I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

LAST DAYS

I'm downtown early so go back to Live City to see Christopher. As I line up, I see that there's a couple of Mounties on horses and snap a picture. Don't get to see that too often around here.

It's a big hassle to get through the security yet again. The metal zipper heads on my jacket seem to completely confound them.

On the ride in on SkyTrain, there were some people taking an impromptu trip up from Washington State. Overhearing their conversation, they had decided that it would be a regret they would have if they didn't take the time to visit Vancouver during the games. They have picked a gorgeous day to come. It's clear and sunny out and they exclaim about the scenery over and over. When we come to False Creek, they have their backs to the Athletes Village so I speak up and point it out to them. They quickly turn around and take photos, exclaiming how great it is. Then they thank me profusely for speaking up.


I am hungry so I give Christopher $10 so he can buy me a small tray of poutine and a bottle of Coke. He gets a discount because he works there. There's no change. Whoah Nellie.

We chat mostly about how this job has opened a lot of doors for him and that he now knows about five times as many people in the sound business than he did three weeks ago. I am excited for him. He is so talented with sound - most all the performers he works with are very impressed and some now use him exclusively when they have a gig. But they are just small players and it would be great if he could work for some bigger acts. I am sure it will happen.

We have spent so much time talking, I really have to hustle my butt to get to the salon on time. I needn't have hurried as it takes about twenty minutes for Izzy to help a lady find a jacket to buy in the racks of down coats they have brought in to sell for the games. I love one of the jackets; it has rhinestones dotted along the cuffs and down the front. That would be fun to wear on set instead of my huge, black, sleeping bag (as Kim Miles calls it) of a coat that I usually wear on a cold day.

Soon I am walking out of the salon with hair a bit darker in shade, and some bouncy curls. I make a quick call to Lec, a friend from jPod - a camera assistant. We have made arrangements to meet for a drink somewhere and now I just need to know where. I would like to eat where Izzy recommended, right next door to the salon. It has great satay, she says, and it's very reasonably priced. But Lec wants to meet at a Japanese place a few blocks away so I walk up there and wait for her to arrive.

We catch up over a beer for her, a martini for me, and some sushi. She's such a fun person and I love her take on life. So it's a pleasant couple of hours spent laughing and yakking. All too soon we have to take our leave; we were told we could have the table only until 6:30. Not sure who they are expecting to flood the place in a couple of minutes but there's no sight of them yet. But it's okay because I have to be at work tomorrow so should be in bed right about now. We hug and go in different directions. I head down to the SkyTrain but I can't remember where the station is that I arrived on. I took the King George Line from Surrey to the Waterfront, and then the Canada Line to The Roundhouse, Yaletown. But I can't for the life of me remember where that came out. I decide to go by the salon and see if Izzy is still there. Not only is she there, she is outside, dressed in one of the down jackets in the midst of fake snow drifting down, selling Vankerchiefs (that's Izzy on the right) to passers by. I ask her where the station is and she points down the street. It's just a block away on this very road. Why couldn't I remember that? I scare myself sometimes.

Today at work, I am not the supervisor. I am in on an extra day to help out with the problem of short staff. So I get the easy job of taking a clipboard and getting driver information and passenger numbers for workforce. It's freezing cold out and raining so the chance to sit on each bus as it arrives until it's time to depart is much appreciated. Once the last bus departs at noon, we get to go home early. That also is much appreciated.

At one point in the day, I make a trip along the parked spectator buses and pause to chat with one or two of my favourite drivers. One of them, another French-Canadian named Guy, has been flirting outrageously with me. Today he tells me that he might not see me tomorrow, the last day we will have spectators, and so wants me to come on board and give him something to remember me by. I look puzzled. So he enlightens me by saying he wants a hug and a kiss. "I tink about you all da time." he says, "I have tought about you all dese days you haven't been here." "So then," I say, "you shouldn't have any trouble remembering me without the kiss." He laughs. "Ahh, but I want to kiss dose lovely lips." he says. "Well, seeing how you have a girlfriend, that's not going to happen." I say with a grin. "And I am sure you will be back tomorrow." He acts all sad and I move along the line. I don't see him again because he won't return tomorrow; he will be pushed to a late run back from Whistler. When I realize that I am sad. But I won't find out until tomorrow when it's too late. I would like to have given him a hug good-bye.

