Friday, 25 April 2014

Who's Happy Now?

It's been awhile since my last blog. Time to write something. I finally retired January 2012 from bus driving. Worked until I reached 66 years old. I was a bit scared of retiring thinking that "how can I retire on less than half my salary." It's amazing how much a person spends when working. Travelling back and forth to work, clothes, snacks, eating out more because the cash is available, more maintenance on the car, etc, etc. I guess that old adage is true, "one ups his spending to the level of his income."

I worried too, about what I would do with my idle time.  I have discovered that sleeping in when I feel like it is great, I have had time to write a book, I love to read, I love to cook more than I thought I would, I have time to have coffee with friends, I have time to sit and watch the world go by if I want to, it's all great. I have done a little oil painting, carved up a bit of cedar, and spent some time writing poetry. A lot more fun than working! lol

I am surprised to realize how caught up with the so-called "rat race" I was. I never really understood what that was until I wasn't in it any more. The hurry up and go nowhere of traffic congestion. The madcap race on the free-ways - keep up or die. The urgency of getting somewhere on time. It all wears on a person and certainly becomes difficult to let go of even after a 3 week vacation in the wilderness.  No, I don't miss it!

My life has grown so much simpler in the past 2 years. No real stresses to speak of, at least nowhere near what used to be. Could use a few more dollars but money isn't everything. By the look of me, I'm certainly not starving to death.

I have to admit that I feel proud to have survived 16 years of performing the job with very few complaints from my passengers and zero physical assaults. I must have been doing something right. I learned over the years to appreciate the job for what it gave me; a decent living wage, benefits, independent working conditions, a chance to overcome my fear of difficult and intimidating people and to learn how to deal with them without packing a gun. What an education it was.

Retirement is the best thing that happened to me. Come on down, the water is warm and not over your head.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Hibernation sounds good to me I ever suffer from the Winter blues at times.  Today was one of those days. Every year I think I can prepare for S.A.D.S. a little better than the previous year simply because I know it's going to come sometime after Christmas but as usual I wasn't ready once again.  As much as I try to be positive and cheery, I still get down and sometimes a little grumpy when the rain comes and the clouds hang 2 feet over my head all day.  But as they say, and I've seen it for myself many times, "when the sun finally pokes its head out, you'll forget all about winter."  Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places on earth in the Spring/Summer/and Fall but Winter!!  blech!
I have learned that making conversations with people on the bus helps me out some.  It stops me from thinking too much about myself and how much I want to retreat to my cave.  I do meet some very interesting people on occasion.  Today was just one of those days when I didn't chat much at all.
I must be getting close to retirement....aren't I?

Friday, 6 January 2012

Love Fridays

It's true...I do love Fridays.  In fact, I kind of live for them.  I've been working a long, long time. Not including picking fruit in the Okanagan most summers, it all started full time in the Vernon Star Laundry when I was just15 years old.  I had to go to work 'cause I booted out of school and I wasn't going to sit around my parents house doing nothing and without money.  I think it was my dad the barber who cut the hair of someone who either owned or knew who ran the laundry.  I only worked there for the summer.  In the fall I got a job at the Vernon Hospital doing the same thing.  From there the Navy when I turned 17 and since that time very few breaks in employment till this day.
Of all the jobs I have performed in my life and there were many, who would have thought that I would be still be working at almost 66 years of age, and driving a city bus no less.  I could never have planned it this way.
Over the years I have worked in sawmills, grocery stores, bakeries, laundries, meteorological stations, production plants, souvenir shops, trucking distribution, and of course Naval ships and shore stations.  So from all of that, who could guess that driving a bus would fit in there somewhere?  Actually when I think a little more about it, it makes sense because nothing else really established a logical pattern so driving, why not?
I am looking forward to retirement but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it.  I am somewhat of a hyper person (my wife jokingly says I have attention deficit disorder) so sitting around is not going to work.  And I like having money in my pocket which is also somewhat of a concern.  Living on a pension in this city can be quite the challenge.
So, one day at a time, I am still here driving a bus and trying hard to remember why it's so much fun!!!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Happy is a choice.

