The criss-cross exercise

or, How to drive a bus (part 8)

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

As part of bus driver school, they told us what we're supposed to do if a passenger vomits, bleeds, urinates, or defecates on the bus: treat it as a biohazard. If it's liquid or "liquidy" we're supposed to cover it with some powdery substance from our equipment box, which solidifies the mess so it won't slop all over the bus.

Liquid or solid, though, the bus comes out of service. We're supposed to call dispatch, evacuate any passengers, and wait for a road-supervisor to deliver a replacement bus.

So I asked what seemed a logical question: "If it's a very tidy turd, can I pick it up, toss it in a trash can, and continue on my route?"

There was laughter, but my question was serious. Their answer was no. My answer is, people are too squeamish.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

We haven't yet driven the bus anywhere but on the training course, but I've been trying to drive my car by "bus driver rules," just to get a feel for it.

Bus driver rules are very different from ordinary driving rules, with crazy things like, stop signs mean stop, and speed limits exist and must be followed. Stop and look at all railroad crossings. Wait three seconds after the light turns green, before moving the bus. Spend six seconds doublechecking everything in every direction before taking a free right turn.

Et cetera, and they are not blowing diesel about any of it. There's an onboard data recorder that'll fink you to management if you break the bus driver rules. If it finks you out more than rarely, your career as a bus driver will be brief.

Keeping both hands on the steering wheel is the trickiest bus driver rule. You don't even think about it, but when you're turning sharply, you probably cross one hand over the other, so one hand is off the wheel. And I always want to rest my right hand on the gear shift, but that's a huge no-no.

"Both hands on the steering wheel, Doug," is what the course instructor keeps telling me. It's hard to remember, though, in the midst of everything else you gotta remember.

They told us about both hands on the wheel and stop signs mean stop and all that, in my driver's ed class in the 1970s, but who actually drives that way? Bus drivers, I guess.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Mitch is still struggling with everything, at bus driver school. The idea of Mitch behind the wheel of a real bus carrying real passengers in real traffic is real scary.

On Monday, our class took turns driving the bus through three practice scenarios, and we all especially struggled with a course called "criss-cross." It seems simple but killed an awful lot of cones.

The bus starts in a parking space, and you back up into a space behind the bus but to the left (1). Then you drive forward (2), then back up again, this time into a space behind the bus but to the right (3). Then you drive forward, to the cone-delineated place you started from (4). Then it's someone else's turn to drive the criss-cross trail.

The backing up part is complicated, especially because there's a cone in the middle (X) which mustn't be hit. It's difficult, but it's not complicated, is it? Yet, hour after hour of driving and watching others drive this simple maneuver, every time Mitch did it, he was unsure about the next step.

"Do I back up straight into the stall behind me?" No, Mitch, in this exercise you never back up straight into a stall. That's why it's called criss-cross.

And of course, he killed every cone at least once. Toward the end, our teacher's boss, the top safety manager, was watching. He took Mitch aside for a ten-minute talking to, and I thought it might be Mitch's farewell, but nope. He's still among us, still worrisome, and still making me look good.

♦ ♦ ♦

In the criss-cross exercise, there's a cone in the way (X) which makes it more difficult than it should be. More difficult than reality, really. Look, if you were doing this criss-cross maneuver in the real world, that X cone in the middle wouldn't be there.

Well, after two hours of doing and watching the criss-cross exercise, on asphalt in relentless sunshine, I grew weary of my own repeated failure, and everybody else's, so…

Before backing up the bus, you always have to do a walkaround, circling the entire bus on foot, to visually check for obstacles. As I walked around the back of the bus, out of sight of the teacher and other students, I moved the X cone forward about 18 inches, to allow an easier turn — my own little Kobayashi Maru.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

When it's 88° outside, it's hotter than that on pavement, and we were on pavement all day long. I've been drinking plenty of fluids afterwards, but not while we're on the driving course, because what goes in must come out, and it's a long walk to the men's room.

I completely understood what was going on, though, when Mitch ducked behind a parked bus at a far corner of the course. He's old like me, but unlike me, he'd been drinking water all morning. After he'd been vanished for half a minute, the teacher asked, "Hey, where's Mitch?"

"He went behind that bus over there," said one of the other students.

"Why?" the teacher asked.

"Some things a man's gotta do," I said.

The teacher said, "Oh," but said nothing more about it, even when Mitch rejoined the group.

Maybe twenty minutes later, though, the teacher made a general announcement: "Hey, guys. It's hot out here, so remember, there's a cooler full of cold water bottles just inside the garage door. You don't have to wait for your break, and you don't have to ask permission. If you're thirsty, go grab a bottle and then come back. [pause] Oh, and if you have to go to the bathroom, it's the same. You don't have to wait, don't have to ask, just go inside and take care of whatever."

I thought the teacher handled that kinda classy. And hey, why not be healthy? I went and got myself a bottle of water, too.

or, How to drive a bus (part 9)
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



  1. Uh, please follow the rules even if its a "tidy turd". Even if it was tidy nobody wants to sit where someone shitted.

    1. I'd wet-wipe the seat before you sat down, and even wash my hands.


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