I haven't seen Stinky Guy for a few weeks, but he rode with me today and I think I know where he's been.
I don't have proof of this, of course, but I suspect he formed a chrysalis. The guy who rode with me today is not the same Stinky Guy we all knew and loved. No odor at all. From now on, I'm going to refer to him as Butterfly.
Guess who I saw yesterday? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
I forgot to mention that Mike in Sioux Falls has a new blog. He keeps starting blogs, then losing interest (or time?) once I get hooked. He says this one's for the summer, so I guess I can look forward to a few months of entertaining reading. I think his blog makes a nice companion to Jim's (Oil is for sissies).
Did you see the results of the GMAC Insurance National Driver's Test? Of the three states I've lived, Iowa ranks the highest, at #3. Minnesota came in at #11 and South Dakota is down there at #19. I'm not too surprised at any of those, relative to each other. I thought the drivers in South Dakota were way scarier than the drivers in Iowa, even though the Iowegians have always been the butt of a lot of driving jokes and snide comments. And I suspect Minnesota would have done better if it weren't for the huge influx of drivers from #40 Illinois. heh. And yes, I know, I know, book smarts vs. street smarts, blah blah blah.
Today was the last day I'll ever have to drive that godawful piece of work on the 18. Hopefully. I was sixteen minutes late on two consecutive trips. Control filled one trip for me so I could get back on time. (Filled = got an on-call driver to do it.)
Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that the 17 that I picked on Saturdays for the summer won't be any better. Oh well, we'll see.
My U of M work on Tuesday and Friday mornings has been cut back, so I do one trip instead of four. After I do it, I'm on call at the garage.
Yesterday another driver and I went out to pick up a bus. It was sitting at a random intersection, the driver was still logged on to the farebox, but the only Metro Transit person there was a street supervisor. It kind of reminded me of the Mary Celeste.
There was someone else there. A guy was patiently waiting for a bus. I asked him where he was going. He was going to the Light Rail Station on Lake. We were close, so I drove him over there. And I realized that I recognized him. It was Big Al! (scroll to the bottom of that page) He told me that he was out collecting money from people who owed him. Hmm... As he got off the bus, I noticed that the back of his jacket said Kamp Kick Back. Again, hmm...
Yesterday on my pullout, I saw a '91 Ford or Chevy conversion van for sale. The asking price was $14,694 (or best offer). I assumed one of two things:
I regret to inform you that I did not get a photo, although I just took a little trip around the neighborhood looking for it. I did see a van that might be the same one for $500.
There's a guy who rode with me on the 46 fairly frequently. He's ridden with me on the 4 as well. On my way downtown on the 4 yesterday, I saw him walking on Bryant Avenue at about 39th Street. It was raining, so I was about twelve minutes late getting downtown. I saw that same guy walking at 8th and Hennepin! I guess he could've driven...
We were in fallback mode yesterday, so we all got to hear about some guy breaking a bus's windshield.
I saw the Daff Tuesday when I was out on Lake Street. I asked him why he hasn't been on my bus lately. He asked me why we were on a detour.
Right around Thanksgiving last year, Oz went to Gary, IN to visit his mother. He told me that she was dying and he wanted to see her. Then I didn't hear from him. For a long time. I started to worry a bit. I know it's morbid, but I checked out the obituaries in the Gary newspaper a couple times in the last few months. (Yes, I realize that was probably a futile gesture even if he had died there.) Yesterday I got a message from him. He's been in jail for six months. I haven't called him back yet. I wonder if he ever made it to Gary.
I put in a pretty full day.
I scooted up to Art-A-Whirl. I planned to visit my friend (and regular reader) Dean. His wife Karen is a painter. She's in Spain, so Dean was holding down the fort. It was great. Her studio is in a big building full of studios. I wandered around and looked at a lot of really cool art, then hung out with Dean for a while.
Every studio had its own unique aroma. My favorite one smelled just like Park Elementary School, where I went from Kindergarten to 5th grade. There was one studio that I refused to enter based solely on its odor.
Then I came home. I still need to unpack...
The woman with the little dog and the signatures rode with me on the 21 Wednesday night. She was all fired up about the plan to divert the buses from the Nicollet Mall to Hennepin Avenue for a few hours every night this summer. She's pretty sure it's part of a bigger scheme to wreck the bus system. I'm not quite that cynical. I think it's a good idea. I've always felt a little sorry for the people outside on the sidewalk at Brit's who have to shout to each other as their fish and chips get sprinkled with a light dusting of diesel soot.
