Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rose Festival Parade!

Yesterday was the parade and being a school bus driver I had the assignment of driving the Lincoln High School Marching Band to the parade beginning over at the Memorial Coliseum. There were supposed to be 2 buses for this assignment. The price of the trip determined size buses were assigned I suspect. We were driving our standard 71 pack school buses, that being 71 3rd graders. High school students, about 46 fit. Now, we have the band, 2 tuba's, 4 base drums, two sets of snare 4 packs, and about 6 Tom Toms. All that in my bus and some trombones and a couple sax along with the students that played them, plus two wagons with supplies. I had about 30 students on my bus. If the school district could afford it, we would have brought transit style buses with below floor storage, but they are having something like an $18.5 million short fall this coming I think, two years. They are cutting costs where ever they can.

So, on the way to Lincoln bus zone was going to require some creative driving since many streets were blocked to allow the parade to go on without interference from motor vehicles. As I was driving across the Fremont Bridge from N.E. I get a radio call from the other driver. Apparently, he left the yard earlier, even though I was leaving at the scheduled time. He came on the radio as #1 Lincoln Bus to #2 Lincoln Bus. That told me right away who was #1 bus. I guess it was because he was at the school, almost and considered himself #1 bus. I don't normally care, except this driver sounded like a guy who lords over other drivers his seniority. Keeps mentioning how much time he has been employed by the company. He tells me his location and I tell that I am heading there. He tells me that he can't get to the bus zone because the police won't let him. I say OK and set myself up to get to his location which turns out to be reported incorrectly, or he forgot to update me once he got to where he was parked. Doesn't really matter. I made some last minute adjustments to head South on SW 18th and am waiting to turn onto SW Salmon, through the police barricades. About 200 feet from the intersection I hold up my clip board with my trip papers so the police see I belong there and making my turn I tell them it is a pick up and they let me right through, no problem.

I park down at the regular bus pick up/drop off zone. Since Lincoln is my regular route and I have had many trips downtown I found my way there neatly. #1 Lincoln Bus is nowhere to be seen, but I see a familiar driver walking up the street from SW 14th and Salmon. He tells me where he is parked, that he talked to the band leader and the police wouldn't let him drive to where I was parked. Whatever! If they let me and they were parking buses along both sides of Salmon, why wouldn't they let him through I am silently asking myself? He tells me to move my bus around by him and I say, why? The band room is right next to where my bus is parked! he gets kind of well, I'm the #1 bus and therefore we should stick together and since I am the senior driver you need to park where I am. I tell him to wait and I will find the adult band leader and ask him what he wants. That didn't make him very happy that I was getting more information. I spoke to the band leader and he said no, he hadn't had any communication with Driver #1 even though that driver told he had. And I was told it would be better for him if the other bus drove to my location. I relayed that info to driver #1 who continued to insist the police wouldn't let him up the street even as they escorting another bus. Oh well. We finally loaded all that equipment and I got the band leader who had the directions which I relayed to driver #1 who said he would wait and follow our bus, #2 to the destination. Ok, so we get going after I give the instructions to the passengers on my bus saying that we may drive the wrong way on some one way streets and not to do that themselves unless instructed by police or flaggers. We turned South on SW 14th which is one way North and bus #1 got behind us. There were street barricades at the intersection of 14th and Jefferson and a police cruiser manned by a nice sargent on the right who asked me if I wanted him to move. I had quickly assessed the clearances and told him no, we could make through with clearance to spare and turned West on SW Jefferson. We turned right on SW 18th and proceed towards NW Everett. When we stopped at a signal light adjacent to the ball park, I looked in my mirrors and noticed bus #1 stopped on the max tracks! I radioed him and told him not to stop on any more tracks and his response was copy 10-4 just trying not to lose you. I couldn't believe that response, from a driver who had spent much more time in Portland than I, who had told me he read the Oregonian that morning and it had all the street closures listed, but he told me he didn't bring the paper for reference. I again again told him we were going to cross W. Burnside and proceed to NW Everett and turn right. We had to stop again and instead of stopping about a bus length behind me on between where the tracks run, where I had stopped, he drove right up onto the max tracks again! This is one of the reasons I don't like driving with this guy. There are other reasons as well. When we turn onto NW Everett he is following me to closely and I call him on the radio again saying he needs to put more of a cushion between us and again responds 10-4 copy and I don't lose you to a traffic light. You know, us bus drivers often drive in groups of 2, 3, and 4 buses and often many more, but we always remember that we need to drive safely, that safety is our #1 priority and the rules of the road do not just go away because we can't control other drivers or traffic lights etc. This guy is starting to really annoy me, his following to close, his explanations which I follow with route we are following, special for buses delivering parade participants. Good Grief Great Pumpkin, how much reassurance does the #1 driver need? It appears to me, he hasn't done his homework or something about driving downtown. He lost without our guidance. So finally after traveling down Everett, we get to some parade marshals who direct us to drive up to the police barricades at the entrance to the Steel Bridge and wait to be directed through. Pay particular attention to the train signal because it is right above the police officers heads and they can't see it. Onto the Steel Bridge which has little traffic on it, buses and few cars. We get across and just follow the parade marshall's directions when we come to a signal at one of the intersections. As soon as it changes, at the top of the hill there is a motor officer coming down, but is still 1/4 mile away and I have plenty of time to proceed without violating his flashing red and blue lights. As I complete my turn an proceed, I notice in my mirrors, bus #1 cutting off the motor officer, making him stop to complete his left turn. I suppose I should have waited for the motor officer to pass too, however, there was plenty of time for one bus and the other to stop. I didn't contact driver #1 because we had arrived within 200 feet of that intersection. We parked and he parked to close to me and the band adults asked me if I could have him back up so they could unload the instruments and wagons out the back door like we loaded them. Driver #1 had help load these items at Lincoln. What was he thinking? I spotted for him while he backed up and then he insisted on helping them unload. When we were about to leave, I went to the parade marshall and asked about moving a vehicle, had told him we were just dropping and going when we arrived, but apparently he and driver #1 suffer from the same communication challenges. The marshall told me I would have to talk to the police. I just went over to them wearing my bus driver vest and said we needed to leave for another pick up could they assist us and they were more than happy to ask the other vehicle to move and gave me directions on how to get out, that is to disregard the street signs saying no turn here and etc. We left, passing right in front of the Cabalero's and proceeded to make way past the transit center at over to and across MLK over to N.E 7th over there. We drove down, bus #2 still leading and finally made a left and a right on MLK. I told bus #1 that he didn't have to follow me anymore and his response was "Oh, I thought you were taking me on a shorter route. I thought you knew where you were going?" I responded with I do know where I am going and proceeded to lose this guy but he hung on like he had previously driving through downtown. The thing about it was we were going to the next job together that afternoon. I was not looking forward to hearing more misdirections from Lead Driver so and so on my location and when I could expect to eat lunch. That next job was Oregon Zoo shuttle for overflow parking. Last year that was my first experience with this driver and it wasn't pleasant, although there was some humor in it. He talked on the hand held radio so much that the battery got used up. So that's my story of the Rose Parade and I'm sticking to it. We learn something every day and if I work the parade next year I will have some experience to feel good about.

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