February '4

2/29

Happy Birthday to Nora, who's seven today! (Or was seven yesterday by the time this goes up.)

I was on the 17 today until I threw up. Yes, very nice. I came home and took a nap and I'm starting to feel better.

I've been driving the 17 quite a bit lately. Quite a few of the passengers have been very vocal in their support of the bus drivers as we probably head into a strike. Many of them really depend on us to get around and sometimes I just feel like apologizing.

You might remember this woman:

We had a difference of opinion on November 11, 2002. Since I very rarely have problems with people on my bus, I sure remember her.

She got on my bus today. And sat next to me. And chatted me up about the strike, Peter Bell, the governor, etc. etc. Either she didn't remember me, or she somehow knew I didn't feel like talking because I wasn't feeling well. She's probably just about that sneaky. But seriously, I'm glad that I probably don't have to be on the alert for her any more.

Last night I was driving the 9 and Neil Young got on board! Well, it sure looked like him. I think, though, that unlike Neil, this guy saw some action in Nam. He was one of two people on the bus and he shouted, "We don't want to take the Ho Chi Minh Trail! You make your mistakes when you're young and foolish." When the other passenger got off the bus, he screamed, "BANG! You're all clear; I'm one of the good guys!" Then he told me that he thinks bus drivers should get combat pay. And that he'd rather be a soldier in combat than a cop or a bus driver. Then he got out.

2/26

I was on 3:50 call today. And I have the same thing tomorrow. I never touched a bus, but I put schedules away.

I think people are starting to get a little tense at work. We don't have a strike date set (as far as we know). Someone said that there's a meeting on Monday or Tuesday. There's talk of striking the 2nd, there's talk of waiting until we get paid on Friday (the 5th).

One guy was all fired up because he remembers, or pretends to remember, Peter Bell, the Chair of the Met Council, when he was a junkie. Bell pulled himself out of it and became a Republican in the process. I can't find the article I read about him, so I'm writing this and hoping that I didn't misread it...

I think he deserves a lot of credit for doing what he needed to do to get out of his mess. (And then capitalizing on it- but hey that's his thing, it's America... whatever.)

What kills me is that he fell into an ideology which is based on the assumption that everyone can do what he did. Bell is a smart, articulate man, that's fairly obvious. He went to college with Barb, the lady who cuts my hair, so it's likely that he was brought up in a family that emphasized education.


Barb did this.

So I don't understand why isn't he smart enough to see what, to me, is glaringly obvious: many people simply don't have the background, faculties or resources to do what he did. And even if they did, I still believe that the system is fundamentally racist, which just makes what he did even more impressive. Agh. I just think the guy's an ass. But he's a prime example of the "I Got Mine, Screw Everyone Else" mentality that I like to whine about all the time.

On a more positive note, I liked the black rice that I had for lunch today and I like my haircut.

2/23

Christina, Wyatt and I were volunteer exhibitors for the Iowa Hospitality Association today at the Upper Midwest Hospitality, Restaurant & Lodging Show. Very Exciting.

Chris, my GM at Court Avenue Brewing Company (in Des Moines) was here. It was great to see him. The second picture is me, Chris and Wyatt.

I was on call today. I can't remember the last time I had call and didn't get handed something involving the 21. Today a driver got sick while he was out driving, so I drove the second part of his work. It was two trips on the 156, which goes by my house.

The one and only great thing that happened was that a guy fed $2.50 in change into the farebox and when it beeped its approval, he looked at me, gave me a thumbs up and said, "All right!" He said it in the same way you might give your approval to a toddler who just made a dookie in the big-boy potty.

2/22

Where to start?

The Star Tribune wrote an interesting editorial yesterday. If you have to log in- name: transit password: librarian. (While you're there, check out Doug Grow's column from today.)

I agree with much of the editorial. But instead of concluding that this is why we need to fight a little, they conclude that we should give in. I think they're missing two important points, one short-term, the other long-term. (I'm also taking into consideration the well-established fact that once workers give something up, it takes a lot of work and several contracts to get it back, if they ever get it back.) If we roll over and play dead on this, as they suggest we do:
1) People with families, especially part-time drivers, will not be able to afford health care. In other words, they won't be able to afford to work there.
2) The job will no longer be a viable, lucrative
career option. It will simply be work. There are a lot of unpleasant potential repercussions from having a workforce of drivers who don't take the job seriously.

