Driving the short bus

or, How to drive a bus (part 1)
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5 
Part 6     Part 7     Part 8     Part 9     Part 10
 Part 11     Part 12     Part 13     Part 14     Part 15

These last few months of life without work are as close as I'll ever come to kickin' back for my golden years, but my savings are dwindling, so I need to kiss leisure goodbye and find a job.

It can't be just any job, though. At my age I am picky, dang it. I refuse to apply for an office job — the work I've done most of my life — because there's gotta be some job more interesting than data entry and preparing reports and fixing other people's mistakes.

I won't work for a company that's openly evil. I live in Seattle, but there'll be no Amazon, Boeing, or Microsoft for me. I have no delusions of making the world a better place, but I won't do work that makes the world even worse.

So where am I going to punch a time clock?

Dick's Drive-In looked like a bearable job. They're a local fast-food chain that pays a living wage with health benefits. They make good burgers, great fries, and employees get free food, and I could do that. So I filled out a form on their website, and they may have called me back a few days later — there was a call from a number I didn't know. I'd forgotten to turn my phone's ringer on, though, and if that was them, they didn't leave a message and didn't call again.

Lesson learned. I turned my phone's ringer on.

Saw a Craigslist ad, looking for someone to provide live-in care for a disabled guy. It said no experience was required, just patience and a willingness to wipe someone else's ass, etc. Well, who wouldn't be intrigued by that? I replied to the listed email address, and explained that I'd taken care of my wife after she'd been disabled, and wiping her ass was the only thing I hadn't done, but that the thought didn't frighten me. There was no reply.

I didn't send a second inquiry to either Dick's or the ass-wiping job. The so-called experts of job-hunting say you should, that 'follow-up' like that makes you stand out to prospective employers, but screw it. I'm willing to flip burgers or wipe a stranger's ass, but I'm not willing to kiss a stranger's ass.

If a job wants me, here I am. I'm not going to beg and plead.

I'm a big believer in public transit, so maybe I'd enjoy driving a bus? I looked into it, but it looks like hell on wheels. Assignments are seniority-based at Metro Transit, and I'm old, so I'd never get much seniority. I'd always be either driving the worst routes through the worst neighborhoods at the worst times, or driving sixty screaming kids to school in the morning and to their homes in the afternoon, with unpaid hours off in between. In a word, no.

I might be good at answering the info-line for Metro — helping people figure out which bus goes from Everett to Tacoma, or Westlake to Wallingford. But alas, Metro is a giant government agency, and actually talking to someone about a particular job seems impossible. Best I could do was sign up for daily emails listing all their job openings, so I did, but every day, nine out of ten openings at Metro are management jobs, with titles that include 'chief', 'manager', 'planner', 'analyst', 'executive', even 'superintendent'. I'm not management material. The very few jobs where Metro Transit wants actual workers seem to be 'painter' or 'accountant' or 'janitor' and I'm not that, either.

A car detailing company had an opening for a dispatcher. That's office work, which like I said is absolutely not what I want to do again, but the company is family-owned, and the ad listed full benefits, and it had a picture of all their nine employees smiling, and that picture sure looked great. Two of the employees were black, two were fat, two were old, and some were more than one of those adjectives, so I think they really are an equal opportunity employer. Maybe they'd hire fat old funny-looking me, but I lost their number before calling them, and the ad disappeared so the job is filled.

And that's how my job hunt was going, until a week or so ago, when a listing jumped out at me — driving the short bus. Disabled transit. Hmmm.

If you're disabled, riding the city bus can be difficult or even impossible, but thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) you can get a van and driver to pick you up for the same price as bus fare. They'll help you into the vehicle, and take you where you need to be, with door-to-door service like a taxi, but with other passengers sharing the ride like a bus.

Disabled transit was a lifeline for my wife. It's how she got to dialysis and back, three times a week. And one able-bodied person is allowed to accompany the disabled rider, so when our car wasn't running or wasn't reliable, we sometimes rode the disabled bus to dinner and a movie, or to a doctor's appointment.