On our last day with spectators, I am back in charge but Shawn does such a great job of organizing everything up top, I let him take over and I keep the job with the clip board. There have been a couple of guys in particular that have been nothing short of stellar workers and I plan to pass their names along to Assistant Location Managers who need hard working and intelligent PA's. Shawn is one. Dan is the other. Outstanding workers both, and each with a great sense of humour. They'd be an asset to any film crew.

We take a few photos. One with another favourite bus driver, Ed from Vernon. One with Mamud, a doctor from Nigeria, and one of the lovely lady (who's name I can't recall) who was in charge of taking bus tickets from spectators. For almost everyone, today is their last day. Tomorrow there will just be a skeleton crew on to take care of the workforce buses.

The WOP hub has planned a BBQ for all of us so we head over there after the last bus has left and partake of some delicious hamburgers, veggie burgers, and bags of chips. It's a fun way to wind up the last full day of work. On Monday our hub has planned a 'wrap party' at the local casino. Hopefully most of us will be able to attend that. It will be nice to see everyone in clothes other than their 'blueberry' jackets. That is what we have been calling workforce for the past three weeks. Right before a bus is to leave, one of us gets on the radio and asks, "Any blueberries in sight?" I've heard that elsewhere, we are called 'Smurfs'. I prefer blueberries.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I COULD KICK MYSELF

As I am finishing up my veggie burger at WOP, their farewell BBQ for all of us, I get a call from Shawn who is back at WSC taking passenger info for the last workforce bus driven by Patrick. My radio crackles to life with Shawn's voice. "Sandra?" "Go for Sandra." I reply. "Patrick has just gotten directions to pick up Elvis Stojko at Whistler on his way back. For real." "WHAT?!" I radio back. "NO WAY!" "Yes!" Shawn replies, "And Patrick wants to know if you want to ride along." "YES!!!!" I can barely contain my excitement. "Well get over here right away. He has to go." "Tell him to wait for me." I yell.

Olga looks at me. "What is this?" she asks. I pull her and Dan to one side. I don't want everyone hearing this. "Patrick is bringing Elvis Stojko back from Whistler and asked if I want to go. Do you guys want to come?" Dan says no. Olga looks at me, completely puzzled. "Who is this person?" she asks. I am incredulous. "ELVIS STOJKO. The famous Olympic skater?" No recognition. "You know... Elvis?" "No. I think I don't know this person." "I have to get over there right away. Do you want to come too?" "There's no point. I have no knowledge of this person. It's okay." Alright then. I dash to my car and drive over to WSC as fast as I can. On the way I remember I have a doctors appointment at 1:00. Oh NO!! I have waited a week for this appointment and I need to go today as it's the end of the month and I only have today to get a prescription filled and paid for by PharmaCare. After today, I won't be covered. What to do? WHAT to do? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I won't ever get a chance like this again. I remember how I took my girls to see Elvis skate along with Isobel Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler back when we lived in Seattle. We were the only Canadians there, I am sure of it. And when we went nuts over them, cheering and whistling, we got a lot of dirty looks but didn't care. We even took flowers and balloons for the three of them and then later, waiting out back, saw them walk to their tour bus holding our gifts. That was a thrill for the girls. Me too, if I am totally honest.

Anyway, now I have a very difficult decision to make. As I park the car and dash over to the bus, I can't decide what to do. I look up at Patrick, sitting in the drivers seat - bus running, as I agonize. I really need this prescription and it won't be cheap. It's a new pill that combines an anti-inflammatory with a stomach protector - as suggested my Mamud the other day. I am despairing of what to do. But I finally let the pragmatic side of me take over and tell Patrick I can't go. I have a doctors appointment I must keep. Shawn tells me to call and cancel it, but I shake my head no as the bus door closes and Patrick drives away.

