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

I haven't yet even touched a bus, but my new job — driving the short bus — seems OK, so far.

The bus barn is a busy place, with dozens of drivers walking around, especially at shift-change. A hundred buses are parked outside, and more are up on lifts in the back of the building, with mechanics working under them.

With so many drivers and dispatchers and mechanics in the building, sure hope I never need to plop a constipated poop there, cuz there's only one stall in the men's room. 

Someone takes my temperature every morning, because COVID is still a thing, but everyone seems welcoming. Nobody's punched me or called me Fatso, yet.

Best of all, there's a free popcorn machine. Never worked for a place that had free popcorn before — and it's good popcorn, too. I've been having a bag at every break, and today I took a bag home when I left. I'm more excited about free popcorn, I think, than about the health coverage.

For training, they're having us sit through classes, eight hours a day, mostly watching videos and then taking quizzes. The videos are slow, and repeat every point twice, same as corporate videos everywhere.

They're far superior to the videos at my last job, though, or any job I've had, because they don't seem too awkwardly staged, and I'm almost certain they feature actual employees, not actors pretending to be employees. Maybe they're just really good actors, but one of them said "fuck" in the middle of his talk about treating other employees with respect, and they didn't edit the profanity out of the video, so yeah, I think they're real employees.

Also, the people in the videos are occasionally funny, meaning genuine funny, not the ordinary fake-funny of corporate training.

Verdict on the training videos: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

I come into any new situation full of doubt, and definitely have my doubts about this job. I don't like cars, they kinda scare me, and I'll be driving a damned bus 40 hours a week.

It's far more complicated than driving a car, with lots of safety regulations and computerized devices all over the dashboard.

It involves dealing with people, and I hate people.

There are cameras on the bus, and our Safety Dept regularly views the videos, so maybe I won't be able to freely pick my nose.

And with tall stacks of training materials to learn despite my hatred of anything that smacks of 'school', yeah, my doubts bubbled up. Can I do this job?

Well, maybe.

As the class has progressed, once in a while we new hires have asked questions, and holy moly, some of the other people's questions are stupid — especially Mitch, the guy sitting next to me. Several times each day he asks what page we're on in the training book, but we are going through the book page-by-page. If he can't make it from page 38 to page 39 without asking for help, how the hell is he gonna drive a bus from Auburn to Aurora?

After each video, there's a short quiz, but before one video the teacher helpfully said, "You don't need to take notes during this next video, because there's no quiz afterward." She hit 'play' to start the video, and Mitch objected so loudly she had to hit 'pause'.

What he urgently wanted to know was, "Well, if we're not taking notes, what are we suppose to learn from this?"

Her answer was, "Take notes if you want. Just watch the video."

He often interrupts the teacher and the videos to ask stupid questions like that, or theoretical questions that slow down the whole day.

Like, when she said we're not allowed to stop the bus except at designated stops, Mitch said, "What if it's an emergency? What if someone's sick?"

During a long film about how to handle irate passengers, he interrupted the video to tell a story about how he won an argument once without arresting anybody...

Oh, so Mitch is an ex-cop. I should've known, just from the circumstantial evidence — he's big, has the standard-issue muscular cop body, interrupts a lot, and he's not very bright.

And yet, he's doing OK on the quizzes. If he doesn't screw up in the hands-on testing — when we'll actually be driving the bus, without passengers, and practice securing wheelchairs and such — then he'll be driving the bus for a living.

He's my inspiration, and quells my doubts, because I'm not particularly intelligent, but compared to him I am Einstein to the tenth power. If Mitch can do this job, I can certainly do this job.

♦ ♦ ♦

When I took driver's education in high school, they showed some films about crashes, to try to sicken and terrify the kids into being better drivers. That no-quiz video they showed us at short-bus school? It was the ultimate driver's ed film. It wasn't graphic, but wow it was intense.

It was a 30-minute documentary about the life of a woman who was killed by one of our buses, when the driver made two mistakes at the same corner.

First, he didn't see that lady as she was crossing in the crosswalk, and smacked her with the bus's way-out protruding side-view mirror. That's a big mistake, but not as big as his second mistake.

He'd heard the thud, but didn't know what it was. In a situation like that, the driver is supposed to stop the bus right where it is, even in the middle of traffic, and assess the situation. He should've clicked the hazard flashers on, gotten out, and walked around the bus to see what that thud-sound was. If he'd done that, he would've found that woman he'd knocked down, and maybe helped her up, or maybe called 9-1-1.

He didn't want to block traffic, though, so instead of immediately stopping, he pulled the bus over to the side of the road—  and in doing so, the bus ran over the woman he'd knocked down, and killed her.

This was not fiction. The film showed the intersection where it happened, named the victim, interviewed her family and friends. It was sobering. I cried. The point was, Always safety, always, and even Mitch, sitting beside me, didn't have any stupid questions.


Next: An apology, and several complaints
or, How to drive a bus (part 3)
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 CANNOT WAIT until your mother finds out you're driving the bus, pesters you endlessly about it for several weeks at breakfast, and then seeing how she convolutedly finagles a ride on your route.

    "That's my boy driving up there! Did I tell you the story about how he was potty-trained? Well..."

    The mind reels...

    1. Seems like a likely turn of events, actually.


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