Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Excuse Me While I Blow The Sky

We are a city of many different faces. On any given day you can interact with dozens of different cultures, see many different faces and ages, and hear hundreds of points of view. Every once in a while, you're left shaking your head, or laughing out loud at something someone says or does.

I love watching people, which makes driving a city bus the perfect job for me.

Is there anything more entertaining than watching people approach a set of storefront double doors, only to grab the one that is inexplicably locked? Push the door. Nope. Now pull the door. Nope. Allemande left... walk through the adjacent unlocked door. The expression on their face is usually a mix of "That was stupid" and "Why the @#$% is that door locked, anyway?" Nobody really knows why the door we pull is always the locked one, but it is.

The rear doors on a bus are much the same. Sometimes they don't act the way we expect. In fact, most of the rear doors are completely automatic. The tricky part is trying to figure out how to activate them.

The old buses were easy. Step down on the treadle, and the door opened. But that didn't stop people from standing on the top step and trying to push the door open with their hand. So what would happen is that the door push would activate the "Drunk Buzzer" which holds the door shut with a lock and will not release until the person stops pushing on it. Which of course was when they would step down, activating the door motor which would would push on the door with the drunk buzzer locking doohickey holding the door closed electronically in some kind of Catch 22 designed by the cast of Punk'd. If you weren't drunk, you sure felt that way as your driver gave you the news that you'd have to get up off the steps, get back on the steps, and DON"T TOUCH THE DOOR!

Then along came the Nova LFS buses. Wave at the door, sir! Wave at the door, sir! No, no. Just wave at the door sir, not at me. You have not lived until you have completely exhausted yourself trying to get a Carleton University Engineering student to activate a rear door by waving at a sensor that he cannot see. What the hell kind of sadistic person came up with a no-touch system of opening a door, anyway? I will never forget yelling back to "Wave at the door, sir" when a passenger at the front door began to wave too. Safety in numbers, I guess.

Now they have the buses with the Magic Strip. It doesn't look like a button. It doesn't feel like a button. It doesn't even act like a button. Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. I see you folks driving your thumb into that plastic thingy as I'm stopping. You're looking at me in the mirror as the reluctant door pauses a little too long before opening. Will it open? Will it close as you're halfway through it, forcing the Indiana Jones leap to freedom... narrowly getting your hat as it drops behind you. Who says engineers don't have a sense of humour?

Interactions in general can be pretty funny too.

I listened to two twenty-somethings explain to me that they should "Apply" for City Hall so they could clean up the city in one month. All we need is common sense. Like putting another 86 on around 1pm. And plowing the friggin' sidewalks. And firing everybody so we can hire cheaper people. Sounds easy when you put it like that. I gave them an application for City Hall. (kidding)

I've never been a really open talker on buses either as a passenger or a driver. Speak when spoken to is usually a safe bet when in transit situations. I'm helpful, but I'd rather not have a bus trip be an overly social experience. I had a regular passenger who felt otherwise. This guy would chat away about anything and everything he came into contact with. I heard stories about his parents, his kids, his job, his hobbies, you-name-it. After a month or so, I guess we got to know each other pretty well and I would put in a zinger here and there. I try to be funny with most folks. Funny is good people in my books. So I had made some comment about my bus being late because bus drivers can't read numbers that aren't on wooden blocks... and he made a verbal typo that still makes me laugh out loud to this day. He said : "I love your self defecating humour."

I nearly crapped myself laughing.

And then there's the language barriers. Sometimes it's so tough to understand what someone wants, that I over-think the question. A simple mispronunciation can turn Baseline into Bass-sell-eene, causing my brain to search hundreds of streets and repeat things mentally until I'm well beyond the light of understanding. Other times, people just say the darndest things, and you can't help but laugh.  A thick accented lady ran up to the front of my bus yelling and waving to the front window signifying her desire to get on the bus in front of me: "Ay ay ay ay ay ay ay ay ay ay ay! CAN YOU BLOW THAT GUY!" I felt the clean taste of pennies in my mouth as I clamped down on my enunciator and rifled through my mind's Rolodex of responses.  Dinner first? No, I can't say that. I don't think its my turn. No, definitely can't say that. Not with that guy's mouth and you pushing. Absolutely can't say that. So I just honked the horn, defeated.

And said under my breath:  Excuse me while I blow the sky.


  1. The singing bus driver had good instructions for passengers on the Nova bus that made you wave at the door. He'd say, "pretend you are brushing away invisible spider webs in front of the door".

  2. That was really funny, thanks. I appreciated the Indiana Jones visual too.