No sooner has the bus turned out of the lot onto the street than I totally regret my decision. WHAT was I thinking?! I should have gone. I so should have gone.

Later when I go to get my prescription filled, PharmaCare only pays for 1/3 of it anyway. They don't cover the stomach protection portion. I so should have gone.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ANOTHER OLYMPIC DAY

My agonized-over plan for a very busy day at the WSC hub ends up working perfectly. With over 40 of our own buses and about 50 of WOP's, the entire day went without a hitch and the bus drivers seemed really happy with it as well - no confusion as to who arrived first so who goes next. At the end of the day Richard, the big honcho from Florida, patted me on the back and said 'great job today'. High praise indeed from a very reserved man.

Finally a few days off. It's my son-in-law's 31st birthday today so I call Ashleigh to find out what to buy him. I am thinking tools, as he doesn't have much of those - being fresh off the plane from England and all. She tells me that her dad got Rob some for Christmas but she's not sure what all he has so she makes a call to him (her dad) and calls me back. Box-end wrenches. So I head down to Sears to buy a Craftman set. Geepers. Who knew there were so many variations of one tool! There's a plain set. Then there's one that ratchets on the closed end. Another set ratchets on both ends. One set has reversing ratchets. Then double that because there's standard size and metric size sets. I stand there for about twenty minutes. The ratchet ones are cool and you can 'try' them because one in the set is attached to a little plastic nut. I try it and it's pretty nifty. What to do. What to do. Finally, I let the price dictate. I buy the plain set. Nothing fancy. Still $60. When I get to the till, the clerk tells me that they go on sale for $35 on the weekend. Crap. But then she says to just bring in the receipt and I will get a refund. Cool!

That done, and with the savings, I decide to add something special to the gift. First I stop at the grocery store and buy him some Cadbury Mini Eggs and two Creme Eggs. He eats those by the dozen. I can't even eat one so I have no idea how he does it. I give him a hard time about his addiction to them and feel guilty buying them for him, but it IS his birthday. I then go to the liquor store for the special part. I scan the rum section for some Pusser's Rum. It's from the BVI and I know that Ashleigh and Rob ran out of what they brought back with them just before Christmas. There's none on the shelves. I ask a clerk and he says they just get it for the Holidays. He says he will check on the computer to see if any stores have some stock left. His search shows that Cloverdale have four bottles. So I drive over there and buy one. A liter of rum in the BVI costs about $9. I considered Pusser's expensive at $16. This bottle costs $45. But I know he will be thrilled so it's worth it.

Tomorrow I am heading down to spend the day in Vancouver and then going to a Victory Medal Ceremony at 6:30. All the venues are a sea of red in the spectator stands and I don't want to be wearing my usual black. I need something red to wear but I don't have anything. I remember a red wool jacket I gave to Denise last year when I culled my wardrobe. Hoping she won't mind, I go take a peek in her closet and there it is. I pull it out to wear tomorrow. I am sure she won't mind.

I am up early as I need to pick Olga up at 9. When I get to her place, her husband is with her. I am fine with it but surprised. She tells me she told me but I don't recall that at all. The plan is to drive to North Vancouver and park the van at my daughter's place and then take the bus down to the SeaBus. The reason being that Ashleigh is coming to the medal ceremony and I don't want her traveling home alone so Olga and Andrew will take the SkyTrain to Surrey and I will go with Ashleigh. That way I can give Rob his birthday present before I head home as well.

Before we get on the SeaBus we take a walk to the dock to look at a Russian tall ship, the Krusenstern, that is in port. Olga claims it's the largest tall ship in the world but, looking at it, I am thinking that is maybe some Russian propaganda because I am positive I have seen larger. But I don't say that. I just admire it along with them. I am sure it would be an impressive sight with the sails unfurled.

