Mr. Bus Driver
Top 10 responses to my top 10 reasons I left advertising for bus driving.

1. Jeremy Board, former co-conspirator at Mercer Advertising.

Advertising Unplugged V.2
Hi Dave,
Interesting to read your top 10 reasons you left advertising list. It was refreshing to read a truthful perspective from the heart that I could actually relate to. It caused me to reflect on my own experience. I think I mentioned that from 2003-05 I worked in a small Italian Cafe as a barista. It was a lot of fun, reconnected me to genuine humanity and new ways of thinking. I traveled to London and met with Andy Law, the guy who started St. Lukes Ad Agency. I stripped my thinking down to the bare bones, unplugged everything. It came down to WHY? I knew I had to have a really good answer if I was ever going to want to get into advertising again. My answer came one day when a plumber came to my place to fix the toilet. He told me he had worked for 25 years for someone else but had this dream of starting his own business. I asked him what he would call it. 2 months later, with my help, he was running his own business - logo, web site, business cards, advertising. It changed his life and his families life for the better. Advertising became something real again for me and connected to real genuine purpose, helping people. Unplugged, I then started my company Jump Advertising Inc. with this thinking in mind and committed myself to rejecting anything else. I decided I would never work on a piece of work/creative that I did not want to. I would never put billings before inspiration. 7-8 years later, I’m really enjoying my work and genuinely feel proud of what I do. I don’t want to win BIG accounts, I don’t want awards, I don’t want to be the biggest or most clever, I just want to genuinely help people to realize their dreams, people who do good things, people I like. The look of genuine gratitude in their eyes is everything to me, it normally brings me to tears. I just want to always love what I do and stay present in a happy reality. I guess the thing is, to arrive at a new destination, you need the courage to journey into the unknown, let go of old paradigms and unplug even when the crowd is screaming for more of the same. I love what you’re doing Dave. It’s a fun and fascinating journey.

Wherever it goes…all aboard.

Jeremy

Anxiously proofing the first copy of my first book.

Theoretical covers for my theoretical book. Vote for your favorite!
Advertising vs. Bus Driving: The Final Report.

Advertising vs. Bus Driving: The Final Report.

The 6 Month and .03 Seconds Report

I guess driving out of North Van was too good to be true. I signed a regular package of routes, I was riding my bike to and from the depot, I was living the dream. I had only heard one bad thing about driving in North Van. Actually two bad things. One that the depot would eventually close and relocate to Burnaby and two that the current management team was tough. Today I found out exactly how tough they were. My adventure in bus driving came to a screeching halt. Which is apparently what I should have done.

Right before graduating my Instructor Jackie surveyed the class to see how many of us had never been in an accident. A few of us, including myself, raised their hands. Then he proceeded to tell us that we should all  expect to get into a few accidents during our probation. Don’t worry. What we should worry about are onboard injuries, sleepers, (sleeping in and missing picking up your bus) and red lights.

As predicted I did end up having 2 minor accidents. One where I passed another bus too closely and took out his sideview mirror and another where I was pulling out of a stop and my back bumper contacted a pole. I was told by many supervisors and bus drivers alike that these were very common accidents and actually the best kind of accidents I because they didn’t involve pedestrians or vehicles not owned by the company. What I was told by the management team in North Van was that I was still on my 675 hour probation, could be let go at any time and now I was driving with two strikes. I was sent back to Vancouver for an additional day of training.

Strike 3 would come in the form of a red light ticket at Marine and Taylor Way. My last day on the Spareboard before my signed package of regular routes would kick in. It was 11:30 pm and I was doing my final run of the night. I was driving the 239 Capilano/Park Royal and had just picked up some pretty drunk passengers at Park Royal heading for Lonsdale Quay.  I pulled out of the stop and noticed that the light at Taylor Way had just turned green so there was no point in me staying in the bus lane. To avoid getting on the on-ramp for Lions Gate you have to be in Lane 3, so I started merging over. By the time I had done two proper lane changes with shoulder checks I looked up and my green light was yellow. I was way too close to the intersection for a hard brake especially with passengers on board, I decided it was safer to go through. I would later find out that the light turned red .03 seconds before my bus crossed the stop bar and the red light camera went off with a series of flashes. One of the drunk passengers on board made a comment wondering what the flashing lights were. I told them it was my career dissipation light flashing. They were probably too drunk and too young to get the Backdraft reference.

