Monday, November 28, 2011

The Good Guys-Honoring the Epic Drivers Who Go the Extra Mile

So lately I've been thinking. We've been hearing a lot about bus drivers who do a bad job. Okay, this isn't really a lately thing, bus drivers always seem to be under attack for some reason or another. It's a shame because it's giving them such a stigma that all bus drivers are rotten, even when it's just a small handful that admittedly are doing a less than stellar job.

And really, anyone who has ever ridden a bus with some degree of frequent attendance will tell you of at least one bus driver they remembers for a good reason. And now, I want to give them all a small bit of recognition and thanks. In the comments below, just tell everyone about an exceptional bus driver (or MAX driver, I'm not discriminative) you know or have had that made all the difference and deserve a bit of credit.

After all, drivers are the lifeblood of the system. There wouldn't be anything to ride or use without them. They deserve a little bit back.

And since I believe for some reason, true or not, that I have the power to make a mini movement out of this, spread the word! Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, all the other stuff, just send it out for people to check out! I mean, there's a possibility that trying to get this out there could be a bust but at the same time, it could work!

Just comment your story to me here, send a link to this page out, and if you're on twitter, hashtag #epicdrivers, and then pass it around! I'll be retweeting like no tomorrow and hopefully you will too. :) We share the stories of the excellent transporation drivers around the world and give them the credit and long last!

And since of course I'd be a fool not to share my own stories, I'll kick it off with five drivers I appreciate!
The first one I really remember was a nice lady named Janet, who drove everything from the 71 to the 33-Fremont (haha, remember when that was the number of the line?) to what I usually saw her on, the 15. This was the driver everyone wanted to have. She was incredibly kindhearted, struck good, real conversation with everyone, and at some points had a smorgasboard of city maps, bus schedules and maps and other city info on the tire cap thing you're not supposed to sit on in the New Flyers.

It took a few acts of random kindness for me to make the connection to the consistent meetings with Janet, but I remember them all. The first was when she snuck me an all day ticket on one ride of the 71, the second was when she handed my mother, aunt and I some of that info she had on the tire cap. The third, however, was the one I'll remember most- a great conversation. I noticed that the line 33 was taking a detour on a small street just outside of Alameda. Me being the curious mapper I am, I asked why we were turning onto Regents or whatever street that was. Her response, a loud, jubilant "Because I felt like it!" had me in stitches for a good fifteen seconds before we continued to talk. And from there I really started to like her.

I'd always recognize her by her short white hair and her banana board that she kept in the dash of the bus. We'd talk every time, too, from the ride downtown at 4 o clock I always went out of my way to catch to my stop of 106th and Cherry Blossom along line 15 about everything and anything. She was a great soul, a lively conversator and showed me how awesome bus drivers could be. She was also a nice help with my TBIP project but I didn't talk about it an overwhelming amount until I met Kristen, whom you can read about below

A second driver I remember was William, who I only rode with twice- once on line 51 and once on line 15. He had a pretty strong British (sic) accent and plenty of good conversation, mostly around the photography I fancied doing. I remember him stopping on Redondo and Hamilton for a few seconds so I could get a good picture of the area, and this was after he picked me up at Dosch and Patton and got to know me for about 5 minutes, if even. They were two experiences totaling to about an hour but they're rides I'll remember.

Then there's Kristen. Before I go on, I should regretfully mention that I'm not sure if I remembered her name right but I know it was either Kristen or something very similar to it. She was my line 27 driver during my stint at Rockwood Library who I caught both ways and perhaps the biggest reason I still mourn the defunct line along Market and Main.

Every week I'd ride with her twice and we'd chat, mainly about my ideas for the big TBIP paper I was doing that started my activism. And not only did she listen to me ramble on about my ideas and projects, she helped me out, responding in conversation, giving me suggestions and some caution and never seeming tired with my endless talking of it. Not sure where I'd be without this bus driver but I'm glad I'm here now because of her help.

And while I'm at it, while I've never actually spoken to him in person or on his bus (yet), I have to say some of my greatest heroes in my activism is Ranting Al Margullies. He's let me know that he's impressed with what I'm doing, he's given his own help, assistance and occasional correction and advice on my work, and the amazing part is that he's considered me one of his heroes. Imagine that, being a hero to one of your heroes. That's just amazing, and it's people like him who make it easier to get through hard times as an activist. It's a shame TriMet seems to dislike him so much, because I believe it's the people with unashamed, loud and brave voices like him that keep things grounded.