I get annoyed when our wages are brought up like that. Um, someone has to make the most. And the second-most. And the third-most. Someone's making the least. And those folks are pointing out Seattle's wages when they're negotiating and asking why they can't make $17/hr. Or whatever.

I've also been hearing a lot of grumbling at work about managements' salary increases. It's true that I pointed those out and it's also true that I am a bit puzzled by them if there's no money, but I absolutely think they deserve a raise. They work, too. I think the Star Tribune editorial is correct in pointing out that we and management should be on the same side vs. the Met Council and the governor.

Anyway,

I found out that Justin, a guy at work, left to be a trucker. Too bad for us. He's a really good guy.

Here's a new one. I got berated for being on time. I think I've mentioned that we can't run early (hot). If we get to a time point ahead of schedule, we're supposed to wait until we're on time. If I get to a time point a minute or more too soon, I announce the wait so that if someone wants to get out, they can. I was running hot on my last trip on the 21 yesterday, so I had to wait at almost every time point between Cedar Avenue and Lyndale. (That's about four miles and three time points.) At Nicollet Avenue, a guy asked in a very unpleasant voice, "How many times do we have to wait a minute?!?" I said, "It's called being on time, guy." But he was angry. I think he was late for work. He started swearing at me, telling me that I should learn how to read a f***in' clock, etc. etc. I had a headache all day and I was tired and it's safe to say that I wasn't very polite in response. I asked him if he'd prefer that I was late. After he swore at me a few more times on his way out the door, I told him he was a dumbass. Maybe if he'd learn how to read a bus schedule... The beauty of it is that it really was funny. One of the two other people on board and I got a good belly laugh out of it, which made me feel a lot better.

I saw the Birdman today. As he got on the bus, he pointed at my work bag. He did his usual meticulous paying routine and sat down. Then, at Uptown Station, the terminal, he pointed at my bag and at me. I said that yes, it was mine. Then he put out his hand as if he wanted to shake hands. So I offered my left hand. He was kind of bent over, looking at the floor. He grasped my hand and put it to his forehead. Then for twenty or thirty seconds, he nodded his head, sort of rubbing it on the back of my hand, while saying (!) "fummm fumm fummmmm fum fummmm fum fum..." Yeah, it was strange. When he stopped, he nodded and smiled, took his bowling ball bags, and took off.

I see my guy Ralph's going to run again. Sweet!

2/19

Ah, yes. Libraries and city buses. All of the great singer/songwriters have drawn heavily upon these two institutions for inspiration. Dewey Phantom was content to simply take his name from them. The embarrassment starts here.

2/19

Here is an article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

I had my taxes done today. My return is about the same amount as one paycheck, so it looks like I could survive a two-to-three-week strike pretty comfortably, assuming the return shows up in a reasonable amount of time. Ugh. I was hoping to use some of it for a new digital camera and a printer. Oh well...

I visited my friends Jen and Jason and their week-old daughter Lilian last night. Lily is lovely.

2/18

News release, Metropolitan Council.

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL - (Feb. 17)

Due to an uncertain labor situation at Metro Transit, the Metropolitan Council today delayed indefinitely the opening of the Hiawatha light-rail line.

The first phase of light rail - service between downtown Minneapolis and Fort Snelling - was scheduled to open April 3. The full 12-mile alignment to the Mall of America will open by the end of the year as required in the Council's funding contract with the federal government.

"The Council simply won't be held hostage by its largest labor union," said Council Chair Peter Bell. "The failure of the union to ratify a new agreement and the prospect of a transit strike make this a painful but prudent decision."

Earlier this week members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 voted down a second contract offer proposed by the Council and authorized union leaders to call a strike, although no strike date has yet been set.

"We, of course, will continue to build the Hiawatha line and aim toward the December opening," Bell said. "If we reach a clarification of the labor situation, we expect to able to open light-rail service as soon as possible thereafter."

The $715.3 million Hiawatha line and coordinated bus service to support light rail were on schedule for the April 3 opening. The realignment of bus service in south Minneapolis also will be placed on hold until the labor situation is resolved.

"We have been frustrated by the union's unrealistic expectations at the bargaining table and now, unfortunately, citizens excited about the advent of rail transit are forced to share our frustration," he said.

Bell said the Council's partners have been notified of the decision. Those partners include: Federal Transit Administration, State of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Airports Commission and Hennepin County.