My timing couldn’t have been worse. For the first time in it’s company’s history CMBC had come under public fire for it’s corporate spending and it’s knee jerk reaction has been to start laying people off. Nobody is safe, some of my old instructors back at the training centre, the cafeteria and staff, two entire classes of graduated drivers and they’re looking for more. So after 6 months of applying, 6 weeks of training and 600 hours of driving it was that .03 seconds that cost me my job.  Funny, I always assumed it would be the blogging.

More than one union member has assured me that the reasons for my dismissal are unjustified. And although my case is currently under review with a strong chance of me getting my job back, the whole experience has forced me to reassess my reasons for being a bus driver in the first place.

For now, I’ll continue with my sabbatical and enjoy my time off with the kids. Summer Camp Counselor doesn’t pay much but it’ll look good on my new resume.

When I was in advertising all I ever got was complaint letters. Advantage: Bus Driving

When I was in advertising all I ever got was complaint letters. Advantage: Bus Driving

Human Frogger

(another short story from the bus of @david_dehaas)

There’s not many times you get to save a life as a bus driver, you mostly just try to avoid taking one. But this night was as close as I’ve gotten so far. 

It was day 6 of my Line Instruction and I was driving with a female instructor named Carol. She was the sort of driver who wouldn’t have looked out of place on the streets of New York with Roz as her name tag. A short no nonsense woman with a hacking smoker’s cough and a low level case of pneumonia stacked on top of that. But that wasn’t going to stop her from going to Vegas the next day and coughing up phlegm over my shoulder the whole night. We were doing an afternoon run that would stretch into the early evening on the 19. The 19 STANLEY PARK/METROTOWN was one of the nicer routes I had driven so far in Vancouver. It didn’t go down the infamous Hastings corridor but it did go through East Van on a slightly gentler road known as Pender. Coincidentally, or ironically if you asked Alannis Morissette, it also passed three of my former agencies. 

We were on our last run of the night and it had started raining. The dark, plus the rain plus the fact that I was driving a Trolley made me glad that it all would soon be over. Carol was taking a break from hacking over my shoulder to check her gambling itinerary and as I approached an intersection I noticed there was someone stumbling through the middle of it. Directly under the electric wire that I had to follow. I slowed down and tooted on my horn. I’ve never been a big fan of how bus drivers use their horns. Most of them seem to use it as a stress ball or like it was attached to traffic seeking missiles. I gave a friendly toot which seemed to jar this person out of his stupor.  He started stumbling for the curb. I was following him closely trying to light his way and every time he took a drunken misstep back towards traffic I’d give a friendly toot. It was almost like I was controlling him with my horn. It reminded me of my misspent youth and a game called Frogger that I had plugged most of my Dad’s coin jar into. By the time Carol had noticed what was going on and made her way to the front I had successfully gotten the guy out of the intersection and back to the curb. He turned to give me a friendly wave and that was when Carol reached over and blasted aggressively on the horn, while leaning over me and shouting out the window, “Stay out of the intersection idiot!” The guy’s friendly wave quickly turned into a one finger salute and the typical bus driver - pedestrian relationship was reestablished. Carol turned to me, and reprimanded me in that throaty smoker’s voice, “This is no time to be polite, there are lives at stake.” 

I remember thinking I should really write that down somewhere.

Crazy Guy: I don’t like the look of that guy.
Me: Why not?
CG: Looks like he could go on a bad killing spree.
Me: You can tell just by looking at him?
CG: I know about these things.
Crazy looking guy referring to a normal looking passenger.
Lost and in need of translation.