Once we cross over on the SeaBus, we take the Canada Line SkyTrain to the Athletes Village. Only when we get off, we are nowhere near the Athletes Village. So we walk down a long path and across a road to the gate where five RCMP guard the entrance to a gravel lot and long road that seems to lead to the village. It's obvious we won't be able to go take a stroll through for a look-see, but there are tents set up and I wonder if there's any venues or attractions here to see. I ask the police and they say that the tent is where the athletes and workers eat. (Really?! They couldn't have included a dining room in the huge glass structure they built?) There's nothing to see. So we head back where we came from but follow the railroad tracks to another tent that is set up alongside. This is the departure point for the Street Car that Bombardier built and was brought over from Brussels. It runs to Granville Island. We hop on that and it's beautiful inside. I remark on how narrow it is and the lady who is a Bombardier rep say's that's because it's made for narrow European streets. Which I sorta figured on my own. It runs very smoothly on the specially installed rails, which was the only cost to the city of Vancouver for this service. The street car's themselves were shipped here by Bombardier.

I am disappointed to find that there's nothing special happening at Granville Island. I had heard that there was a great high-wire act and other entertainment but there's nothing going on. Maybe that happens just on the weekend. It's a rainy day but I can't imagine that would be why the outside gathering area is devoid of any activity. Olga and Andrew don't want to spend any time here if there's nothing to see. On a normal day, meaning no Olympics, this place is fun and great to walk through. But one can do that any old day. We are here for Olympic fun and there's none of that going on here. So we get on a Aqua Bus, at $3 per person it's the only transportation we have to pay for as our accreditation gets us on all public transit for free. We bob our way on the waves to the other side of False Creek, disembark, and catch a bus into Yale Town.

We make our way over to Live City Downtown to finally go see Christopher at work. There's not much of a lineup so we are at the security gate in less than 15 minutes. Getting through security is just like the airport. Purse and phone in a gray tray. I beep when I go through the gate so am swept with a sensor bar by an Asian woman. I keep beeping and the woman insists I have stuff in my pockets. I do. Two toffees and a plastic lip balm I just won at a free drink stand. I slid my free bottle of vitamin water down a table marked like a curling rink and got it right on the bulls eye. I was told if I got it on the mark, there were Tee shirts autographed by athletes as prizes. So I was excited when I hit it right on. The guy hands me a Chapstick. What the....? Anyhow, I pull it and the candies out of my pocket and say, "These aren't making that beep." and toss them in the tray. She sweeps me again and I beep. "Pockets" she says. "NOTHING IN THEM" I reply, somewhat short. "There's ZIPPERS here. ZIPPER?" I try to make her understand but I think that this is another case of a language barrier. "I pat?" she says. "Fine." I reply. She pats. Nothing there. She sweeps again. It beeps. "What under there?" "My pants. My shirt. Nothing else." She doesn't believe me. I am starting to lose my patience. It's a frikking outdoor parking lot with a couple of tents, for petes sakes. Not the Pentagon. She finally accepts that it's the zippers when it happens on the other side and lets me go. What a performance.

We go into the pavilion tent thing that is set up on the right. The Canada House is on the left and we will go there later. Christopher is sitting behind a black-curtained off area where the sound boards are. He is on his laptop so doesn't see me right away. When he looks up, I am shocked by how completely exhausted he looks. I haven't ever seen him look this wiped out. He isn't getting much sleep. He starts at 8 in the morning and goes to 1 a.m. every day - no days off. We hug and I introduce him to Olga and Andrew. I ask him if he has time to break away and have lunch with us at White Spot in an hour or so but he doesn't. We chat for a bit. It's really hot inside the building so we don't stay long. We get in the lineup for the Canada House and it takes about 30 minutes for us to get inside. I am surprised to see that the Stanley Cup is on display and there's another lineup to have a picture taken with it and two Mounted Police. I am about the farthest thing away from a hockey fan as one can get, but I decide that this is a unique opportunity so line up for a photo. Andrew is really excited about getting his picture taken with it so I'd be lining up anyway.


That done, we walk around the rest of the displays. There's a cool one of various skis and snowboards that Olympians have used over the decades. A couple of skis are very primitive, from the 20's and made of plain wood. I read the labels on some of them and a gold medal was won by the wearer of one of the wood set.