The Metropolitan Council is the regional planning organization for the seven-county metro area. The Council advocates for vital communities, cost-effective services and a competitive region. It runs the regional bus system, collects and treats wastewater and manages water resources preservation, plans regional parks and administers funds that provide housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. The 17-member Metropolitan Council is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Minnesota governor.

2/17

So what do you think about this? (It's just a heap of rumor and speculation. The strike was a main topic of conversation on my bus today.)

The state of MN will get a huge pile of federal money provided light rail is up and running by April 1 (or 2 or 3?). It will still get the money if there is a labor dispute and there are no train operators.

I heard that they have one train car ready to go. Maybe they have more, but they don't have enough for all the operators to be getting trained on them. I heard Bombardier, the train builder, is to blame. No matter where the blame lies, they will probably not be ready to go by the beginning of April.

I believe that striking workers would make a fine excuse for not being ready. I hope we set a strike date for April 2 or 3.

2/16

I don't know why it would matter on Lake Street, but I assume it was nice and quiet on my bus all day because it's a holiday. I spent the whole day thinking about all of our presidents.

Actually, I did spend most of the day on autopilot. I do that sometimes and it just makes the day go quickly when I don't feel like driving.

The news people were around and on the buses today. I refused to make eye contact with them at Uptown Station. Ninety-four percent of us voted to reject the contract and authorize a strike. So I guess I'll pay a visit to a temp agency or two this week on one of my days off.

The Driver Groupie found me today. I can't even remember the last time I saw her. She saw me when I was pulling out to start my route and then waited for my bus to show up. Fortunately, she was on her way to see Joe, her favorite guy. The puzzler for the day was exactly how she was avoiding Joe, as she told me she was, by going to ride his bus.

The last guy getting on my bus at one stop said my full name and grinned at me. I have to admit that I didn't recognize him. It was Matt, who also went to the University of Sioux Falls College. I think he got there just as I was graduating. But since I had no idea what I should do with my life, I was still kind of hanging around. And I still had a lot of friends there. So we've probably met several times; we knew each other. I knew he was here because my friend Mike stays in touch with him, but I was surprised to see him nonetheless.

Oh yeah, and let's all give a warm welcome back to Driver 2165, aka Your Friend, Kid Tiger, aka Some Desperate Criminal, who apparently got his driver's license back (plus some non-driver's insurance - see? no one else knows what the hell that is, either) so he can be a bus driver again!

2/15

Sundays are supposed to be nice and easy. Uh, well, they usually are. I ran late on two of my six trips on the 17 today. Overall, I guess it was pretty quiet, though.

The 17 Lady climbed aboard on my first trip. Since it's Sunday, she was headed to Irv's for spaghetti. I asked her if she'd taken her granddaughter out to eat lately. She hasn't because her granddaughter has been "naughty." She hasn't been going to school or helping out her grandmother.

One of the developmentally disabled twins who I occasionally see on the 17 rode with me. He seems to have discovered the words "buddy" and "pal." He called me one or the other maybe thirty times in twenty minutes. He was pretty excited about the light rail. "I'm going to ride it. How 'bout you, buddy?" "Have a good day, buddy!"

And one of the old guys who always give me candy gave me a piece of chocolate today. He was on his way to return a Frank Lloyd Wright book that he had been given, but already had.

I missed the union meeting to look over the latest contract offer from the company. The meeting also included a strike vote. I'll have to go to the union office and vote tomorrow. Then I'll be out on the 21 again. Too soon, not ready for that...

2/14

Hmm... Feb 14... seems like there is something about this day... can't remember...

I drove the lovely, lovely 21 today. (If things at the garage had gone the way they were supposed to, I would have been on the 4. But I wasn't upset about that.) I haven't done the 21 for a while. The mighty and capricious gods of transit were not happy with me when that work came my way. Lake Street was a circus this afternoon.

For the first four hours I was out there, I ran three to five minutes behind schedule. On my trip that went all the way to downtown St. Paul, I probably stopped at 60% of the possible stops. So I was tired and getting kind of cranky. I don't know if they noticed that I always use my turn signal and leave plenty of space in front of me or what, but when I got to downtown St. Paul, the aforementioned gods of transit smiled on me. I noticed a strange smell near the Cathedral and I saw smoke as I neared the Xcel Energy Center. My brakes were frying. Thank you, gods of transit. Tomorrow I'll sacrifice another virgin SUV. Anyway, I got a nice half-hour break while I waited for a new bus. I ate my dinner and did some reading. When I resumed driving, it was like a new day.

