March '5

3/31

Well, I see Terri Shiavo's body finally died. That was one ugly, ugly circus, and I hope it's over. But the clowns sure were funny, weren't they? Special thanks to the Pachyderm Clown Troop leaders Tom D., Bill F., Jeb B., and George B. for demonstrating exactly what it means to be the party of small government, states' rights, and sanctity of marriage.


 

3/31

It's 3:30 in the morning and I just got home from work.

It was 12:30 and I was just about done with the 21 and done with my day. Control sent a text message requesting a volunteer to get some overtime as an S-100, fire bus. I don't have to work tomorrow and I could use a little extra money, so I offered to do it.

There was a fire in an apartment building across the street from Loring Park, on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. A bus is a great way to provide a warm shelter for the people who can't go into their building.

So I parked my bus about half a block away from the excitement and waited. A handful of people came by. Some stayed longer than others. It sounded like everyone had pretty much scattered by the time I got there.

Three apartments were destroyed and three sustained heavy water damage. No one was hurt.


 

The 4 was easy and the 21 was busier than I thought it would be, since it was cold and rainy all evening.

On my last trip west, a very, very charming young woman got on my bus in St. Paul. She was with her boyfriend (I assume). As they made their way to the back of the bus, she shouted at him, "Move it, I don't want to be standing when the motherf*cker starts moving!"

I said, "That's not a very nice thing to call your driver." ha. She explained that she meant the bus, but I knew that. She may have been drinking, but she wasn't drunk. As soon as they sat down, she started in on her boyfriend about who knows what.

When we got to Selby and Dale, I was a couple minutes early. She asked if she could get out and smoke. I said sure, remembering the cigarette that they had finished five minutes earlier, just before they got on the bus. So they stood on the sidewalk outside the bus and smoked.

I started to read the Sports Illustrated that someone left on my bus yesterday. I did my best to ignore the hacking and splatting coming from outside of the bus. But after about forty-five seconds, I couldn't ignore it any more. I looked out to see that lovely, lovely woman standing over a chunky pile of vomit. I thought it was especially nice of her to be sure to puke right in the middle of the sidewalk, where everyone will surely enjoy it tomorrow. She mumbled something to her boyfriend about having eaten too much.

It was time to go. I asked her if she was going to be OK, if she was going to heave Steve on my bus and she said she wouldn't. Thankfully, she didn't. And she didn't stop bitching at her boyfriend.


 

3/29

I put my scooter back together yesterday and Kassie and I went out for a while. We visited her friend Mollie; it was Mollie's birthday. Mollie's husband Trevor joined us after he got off work. It was good to see them.

Kassie's going to buy a Stella, too. She opted for the mint green one.

I think my work is going to be just fine. I had another good day today. But good days don't make for interesting reading. Sorry 'bout that.

Did I ever mention that I want to buy a tiny house? Well, I do.


 

3/26

Our radios were on fallback mode today, so we heard everything that anyone told Control, and we were only supposed to call if we had a priority call (breakdown, medical emergency, etc.). It was a pretty slow day. As usual, someone called in with a farebox problem, Control reminded everyone not to call about farebox problems, then not five minutes later, someone else called in with a farebox problem.

Oh, and bus 362's CHECK ENGINE and STOP ENGINE lights were coming on. I was not terribly surprised.

It was a fairly typical day on the 18. I was about seven minutes late coming up from the southernmost terminal, Driver Groupie got on board for a few blocks and Waldo the Can Crusher threw cans under my tires.

I'm halfway expecting to pay a visit to my manager when I get to work on Tuesday.

I was driving south on the 18D, which takes a left off of Nicollet Avenue on to American Blvd (née 79th Street). There were two people on my bus, a woman and a man. The terminal is a short distance, and another left turn, from the turn off Nicollet, and people usually get off at the stop right after the turn. I was really hoping that these people were going to get off there because there's a Holiday Station store where I could use the restroom. And I really needed to use the restroom. As I neared the corner, I was thinking "Pull the cord, pull the cord, pull the cord," but neither of them did. As we passed the stop, the bell rang. I had committed to the middle lane and was working myself over to the left lane to make the left turn into the terminal. I heard the woman say, "What? Why didn't he stop?!?" I asked if she wanted that last stop and she started in on me. I pulled it, I ride this every... blah, blah, blah. I told her that she needed to let me know before we drove by the stop. She told her friend that she was going to call about me, and I saw her writing down the bus number. Ah, whatever.