I hear tell we spent ten million dollars on Canada House. And it was built by a USA company. Not impressed. I was hoping there would be something amazing inside for that amount of money. Outside certainly is nothing to write home about. Yes, there's a giant TV screen built into the outside wall. But the rest is cheap pre-fab product that almost looks like that plastic corrugated stuff they use for signs. I'd love to know why it cost so much. And why they couldn't have found someone in Canada to make it so that, at the very least, the money stayed here.

Olga and Andrew haven't ever eaten at White Spot and, as it's a B.C. legend, I had suggested that we have lunch there and they readily agreed. So we walk down Georgia Street and after a short wait, are seated at a cozy table in the back. We order the 'Zoo Sticks'(deep fried breaded zucchini) for an appetizer, and three Legendary Burger Platters for our main course. When it all arrives, they dig in and find it delicious. As I had hoped they would.

After lunch we walk a couple of short blocks to line up for another 20 minutes or so at the Vancouver Art Gallery to view the showing of Leonardo da Vinci's sketches of the human body. They are on loan from Queen Elizabeth's private collection and free to see for the duration of the games. They are the original drawings and the detail is spectacular. I read that he drew from a cadaver that he slowly dissected. The drawings were revolutionary and the first of their kind. In fact, he died before he could make them public and so were packed away by his heir and forgotten for over a century before being discovered. Even then, there was nothing to compare to them. I remember reading that da Vinci liked to write backwards, in a 'mirror script', and I can see that the neat rows of tiny script is indeed backwards. It's sobering to gaze on these parchments and try to absorb that da Vinci touched them and that every line is from his very hand. Another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Ashleigh calls while we are in the gallery to say she is on her way from work and should be downtown in about 45 minutes. We take our time over the rest of the drawings and then head down towards B.C. Place Stadium, where the Victory Ceremony will take place. We stop on the way to watch a bit of the hockey game between Canada and Russia on the huge screen on the side of Canada House. The score is 3-1 for Canada and another goal is scored by Canada while we are there and a tremendous roar goes up all around for blocks. So great.

Ashleigh arrives and wants to pop in to see Christopher so we stay on the sidewalk and watch the game while she dashes off to see him. She's back in 15 minutes and we walk down to the stadium to take our seats for the ceremony. We are up on the fourth level, so pretty high above the stage, but it's a great view. There are huge screens that all of the goings-on will be projected on so we won't miss anything. While we are waiting, suddenly Ben Mulroney and Tamara Taggert come out and announce that Canada just won the hockey game and that we won gold AND silver in the ladies 2-man bobsled. A huge cheer goes up from the half full stands. They come back a bit later and play an Olympic trivia game with the crowd. It's lots of fun.

I didn't realize that each Victory Ceremony celebrates a province or territory of Canada. Tonight it's Ontario's turn and so there's a film about tourism there and a couple of Ontario bands play. Olga turns to me, all concerned. INXS are the featured entertainment tonight. "I think this is not INXS" she says in her heavily Russian accented English. "I think maybe we have a mistake and INXS is not playing tonight." I reassure her that the band will be on later and she seems much relieved. The bands are done playing and several stage hands roll out the podium for the medal ceremony. As I sit and look down on it as we wait for the awards to begin, I am suddenly struck by how amazing it is to be here. I am about to see athletes receive their medals, in person. I have watched this over and over for years on the TV and now, here I am, seeing it with my own eyes. I have to say I become a little overwhelmed by it and choke back a lump in my throat that has suddenly made an appearance. As I do, the lighting changes and and it's announced that the medalists for the ladies 5000m Speed Skate are walking on stage. The bronze medalist is our very own Clara Hughes, so we won't get to hear our national anthem tonight. But as she receives her medal, a huge roar goes up from the crowd. There is so much national pride going on in Vancouver right now, we would put the USA to shame. It's so out of character for us as Canadians, and it's so great to witness.



Once the medals here are handed out and the Czech anthem is played, we get to watch the medals at Whistler being handed out via the large screens. No Canadians this time for the men's 4 x 10K relay.