I drove the 20 yesterday. My favorite African lady rode with me. She doesn't speak too much English, but she always has a big smile for me and wants to know where I've been. She usually gives me a pack of gum or some other candy. Yesterday she gave me two Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars (Fruit & Nut). I'll have to see if Mark likes them...

I drove the 6 Thursday. On one trip, a Downs kid serenaded the whole bus from downtown Minneapolis into Edina. He had his headphones on. Something, something, mountain, something. The Daff does the same thing. Actually, a surprising number of people who aren't developmentally disabled do that. One older lady got on and started to complain, but fortunately, she was sitting next to me so I told her who was singing before she really got worked up.

But later in the evening, I couldn't stop another lady from getting worked up. She saw a Leinenkugel's billboard advertising Big Butt Doppelbock. It says "Are You a Butt Man?" She tried to strike up a conversation about it with another passenger. She failed. She turned to me and said, "We never would have seen a sign like that in my day!" While I agree that the sign is tasteless in an MTV kind of way, I suspected that I didn't want to go where she was going to go. In a desperate move to distract her until we got a green light, I tried a variation of the Dumb Game.* I failed. I said, "Oh, the one that says Eastside Shopping Center?" She pointed out the billboard and repeated the bit about "her day." The light was still red. I tried another diversionary tactic. "Hey! Is that mustard gas?!?" ha. Just kidding. I really said, "But this is your day." She denied that and said something about this country losing its morals. And I thought, yeah, I, too, pine for the good old days when we were moral and our own children made our clothes in sweatshops and the Negroes had their own drinking fountains.

*The Dumb Game is a snotty, malevolent game which can be played in many ways. And it doesn't really have to be snotty or malevolent, because it's fun to play with your friends. The object of the game is to make yourself appear to be ignorant in order to get someone else to correct you or tell you something that is obvious or well-known to everyone present, even if that's just you and your victim. Here are two of my favorite examples:

1) When I was waiting tables at Court Avenue Brewing Company in Des Moines, we served a thick pork chop that took a little longer to cook. We mentioned that to our tables so they wouldn't be surprised by the wait. I'd always tell them that because of the chop, "it might take a little longer... trigonometry, you know."

2) Also at CABC, "Stairway to Heaven" was on the radio in the kitchen. I asked the expediter who it was. He told me. Two days later, he fell for it again with "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

I don't really play as often as I used to. I'm probably a nicer person as a result.

2/10

Well, Bill O'Reilly is pretty much a nonentity in my world, but I'm glad to see that he's a man of his word.

The 4 was beautiful again this evening. I got a couple nice long layovers so I was able to chew my sandwich and get some reading done.

I talked to a barber who had just been fired. Apparently, he asked the woman who owned the shop where he worked why he wasn't getting more walk-ins, since she was taking the appointments. She got mad and tossed him out. Huh. I (sort of) learned about how those folks make their money and I think it would be pretty stressful. As much as I enjoyed waiting tables, I never liked the fact that the money wasn't steady.

Once again, I found myself stewing about Fanci Food. It reminded me of some jeans that a girl in my high school wore. She was a very large girl and one day I noticed that her jeans carried the name Jeans That Fit. I felt really bad for her and I was pretty angry with the Jeans That Fit people for 1) naming their product that and 2) putting it on a label where everyone could read it.

I have the day off tomorrow. I'm going to IHOP with my dad and then going to my parents' house to help decorate my mom's famous cutout cookies. Well, they're famous around the neighborhood. She's making hearts for Valentine's Day, and I'm hoping for a lot, because her mono robbed us of them at Christmas.

I don't think I've mentioned that we have a strike vote scheduled for Sunday. It's pretty clear that the company wants us to strike. They made another offer that's worse than the one we voted down in December. I heard speculation that they would take the money they'd save and put it toward light rail. But who knows? There's a whole lot of speculation around there these days.

To iterate, in addition to unaffordable health insurance, we've been offered the following raises for the next three years, including this year: 0%, 1%, 1%. I have in front of me a list of people in management and their salaries. There are eighteen people listed and thirteen of them got a 5.1% raise this year. Two of them got a 0.3% raise (to $100,314.24) and the rest got raises of 4.6%, 7.3% and 10.3%. Huh.

Incidentally, my dictionary says that reiterate predates iterate by seven years.

2/9

I was dogsitting my old buddy Luke for the last couple days. Yesterday we watched the NHL All-Star Game and the NFL Pro Bowl. Luke slept through most of them, but I enjoyed them both.

