avenue last night.

Aside: Minneapolis, late 80s and early 90s- Trip Shakespeare, one of my all-time favorite bands. TS was Matt and Dan (who were brothers), John and Elaine. After that band disintegrated, Dan and John formed Pleasure with Jake. They became Semisonic. Matt made a fantastic solo album and eventually formed the Flops with John.

Last night the Flops with Dan opened for Semisonic with Matt. And they all played quite a bit of Trip Shakespeare. Sadly, Elaine couldn't make it. Nonetheless, it was sweet.

Let the record show that I am a big Matt fan. Admittedly, my opinion is boosted by pleasant one-on-one interaction with him. I'm not so much a Dan fan. His music has gotten increasingly lame and my Minneapolis music friends are not big on the guy. But I've never met him.

However, I really like Semisonic's first two records, an EP and a full-length. Their next one, Feeling Strangely Fine, was pretty good. You've probably heard "Closing Time." Their third full-length pretty much blows. So when Semisonic (without Matt) was on stage and Dan was yapping about relying on their website's bulletin board for input on the night's setlist, I yelled, "GET MATT OUT HERE!"

A woman behind me who I'd seen singing along with Semisonic (and who I'd bet is a girlfriend or wife of someone in Semisonic) gave me a big, "Oh. Shut. IT!" ha ha. Lady, seriously, 99% of the people over the age of 25 were there to see Matt's contribution to the whole thing, so get over it. Matt eventually came out and they made us happy. Here is a picture of Matt rockin' the mic like a vandal, lighting up the stage and waxing a chump like a candle:

Tonight, Mark and I went to The Urban Wildlife to see his friend Leah's band, thoughtcloud. I was pleasantly surprised. They were heavier than I usually go for these days, but I liked it quite a bit. Here is a picture of thoughtcloud. It looks a lot like the picture of Semisonic plus Matt, doesn't it? I'm good like that.

I drove the 17 the other night. I ran into Driver Groupie before I even got started. She told me she was going to ride with me later, but I never saw her again. I got a Christmas card from her today (as did a bunch of other drivers). That was a nice gesture. I'm going to take one of my cards with me for when I see her again.

Then I saw the 17 Lady.

I told her that I kind of expected to see her and one other guy when I drove the 17. She said that the other guy's name is Ralph and that he's in a nursing home now. One day he just disappeared and then she heard that he was elsewhere. I could tell that made her sad. She likened a nursing home to a prison, and who can argue with that?

She told me that even with the big snow storm, her car didn't get towed. I said, "Oh, really?" (I didn't know she had a car.) She said, "Because you're driving it!" Made me laugh, anyway...

Then, about six hours later, I picked her up on her way home. I said, "It's not Sunday, so you weren't at Irv's for spaghetti." After a small pause, she said, "It's Thursday. I had mashed potatoes and gravy."

12/9

It's my mom's birthday today. (Happy birthday, Mom!) I'll head over there this evening.

It's my last day with Duke.

We're finally getting a fairly significant snow. It's really pretty. Unfortunately, it's going to get cold. I guess I knew it was coming eventually, but still.

I believe I was the recipient of an authentic "howdy" the other day. I say that because the guy was wearing cowboy boots.

Here's a little something that I go around with myself about. As I got a green light and pulled away from a bus stop the other day, I saw that a guy was running through traffic from my left to try to get to me. He made several cars brake heavily and I had to brake as well. I waited for him to get to the curb on my side of the street and I took off. My dilemma is this: Do I pick him up? After all, that is what I'm there for. Or do I leave him and refuse to reward his stupid and dangerous behavior? Sometimes I stop, sometimes I don't. Generally, if the person is safely off the street, I'll leave them. But if they are in the middle of the street trying to get on, then I often open the door, as I think it's more dangerous to leave them wandering around in traffic. All I really know is that I get kind of angry with them for their stupid behavior.

I was driving a bus from another garage the other day. It had a new Go-To card reader installed. Here is a photo of our current farebox setup:

You can see that the brushed metal and black finish fits nicely together with the inside of a bus. Now look at the new Go-To reader:

It's a blue plastic football-looking thing. Uh, I know I sound all Queer Eye for the Straight Guy or something, but that thing is U-G-L-Y.

12/7

I'm watching Duke again, so I haven't really been home much.

Duke and I just watched the Vikings play their best game of the year. It was pretty great.

Jamie came to Minneapolis this weekend. She drove up with Fen, who occasionally checks in on the TL and was still willing to talk to me. Fen's son Colin is a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. We went to the art sale there yesterday. We saw some good stuff and Colin showed us around.

Then I drove the 21 until 1:30 this morning. Saturday night on Lake Street is always a treat.

I had to walk up to Lake Street to make relief and before I even got on the bus, the driver who I relieved pointed out a guy to keep my eye on. Apparently he hadn't paid and he was talking at an attractive woman in a friendly, but borderline obnoxious way. The other driver advised me to pass him up if I saw him out there again.