INXS finally makes their appearance and the party starts in earnest. I like a few of their songs but I can't say they are a favourite band. I find them a bit too heavy rock for my taste. Tonight they are very loud and very rock and roll. Olga is bopping away to the beat in her seat on one side of me, and Ashleigh is tolerating the music on the other. She is more a David Gray, Ray Lamontagne, Bob Marley sort of gal. I am a more David Gray, ColdPlay, Josh Groban sort of woman. We stay for most of it, and I have to say that the lead singer is fabulous. He is very energetic and entertaining, his voice is incredible, and he's gorgeous. But after an hour, my head is starting to pound. I look over at Ashleigh and mouth "do you want to go?" She nods. So I yell to Olga that we are leaving and we hug good bye. It feels great to get outside in the cool air and the comparatively deafening silence.

We walk to the SkyTrain and thankfully there's no lineups. I am really enjoying having a bit of time with my daughter, something I don't get much of anymore. We chat and laugh most of the way back to her apartment. I am happy to see I don't have a parking ticket on my car when I go to get Robs birthday present out of the back.

Once in the apartment, Rob looks like he might have been napping. We hug and I wish him a happy belated birthday and give him his gift. He loves the chocolates. The Pusser's Rum makes his eyes pop. "I didn't expect to see any of this again unless we went back to the Caribbean." he exclaims. It's a big hit. And he is very happy with the wrenches.

I don't stay long. They are both tired and have to be up early for work. And I am pretty worn out from the day's activities and have to be up at 8 to go back downtown to get my hair done at Avant Garde Hair in Yale Town. Christopher's girlfriend, Izzy, is a hairstylist there and now does my hair. Up until recently, I have had two hairstylists in my entire adult life. One for 10 years and the other for 20. I wanted to support Izzy when she started at Avant Garde and was thrilled with her talent with hair... mine in particular. So now she is my new stylist and I don't plan on switching for a very long time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

IT'S A MIRACLE

Two drivers that work for the same bus company, Premier Pacific, are in the trailer to get coffee and are talking about an Olympic network bus they saw pulled over on the highway surrounded by four fire trucks and an ambulance. There was a stretcher out on the side of the road. They speculate about what could have happened.

Today I read in the paper that a 71 year old bus driver died at the wheel of heart attack and that one of the other 5 drivers aboard jumped up and steered the bus off to the side of the highway and managed to pull it to a stop without incident. It was a shuttle bus picking up other drivers from their hotels and taking them to the depot. I see three or four of those buses on the highway on my drive in to work every morning.

The five drivers aboard got the day off. One of my regular drivers didn't show up yesterday, instead there was a driver I hadn't ever had replacing him. Makes me wonder if he was on that bus.

It's a miracle no one was hurt.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

QUEBEC MEN ARE GREAT

When I get up for work I feel woozy. I just feel so off. My stomach has been hurting again. Every time I eat something it seems to hit my stomach like a lead ball so I haven't been eating much the past couple of days. I won't be eating any more of the sandwiches they have for us at work. When I use the flat iron on my hair to straighten out the kinks that somehow show up in the night, I drop it and go to catch it and as I feel the heat on my hand I let go and it hits the floor. That's never happened to me before. My equilibrium is definitely off.

When I get to work, I discover that I have no energy at all. Everything I do takes extra concentration and effort. By the end of the shift, I am completely wiped out and I find it hard to stay awake on the drive home. I recall feeling this way only a couple of times in my life; where I am so exhausted I feel like I will completely break down and lose it if I can't get into bed right away. I pray that Denise's dad isn't at the house doing repairs so that I can sleep. As I pull up to the house, I see his car in the drive. I go in and tell him I am exhausted and will be going to bed. I peel off my work clothes and get into my pajamas and literally fall into bed. Denise's dad is working at the other end of the house and I don't hear a thing as I immediately fall to sleep. I wake four hours later to an empty house and darkness outside. I make myself a bowl of soup and as soon as I eat it I go back to bed and sleep right through to the alarm at 2:30 a.m.

When the alarm goes off, I don't want to get up at all. It's freezing out, I know, due to the clear weather we're having right now. I nearly froze yesterday and I don't want to feel like that again today. But I force myself up and, although I still feel off, I dress for work and push myself out the door by 3:15.