I drove the 2 today. I really like that route because a wide variety of people ride it. We go through the 'hood, then to the University of Minnesota.

Connect-the-drunks and lovely co-eds. I saw plenty of both today.

One guy had peed his pants. At that point, I just felt bad for him. Clearly, he needs help. He paid, it wasn't getting on anything, it didn't stink and he didn't stay on long, so I just ignored it.

I was looking for malt vinegar at the grocery store tonight and I found two options: Gilway and Fanci Food. Yes, you read that correctly. It says Fanci Food. You can see the logo under Brand logos on this page. Did you see that the logo also says Premium Gourmet? What are those Wessanen people thinking? It just seems so obvious. Or maybe that they're trying too hard to convince me of something.

OK, so sometimes I get riled up about the little things. But the name and logo of the Fanci Food malt vinegar annoyed me so much that I bought the Gilway. It's diluted with Artesian well water to 5% acidity. Don't care, as long as it tastes good on fish and chips.

2/8

The NicWit and I were just talking about how we haven't seen much of the 4. Then I drove it Friday and yesterday and I think maybe again tomorrow. I got forced on a hold down this week. I have today and Wednesday off, but the work looks pretty decent, so I don't mind.

I really like the 4. Some of the trips take an hour and a half. It makes the day go more quickly.

Early in the day yesterday, a young kid got on with his sister. She went to the back, but he sat next to me and peppered me with questions. They were headed to the library. I asked him if he was going to check out some books. He was going to look for cartoons on the Internet.

Later a kid named Gunnar sat next to me. He's twelve. He told me that he had to research a career that he was interested in for a school project. He thought maybe astrologer. He meant astronomer and he was kind of embarrassed when I asked him about it. He said he was also thinking about being a lawyer. Then he said that he'd probably end up in the army. I asked him if he liked being told what to do, and he said he didn't, but he thought maybe he'd be the guy I'd read about in the paper who did something heroic. He shook my hand and introduced himself as he got off the bus and reminded me to watch the paper.

My dad's birthday was Thursday. My mom made wild goose stroganoff and a birthday cake. We played cards.

Tina's birthday was Friday. I joined her and some other people for dinner, then we went back to Wyatt and Tina's house for a game. However, before we got to the game, Tina opened a gift that might prove to be the end of civilization as we know it. It was the American Idol karaoke machine. Pure, unadulterated idiocy ensued.


Here's the machine, a quality photo of Tina and Angie singing, and the microphone.

Poor, poor Wyatt...

2/4

In case you missed it, here is an Important Bus Driving Rule: Don't back up a bus unless you absolutely have to, and then only if you're sure it's clear.

I made relief on the 21 yesterday, headed toward Uptown. I picked up a little old lady at the last stop before Uptown Station and was answering her questions and getting her fare as I pulled into the drive to the station. I looked up and saw a semi headed my way. The drive is a one lane one-way and that bozo was headed out the wrong way. So I backed my bus out on Fremont Avenue.

That was the beginning of a surprisingly interesting night. I didn't expect a Tuesday night to be much fun, but it was relatively exciting and I was pretty busy. I think people were happy to get out after all the snow.

I had a group of kids, mostly girls, who inflated condoms and decorated the back of the bus. I was busy listening to some guy talk about guns and driving, so I missed a lot of it, but when I noticed it, I told them I expected them to clean it up. I pointed out that I didn't think their mothers worked for the bus company and that I knew they wouldn't want anyone besides their mommies cleaning up after them. One girl made a half-assed attempt at cleaning up. So when they got off, I told them that I haven't been paid to baby sit for a while and that I'd clean up for them. But really, I wasn't mad at all. I occasionally used to be one of those dumb kids that someone had to clean up after. Besides, the condoms were flavored and scented, so the back of the bus smelled kind of good.

I had numerous drunks on the bus last night. The best one was a guy who got on and immediately wanted to know where the comment cards were. He was hoppin' mad because the previous bus driver had passed him up. He wouldn't shut up. He kept saying he hated bus drivers, then saying that wasn't right, then he was babbling about how he wasn't racist (he was African-American), but he hated Somalians, just like the cab drivers, etc. etc. um, etc. At that point, I assumed the other driver had recognized him when he pulled up to the stop. Just when I thought it couldn't get better, a drunk Latino guy walked up to where the angry man was sitting. He shook his hand, they spoke, briefly hugged and babbled together for a few blocks until they both got out at Cedar Avenue.

