Monday, September 28, 2015

New Olympic Events

Next weekend, our transit agency is holding its annual "Bus Roadeo". I don't participate in this because I think it's just another media event for management, but I don't begrudge my fellow operators for participating. From all I've heard, participants enjoy this event. If the union were the sponsor and not our agency, I might feel differently and participate.

Bus operators get a raw deal from a public that has at many times stated "a monkey could do that job". Bullshit. A monkey couldn't even wash floors correctly. Why? Because they lack the human sense of "work". So it's terribly insulting to compare a bus operator to a monkey, and having a "roadeo" to me is like putting elephants to work in a circus.

What we should create is a new Olympic category: Bus Operation. Athletes train for years to attain the level of proficiency to put them at the top of their game. So do bus operators. We drive anywhere from six to 14 hours a day, five days a week. As we operate a bus, certain skills become honed, because we practice constantly. Knowing a pedestrian will enter a crosswalk against a signal, creating space to allow the stop sign-running motorist to turn right onto the street directly in front of us,  knowing a bicyclist will unlawfully pass in spite of a blinking yield light; all these incidents, and many more, qualify us as professional drivers. No "roadeo" is needed to prove this indisputable fact.

I've read articles about buses that drive themselves. What a load of baloney. Sure the technology may be coming, but it takes human judgment to save lives. Also, if you create robotic solutions to relieve labor disputes, pretty soon there will be no humans working at all... only machines. When that happens, how will anyone be able to buy the goods and services which business markets? The idea of machines doing the jobs of experienced professional humans is something we should all be concerned about.

So I'm in favor of adding a few events to the summer and winter Olympics. Here's a sample of how the play-by-play might go for Passenger Pickup. I can just hear Bob Costas now:

"Okay here comes Deacon Blue in his customized 2001 New Flyer, approaching the multi-line stop at top speed, hundredths of a second behind our leader. There's nobody at the stop but an old lady with a walker, and she's looking at her cell phone! No wait, she just looked up, and is now back to looking at her phone again. No telling if she wants his bus, but The Deacon let off the accelerator at just the right moment, saw her body language and hit the pedal again. Wait, here it comes... WOW DID YOU SEE THAT? The Deacon hit that mud puddle at 35mph and just obliterated that old lady in mud just as she raised both middle fingers at him! Well done! Now he's rounding the corner as his lane is about to end, and here comes a Prius, hell-bent for blowing past him. Deacon floors it and leans into the turn to force the Prius into a position behind the bus! Wow, this guy is incredible! Okay, a bicyclist has blown a stop sign and moved into the transit lane instead of the bike lane. What's he going to do? Oh no, he STOPS COLD! Deacon stops with three feet to spare! WOW! Listen to that crowd! One more turn to go with the finish line ahead, he floors it, looks right and left as he clears the final intersection and crosses the finish line in what...might...be... record time. AND... the judges are conferring... YES IT'S OFFICIAL, HE JUST TOOK THE LEAD FOR FIRST PLACE!"

We could also see these events: Difficult Detours, Best Stopping Distance, Boarding Drunks, Wheelchair Securement, Snow/Ice Slalom with Chained and un-Chained Divisions, SIP (Self-Important Passengers) Handling, and Parallel Parking. Yes folks, I've actually seen a bus operator (with many years of experience) back his bus perfectly, in one shot, in between two buses at a layover! It was some of the prettiest driving I've ever seen.

Hey, I can dream, can't I? Shut up, bean counters. Even monkeys don't want your job. I get to drive a bus every day!