Thursday, January 21, 2010

You Know You're a Bus Driver When...

This is what I drive, except newer....

So as I've mentioned previously, I'm working as a bus driver for Fairfax City CUE Bus. It's just a small public transportation company run by the City of Fairfax. So far it's been a pretty good place to work. The supervisors are all nice. My co-workers are all really nice to work with. Some of the drivers have been working there for 20+ years!! I'm easily the youngest person by probably 20 years. I guess I'm officially done with training now, the last few days have consisted of me driving with an experienced driver riding with me for support. My next day in the driver seat is Monday in which I guess I'll be driving alone for the first time! I'm a little nervous they're cutting the apron strings! I guess I need to get myself to REI and buy a knife to carry with never know what can happen with those crazy passengers, right? It's never been a dull moment at the CUE bus!

This past week by far, has been the most eventful. I worked Monday through Thursday. Monday was pretty quiet considering it was a holiday, but after that it got all crazy! Tuesday I saw someone rear-end someone else. It wasn't bad, but the guy who was the rear-ended got his car hood all folded up. Then later on in the day, one of the drivers gets on the radio to ask for an ambulance at her location. We come to hear, that she hit someone with the bus!! Apparently, they think this lady who got hit, was trying to catch a bus on the other side of the street. She thought she could cross the street before the bus departed and dashed out in front of this driver. I didn't see it happen and I'm not sure of all the details, but it's definitely sad and scary!! It would be bad enough hitting someone with a car, but can you imagine hitting someone with a bus?! I'm not sure how the woman is doing who got hit. I think they said she's in the hospital (obviously) but I don't know much else. Then on Wednesday, I drove most of the day. During the morning, we got stuck in pretty bad traffic, and so we were running 15 minutes behind schedule. So the lady driver who was with me, took the wheel for a loop around the route to catch up time. Well she's a maniac driver as it is, plus add the fact that she was trying to catch up time, and it was kinda a scary ride. I didn't feel the need to sit and watch her since I knew the route, so since I was really tired I kinda just started snoozing. Awhile later, I open my eyes to see where we were, and she was just about to pull next to a bus stop sign. She swung in way too deep and ended up smacking the side mirror on the bus stop sign!! Glass shattered everywhere, including on the man who was waiting at the stop! He wasn't hurt, but obviously shaken. That definitely woke me up! After that happened, they brought us a new bus and she made me take the wheel again.

That experience with her driving all crazy though made me think...It would be advisable for commercial drivers to go through better training when they get CDLs. I'm not saying that all CDL holders are nuts. But I've experienced some pretty crappy bus driving. There are some drivers who accelerate really quick and then slam on their brakes to stop. There's drivers who just pull into bus stops too deep, and eventually shatter mirrors. It makes me grateful, and I think gives me an advantage, that Holland America gives their Driver Guides such good training. Or maybe it's the fact that one of the most important aspects of being a tour driver is always having the comfort of the passenger in mind. It's stressed to us that you should always Feather Brake, and to take turns slow and to not jar the people on the coach. Plus, you have to keep in mind that even though time is an issue, passenger safety is an even bigger concern. You shouldn't let your rush to keep time, endanger the passengers you're carrying. Even if you're running late, it's better to be late than dead.

Apparently, I'm also famous. I hate to say it but I'm kind of a big deal. People KNOW me. Haha. Seriously though, I guess being a cute, young, girl bus driver from Alaska gets people talking. I had a passenger the other day get off at the Metro (Washington DC's train system, not unlike the subway), turn around and say to me "Oh! You're the one from Alaska!". It was funny because I wondered who she heard it from, but I guess one of the other drivers mentioned something. Similar experience have happened to me before. People are always so impressed or intrigued that such a young girl drives buses. The more I have thought about it, the more appealing it is in some ways, to just drive a bus the rest of my life. The pay is really good (I'm starting at $16/hr, while the veteran drivers I'm sure make way more) and it's a good skill to have incase I need a fallback. The only thing though, is that I don't want to turn into those leathery, old bus drivers. I've seen the women who drive the buses and they all LOOK like bus drivers. Sun damaged skin, wrinkles everywhere, scraggly hair, frumpy oversized clothing, bus driver butt (you know what I'm talking about ;). If I do end up driving buses a lot, I REFUSE to turn into one of those creepy drivers. I will stay as fashionable as I can (for a bus driver) and will make sure I don't get fat or ruin my skin with sun damage and wrinkles.

So I came up with a short list of "You know you're a bus driver when...." things and I thought I would share. So without further ado... (this comes from both my experience in Alaska and here in Fairfax)

You Know You're a Bus Driver/Driver Guide When...

1) While it may not be the most direct way to go, you find yourself driving to places following your bus route when you're off duty.

2) You pass a historical site, and suddenly feel the urge to narrate and tell people about it.

3) As you drive through intersections (while off-duty), the booming "announcer man voice" plays in your head "Now approaching Fairfax Circle" or wherever you happen to be at the time (this happens to me, and makes me sad, lol)

4) After driving in the bus and getting into your car, you watch your mirrors extensively and make sure you don't hit anything with your "tail-swing" (tail swing is virtually non-existant in a car/compact SUV/mini-van)

5) You wish you had or actually have convex mirrors on your personal car

6) You give your car a mini-pre trip before you leave in the morning

So anyway, that's all for now. This bus job is kicking my butt as far as sleep goes and being tired. In Alaska, I never really had a problem getting up in the morning for work. Probably because it never felt like work. I was surviving on an average of 6 hours a night and it didn't bother me. But now, I'm getting up sometimes at 4:15 am! Luckily, next week I'll be working afternoon routes so it won't be as hard. I am NOT a morning person.


Abby Q. said...

oh silly balls. I'm glad you're enjoying the bus driving, but be safe, it sounds like there could potentially be a lot of creepys out there!!

Bethany said...

Haha. YES. Having done the ak thing and the city bus thing, I know what you are talking about!!! Every single one of those you knows... I was like, yep. Yep. And, yep. Made me laugh. Good job.