If you've seen me, you can tell that I don't need to be eating candy bars. But when I'm out late, I usually eat some chocolate to help keep me awake. I'm quite sensitive to caffeine and there's enough in a small amount of chocolate to keep me awake and not enough to make me vomit, which a nice cup of coffee will do every time. I noticed a new candy bar in the machine at the garage: Hershey's S'mores. And though I don't really fit the target demographic, I'd have to say I really liked it. It's a small candy bar, which I found to be the right size.

2/3

Eric travels for pay. A hotel in San Francisco gave him a SF Giants baseball cap. When I saw him at Nancy's house, he was wearing it. If you saw him right now, you'd see that he's wearing it. He probably wears it to bed.

A few days ago, he walked into a hotel in Vegas and saw Tommy Lasorda. Eric smiled and nodded and Mr. Lasorda said, "Get ridda that hat!"


Fletch hates Tommy Lasorda.

2/2

Some days I almost feel guilty that I'm getting paid to do what I do. Today, I feel like I need a raise.

It snowed quite a bit, which makes everything difficult. But it's pretty easy to drive a bus on snow, especially when it's fresh. I have to admit that I take some satisfaction in beating a car through an intersection.

I drove the sleepy 23 for about six hours today, then the 2 for a couple more. I got out to my bus this morning and pre-tripped it (checked the tires, lights, mirrors, etc.) as usual. The last thing I checked was the lift. I've mentioned that I have to cycle the lift to make sure it works. My lift went out and got stuck. So I had to call the dispatcher who called a mechanic to check it for me. The mechanic told me I couldn't use the lift, so I got a new bus. At the end of the pre-trip inspection on my new bus, I found that, once again, the lift didn't work. So I got a third bus. It was a good bus, but I arrived at Uptown Station fifteen minutes late to start the trip. I had a thirteen-minute layover on the other end. So I was late for the second trip, too. Ah, well...

Later, I was supposed to make relief on Franklin Avenue on the 2. But someone decided that all the reliefs were going to take a bus and pull out to their relief points. That was good news for me (I avoided having to catch a bus to Franklin) and a small logistical nightmare for the dispatcher, who suddenly had to come up with a lot more buses than he thought he was going to use.

I was pretty lucky, really. The routes I drove were kind of slow. Even so, it takes quite a bit of energy to drive all day in the snow. I was really tired at the end of the day. And the fact that I pulled in around 10:45 last night and had to be back to work by 6:45 this morning didn't help anything.

A light-rail train passed in front of me again today. I was traveling eastbound on 38th Street with about a dozen passengers. As I approached Hiawatha, where the light rail runs, I saw that the white emergency vehicle light was flashing. I could tell by the lights that I would have a green light long enough to stop at the light rail tracks and still get through the intersection, but I couldn't see an emergency vehicle. So I waited a little while to see if it would show up. Instead, I saw a light rail train headed my way. So then I knew I had to wait. I thought back to the Right to Know meeting the other day and I couldn't recall the white light being part of the light rail equation. Soon enough, the red lights started to go off and I knew the gates would be coming down to let the train pass. I was momentarily confused. Where was the gate on my side? "Oh, crap!" I said it nice and loud. The gate was next to me. I slid past it when I stopped. It came down and hit the top of my bus and kind of bounced on it as it tried to go down. Important Bus Driving Rule: Don't back up a bus unless you absolutely have to, and then only if you're sure it's clear. No time for that. I put the bus in reverse, honked my horn and hoped everyone behind me would move. I guess they did because I didn't hit anything. The gate hit my bus a few times before I got out of its way. The train went by and everyone on board was looking at me. (They're still in training.) I waved and gave them a thumbs-up. Fool...

I think I've mentioned that when I find something for the lost and found, I tag it and turn it in. I have the option to request that the item get returned to me if no one claims it. I discovered early on how much fun it is to put someone else's number on something and ask for it back. I happened to be around for the return the first time I tried it, and I really enjoyed the look on my fellow part-time trainee Paul's face when the dispatcher handed him some size-fifteen (well, huge) women's sandals.

I haven't told many people that I do this. When I got to work yesterday, the dispatcher handed me these very pretty gloves:

After a second, I recognized the handwriting on the tag as the NicWit's. And he happened to be sitting right there enjoying the confusion on my face. Here is the NicWit modeling the gloves:

I'll be enjoying the 21 tomorrow evening.

January '4