A younger guy rode with us on my last trip out of St. Paul. He and Petition Lady had a lively discussion about the buses. Some of the bus cuts are going to make it very, very difficult for a significant number of people to get to dialysis machines. I think his brother may be one of them. The young guy got really angry as he talked about the funding problems and the attitudes of our "leadership" that caused the strike last year and the cuts and fare changes that are on the horizon. But the curious thing was that he very vaguely defended Governor "Sweet" Tim P. He said he knew the governor and his wife and that Timmy was a good person who "had an agenda." He never really explained much more than that, but he was fuzzily adamant about his love for the gov.
In other words, I believe he is a classic example of a shocking 56% of Minnesotans who think Pawlenty is doing a good job. I'm not sure that Dude was aware that he had just spent five minutes blasting a transit situation that has gone the governor's way from the beginning (that is, swiftly into the gutter). But you know, Timmy P. is young, slim and good-looking. Hey Dude, you're a sucker and you get what you deserve. Unfortunately, you're taking the rest of us down with you.
The Minnesota House and Senate recently passed a gas tax bill. The money was, appropriately enough, going to go to all things transportation, including dedicated funding for transit. And guess what? It was introduced by a House Republican and got support from a bunch of other Republicans. That's right, it was a bipartisan effort. People from both sides of the aisle saw a need and addressed it. Isn't that how it's supposed to work? Apparently not for the governor. He vetoed it. No new taxes, right?
So what's in the news today? Let's see... Oh, here's a little something. The same governor just proposed a $0.75 "user fee" on cigarettes. It boggles the mind, really.
You know what? I've heard the whole thing about the governor being a good person before. And I really don't believe it. If you are in a position of power and you use that power to comfort the comfortable and actively work to cause hardship and make life miserable for large numbers of the people you are governing, I'd be more inclined to say you're evil, quite frankly.
I believe that I just passed the Electric Fetus Challenge: Get in, get a decent look around, make a purchase and get out before you smell like a hippie pad.
Purchased: Mercury Rev The Secret Migration, The Rolling Stones Exile on Main St.
The bus has been pretty quiet again lately. Stinky Guy didn't ride with me this week. A significant portion of Lake Street is getting a facelift, so the 21 is on a detour. It went pretty well yesterday. I avoided the 21 as much as I could next pick because of that detour. I have four-and-a-half hours of it, in the morning, so I think it'll be OK.
I wish it would stop raining. I like rain, but not every single day for weeks on end. That's what it feels like it's been doing, anyway.
It gets a bit frustrating. For some reason, even the slightest bit of moisture brings traffic to a standstill. I swear all it takes is someone to break a sweat and we're bumper-to-bumper out there.
I have recurring dreams of big, ugly fish. They never look exactly the same, but they are always slow-moving and usually colorful. I'm usually standing on shore looking into very clear water when I see them. The other night I dreamed that Wyatt and I were in a place that looked like Venice, standing next to canals. There were two big, ugly fish swimming around and I pointed out to Wyatt that those were the kind of fish that I often dream about.
Speaking of nasty critters, I came home last night and put on a pair of jeans in my bedroom, then walked out to the living room to put on some socks. I hiked up the left leg and felt something crawling on me. This little bastard was making his way down my leg. I hate those things.
Hey, check this guy out. He was one of my favorite campers when I was a counselor at Camp Ojibway (formerly on Lake Mudhen). I ran into his sister last night. (Actually, she kind of ran into me, as I thought she looked familiar, but didn't recognize her.) You may have seen John and his canoeing (kayaking?) buddies decide that a class 2 rapids plus a class 3 rapids equals a class 5 rapids. I saw that commercial a bunch of times and never recognized him.
I put a load of clothes into the dryer and walked across the street to the MIA where I wandered around for about 45 minutes. I'm pretty excited about that. Unless you want to count the Norman B. Mears Library, I've never lived across the street from anything interesting before. I used to think a bar would be cool. I'm pretty happy with the museum.
