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Friday, September 7, 2012

Would you let this man drive?

Just read the latest post at Notes from Mosquito Hill.

Nostalgia again

While I can't quite yet claim to having spent more than 50% of my lifetime as a firefighter, I am pretty darn close.

Replying to the post was not possible, the network here won't allow Disqus through to add a reply. So hopefully mack505 sees this post and knows that I am not ashamed to admit that it brought me silly goosebump chills. Bells and relay switches and halogens and actual mechanical operating devices.... yes! No, the recruit won't know it was a treat until much later, and even if it was explained now he won't be able to fully appreciate it.

Thanks for taking us along for the ride, 505.

Now then, back to business.

Tooling back to my edge of the world in Engine 51 from an errand across the district, I came upon a transit bus stopped in the road, with the driver in back opening the engine compartment. Apparently a minor uh-oh. The bus is blocking a lane of a busy street, and the driver has no eye at all on traffic, just waltzing out there and exposing his behind to oncoming bumpers.

Let's do him a favor and introduce him to how we turn BRTs into big traffic cones, shall we?

So the passengers are milling, and he tells me that the "check transmission" light came on with an audible warning (he said "beeping"), so he stopped right away. He's telling me he isn't sure what to do, as nothing is smoking or leaking on the ground.

Well, how about we start by checking the transmission fluid level, shall we?

I don't know how to do that, he says.

We have a retired transit bus on our fleet that serves as a mobile command post, so actually I have had some exposure to working on an actual bus. This isn't rocket science. Within a few moments the dipstick tube labeled "TRANSMISSION" has been located.

Wait, he says. I don't know if you're allowed to touch that.

I couldn't help the expression that showed. Are you freaking kidding me? What am I gonna do, make the engine fall out? He deflects the silliness and says he'll check with the bus garage to see if I am allowed to help.

It's not as if we're going to get the bus fixed here on the side of the road, it's just basic early troubleshooting. He asks me what it was I was about to do, and I explain it in simple terms, but the way he describes it to his garage tech by radio it is no surprise the tech declines the help. I hope the tech realizes that the driver is whack in the clue department and that there are not random firemen out there just itching to start pulling his coach engines apart for giggles.

The garage tech asks his driver where the bus is. He looks at me for a second and then says he is on whatever route he was on, on the main route, and if you go past McDonalds you'll find the bus a little ways up.

I should have expected things to keep getting goofy, but this was choice. You see, the McDonalds is about three miles back and in a different municipality. God forbid this guy ever have an emergency and have to describe his location.

Looking about 200' in front of the bus at the intersection with the traffic light, I tried to helpfully tell the driver that he was in fact south of the intersection of 45th and Harper, in the northbound lane.  He got back and the radio and somehow melded McDonalds in with the Harper part, making less sense than before.

That was enough, this guy was a real piece of work. I went back to the Engine and radioed for the City PD to send a unit over for traffic control if one was available.  I wasn't going to stay and play this silliness, but didn't feel like I could leave his passengers alone under his care.

So tell me..... how does a guy get his CDL and expect to make his living by driving when he cannot even locate the transmission dipstick let alone know what it is for, and doesn't know where he is with street signs in his face?

Maybe I am expecting too much, but shouldn't someone who is going to make their living on the road be able to hold a shop rag and dig around a little bit to troubleshoot, and know where he is in broad daylight with clear signage?

With our current levels of unemployment, there has to be better qualified persons out there. That was just scary to me.  Certainly this doesn't reflect on all bus drivers everywhere, but their overall group reputation sure did just take a hit.

Be safe out there.

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