Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ch..Ch..Chains and Devastation

My chariot awaits in the desolate, frozen wasteland.

Oh, how horrific the damage from our first "major" winter storm! Tens of dollars of damage, snow drifts up to at least 1/32" deep, wind chills harsh enough to make Midwesterners laugh scornfully!

The dire predictions of 4-6" of snow topped with a layer of freezing rain failed to show. It was almost as cold as my first wife, and nearly as windy as she.
Half-inch icicles... how much damage can we endure?

My thanks to the tireless efforts of our mechanics who chained our buses the night before, then had to un-chain them the same day when the storm pretty much fizzled in most of the district. It's brutal for them to battle wind, traffic, and everything else to do an outstanding job.

But the question remains as blase as a FaceBook meme... will we ever recover?

A poor tree buried in a snow "drift".

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Question to Settle

Time to ask you, dear readers, for your opinion.

When I first began writing this blog, I promised not to deluge you with ads. I abhor them. Whenever I try to read something of interest on the web, ads seem to pop out of nowhere. As if I fuggin' ask for them. Like most of you, I make it a habit of killing them as quickly as they appear.

Last spring however, I've seen my readership explode. In one day, my hits went from 25-30 to over 600 in a single day! Not sure if it was Al Margulies or a ton of FaceBook friends sharing it, but FTDS's popularity took off. It is humbling, and very exciting, to have enough people interested enough in the subject matter to actually read what I write. My words haven't had this much exposure since my early adulthood adventures in small-town journalism.

As of this post, I am averaging 2,650 hits per month. As of today, the ninth of November, there are 708 hits. Last year, the entire month of November scored a scant 78. It truly boggles my mind.

Of course, I hope to be able to continually produce decent material and further grow these numbers. Yet when I first began, I had no idea it would come this far in such a short period of time.

So here it comes. What say you, my beloved readers? Would I be a horrific eel if I allowed ads on here? Given my promise to not do so, would you be less likely to read in the future if I changed my mind on this issue? The lure of extra money is a major factor in this question. At the moment, I am the lone earner in my family. We could all use a little more dinero in the bank. If this blog continues to grow readership, it's fiscally irresponsible of me not to allow advertising.

Because of my stubborn reluctance to alienate any of you, the folks who have made this explosion possible, I will leave it in your hands. If you read this on a traditional computer, you will find the poll "Ads Yes or No" on the far right-hand side of the page in a hidden block of "gadgets".

For those of you who use electronic devices, for some reason these gadgets don't appear when you visit. So you could just tell me on the FaceBook post. I don't want any arguments between people as to whether I should or should not. I just ask you to speak up and tell me your thoughts on the matter.

So what say YOU, my dear readers, yay or nay? I eagerly await your response.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pains in My Butt

My butt hurts. Had back spasms last week, now my knees hurt. Bowels not responding well to circadian rhythm changes. Head to toe, and I ended up at the butt again. Just part of the job, I reckon.

This time, let's examine what it takes to be a good "bus operator". No, we're not "drivers" in the typical sense. Moving a bus down the road is much more than that. Once again, I mention Lars Larson's foolish comment that driving a city bus is "easier" than operating a school bus. From experience on the city bus side, I do not mean to diminish the professionalism or importance of a school bus operator, but my job is extremely more difficult and stressful. Their passengers are precious, to be sure, but there are far fewer of them and the routes are much shorter. Nor do their charges pay a fare. Regardless, my hat is off to those wonderful people who transport our children to and from school. Even as a parent of three, I wonder if I could keep from being too distracted by their joyful noise.

To be a "good" operator of a city bus takes many years to accomplish. My own tenure has taught me that there is something to be learned each day. I have always had the greatest respect for my trainers, but much more so now that I have a few years behind the wheel. Each day presents new challenges. We constantly need to adapt to ever-changing conditions. Maneuvers I once thought toughest to master are now second nature. Yet, I'm often presented with challenges requiring split-second reaction. One slip could result in somebody's injury or death. It is the same with school bus operators, true. Yet a city bus operator is usually in-service for eight to 14 hours as opposed to two to six.

I do not want to even hint at disparaging my brothers and sisters who operate school buses, so we'll leave them at this point.

At least once a week, a passenger will insinuate they know more about bus operation than I do, simply because they ride daily. Once upon a time, I thought so too. Having been a passenger both to school and work, my favorite operators made it look easy. On my first day behind the wheel, I realized how difficult a bus is to maneuver. Having driven a tractor-trailer rig across country, I believe a bus is harder to drive. There is only one "pivot point" on a bus, and that's the dual wheels at the rear. A truck has two: tractor and trailer axles. It is challenging to back a trailer into a dock around several obstacles, but the extra pivot point allows greater rear visibility. Bus operators cannot see behind a bus, and it's not advisable to even attempt backing up without a spotter. A friend of mine noted that tractor-trailer operators have cargo that doesn't talk back or offer driving advice.

While some operators navigate the same routes each day, others have different routes every day of the year. As an extra board operator, this is my life. I've done it long now enough to learn 52 lines. Even if you're familiar with a route, road conditions or construction can present constant challenges. Delivery truck drivers habitually park in the worst possible spots, and often make terrible decisions while driving. Marvin Mercedes and his buddy Beavis BMW are impatient so and so's. Pedestrians rarely look before darting out into traffic, especially if they want to "catch" my bus.

Recently I winced as a teenager darted in front of a pickup to cross the street so he could board my bus. The pickup driver had to brake suddenly to avoid hitting the kid and his girlfriend. These juvenile jaywalkers were oblivious to the stupidity of their actions, and were miffed when I chastised them. They were indignant, yet I would be haunted forever by the sight of their bodies being hurtled through space in broken and bloody pieces. Normally, I would let them get safely to the sidewalk, then drive off without them. I couldn't this time; maybe my bitching them out will make them think before they try this maneuver again.

So just because your operator makes it look "easy", don't be fooled. If their uniform is adorned with Safety Award patches, they deserve your utmost respect. If they bitch you out when you board, rest assured you did something that scared the shit out of them.

Now do you know why my butt hurts?



Monday, November 3, 2014

Early Board Gets the Prize

...and now I'm working early AM's! Didn't I just write about the yo-yo effect? Of course I've been called one many a time, and deservedly so, but I digress.

Spent my weekend sleeping a lot, recovering from last week's midnight sojourns. I went to bed last night to prepare for my early run, was too restless. I tried counting sheep, but they morphed into scantily-clad Roald Dahl characters hell-bent on robbing me of sleep. So I just drove eight hours by noon today, time for a nap then a three-hour tripper. Eleven seat hours today plus an early 9.5-hour run tomorrow equals a lucrative start to my week.

Odds are I'll be on PM's again in two days, but I'll take what OT crumbs they leave me.

Z-zzz-zzzzzz-zzzzzzzzzzzz.