I just got back from the garage. Our next work pick goes from June 4 - September 9. I like the 10-hour work that I'm doing now, but that work has been cut back significantly. I picked 9-hour work this time. Here's what my week will look like:
Sunday, Monday - off
I don't think it's too bad. I'm pretty sure I'll get quite sick of that 17.
The bus I drove yesterday was eleven years old. That's an old bus. I think the goal is to retire buses after twelve years.
But it was a fast bus. I was happy about that. I was going to drive the 21 and it goes much better if the bus can get through those close lights. The little things that tend to be broken on older buses don't bother me as much if the bus will move.
The p.a. was broken. Not only is the p.a. important for calling streets (Americans with Disabilities Act requirement), but it's handy for conversing with people in the back of the bus if necessary.
When I open the back door of the bus, it activates a brake. It's called the rear-door interlock. The rear doors are touch-sensitive, so the door doesn't actually open. Often, if I have a bus with old brakes that require a lot of pressure to keep the bus stopped at stoplights and stops, I'll try to save my knee by activating the rear-door interlock to keep the brakes on. (Of course, I can only do that if I'm next to a curb.) My old bus yesterday had some nasty brakes. As I sat under 35W on my first trip to St. Paul, the rear-door interlock gave out. I always keep my foot on the brake, so we didn't move into traffic or anything, but it is a bit worrisome when that happens because that brake should hold.
Well, within a few stops, the rear door was stuck partly open and I had to shut off the rear-door interlock. That also meant that the back door was unusable.
A few stops later, two drunk guys got on and didn't want to pay. Naturally, one of them wandered to the back of the bus trying to solicit transfers. I was a couple minutes late and wasn't really up for dealing with yahoos, so I decided to go with the threat of calling Control. Of course, I had to yell so he could hear me. He couldn't get out the back door, so he had to make his way back to the front of the bus. They both got off without incident.
Three blocks later, an old lady pulled out of a parking lot into the street in front of me, then stopped when she saw me coming. I stopped about two feet from her car. I think that scared her a bit; I hope it did. It scared me a little.
With the warm weather comes the stinky season on the bus. Every week on this trip, I pick up an old guy in St. Paul. He rides a couple miles with me. He's a pleasant guy, but he has been getting progressively smellier every week. Yesterday, as soon as I opened the door, I knew we were in trouble. He usually sits right across the aisle from me on the sideways bench seat, but there was a lady there, so he sat on the bench seat a couple seats to her left.
The stench was almost too much for my sensitive gag reflex. Well, actually, I did gag a few times, I guess. Oh, how I hoped that lady wouldn't move because he moves to that seat if it opens up.
The sound of windows opening filled the air. I turned on my fan and tried to move the air away from me. But the airflow kept bringing gusts of stench to my face. It was really bad. I think he had urinated himself at least once and hadn't bathed for a couple weeks. Of course, I really just feel bad for him. I can't figure out how it comes to that. Did no one ever teach him about bathing and washing clothes? Did he never figure it out for himself?
A couple people who got on asked me what was wrong with the bus.
Anyway, I keep a stick of deodorant in my bag and I finally wiped a lot of that on my upper lip, then brought that lip to my nose every time I inhaled.
He finally got off at Hamline Avenue. Fortunately, one of the ladies I picked up had been shopping and she had some air freshener that she sprayed liberally around the bus. Needless to say, had there been a vote, she would have earned the Passenger of the Day Award. My personal award went to the lady sitting across from me who didn't move, in part, she told me, because she knew that he'd move to where she was sitting and I would have been trapped. Thanks ladies!
The other drivers at my layover knew all about Stinky Guy. One of them said he saw him coming up the street on that last trip and put the pedal down.
On the way back to Minneapolis, a guy got on at 36th Avenue. He had a mouth full of White Castle and greeted me with, "SOUTHSIDE PRIDE! SOUTHSIDE 'TIL WE DIE, NIGGA! SOUTHSIDE!" He wanted to bump fists, so I obliged. I'm about as white as they come, but I never look more white than I do in those situations. Two young black women sitting across from me were giggling, and I didn't blame them. I'm sure it was a pretty amusing scene.
The guy had a quarter lodged in his ear. What's that all about? Anyone? Anyone? (I found something about a linebacker drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, something about Larry on "Newhart" wearing one, and lyrics by some band called Saves the Day...)