And then there's John Hively, a bus driver on the 15 I've mentioned before and that I owe a lot to. He was friendly right off the bat, striking thoughtful conversation with me that went past surface things and to things that really mattered to me, most notably writing, volunteering, friends and life in general. I remember after we first started talking I asked for his name by saying "Thank you, Mr..." and he responded "No need for Mister, just call me John. John the bus driver." And then we parted ways, leaving me thinking What a cool guy.

And he really was trustworthy and nonjudgmental when we talked. I told him about my efforts to volunteer and the projects I wanted to do and he encouraged me to keep at it and told me he was impressed by what I was doing. When I was having a bad day, I made my way to his bus up at Gateway and took a short ride while I vented a bit and he gave me advice on how to handle life's harder moments.

What I most remember was the encouragement, editing, advice and assistance he gave me for my writing. I wasn't that much of a writer either, just an amateur who thought he was a big shot with big ideas. He treated me like a budding author, not just a beginner, which helped me an astronomical amount. He told me to email him some of a piece I was working on, and a week or so later he offered to swing by my place and drop it off. Sure enough, same day he knocked on my door, handed me the papers, asked me a couple questions about it and bid me good day. That was simply awesome, no way around it. It was awesome.

He lent me a book called the Writer's Journey to study up on... and you know what, I never returned it after we moved. John, if you ever should be reading this, let me know and I'll get it back to you.

He also told me about a group called Young Willamette Writers, which met up once a month to learn about different types of writing. He offered to pay me through if I needed it, which I never did, but the offer alone meant so much to me. I mean, I never expected to have my biggest supporter in my budding writing career be a bus driver. But I guess it shows just how awesome they can be.

Overall, out of the bus drivers I know, he is the foremost one I would consider a friend. Because of him, I still write, and I've been told that I'm damn good at it. And I write with a passion and I want to pursue it long term. I believe that his support was what kept my light from flickering out, and it's one of the reasons I believe in the goodness of humanity overall.


And these are just some examples of bus drivers that do their jobs not only well, but to a degree that it impacts how you live and how you succeed. It's people like these who deserve credit from the public as true heroes of the more mundane side of life. People like those are what really keep it from getting too mundane.

So share your stories below, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Activist Kid's Unauthorized Guide to the Bus Series of TriMet Part 1- Defunct Series and 1400s/1600s

Hey, all! Today TriMet announced that it was deploying 55 new buses for 2012 in the hopes of replacing the crumbling remnants of what we commonly call "The 1400/1600 and 1700-1900 series." That made me reminiscent and after blazing through a number of thoughts and memories (as well as... 4, 5 Twitter conversations with Adri) I decided to make a neato little guide to the bus models and types and what to expect from them. Complete with my own photography! (when I can find any. :P)

Defunct Models

Now I can't say much about these, because I don't remember much. I do remember them, though. I remember the big long articulated ones that didn't last very long, but very very vaguely. There's one of the ones with the rounded fronts- 900 series?- that I rode on the line 9 through Concordia. There's the older short ones that looked like tin cans- very retro. What I remember very well, though, were the 500/600 series that ran all over the place. Kind of like a cross between the 1400s and 1700s. They ran up till mid to late last decade- in fact, I remember the last one I ever saw was on a line 16 during 6th grade.

A note- assuming by what could be logic, the first buses from TriMet would be the 00s or 100s. If that's true, and the system started in the 60s, does it leave anyone else disconcerted that the 500s were around till 2006?

1400 series-Gillig Phantoms

These are the oldest buses remaining on the fleet- somewhere around 20 years old, I believe. I'll always remember the sounds of their engines, always. If you've heard them, you know what I mean- kind of bleak and sorrowful but very strong as well. Weird how that works, but oddly enough I always find myself taking my headphones off and listening to the sounds of the buss.

Their readerboards are pretty hard to see, what with thin lines and faded colors, but still they work better than a good patch of the New Flyers. They also have those bus burps where they spit out a huge gray cloud when it takes off. Very unpleasant.