I've been feeling the January doldrums lately, the overcast skies, the winter rains or the constant drip from everything wet. The slapping of the windshield wipers, the wet floors, and the damp air.  Yuch!
It always seems that Spring is such a long way away and there's no statutory holidays to break the monotony.
So, I pick up a passenger at Sasamat Street in Point Grey.  She is attractive and dressed casually, I'm guessing mid twenties, and has a smile that seems to cover her whole entire face which makes her even more attractive.  "Good morning," she chimes in the happiest of voices.  "How are you today?"
"I'm good," I reply, "and you?"
"I'm really great," she answers enthusiastically.  "It's a wonderful day isn't it?"  It was still pouring cats and dogs and had been doing the same most of the previous night.
The bus was standing room only so she stood just a short distance from the drivers seat.
"So I gotta ask you," I say, "what makes you so happy on this soggy day?"
"I'm like this every day," she replies.  "The weather doesn't matter.  Happiness is a choice so I choose to be happy."
"I guess that's a good thing," I say, wondering how she convinced herself of that fact on a day one could find every reason to be negative.
"Yup," she says, "We can choose happy or sad.  The choice is ours so why not choose happy?"
She continues, "I've had a great day so far.  I helped a lady design her garden this morning; I love designing.  This afternoon I'm going to my other job of career counselling, and later this evening I'm going to my fiancees to plan our August wedding.  Who can ask for more than that."
I dropped her off at MacDonald St. a short while later.  She smiled at everyone waiting while she exited the front of the bus, most smiled in return. I couldn't help but watch her walk down the sidewalk in the rear view mirror.  Such a bright light on a dull day.
It's true I thought to myself, "Happiness really is a choice.  I don't always choose it myself but I know it's there if I want it.  I have to work on choosing it much more often.
She made my day.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Letting go of fear.

It might take a few days of writing down 2012 to not write 2011.  Holidays are done.  Now comes the long part of winter.  I know! I know!......wrong attitude.  I always find it difficult this time of year to want to get out of bed and go to work, 5:00am comes far too early.  But each day another minute or two gets added to sunset.  Before you know it we will be into Spring and longer days.  That's when I come out of hibernation and want to run through the woods naked looking for my mate!
Driving a bus through the holidays is nice on one hand because the traffic is so much less and passengers almost non existent but on the other hand it's not so nice for the very same reason because their are no passengers.   I enjoy my interactions with people when the bus is crowded.  It's fun and I learn a little bit from each one I talk to.
Today I was quite bored during the longer than usual breaks I get at UBC so I started reading another book by John Grisham.  I love his writing and have read many of his books my very favourite being "A Painted House."  He always grabs my attention in the first few paragraphs.  I love the way he paints pictures with words to take me there.
I had a regular I hadn't seen over the holidays get on my bus today.  As he stepped aboard he flashed his pass and looked up at me.  "A good driver!" he said as if he hadn't seen one lately.  "Thanks," I replied.  "Happy New Year," he said.  "You too," I replied.  Not much said back and forth yet it felt like volumes to me.  I love compliments and I like the feeling of being part of others lives even for brief periods of time.  I truly recognize that this job (bus driving) that I hated so much when I first started, that I wanted to quit almost every single day I worked, the job that I had to force myself to tolerate for so many years because the money and benefits were so good, the same job that finally took me to a place in my career where I realize that it has taught me things I would never have learned in most other jobs I could have performed.
The most important lesson I have learned is that I recognize now that fear kept me from allowing people into my life.  It started with the fear of maneuvering a very large vehicle  through heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic something I had not been tested in my life.  I was always a management type not a blue collar in the trenches type of worker.  It was very intimidating.
Of course when a person is junior in seniority, he/she gets all the crappy routes; the routes no one else wants; the late night stuff with all the drunks, dope addicts, hookers, criminals, and the rougher crowds.  You learn to insulate yourself from them to protect yourself. Let's face it, you can't really identify with 99% of them anyway.  Maybe that's all well and good at first but a problem results later when you finally do get some decent work years later, you have become so good at insulating yourself you don't remember how get out of it. Everyone has become your enemy even the unfortunate people in wheelchairs whom you think you don't have the time to pick up.  So many of us have learned to just do the job of steering the bus and forget all about the needs of the public riders.
For me this fear which became a well entrenched unconscious habit has taken a long time for me to let go of.  It wasn't until I was able to sign early morning work that I began to understand what I had been doing for so many years.  Now I'm just a little bit sorry I wasted so many years holding on to old habits and denying myself the opportunity to meet new people and subsequently enjoy that part of my job.  Oh well, It's always better late than never so it's all good.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Blah blah blah blah blah

