Part of my daily mantra has me intent on being "vigilant." This means to always employ safe practices. When we're pulling into the yard to park our bus on its assigned track, we're not "home free," but after a long day, it's easy to assume we're done for the day. Chalk another mark on our safety record, we're logged off and bullpen-bound.
Pouch in hand? Check. Drinks and goodies stowed in backpack? Ditto. Reflective jacket on? Yep. Head screwed on tight? Nope.
If there's one thing a bus operator knows, it's that our 50+ tracks where buses are parked can be a dangerous place. When I arrive, several other operators are coming in, and the maintenance crews are servicing the rides to prepare them for the next day's work. Because it's a hive of beastly activity, everyone must maintain no more than a five mile-per-hour speed limit when in the tracks. Luckily for me, my sister maintenance worker was going even slower.
Telling one gent the bus was all his, I looked left, at him instead of scanning to my right. Just as I stepped off, he yelled "Watch OUT!" As my head turned away, I was staring directly through the windshield of an approaching bus and into the wide-eyed terror of the lady behind the wheel mere inches from where my head would have been... if she hadn't stopped... just in time. She turned away, incredulous that a bus driver had done something so stupid. Another maintenance worker was on the bus with her, and he turned away from me. Probably cursing my dumb ass. I shook my head at not only my good fortune, but also my momentary lapse of vigilance.
A split second later, I would have been under the front of that bus. Dead or dying, most likely. Had my brother not sounded his warning and my sister not been watching out for me, I wouldn't be writing to you now. I knocked on her window, and she opened it.
"My bad," I told her. Duh, Deke. "Thank you for driving slow in the tracks!" In the moment, that was all I could say. Later, I thought of many other things I should have said. Like, "thank you for being vigilant and saving my life."
How fortunate. Not only for me and my family, but for those awesome professionals who were looking out for this errant fool. I can't imagine the pain either or both would be feeling now if my fate had been delivered at that moment. It would have devastating consequences in the form of flashbacks and nightmares the rest of their lives. I'm happy not only that I'm alive to tell this tale, but also that they have all been spared the tragedy nearly perpetrated by my own foolishness. Either way, it was a major wakeup call for me. The maintenance worker did her job correctly; I did not.
It took about 15 minutes afterward to recover from the shock of what happened. Still, I could think of little else as I drove home. Of all the times I've scolded people for not applying basic safety principles, this is one time I'm the one who deserved the lecture.
Luckily, I've always been conscious when I do something insanely stupid. But truly, it can happen to anyone, any time. We become complacent, but the shift isn't over until we've arrived safely in the bullpen.
Yeah. Most definitely, lucky me.