I thought it was interesting that whoever was responsible for this bag was considerate enough to put their peanut shells into a bag and not leave them scattered all over the floor, yet inconsiderate enough to leave that bag lying in the middle of the aisle.


 


 

3/24

I had one of those odd moments yesterday when I turned off my computer, walked out of the house, started my truck and the song that I was just listening to was on the radio.

I watched a suit play his GameBoy at a stoplight. I'm sure this is relatively common, but it really struck me how that guy couldn't just sit at a stoplight. He needed more stimulation than the traffic and (most likely) his radio had to offer. Hello, MTV Attention Span.

I drove the 4 for about five hours, had an hour break, then the 21 for about five more hours. The 21 didn't disappoint.

I had forgotten how nice the 21 is after 8:00 or so. That line is nonstop most of the day, but the passenger load and traffic both settle down at approximately the same time and it's really quite pleasant.

Of course, there are plenty of drunks to deal with. One lady babbled at me from 36th Avenue to Bloomington Avenue. I had to continually remind her that she wanted to get out at Lyndale, but she changed her mind when we got to Bloomington. Another guy took one minute and forty-five seconds to make his way off the bus.

But the most entertaining exchange took place between perfectly sober people.

A thirtysomething lady and her two kids ran across the street against a red light to get to me. They had been at the Midway Target and had a bunch of bags. She sat near the front, I think partly because of the bags and partly because of the thug-types in the back of the bus.

She seemed pretty pleasant. She noticed and laughed at one of my semiprivate jokes. She told her kids that she didn't care what the people in the back of the bus were saying. And no, she didn't dislike them. She didn't know them so she couldn't dislike them. She just didn't care what they were doing. Anyway.

As we approached Summit, right by the Cathedral on our way into downtown St. Paul, an older lady with a walker bolted across the street in front of me to catch me. She was really moving.

She wanted the lift, so I put it down for her. When she got into the bus, she asked, though not very nicely, the woman with the Target bags to move them so she could sit in the front seat. Now, there were other seats within a few feet that were open and I still had to stow the lift. She could have very easily gone to another seat. As already noted, she might have been unable to climb steps, but she could move very well once she was on a flat surface.

The younger lady was annoyed. They started to argue. "You don't talk to me." "You don't talk to me!" The kids got into it. "You don't talk to my kids!" " You don't talk to me." "Nobody talk!" They finally both shut up after a couple minutes.

It was kind of funny, really.

Then, on the way out, the younger lady pointed at the older one, who swatted at her hand and told her not to point. They kind of slapped each others' hands and the younger lady said, "You get off this bus and I'll beat the sh*t out of you. I'll beat the f*ck out of you!"

Wow. Thankfully, she took her kids and walked away without further incident.

The older lady asked me why I didn't say anything. I told her they were both adults and I was hoping that they would start to act like it. I didn't mention that I found the whole thing funny (until the threats, anyway...). The truth is, my natural tendency to pick a side was confused by a few things. The younger lady laughed at my jokes and initially demonstrated reasonable behavior to her kids. The old lady was elderly and had a walker. They were both minorities. What's a guy to do? Drive the bus. That's what a guy's to do.


 

3/23

A couple people pointed me to this giant pile of mp3s from artists showcased at SXSW. I'm on song #40 out of 733 or so. So far, I'm finding it pretty enjoyable.

I can't remember whatever it was that I thought I should write about yesterday.

Maybe I thought I should mention that out of the last six times I've driven a bus, out of the hundred or so (?) buses available at Nicollet Garage, I've driven bus number 362 three times. It's beginning to feel like my own personal piece of junk.

I'll be out until 1:00 tomorrow morning on the 21. It might be fun. I haven't driven that late in a long time.


 

3/22

Today was the first of my two early days this week. The work was really nice. I drove the 114 this morning. That's a U of M route, so everyone is pleasant. Then I got a two-hour break. I ran some errands and took a nap. My afternoon work was also decent. One round trip on the 21, followed by a quick (fifteen-minute) trip on the 39, then a long trip on the 146.

