So anyway, readers, you know how some days just go so well, and others just turn to hell in a hand basket before your very eyes? Well, yesterday was fitted the latter of the aforementioned descriptions. It was Sunday to start with, but I didn’t start until 11am, so I managed to get a sleep in until 9am. Now, while this sounds late, it really wasn’t as I work nights and don’t get to sleep until about 12.30am. I toddled along to work and when I arrived there were none of the nice MAN buses left. Well, there were a couple that had been fixed by workshops, but they didn’t have enough fuel to get to the end of the block, let alone do a nine hour shift of hot laps around Canberra.
So I took a crappy old Iris. The Iris buses look nice, and can be nice to drive, and have air conditioning, but rarely are they in top working order. They are also rather slow, cramped in the driver’s cabin area and have a lot of little things wrong with them that drivers don’t bother to defect as they don’t affect the actual running of the vehicle, so they are, in sum, shitboxes.
A crappy old Iris. They look lovely, don’t they? Looks CAN be deceiving!
Anyway, dear readers, that’s enough background on the Iris buses. I had what I thought was a pretty good shift. Lots of turn-around time (fifteen or so minutes in between trips, which can be handy, as you will soon see, when running late as it means the next trip might just leave on time), nice easy runs etc. So much for that. I did my first trip which encompassed 40 roundabouts (yes, readers, I did count them one very bored and frustrated evening when I had no passengers on my bus). The Irises are low-slung and I actually grazed a gutter when turning a corner, at one stage, even though I took it ever so slowly and carefully. Then when I arrived in the city, I had to go pee. Now, we usually have a toilet facility in the city right at the main interchange, but, due to a fire that closed the city centre down for about four days, our bathroom is out of action so I had to drive a few blocks away to the other bathroom we use. When I returned to my bus after making use of the facilities, I saw that my bus looked like a pigsty. I’d say that rocking and rolling around the roundabouts rousted the rubbish out from under the seats and into the aisle. I then dashed back into the lunchroom and grabbed a broom and swept a huge mess of old sandwiches, bottle caps, 7 11 slushy cups and even a broken mouth guard case out from under the seats.
Sweeping the bus out and having to drive half way across town made me a couple of minutes late for my next trip. I pulled up at the stop to be greeted by a dozen or more eager passengers who stampeded aboard. Just as the last one got on the bus, a couple of Asian women started struggling with the bike rack on the front of the bus. They were pissing around for at least four minutes. Now, company policy dictates that the driver is not to assist with the bike rack, prams, bags, etc in case of injury to the driver. Asides from that, it can take five minutes to even get out of the driver’s seat and back into it again once the seatbelt is unclasped, the bus secured (hand brake, neutral, etc), drivers bags and stuff moved out of the way, cabin door opened, and then all in reverse to get back in. Anyway, the younger Asian lady had her MyWay card to scan, but the older one didn’t. The older woman then proceeded to tell me she was a senior and it was free travel for seniors week this week. She had left her purse at home so, after her digging around in her bag for it for two minutes, I let her travel for free because I figured she was genuine. Turns out it was free travel for seniors week, but I didn’t know that at the time. Off we went.
Next drama was when I started my next trip (again, already a few minutes late thanks to the last trip running late) and an Indian girl got on the bus and asked if the 935 (which I was doing) went to Kingston. Apparently the field supervisors had told her the 935 went where she had to go. I told her that I didn’t think it did, and asked her where she had to go in Kingston. She said “Kingston”. I said “Well, what street?” I have a list of lefts and rights, and if the passenger can tell me a street or landmark, it will often be on my directions and I can clarify if I go there or not. I’m still getting used to Canberra and it’s zillion suburbs that all sound the same. The girl was getting frustrated and said “you should know. You’re the bus driver.” At this stage, all I wanted to do was grab her by the scruff of her neck and slap her face a few times, but I refrained. Instead I called Comms on the two-way to see if they were any more clued up than I was. In the meantime she was calling the assistance line to ask for, well, assistance. I was running about eight minutes late at this stage. Finally she deduced that the 935 did not, in fact, go to Kingston, which was exactly what I had been telling her. She told me she would then have to catch a taxi, and got off. I floored it out of there.
Anyway, readers, I was running along about seven or eight minutes late at this stage, half way through this trip, when an African fellow saw me hooning down the street and he tried to hail the bus on the corner of a roundabout. (bit of an oxymoron that – do roundabouts HAVE corners? Food for thought…) I ignored him and kept on going as a) he was not at a stop and b) I was running late and if he had really wanted this particular bus he would have been at the stop ready and waiting. Anyway, I got to the stop a few blocks up, and another African girl got on and told me that there was someone coming. I couldn’t even see him in the rear view mirror, folks, that was how far away he was. I told her he could get the next bus as I was running late as all get out. She got on and I closed the doors and took off, to find people waiting at almost every stop on the way back into town. I hardly managed to make up any time.
The next trip, I pulled up as a route 939 about two minutes late to leave the stop from the city, all my turn around time used up, and then some, and a woman asked me if the 939 went to Lyneham.
“No”. I replied. “That would be the 936 and the 937. They go in opposite directions to one another”.
“But doesn’t the 939 go to Lyneham?” she asked.
“No. No it doesn’t. You want the 936 or 937” I said again.