Sure, I could drive a van for disabled transit. It's work that actually helps people who need help. It makes the world a better place, not shittier. And it pays pretty well, with full bennies, and it's a union job.

I filled out a form on line. They called me later the same day, and hooray, my ringer was on.

They checked my driving record, and found no fatalities, no tickets for decades.

They checked my criminal record, and found that I'm not a criminal.

I aced the interview, because I know how disabled transit works. "The service we provide is the difference between someone having a meaningful life, or just being stuck at home," I said, because I saw it first-hand with my late wife.

When I said it in the interview, everybody nodded. They might have also been impressed at my frugality, because I was wearing a new shirt I'd bought at Goodwill the day before, and hadn't noticed that the $8 price tag was still attached to the shoulder.

And just like that, I was "conditionally hired," pending a physical exam. They sent me to a doctor (and paid for it!), I coughed while he held my testicles, and apparently I'm in good health despite my age and weight, so I'm hired. Three weeks of training begins on Monday, and after that I'll be driving the short bus.

Like any job, I'm sure there are things I'll hate about it, but before starting, my biggest concern is that it's a long ride on the ordinary bus getting to the short bus office & lot every day. If the job works out, I'm moving to Kent.

And everything I know about Kent is that it's between Auburn and Renton, twenty miles south of Seattle.


Next: Studying for the short bus
or, How to drive a bus (part 2)

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5  
Part 6     Part 7     Part 8     Part 9     Part 10 
 Part 11     Part 12     Part 13     Part 14     Part 15

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  1. I've always thought that bus driving could be a bearable job for me. Congratulations on your impending ability to feed, clothe, and house yourself until you die!

    1. ... or until I'm a passenger on the short bus, no longer driving it.

    2. My Dad said it’s not about the length of the buses but whether they come on time. Now I’m not entirely sure he was talking about buses.


    3. An excellent quip, sir. I am gonna use that line at my new job, and see if it gets me fired.

  2. Congrats. Hope it works out. If the bus has a sound system, and it damn well should, you might consider playing "Touch of Grey" over and over. It's a great singalong and the passengers can help each other raise their fists during the "I will survive!" Chorus.


    Quick story. When I was in 10 day hospital recovery from cardio bypass surgery, I was doing the Texas two-step down the corridor of the cardio ward with this song playing on my iPod (gotta walk multiple times a day). I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was one of the young surgeons on his way to check on a patient. Since my ears were busy, he pointed to my left earbud and I handed it to him. He plugged it into his right ear and started two-stepping with me. At the end of the song he said, "I think you're one of the guys who's going to leave by the front door." I thanked him and he walked away.


    1. > Hope it works out. If the bus has a sound system, and it damn well should, you might consider playing "Touch of Grey" over and over.

      I was thinking something like this :


    2. Glad you made it out the front door. :)

      I remember riding in short buses while the driver was listening to gawdawful right-wing radio, so there must be some kind of sound system. "I Will Survive" might be a little cruel, since some cases are terminal and won't survive. Can't go wrong with Grateful Dead, though.

      Radio in Seattle is almost all garbage, so if I'm listening to anything it'll probably be audio books.

    3. All cases are terminal. “Touch of Grey” is about quality of life —not quantity.


    4. Indeedy do, all cases are terminal. A related memory flashes before my eyes...

      At my last job, auditing insurance policies, the company had developed a new kind of policy specifically targeting the terminally ill, to cover their coming-soon funeral expenses. It sounds awful, but it was a reasonably-priced, worthwhile policy.

      The company's brilliant marketing team used the same template as any other policy, for the welcome letter that accompanied the mailed policy. "We look forward to providing you with many years of service."

      They changed the text, but only after I said "Hey, dummies." And those dummies got four times what I was paid.

      All cases are terminal, but don't rub their noses in it...

  3. I believe you've found the match. Good luck! -- LArden

    1. Fingers crossed and, as usual, thumb up my ass. :)


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