After work, Eric and I went to the 5-8 Club for a burger. Nancy met us there. Now I'm really tired. I think I have a few things to write about, but I'll do it tomorrow.

It's my grandpa's 92nd birthday today. Pretty good for a guy with a bad ticker!


 

3/21

Well, I made it home safely. We had a great time in Oregon. Here's the rundown.

I worked Saturday and it went well. I thought the long day might be more brutal, but I had a few trips where my leader (the bus in front of me) was getting killed and keeping me on time.

I was looking at the SkyMall catalog on the plane and this item caught my eye. Naturally, I thought, as we are clearly supposed to, that this thing looks like a Segway. Then I read, "Amazing new technology keeps you balanced upright..." I was trying to figure out how this company had worked around the patent for the Segway. Then I looked at the picture more closely. Ha ha. Amazing old technology.

 

(The truth is their "amazing new technology" is a thing called the Balance Calibrating System that keeps you from falling forward.)


 

3/12 - 3/18

I'm in Oregon. Be good.


 

3/10

The mighty and capricious gods of transit must have missed (or ignored?!?) my sacrificial gift of a virgin Hummer tire. They have been especially unkind lately. My day on the 2 was more difficult than usual today, and it yielded no interesting stories. I'm pretty glad that it's the last time I'll drive it for quite a while. The new work pick starts Saturday.

Yesterday was eventful, though. Kind of.

I start(ed) my Tuesdays on the 21, with a trip to St. Paul and back. I usually make relief at Blaisdell and Lake. But I had to pull out and wait, which meant that there was something wrong with the bus that was out there. The driver who I normally relieve pulled that bus into the garage and her passengers transferred to my bus, which I pulled out of the garage.

I didn't really like that bus much, and perhaps the M&CGoT knew it. My LOW AIR (FRONT DOOR) light came on at the top of the hill on the way into downtown St. Paul. I was hoping to make it into the heart of downtown, but by the time I got to the Xcel Energy Center, I didn't have enough air pressure to safely drive the bus anymore. The brakes need plenty of air. So I waited for a new bus.

A mechanic from East Metro garage brought me a new bus. He told me that he was going to try to drive that bus back to East Metro. I sort of told him I thought he was uh, brave, and went to get my new bus ready to go. I called Control and asked them where they wanted me. They told me to get turned around, go out of service and try to get to Selby and Dale on time. They actually got someone to fill my work out of downtown!

So I was on my way when Control called again. The supervisor there told me that he "didn't trust" the bus I was driving, something about the electrical system, and that I should just drive the bus that the guy doing the fill was driving. OK, that's cool. Two hours and three buses later, I made my way back to Minneapolis. The rest of my day was pretty uneventful.

Infidel Cowboy (remember him?) and I go 'round and 'round in personal emails pretty frequently. I'm not good at arguing, and I mostly don't like it, but he's an old friend, so it's kind of fun. Anyway, he once asked me if I couldn't like, or maybe it was give credit to, a politician just because they are a Republican, or something to that effect. My defense was that Minnesota has a history of moderate Republican leadership, and that I thought several of those individuals probably did less damage than they could have...

Anyway, I haven't really made any secret of my extreme dislike for the current crop of Republicans in this state, who are very much a smaller version of the jokers in Washington. It was telling when Elmer Anderson, a former governor and lifelong Republican, wrote an op-ed piece for the Star Tribune endorsing John Kerry and voicing his dismay at the way the Republican party has gone.

I'll get to the point. The current issue of City Pages has an excellent interview with former Senator Dave Durenberger, also a lifelong Republican, who does a nice job of summing up what's so troubling about the new Republicans.


 

3/9

I met Jimmy Crack Corn last night (and he don't care). At least that's how he introduced himself about fifty times...


 

3/6

As one commenter noted, we were on strike last year at this time. A guy at the bus stop the other day asked me how I feel about how we came out of it. And I really didn't have much to say. The contract isn't good, but as I told that guy, for the most part, the only people getting good deals in this country are the ones making the contracts. (But it helps to be unionized.) Which reminds me...

The All-Star Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum (warning: that link is guaranteed to offend someone...), who believes "that strong families are the foundation of society," introduced some really awesome legislation that will certainly help waiters, construction workers, and a whole lot of other (straight, even) people who have... families. The Senate will probably vote on it tomorrow. Tell me the one again about how the conservatives aren't waging class warfare...