That's exactly how I felt all day today at work.  Holidays are over, Christmas is done.  All the buildup is over.  Whew!  Next year my wife and I promised we wouldn't have so much food next year.  Instead of a 20 lb turkey maybe just a breast or some other such small amount.  We said the same thing last year too.
Three of the kids won't eat turkey anyway and Debbie is not so hot for it these days either so maybe next year we will actually do what we say we will do.
Driving a bus right now is a breeze with all the kids out of school and many people taking the week off.  A little bit boring at times for me.  I'm quite used to transporting over 100 people at any given time.  When the bus is packed like that there are many standing near me at the front which gives me lots of fodder to trick someone into chatting with me.  I have some favourite one liners to accomplish that goal.  If someone drags a couple of suitcases on board I like to say something like, "running away from home are we?"  That usually gets a response although once in awhile a negative one.  The odd person has just looked at me like I'm stupid.    I'm still waiting for the day some guy responds, "the girlfriend just kicked me out alright @#*hole!"  But normally this is a risk worth taking. I love to chat with people.  Over the years I have met people on my bus from all over the world.  For example; A young girl from Great Britain who loaded a mountain bike on the bike rack.  Her name was Fiona somethin' or rather.  While she stood at the front of the bus watching her bike like a hawk I mentioned that her bike looked awesome, "do you ride a lot?"  She explained the bike was designed especially for her and cost over $8000.00 US dollars.  She was travelling to Whistler to a world class downhill race.  She was ranked 2nd in the world at that moment.  She was riding a bus because it took most of the money she had left to travel from England to Vancouver to attend this race.  Interesting young lady.
Today was a much quieter day for both people and traffic but still a great day to be alive.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wednesday (Hump Day some call it)

Back in the swing of things already after the Christmas Holidays.  Still nice to find the traffic is light and not a lot of passengers either.  Nice change for a normally packed 99 B Line bus.
Funny story.  Over the years I have encountered a lot of foreign speaking passengers who have questions to ask.  Usually the questions involve places they would like to travel to and how they could possibly get there.  Some of the requests have come with such a strong accent behind it that I have had much difficulty understanding exactly what they are asking me. Most troublesome for me have been questions asked by Asian folks whether they are Chinese, Korean, Hong Kongese, and others.  Doesn't really matter the exact language they speak; no matter which it is, I still experience the same problems in understanding. Over the years I have become somewhat adept at interpreting their requests.  To prove my point I will share with you some of the funniest sounding requests I have had in past years.  Let me say before I begin that I hope no one interprets my remarks as discriminatory because they are certainly not intended that way.  I love people from every race and truly enjoy the interactions I have on the bus with people from all over the world.  They all have stories to tell and it is so fun listening to them.  That said here is my funniest requests.
First of all the most common word I hear is which I interpret this way......"Hugo?"......which means in my world...."do you go?"  This is often followed by words such as......"Beh Woo Mah"....which I discovered to mean......"Brentwood Mall."....or perhaps the words..."Mee Too Taw."....which means...... "Metrotown."....of course there has also been...."Roo Hee Mah."...which, as you may already have guessed means..."Lougheed Mall."
Today I heard another good one for the first time.  I was between trips standing with my back to the front door while I chatted on my cell phone with my wife when I hear a knock on the door.  I turn to see a middle aged Asian couple on the other side of the door both smiling broadly at me.  I say to my wife, "hold on a sec honey," and I open the door.  The Asian lady leans in and politely asks a question in very broken English that sounded to me something like this, "Hugo dis bus mensa T?"  I pretty well caught on to the first few words, "do you go with this bus."  The remainder was more of a challenge.  I leaned closer to her and said, "I'm sorry, what was it you were looking for?"  She repeats, "mensa T, mensa T."  I am wracking my brain, what was it she said.  I am embarrassed to ask again.  I am thinking MacKenzie, Metrotown, a place to eat????  I have no idea.  She sees my struggle and tries to clarify, "mensa T, mensa T, hugh no China tawn." "Aah!" I say, finally getting it.  "Do you want to go to Main Street?" "Yes," she says delight written all over her face.  "Yes, I can take you to Main Street," I say quite proud of my sleuthing abilities.  Another interesting day.