“But I thought the 939 went to Lyneham”.
“No,” I said again. I unclipped my directions and read out where the 939 did go. “The 939 goes to Ainslie, Dickson, Watson, Dickson and Ainslie. Nowhere near Lyneham. You want the 936 and 937”.
“Are you sure?” she asked. What, was I speaking Italian? Yes, I was bloody sure!
The woman then got back onto the bus (she had moved as far as the doorway during this inane conversation) and picked up a bag or an umbrella, or perhaps her common sense, and got back off the bus. She went over to the timetable just outside the bus door and started looking at it. While this conversation had been taking place, a number of other passengers had been boarding the bus, too. She came back over to the bus door to, once again, confirm that the 939 did not go to Lyneham and I finally said “I’m running ten minutes late. I really have to go.” And I shut the door and took off, leaving her to process that information and wait for the 936 or 937… or perhaps the next 939 just to clarify what I had told her.
The next trip involved a very long and convoluted route and I was, yep, you guessed it, running late. I was about ten minutes late on this one, but by the time I was nearly at the end of this trip, I had made up all but about three minutes of time. I was feeling pretty good by this stage. Until I pulled up at stop and as I approached the stop, I could see the person who had hailed the bus cursing and swearing. I popped the doors open and he got on and said “you’re late”. I couldn’t believe my ears. A quick bit of background here, readers, is that I have no patience for people who tell me I’m late when I am anything less than ten minutes late. Drivers ALWAYS know how on time or not they are, and, on the Gold Coast, my record for being late is about 57 minutes. Now try THAT on for size. Sure, the driver LOVES being late. Cutting meal breaks short, getting home an hour late from work, busting for a pee, being starving as one expected to be able to eat about an hour ago… it’s great fun. So THREE MINUTES, readers? COME ON!
“You are kidding me?” I said to him, icily. “I’ve been running fifteen minutes late all day and you are having a go at me about THREE MINUTES? I can’t believe you! I’ve been driving this old banger of a bus that wouldn’t pull the skin off a custard and you are HAVING A GO AT ME ABOUT THREE MINUTES? NEVER TELL A BUS DRIVER THEY ARE RUNNING LATE. THEY BLOODY WELL KNOW THEY ARE!”
“Oh, oh, oh,” he said, backing down. “It’s not just you. All the buses are always late. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” And after a little bit more of a banter and a chat, he went and sat down.
I kind of turned it into a joke, but once he sat down I was really fuming. I was furious. Probably irrationally so, but THREE MINUTES!?
How I felt after the clock-Nazi dickhead had sat down.
At one point, readers, during the day I did manage to fit my scheduled meal break in. I was in dire need of a coffee, so I headed into the mall to grab a quick bevvie. Now, you might or might not be aware that there is a particular type of person called a “bus enthusiast” or “gunzel”. Often these folk are rather simple (but, of course, there are others who are not simple, just, how could I say, perhaps socially deficit in some manner or other?). Anyway, while I was sipping my coffee and window shopping, one of these gunzels spotted my uniform at 50 paces and lumbered over to have a chat. This fellow had two crutches and one shoe had been bulked up at the sole to help him keep his balance. He said to me “It’s hot today, isn’t it”.
I replied that “yes, it was hot!
He then said “lucky it’s cooling down. Becuase imagine if you called workshops up and told them your gear box had broken when it was really only the hot weather”. He seemed to think this was hilarious. I humoured him and agreed.
This line of conversing went on for a few minutes and finally, after three attempts, I managed to extricate myself from this mildly inane conversation and get on my way.
At the end of my third last trip I ended up back at the depot so I swapped the Iris for an MAN, hoping to get some extra comfort and speed. By the time I did this, I managed to leave about three minutes late on the next trip. I just got later, and later, and later. Finally I made up some time as I hit the home stretch, and eventually managed to garner myself about ten glorious minutes on my turn around time. I buggered off to the facilities, and when I returned, there was a driver standing at my door. I said “what’s up?” and he told me he was bored on his turn around. He then proceeded to stand in my door way and bang on about nothing in particular. I got the impression he was rather simple. I ate my cookie and then told him I had to go. He kept on wanting to talk. Finally I all but slammed the door in his bloody face and took off. The last trip went without a hitch. Until I got to the city.
At the city I picked up a few people and then once they were all on, I heard a “snap-pssscht” of a can being opened. I looked in my rear vision mirror at the girl on the back seat, who was hiding her hand behind the other seat so I couldn’t see what she had.
“Don’t open a can on the bus” I called out. As they do, when they have alcohol on board and they know they are not supposed to, she gave me a blank look. “I’m talking to you” I yelled out. Again, blank look. “What have you got in your hand?” She finally showed me the can she had. At first I thought it was a can of lemonade. I said “don’t open cans on the bus.” Then I thought for half a minute and turned back around and asked what she was drinking.
“UDL” she replied.
“Well, it’s against the law to drink on the bus or have open alcohol on the bus. So you can either get off, finish your UDL and get the next bus, or you can go and throw it in the bin and get this bus”. She opted to throw it in the bin and stay on my bus. I tell you, readers, I couldn’t get home fast enough after this shift. My throat was sore like I was coming down with something and I was starting to feel exhausted. May today be a better day!