This has been a very, very, very busy week for me. I’ve had to attend a very, very boring Pre-Service driver training class, which is kind of stupid since I’m already in service. The class was basically some guy from the state bitching at us about how we need to document things so that we as the driver can’t get sued, and also how the laws are written in a way that basically ensures we get sued no matter how much we document. He also liked to illustrate how racist and misogynistic he was, which I thought was just great. And he had some very apocryphal stories, too, but that wasn’t the important part. What was important was his hair… rather, his hairpiece. I actually got permission from one of my supervisors to make fun of it to his face, but I never did get around to it.

Even better than that, though, was a brilliant video production that we got to watch. Fatal Stop! instantly reminded me of those great 16MM films they used to show us in Driver’s Ed, and I’m pleased to say that it was in fact originally released on 16MM film, way back in 1977. It was nothing short of beautiful. And it was the only training film I’ve seen so far where other people in the class also laughed at how ridiculous it was. Such a relief. Our instructor claimed that it was based on a true story, but I somehow doubt that. Not to say that similar situations haven’t happened before, but in my experience, very few training videos, especially those that came out of California in the ’70s, are based on real events. You can judge for yourself if you’re bored enough… there is a “preview” on the page for that video that is actually just a low-quality full-length copy. So you, too can share in the fear of an improper pre-trip. And if you do decide to watch it, be sure to notice: when they put sugar in the gas tank, it’s not just sugar… it’s Albertson’s sugar.

That movie was about the only high point of the training, though. Have to spend all of the off-time in between my driving shifts sitting in uncomfortable chairs didn’t make me happy. Neither did being away from home for 11 hours a day. And on top of that… my bus is developing transmission problems. I’ve noticed it slipping more and more between 2nd and 3rd gears. It doesn’t do it a lot, but it still does it more than it should, and in times when it really shouldn’t have any issues shifting (25mph on level ground). I mentioned it to one of the skippers, and she told me to go ask a mechanic to look at it, and he just told me to write it up. So a mechanic finally got around to taking a look at my bus, and declared there to be “no problem” since he couldn’t reproduce it when he test drove the bus for all of 10 minutes. Nice that he listened to me when I explained to him what the conditions had been when it had slipped previously… the bus had been driving for at least an hour, the transmission was running warm (around 200 degrees), level ground, 25mph, no acceleration or deceleration. I guess they’re just not used to actually getting input from the drivers that is worth anything, so he just completely ignored me when I was talking to him. He just told me not to worry about it unless it got worse. One of the other mechanics had told me that my bus has an electronic transmission, and it’s probably a problem with the control computer. I love that they have all of these buses, but don’t bother to have the equipment to read diagnostic information from them, so instead they just troubleshoot things the old way. It’s not like the code readers really cost that much. Oh well.

And on top of that, when I got my bus back from the mechanic, the horn didn’t work well, and still doesn’t. You have to hit the button with a closed fist very hard to get it to sound. It doesn’t make me happy. And evidently, driving is difficult for mechanics, because the rubber guard on one of my cross-view mirrors had been ripped partway off, and the other mirror had been knocked quite far out of alignment. I personally have pulled the bus in and out of the garage several times without clipping the mirrors. I guess not damaging buses just isn’t in their skillset.

One upshot of the transmission debacle was that I glanced at the date of manufacture of my bus and noticed that it is her birth month. The skipper had said that I shouldn’t be having transmission problems like that, since my bus is “brand new”. I was pretty sure that it was less than new, so I checked the plate, and noticed that it was built in this very month of May, back in 2000. So at some time during this month, the big girl turns 4. Maybe I’ll see if they’ll let me have a birthday party for my bus. And I think I’ve decided that I will name her Blue Belle, or just Belle for short. After all, she is a Blue Bird, and Belle just sounds like a nice name.