Oddly enough, I remember the day as if it were yesterday. The day in question occurred in the summer of 2004.
Now, why is it, I can remember this moment exactly, but if I were to be introduced to a person in the next 5 minutes, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell I’d remember their name 2 minutes later?
I digress. Let’s get back on track.
I was walking between two 40′ motor coaches, both running, at the cruise ship terminal in Juneau. My brain said:
Self, you will never drive a bus. Couldn’t do it. No way. Thank goodness. I can’t imagine having to do THAT.
Little did I know, 8 months later I would be eating my words. Lesson learned: never say never. I learned to drive a 40′ coach. All along, I kept thinking silently to myself:
Are these people crazy? Me? Drive a coach? Really? Have you seen my car? It’s a Toyota Yaris – TWO DOOR! It would fit in the luggage bay of one of these beasts!
Having me drive a 40′ coach is like having Gumby learning how to use a pogo-stick …. stretched out and bewildered. Aspirin, need aspirin.
The one thing in training that resonates in my head is the mantra of “steer the rear.” Whatever you do, you want to “steer the rear.”
To this day, I have no idea what that means. I am too damn busy trying not to hit anything. No, I haven’t hit anything – thank you. I drive by feel. Luckily it’s not the kind of feeling that creates dents, scrapes and costs money. I go with the gut type of feeling.
Thank goodness I have a sturdy gut. So far, it’s never been wrong.
Of course, if I could figure out the whole, “steer the rear” concept, I would probably be able to back a coach up without looking like a drunken snake. That bus goes all over the place except where it’s supposed to go. However, I can parallel park it if I had to.
Okay, in reality, I did it successfully a handful of times. If I had to again, on command, I’m 95% sure I could get the coach into the space. Straight? Maybe not. But I’d get it into the space.
After a winter of not driving, time ran out and my number came up. I had to drive last Monday to help out with tour transfers. Yes. Funny you should ask. Of course I have a favorite bus.
Coach 213. Lucky number 13. She’s yellow. The only yellow one in our fleet. Do you really think I’d be driving the same exact thing as everyone else? Not likely. Duh.
My first day of driving this season can be summed up in one word:
Now, I’m not a blonde by any means. My natural hair is mousey brown. Currently my locks are dyed Snow White black. Am I a Snow White? Not a chance. Could I play Snow White? Only with the proper shoes.
My first blonde moment of the day began to roll along when I read my dispatch and noticed it said:
100 coaches fuel before the day starts.
200 coaches fuel after the day ends.
Alright then, well this is going to be an interesting start to the day. In 7 years, I have not had the pleasure of fueling a coach. I always figured the fuel fairy came every night and filled up the coaches. You mean there’s no such thing as a fuel fairy? Don’t tell me the fuel fairy ranks along the same blood lines as the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. How disappointing. You can imagine my upset – similar to when a child learns there’s no Santa Claus.
It can’t be. There must be an explanation.
I wander over to the maintenance shop and ask if our Fleet Director is around. He’ll understand my predicament. We affectionately refer to him as Little Buddy. The mechanic says Little Buddy is around but hiding. Well, that only means one thing – he’s working on an engine and is sitting inside the engine compartment.
I walk over to the next bus bay and lo and behold, there’s Little Buddy inside the engine compartment working away. Without fan fare, I explain my situation, show him the dispatch and before I can utter the words, “Yeah, I’m not fueling….” He says he’ll show me how.
Over the next few minutes I learn where the mechanics keep the fuel key, where the fuel tank is located and where to pull the coach up for fueling. Luckily, since Little Buddy is only a few inches taller than me he agreed I don’t have to climb on top of the fuel tank to reset the meter. Good thing because this isn’t Ladies Night at the Lucky Saloon and I’m not riding the mechanical bull in dress pants and heels.
Then the blonde moment hits. I have to admit, out loud, to the Director of Fleet Maintenance, the brutally honest fact of:
I don’t know where the gas tank is on the coach.
If I thought about it, I’m certain I would have been able to narrow down it’s location. However, with time being of the essence and hating to waste time, it was easier to admit I didn’t know and move on with the correct answer.
Oh, so THAT’S what is under that door. Always wondered. Never looked. Huh.
Blonde moment #1 complete.
I walk back to my coach and finish preparing to take it out for the afternoon. I ponder going to fuel now and avoiding the rush at the end of the day. It was Little Buddy’s idea and a good one. Ladies and gentlemen start your engines!
213 groans to life and together we contemplate the thought of fueling early. More specifically, fueling while nobody else is around to watch.
I drive 213 over to the spot and park her. I climb out, get the key and turn on the pump. Thankfully she didn’t need much fuel and I’m able to get everything all squared away.
But wait, here come Blonde Moment #2.
Since they were working on a coach in front of me, I had two options.
1. Back it up
2. Go forward, angling the coach to go around the building.
I decided to try and go forward. As Murphy’s Law would allow, I was either going to take the downspout off the corner of the wash bay OR put the coach in the ditch. By this time Bon Jovi, our other mechanic, came out and was tryingh is best to direct me on steering.
Finally, I just looked at him. He came over to my door and ever so politely – to avoid making me feel like an idiot (in case I wanted to continue down this painfully slow road of 2 inches forward, 1 inch back) asked if I would prefer if he just hopped in and moved the coach to a safe location.
Hell, YES! I am a girlie girl and while I’m not afraid of loosing a nail (since I don’t have any to speak of) sometimes I just need help. Most of the time I am not going to ask for help – so you better just jump in with both feet, roll up your sleeves and plan to get wet trying to rescue me from my idiot circumstances.
End of Blonde Moment #2.
I’m not even going to mention the time I got a company van stuck in a bank exit lane – and had to call the Director of Safety. Yes. That would be the first and last time I tried using their “handy” drive thru parking lot area.
As I approach my first duty of the day I say a silent prayer. Please, don’t let there be any other buses in this lot. If there are, let them be off to the side. It’s my first out for the season, let this be an easy one. Come on Goddess of Big Ass Coach Driving….big money….no whammies.
I pull into the lot, check the area to my left, where I have to back up and not like I expected anything different. WHAM….a bus. Smack in the middle of the space. Really? Like you couldn’t share the area?
Now I could have asked him to move over, but he was actively loading passengers. I had to move my coach, for fear another one would come down the drive and be behind me. There’d be no room for any of us to go anywhere at that point.
With a big exhale and contemplative chew of my bottom lip….I throw 213 into reverse and double beep. Now, I’ve done this move 100 times. Why this time is any different is because it’s my first time for the season and I’m nervous. It’s ridiculous.
Enter, Blonde Moment #3.
Thank god things come in threes. This meant I was arriving at the conclusion of my Blonde Moments.
To avoid hitting the neighboring coach and to avoid hitting the giant embankment on the other side. I went forward and backwards so many times I was worried they were going to ask me to turn off the back up beeper.
By the time I got 213 parked, I was pitted out of my shirt and in desperate need of the restroom. I only had one more duty and was delighted my day was coming to a quick conclusion.
I’m slightly anxious for my driving next week. I know I’ll be needed, possibly Sunday but likely on Monday. Perhaps I’ll get out my long blonde wig. What? You aren’t really surprised I have a blonde wig are you? Truth be told, I have several.