Archive for March, 2004

Afternoon run

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

This afternoon's runs were fun. The driver I rode with actually has double routes, which was kind of nice. Neither one was very big (20 or 30 kids, tops), and each one didn't take terribly long, either.

Both sets of kids were completely fascinated by me being on their bus, and both sets kept asking the driver if I was his son, so we just started playing along. One six-year-old girl refused to believe that I don't have a girlfriend, and kept trying to pry the name of my non-existent lover out of me. That was fun. She also sang me an Easter song, which was nothing short of “special”. I've already can't remember what song it was, though. In between routes, we had a layover, so the driver parked the bus, and we went into a record store to kill time. It's fun to get paid for doing nothing.

Morning run

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

This morning, I got to ride along on a bus for kids with behavioral problems. There are maybe 10 of them total on the whole route, all very spread out. It was a strange experience, to say the least. They were, by far, the best behaved group of kids that I've ever seen on a school bus.

I got to hear some interesting talk over the radio this morning, including, “I don't know what it is, but it sure does smell… can someone come take a look at this?” I can't speak for anyone else, but I think that I personally would rather not come take a look if it really does smell so bad.

I rule!

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

Yay! I took my CDL skills test this morning and pretty much aced it! No more ugly sunrise on my license. Now I have an ugly powder blue bar. The examiner was super-nice, and I only missed points on piddly little things (with the exception of my alley dock and parallel park maneuverability). Tomorrow, I get to start riding around on buses with other drivers, and get paid the full hourly rate, but I don't actually drive a bus with kids until next week. And that makes me very happy.

I am prepared to rule

Monday, March 29th, 2004

Tomorrow, I get to go take my CDL skills test at 8 AM. Today was all practice leading up to that. We did quite a bit of driving around this morning, and I didn't know it until after, but my instructor was grading me the entire time. Even without knowing that, and driving like I normally do, I scored a 94%. All about my practice test fun…

Work = Fun

Friday, March 26th, 2004

Yesterday, I got to drive another transit-style bus. This one was a school bus, and actually had air brakes, which made me happy. On top of that, I think that it rode much nicer, so I was definitely a lot happier when driving it.

On top of that, I learned that as soon as I pass my CDL skills test, I get to start driving kids around. That means that, if all goes to plan, I will start driving kids on Wednesday. Yay! And I have today off, so I get to have another three day weekend, then it's more practice on Monday, and testing on Tuesday.

Pimpin’ in the Cadillac

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

Today was another good, fun day. Right away, we drove over to the bus lot and traded our usual training bus for one of the transit coaches. We somehow managed to pick a bus from the lot with the dirtiest windows in the world and mirrors that were stuck. We spent about 5 minutes washing the windows on the outside before we realized that it was the inside that was truly dirty. I don't know how someone drives that bus on a daily basis. It was nasty.

It also rode horribly on the road. Granted, the transit coaches that I've driven before had air-ride seats and air suspensions. This bus had neither. The driver's seat was fixed-height (yuck), and it had a traditional leaf spring/shock absorber suspension. I did, however, get to take the bus by McDonald's and park it in the lot so we could go grab breakfast. I sure do love buying food while driving in large vehicles.

After that, we drove over to the bus lot, then switched over to the other trainee driving. She drove around for a couple of hours, then we headed back to the bus lot to swap the transit coach out for yet another bus. This time, we got what my instructor calls the “Cadillac buses”. It was a Thomas/Freightliner bus, and it was by far the best bus I've driven so far. I was still getting situated in the seat, and my instructor had already started making fun of me. “Mike's having fun with this bus.”

And I was. It had the nicest air-ride seat of any of the school buses I've driven so far. And it just rode so pleasantly on the road. The driver's platform was elevated a few inches, and that made me happier. Plus, the instrument panel was just so much nicer. There was even a panel dimmer, which I haven't seen on any of the other buses so far. It even had a cigarette lighter socket, which just amused the hell out of me. And the pedal feel was nothing short of divine. If it hadn't been for the horrendous front-end shimmy that it had, I would have been in heaven. I would say that the “Cadillac bus” designation is well-deserved.

Ho and/or Hum

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

Today's training was fun, but uneventful. I found out that my CDL test got moved up to the 30th, so I only have one week left now. Yay! We did some practice CDL pre-trips today, and I forgot a ton of stuff on mine, but it was also the first time I've done one without being guided, so I'm not too disappointed. Plus, I completely rocked out on the maneuverability course. The backward serpentine, which gave me a ton of problems the last time I tried, was totally easy for me today. I am so very happy.

After we did all that stuff, I got to drive the bus around to the bus lot, and then the instructor had me park it in a space on the actual lot, backing it in between two other buses. I was totally amazed when I did it all in one fluid movement. I've always hated backing in cars, and I expected to be completely mortified of it with a bus. I guess having good mirror coverage makes life much easier.

After that, we got to drive around downtown in a baby bus. Not just a short bus, mind you… a baby bus. One of those tiny little things that is kind of like a school bus, but is based off of a full-size truck/van chassis, so it still has the traditional driver side door and all. It SUCKED. The driver's compartment was so completely proportioned wrong for me. If I sat up straight in the seat, I looked straight into the headliner. And the mirrors were just terrible, not to mention brake feel. If I have the choice, I will definitely stick to my full-size buses.

Tomorrow, we get to go out in a transit-style bus. I can't wait.

Radio Fun

Thursday, March 18th, 2004

While driving the bus today, I got to listen in on some great conversations over the two-way radio. One driver had this very lengthy conversation with the dispatcher about vomit on her bus. I never did figure out exactly why the conversation was so involved, or what the final outcome was. Then, I was treated to a discussion on what time it was, and exactly how many minutes had elapsed since that driver last radioed dispatch. It's always interesting how people's perception of these things varies.

There were also at least two accidents that I heard about, one of them involving some talk about an ambulance. One driver apparently got in a physical fight with one of her students at some point. I wish there was a tape recorder on it so I could have rewound to listen to the conversations with more attention.

Driving is fun

Thursday, March 18th, 2004

I got to drive buses for almost three hours today! And it was so much fun. First, I got to drive from the training place over to the depot that I will be driving from once I start working for real. That involved taking the school bus out on the highway, which was “fun”. The instructor showed us around there a bit, then we picked another bus to take out on our practice route, so that we can get used to different types of equipment. We ended up on some rickety 10-year-old bus with a very non-adjustable, uncomfortable seat. My back still hurts from it. But driving it was kind of nice, since it had hydraulic brakes instead of air brakes, so I didn't have to remember to start breaking about half a second before I want the bus to actually begin to slow down.

Tomorrow is more training at 7 AM, then we're off on Monday. And I found out that my CDL skills test has been scheduled for April 1st, so that's still another two weeks off. I just hope the examiner doesn't feel the need to take advantage of testing me on April Fool's day.


Thursday, March 18th, 2004

I FINALLY got to drive the bus today! I have missed it SO much. I totally amazed myself, too, by managing to successfully complete every single part of the maneuverability tests that we practiced today. These were right-hand turn, backward serpentine, alley dock, and parallel parking. All of them with a 38-foot school bus. Go me!


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