One of the guys at work is a doctor from Nigeria and he asks me how I am doing. He basically gives me an hours free consult about not only my food poisoning but also the arthritis in my spine and how my doctor should be doing a follow up x-ray to the one done a couple of years ago to see if it's progressed. I will be making an appointment.

Honestly, if I want to be married again, I need to move to Quebec. The bus drivers we have from there are so into me. I can't get over it. I never, and I mean NEVER, get this sort of attention from any men around here. But the French! Ooo-la-la! They are so complimentary; they tell me I am beautiful; they can't believe I haven't been snatched up; and more than a few of them want to snatch me up. Too bad that a couple of those few are married or have girlfriends, or are way too old or too short for me. And too bad George Cloony's twin isn't one of the ones showing an interest!! (One of the guys told me he's married, so it's just as well.) But I seriously think that if I moved to Quebec, I could be married in a year. Something to think about.

I find that, tomorrow, we have an overlap with WOP and so will have their buses and ours coming into our lot at the same time. Oh joy. Not. AND, I only have two crew scheduled to work with me instead of five, and it may as well be one for all the use one of them is. He doesn't understand anything I say and so never follows through with a direction. When dealing with moving buses and trying to place them, that's not a good thing. I am not happy at all that more help has not been found for tomorrow. The loading people have nine scheduled, so I work it out with Olga to take two or three of her people for my crew. I sit down and figure out what positions everyone is the most capable of filling so that I can just give them their posts tomorrow when they arrive. I also work out everyone's break times and how they will be replaced while gone. I then figure out how we will place the buses so that we don't run into the issues we've had on other days when both centers schedules have overlapped. I am feeling like I have a handle on it all. Let's hope that bears out tomorrow.

I am so glad it's only 6 more days of work. If this was my new career I'd have to kill myself.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

VANCOUVER IS ALIVE

I picked up Guy and another bus driver I haven't met, Michel (pronounced Michelle) at their hotel just at the other end of Walnut Grove, Langley from me. We drive to the SkyTrain and park at the mall. We park in the parkade and pay for 9 hours - $22!!! At least I won't get a ticket this time. Last time I went downtown, with Olga, I came back to a ticket for $59 on my windshield. I had no idea a mall had time limited parking.

We walk around the waterfront and go to Quebec House. What a waste of time. The guys were so looking forward to it and then all it held was a stage and a cafeteria. Quebec is whining about not having enough representation of their French language and heritage at the games and then do nothing with their house. Do they want everything done for them? The guys are so disappointed and I don't blame them.














Guy and Michel


We walk around the seawall and get some good photos of the Athletes Village and False Creek. The shore down to the water is very rocky and people have built dozens of Inukshuks with the rocks. It looks great. Near the Edgewater Casino there's dozens of tents set up with a market inside. Most of the goods look cheap and we pass them by but we find a row of stalls selling ethnic foods. It smells divine and we stop to buy some samosas.

There are long lineups for everything that's any good to see. We walk up to the downtown stage for Live Nation where Christopher, my son, is doing sound every day from 8am to 1am. The lineup to get in is 45 minutes long. The guys don't want to wait. We walk to the back entrance and try to use our accreditation and the fact that my son works inside to get in that way but we don't succeed.

Olga calls to say she is arriving at the Stadium station which is right close by so we wait for her and scan the huge crowds everywhere until I finally spot her. We walk to the Bay so that the guys can buy souvenirs but the lineup there snakes around the block. We give up on that idea and walk down to the Sears tower and take the glass elevator up on the outside of the building to the observation deck. It's a gorgeous day and so have clear views to Mount Baker in the south-east and Vancouver Island in the west. The north-shore mountains are sharply outlined against a blue sky, and the ones in the distance with snow look spectacular. We can see the Olympic rings in Coal Harbour. The guys love it. When we come down in the elevator, there are two athletes with us from the Czec team. I don't know who they are though.