It was my last official day of driving in Vancouver. I’d received the call I’d been waiting for from the North Van Depot and had already spent a couple of days there doing my route training. It was going to be soooo much better. All I had to do was survive one more day of driving out of the Van Van Depot.

The Spareboard seemed to be smiling on me too. I got a nice Sunday midrun on the #19. The 19 may be numerically close to the 20 but they are worlds apart. The 19 STANLEY PARK/METROTOWN was a sought after route with decent layover times and a nice terminus in Lord Stanley’s park. The worst thing that could be said about it was that it was a trolley, or it was supposed to be a trolley. When I showed up downtown to pickup the bus at my relief point I noticed all the 19’s had been switched out for diesels. Apparently some major construction on Kingsway had caused them to put a fleet of diesels in place of my electric nemesis. Score.

It was a quiet day with pleasant passengers. What can I say. No junkies, no drunks, no transit cops. It was actually a little boring. The most interesting thing that happened during my shift was that my former cleaning lady Ney got on board. Probably to spend some of my former advertising booty at Metropolis, the big mall at the end of the line. And although that was steeped in irony and sprinkled with Karma it still wasn’t much to write home about, or a book about.

My last run of the day would be from Metrotown to 41st street. A shortened run and then a quick jaunt back to the depot and my Vancouver tour of duty would be over. I followed the proper protocol and  informed everyone on the bus that the stop at 41st would be the last stop. We wouldn’t be making the full run back to Stanley Park. I unloaded everyone at 41st and then started making my way back to the depot NOT IN SERVICE. The sweetest 3 words in any bus driver’s work day.

 I was feeling good. Maybe even cocky. Maybe my lightning rod for crazy shit had finally reversed it’s polarity. Since I was on a diesel and not a slave to the wire I could take any route back to the depot. Maybe I’d improvise. Sure. A left here. A right here. I started feeling so good that I started singing. A mash-up of New York New York and I Did it My Way.  Quietly at first but I slowly built it up to Broadway like proportions. Yes even I was duped by that first season of Glee. And that’s when lightening, in the form of an old Asian man decided to strike. Suddenly there he was right behind me screaming. It instantly reminded me of Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau being attacked by his man servant Cato. I had no idea what he was screaming about but I had some idea that he wasn’t happy. I also had the feeling that I may have shit myself just a little.

He had popped up from that little seat directly behind me that is completely blocked from view. I called it the Chuckie in the Box seat because people were constantly popping out of there and scaring the fecal matter out of me. When I realized he wasn’t physically going to attack, I pulled over. I tried to explain that the bus was out of service and that I was heading back to the depot but he just kept shouting the same word over and over. I tried speaking slowly. More shouting. I offered him a piece of paper. More shouting. I tried to discuss the relative merits of guinea pigs over hamsters. More shouting. Clearly he understood me as little as I understood him.

I couldn’t just kick him off the bus if he had no idea where he was and I couldn’t bring him back to the depot and put him in Lost and Found. Or could I? No. I was getting pretty desperate when I spotted a fruit market just down the street. I pulled into the curb and asked the group of people standing in front of the store if they could tell my passenger that I was out of service.  A younger Asian gentlemen offered to help. He started shouting at the old man. The old man shouted back. They shouted some more. Such a pretty language. Finally when the shouting was done, the younger man turned to me and said, “Fraser.”
The old man turned to me crossed his arms and repeated that word he’d been shouting. Apparently it meant Fraser Street.

So off I went. We didn’t make a lot of small talk in the next few minutes and I kept my singing to a minimum. As we drove I couldn’t help but wonder why we had spent so much time learning about air brakes in class and so little time learning conversational Mandarin. I dropped him off at Fraser and we exchanged the only word in our mutual vocabulary. I bowed my head and said, “Fraser.” Then he bowed back and said something that may or may not have been, “Fraser.” By the twinkle in his eye I suspect it actually meant Jackass.

Good-bye Vancouver, it was fun.