Anyway, he went to the back of the bus and started yapping away. Pretty soon, he was the most unpopular guy on the bus. Some of the other young black guys in the back asked me very politely if I could do something. I didn't realize I'd miss that p.a. so much. So I yelled at the guy to please keep it down. He did. For about five blocks. Then he started in again, so I called Control. I was half afraid that he was going to get himself beaten up. I made a routine (vs. priority) call, so it took a while for Control to call me back and he exited the bus before any cops showed up.
I retrieved the cord for my camera. Here are a few photos that were on it.
Wyatt, Tina and I went to a Twins game a couple weeks ago. Kansas City was hurting so bad for some pitching that I got in for an inning at the Metrodome. Here I am warming up.
Here are a couple shots of my apartment, taken last week.
I had a fairly exciting day on the 18 today.
On one southbound trip, a lady got on at 66th and Nicollet with the intention of riding with me to my terminal and then back downtown. I was in a good mood, so I didn't get too snippy about that. I wasn't getting any layovers today anyway...
I don't recall ever having seen this woman before. Except for yesterday when I saw her Uptown. She has a yippy little dog that she keeps in a rolling bag. When she walks, the dog pops his head and front paws out the top and watches where they're going. Kind of cute for a rat.
She had a stack of signatures protesting the bus cuts. Cool. Thanks lady.
The best part was that she seems to be some kind of Minneapolis gadfly. She told me all about the city council. She has it in for one councilman in particular who, according to her, loves the drugs and the women. She told me all about how he recently got married because one of his girlfriends wanted insurance. She claimed to have called him on it in front of snickering police officers. True? Not true? Don't know, don't care, it's still funny.
On another southbound trip, I had to remind a couple guys in a bitchin' Chevy Blazer that they are required to yield to a bus leaving a bus stop. The passenger thanked me by inviting me to put my mouth, uh, in his lap. That was after he told me I was number one for two whole blocks! Maybe he got confused when I blew them a kiss. Anyway, I said thanks, but I don't swing that way...
Speaking of slightly off-color stories, a couple young women sitting behind me were discussing a gentleman acquaintance. One said that she was glad he wasn't calling her because he got on her nerves. Why? "His foreplay was awful!" I almost asked her if that was what she'd said. But I didn't have to. Apparently, among other things, said gentleman bit her "you know, there" and licked her nose and wondered why she didn't like it. By then, the whole bus was probably thinking what she said. "He's a 23-year-old man! He should know the basics!" Or maybe they were thinking something else entirely.
I've mentioned a guy who plays a recorder downtown. About two months ago, I noticed that he had several recorders. Then a few weeks after that, he got on my bus and he had sheet music. A couple weeks ago, I heard him. I think he's getting better. He was playing a recognizable tune. Excellent.
I'm getting emails now, wondering where I've been. There just isn't enough time in my day for everything I need to get done. I'm about half settled in my new place. There's still a considerable mess at Mark's house that I need to get out of there. Anyway, as soon as I find the cord that connects my camera to my computer, I'll post a couple pics of the new place.
So yeah, it's been a while. A few notes:
It snowed. It was May. That's wrong.
A drunk lady got on my 21, headed to St. Paul, and asked me why life had to be so hard. She then went on and on about her man who pushed her away, who was mean to her. He sounded like an all-around bad guy. It really struck me when she said, "He's trying to kill me and he's already dead." If she hadn't kept talking and talking, I would have gotten a word in edgewise, and it would have been something like, "Maybe you need to find a new guy." Good thing she kept talking. Just before she got out, she said, "This is my husband. He's a mean, mean Indian." Yeah. He was sitting there the whole time.
Then, once I got into downtown, an older gentleman put his bike on the front rack. As soon as he got on my bus, he started in on me. I think it had something to do with where I stopped the bus, but I couldn't really tell. He had the whole bus in hysterics. He kept at it, though, and was still berating me after he got out and I pulled away.
I drove by a car that rear-ended a bus. The car was pretty mashed up. The bus driver is a fairly new driver. I like her. I saw her walking around and she didn't look too distraught.
Last night, the police were out in force on Lake Street. I assume they were on round two of their pre-summer crackdown. I drove by at least three fairly large scenes with a lot of cops and guys lying on the ground. I saw squads from several cities, including Apple Valley and Northfield.
OK, that's it for now. I have to go to bed.