Well, about three hours later, I pulled up to a stop and realized that it was that guy again. So I waved him off and kept going. (And I made an announcement to the bus explaining the move so nobody would call in on me.)

I caught a red light at the next block and the guy ran me down. I asked him (through the closed door) if he was going to pay and he held up a transfer. So I let him on and apologized, but I also told him that I didn't want any crap from him.

Then, about two hours after that, he got on my bus again. This time he didn't want to pay. So I had to badger him a bit and he came up with a bus token, plus some change. It was nice to see him throw a little extra in there. But by extra, I mean the coins, not the cigarette butt that he left blocking the coin slot.

I lost count of cop cars, fire trucks and ambulances that I either saw or had to pull over for.

A transit cop rode with me for a while. While I don't want to sound ungrateful, because I am sincerely glad that they're out there to help us out, they are notorious for riding through the nice parts of the route. And last night was no exception. Of all the cops who have ridden with me on the 21, one has ridden with me between Nicollet Avenue and Cedar Avenue, which is the sketchiest part of the route. The rest have ridden between Nicollet and and Uptown, where we rarely have problems.

I left my notebook at Duke's house; there might be more.

12/4

I ordered my Christmas (holiday) cards today. Unfortunately, I can't find my address book. I think I lost it the last time I cleaned up my TV/computer room.

I saw Little Red Loafers at the intersection of 2nd St. N and 2nd Ave. N this afternoon.

I had another split day, doing rush hour stubs.

As you might know, I'm already a huge fan of our fine, fine, enlightened governor. In a move reeking of political opportunism, Timmy P. is attempting to capitalize on the kidnapping of Dru Sjodin by pushing for the death penalty in Minnesota. Since it's well known that state-sanctioned murder is frequently misapplied, it's not a deterrent, and oh, by the way, it's more expensive than life imprisonment, what, exactly, is the point? Oh yeah, bloodlust. Like I said: enlightened.

12/3

I had a morning run on the 18 today. It was the kind of work some guys wait around fifteen years (or more?) to pick. But my alarm went off at 5:00 this morning, so rest assured I'm not one of those guys.

The last time I rolled over and looked at my clock last night was around 1:00. I spent most of the day just focusing on not hitting anything. I did manage to bump a plastic garbage can on the sidewalk.

As I was driving through Columbia Heights, the outdoor warning sirens went off. Naturally, I assumed that the Iraqi Airforce was overhead. But then I remembered that it was the first Wednesday of the month.

I've had good luck with my buses at Nicollet Garage. But not today. The first bus I drove had bad brakes. So I had to get a bus change. Then the overhead destination sign on my new bus quit working. So I got a third bus.

In other news, my truck made it home without incident.

It looks like Seth is going to be funny on The OC tonight. Guess I'll have to watch.

12/2

I had the day off today, so I helped my dad put up their Christmas tree. Then I came home and worked on this. You can see a delightful picture of Cayden and me on the Look page at Under Ceej (it's a thumbnail).

12/1

Well, I've been threatening a change around here.

I'm still learning this software and everything is still under construction. There are some things I'll probably change, so if you read this regularly and something will really bother you a lot, feel free to tell me about it. I already avoided frames at the request of my friends who check in on their PDAs.

I drove the 21 last night. The Griver Groupie found me. She rode with me as far as her apartment. She was going home to take care of her mom, who slipped on the ice and broke her wrist.

I learned a little bit about steel frame construction from a guy from Massachusetts. He dropped his Rs, which is something I usually only hear on TV.

I enjoyed the 17 Friday. I noticed that, according to a large banner on the back of their restaurant, McDonald's has New "Chicken McNuggets." So is that some kind of admission that they aren't using chicken? No, I think that would read New "Chicken" McNuggets, so I'm not really sure what they mean.

Near the end of my day, I pulled into the 15th Street stop, heading north into downtown Minneapolis. Just as I was getting ready to pull away, a girl jumped on and ran to the back. She grabbed another girl, who was about 12 or 13, and they both went out the back door. I saw the girl who had been on the bus run by my door. Then a mob of people appeared from out of nowhere, all shouting and chasing that girl.

I stopped a couple blocks later at Grant Street and Running Girl jumped on my bus again. I got the green light and left the intersection and a couple of the chasers behind. I couldn't really tell what was going on, but I found myself pulling for Running Girl. We stopped a block later at 13th Street and when it was obvious that we would be there for old ladies and a red light, she jumped off my bus again and took off down 13th Street. I thought that was the end of that.

Five blocks later, a police car pulled in front of me and blocked me in. He told me that a runaway was on my bus. Ah, crap. I felt like a jackass. I told him where she got off and her brother (I assume) took a peek on the bus. Then they were both gone.

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