Inside they are usually entirely uncomfortable- a good portion of the seats are the gray and red hard plastic shell whatchamacallits. And the ones that have a 'cushion' on it (note the use of quotation marks) usually are just as bad or even worse. They're usually a half centimeter thick, almost as hard as the plastic and given just a thin glaze of felt as actual comfort. It's hard to enjoy sitting down on those buses.

Now if you're out looking for the 1400s, you'll have a challenge. They're rarely, if ever, used intentionally on bus lines anymore. They're primarily used as emergency backup for any route that needs a bus to fill in for one that's out of commission. If you're really looking for one, you'd probably find them in East County, along line 25-Glisan or 87-Airport Way/181st or something of the like. But rarely are they used willingly.

EXCEPT, if you happen to catch a City of Roses tour bus. Those have the leftover 1400s that TriMet used. Good luck trying to track one down though.

The 1600s (pretty much everything I mentioned above, but smaller), on the other hand, are the go-to bus for routes that need shorter buses (excluding Washington County, that doesn't seem to have much more than the 1700 series and some 2900s.) You'll find them in Council Crest, Gresham, Troutdale, Milwaukie, Happy Valley, Wilamette, they're all over the place. Primarily, though, around Clackamas and Gresham. Every line 28-Linwood, 29-Lake/Webster, 80/81-257th Ave and 152 Milwaukie is bound to have one. It's like TriMet law.

Overall, these are a piece of nostalgia by now and will be only that by the time 2012 is over. For better or worse, though, they'll be remembered.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rebirth is Dead

^Note the irony in that title.

So yes, apparently the giant deer-baby statue above the future Park Place station in Milawukie has been 86'd. Really, I have only one response to that. PARTY!

Finally, TriMet has done something logical. That statue would have drained at least two bus lines' worth of money. But! That does leave the question on whether this money gets used for logical stuff or just more ugly sculptures. (Seriously, TriMet. If I had to say goodbye to my precious line 27 or 51 for those pieces, at least make then... not hideous.)

But that brings me to my next point- that thing was hideous. Not only hideous but freaking creepy. *shudders* It reminds me of one of those really creepy stuffed animals with the baby faces and the animal bodies. I cannot imagine walking past that towering over me- I'm pretty sure my inner child would be pretty terrified.

For better or... better, this thing is gone. Just a little bit of right in this city. Sorry to whichever artist had this in mind but... yeah, it was pretty ugly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hahaha... so yeah...

So, I haven't blogged for awhile. And I'm pretty sure I did quite a number of "Alright, guys, I'm back!" posts that usually are a beautiful segue into extended absences. So this is not an "Alright, guys, I'm back!" post. This is an "I finally feel ready to at least acknowledging that I have a (quite abandoned) blog and hey maybe I may start updating it again."

And let's leave it at that. Before I make any promises and then all of you (which is about 10 people or so) get at least somewhat expectant for more stuff from me and then I drop off the face of the planet again. Only to come back and do the whole thing all over again. ...pretty sure there's a TriMet joke in there somewhere but I can't be arsed to find it. :P

But yeah, I should start making posts every now again- I make no promises, though. I also like to think that with my gaining an admin position on a fairly large website (okay... so it's mostly gaming... and almost no one's older than 20...) my training on the dos and donts of internet conduct can be officially declared top notch. This probably means no unnecessary calling out of Joe Rose on his main twitter stream for little to no founded reason (that always leaves me with some sentimental humiliation.) So I should be somewhat more... mature, but definitely still all me here. :P

So I believe I had a project I had wanted to do this summer revolving around the best bus rides of the city. As you can probably tell... it didn't happen. The only three of the 14 or so bus lines on my list I covered were the 38, 85 and 96. And my camera wasn't saving properly so that means we're unlikely to see any of my photo blogging. I probably won't be able to hit any of the other bus lines due to the fact they mostly run rush-hour only on the far side of town from me- although I actually take the first 2 minutes of the 22 once every week so there's really no excuse for that.

What I can do, though, is just make a list from what I know now. It's not really gonna be official official but it should be generally useful; seeing as if I can't get a ride on the 50-Cedar Mill without a huge amount of effort neither will anyone who doesn't need to. I already have 3 or 4 specific bus lines in mind for this list off the top of my head, so it should be a decent list. Again, I haven't decided what to do, but odds are if I do anything, it'll probably be this.

But yeah, I may throw out a blog piece or two when I get the chance. If I get an inspired opinion... you'll see it.

Admittedly... it does feel good to be back.