I've been driving the 46 on Saturdays since last June (?) when it was created. Yesterday was probably my last day to drive it for a long time. I think the word is out that it's nice work. So it was my last Saturday to stop in at A Baker's Wife and get a donut. That made me a little sad. But that donut was excellent, as always. Just this picture makes my mouth water. I think what makes me happiest about their donuts is the texture. The outsides are just a little crispy and the insides are really moist and flaky. I love good donuts more than almost everything.


The Last Donut
(from a Baker's Wife on Saturday...)
 

And I swear I saw Chris Mars crossing the street at 50th and Vincent. One day I hope to own an original.

I have a question, and it's not rhetorical. Is it pretentious to ride a unicycle around town? I mean, unless you're juggling, what's the point? Doesn't it take about twice the effort to ride one of those things than to simply walk? The other day I saw a guy on a unicycle take a nosedive on Hennepin Avenue at Groveland. My initial reaction was '"YOW," but I realized that I was slightly amused in a slapstick-is-the-lowest-form-of-humor kind of way.


 

3/3

Long time readers might remember that I had a bad day on the 2 last week. It seems that the mighty and capricious gods of transit have it out for me when I drive the 2.

I make relief on the 2 at Nicollet and Franklin. As my bus pulled up, I saw that I was going to have to drive a piece of crap bus that I drove sometime last week. I asked the other driver how he was doing and he said he wasn't doing very well. The obvious reason for his misery was that he was about five minutes late, but his only real comment to me revealed a bit more. He told me that the driver he relieved had been driving a much newer bus and had gotten a bus change, and he didn't know why she would do that. It's amazing how much a bad bus can make one's day bad. A bad bus can be uncomfortable and cause more aches and pains. A bad bus can be slow to accelerate, guaranteeing that a lot of stop lights will turn from green to yellow to red before we can establish ourselves in the intersection.

Or they can be like my bus today. On the same trip that my bus went bad last week, I felt like I was trying to ride a bucking bronco. The transmission had me jerking back and forth. I called Control and got a bus change lined up. Then the DO NOT SHIFT (TRANS.) light came on, accompanied by beeping. Sweet. I was stuck in second gear. I shut the bus off for a couple minutes, restarted and continued on my way. I was able to make it to my terminal OK.

The trip back was awful. I had to restart the bus five times and the jerking got worse. Everyone except one guy was patient, though. I got to my terminal (quite late) and got a new bus. I had to use the restroom, so I was ten minutes late by the time I got moving again. Control told me to run NOT IN SERVICE until I caught up on time. I felt bad driving past all the people who had been waiting for my bus for a while, but I knew I'd be really tense if I didn't do as suggested. I was reasonably caught up by the time I got to the U of M, so I went back in service and ended up only a few minutes late at the other end.

But the thing is, I was in a great mood all day. I even had a nice conversation with a lady named Marcella on my last trip, when I often have a headache and am ready to go home. She chatted me up all about my ancestry, my name, etc. etc.. She told me that she was "mad as hops" at the bus driver on the bus she had gotten off of before she got on mine because he wouldn't honk at me to hold me. But my demeanor had calmed her down and made her happy. I like to hear that. Bus karma stays even...


 

3/2

I got to work today and checked the markup (the list of work for the extra board) to see what the people around me in terms of seniority were getting for work. I keep an eye on the board, in case I ever want to go back.

Well, I saw that my friend José, who was one employee number above me, had LFT SERV next to his name. I confirmed my suspicion that those letters mean "left service." I called him and he said he's OK, but "something happened" and he had to leave. He didn't say why, and I didn't press. I'm sad, though.

We got a text message on our radios to pull in to the garage on Nicollet Avenue instead of Blaisdell Avenue, because of an "accident" at 31st and Blaisdell. I drove the 18 past there and, given the number of police and emergency vehicles, it looked like the accident was pretty bad. Well, there was an accident at around 7:00 PM. Two guys were accidentally shot in their car and accidentally made it a block before they accidentally ran into a utility pole.

I end my night of work and get relieved on that corner every Tuesday night at 8:44 PM, which is something that has kind of bothered me, as it's a dark intersection.


 

February '5