We head into Gastown so they can see the steam clock and here they buy their souvenirs. We walk down to the very end where the statue of Gassy Jack and the flat-iron building is. They take lots of photos all along the way. My knee and feet hurt and it reminds me of walking all over London with Ashleigh. Five days into that and I was barely able to walk.

We walk (I sort of limp) down to the Olympic Torch at the foot of Thurlow. It's a shame how it's all fenced off. People are really upset about it and there is a petition on line to 'free the torch'. We take lots of photos and, thankfully, whoever put the fence up thought to leave a space where you can take pictures without chain-link obscuring the view.

We hop onto the crowded SkyTrain and get off at Granville so that Olga can try again at the Bay and then go home. She is exhausted because she worked today so has been up since 2am. The guys and I continue on to Yale Town and stop for dinner at The Hamilton Street Grill. I order the wild salmon and when it comes, it's raw in the middle so they take it back and bring a new one that is cooked all the way through. When we are done eating, they bring us a huge dessert - gingerbread pudding with caramel sauce and home made ice-cream - one scoop of pumpkin and one of ginger. It's an apology for my meal being raw. It's divine and, although I was full to bursting after the salmon, I manage to eat several spoonfuls. While we are eating dinner, the TV screens show Maelle Ricker receiving her gold medal for Snowboard Cross. The whole restaurant bursts into cheering and applause. So great.

The sea of red clad people with their Canada scarves and touques is so exciting to see and gives me such a charge of patriotism. There's also a lot of white cowboy stetsons about and they look fabulous. People burst into spontanious cheers for Canada constantly. We also see a lot of people in outfits for various other countries. A few times I am sure we are in the presence of athletes by how they are dressed and the people they are with, not to mention how fit they are but I can never be a hundred percent certain because I just don't know them anymore. I used to know almost everyone competing. That was when I was at home all day with little kids so could watch all the events. Not now.

The guys have to be up early to drive their buses to Whistler so we head to the SkyTrain right after dinner; it's about 8pm. I am worried it will be crammed like it was when we rode it from the waterfront earlier, but I needn't have bothered... it's almost empty and we all get seats.

When I get home I discover I have walked a hole in my new socks and have a big blister on my left sole at the heel. Well worth it!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

JUST SAY NO TO MICROMANAGEMENT

When I get home, I am so stiff from standing on concrete all day and now sitting in my car for an hour, that I can barely walk up the path to the house. My back is hurting and so is my right knee and hip. Even my ankle on the right keeps getting a stabbing pang. I might look only 43, as Guy claims, but I feel about 73 at the moment. Getting old sucks.

When I get inside, there are three women and Denise sitting at the table, scrapbooking. They ask about my day and I tell them about the George Clooney look-alike. They want to see the photo so I get my camera and show them. Their jaws drop. "George Clooney with a French accent," one sighs, "it doesn't get any better than that." I have to agree.

After a hot shower and a meal, I am exhausted so turn in by 7. I wake through the night a couple of times with a bad stomach ache and think to myself that it feels like flu and I might have to call in sick. But each time, I get up to use the bathroom and as soon as I am vertical, the pain is gone. Did I just dream it? One of the times I go back to sleep I do dream that I faint at work from the pain. When the alarm goes off, I roll over and turn it off and feel the pain again and I feel dreadful. But when I get up, I feel not so bad. I have no idea what's going on.

On my way into work I think about all of the changes in instructions I am getting all of the time. Yesterday, we had three WOP buses that were to be diverted to another location. When they pulled out, Jessica went into panic about something and needed to call one of the drivers. She asked me for his phone number. I told her that I don't have it. Her eyes widen and she yells, "Why not?!" "Because you told us just to get the bus number." "Oh no! You shouldn't listen to me." she says, realizing what she is saying so her voice trails off at the end. As I think about this and other scenarios that have taken place, I decide it's time to go into movie set mode. I am done with going along with whatever changes come down, seemingly on a whim. I am done with dithering about. I am done with feeling like I am making mistakes constantly. I am going to start to assert myself and call someone out when told conflicting things.

It's pissing rain again, really coming down hard. So I put a cheap plastic poncho over my reflective vest and other gear. It doesn't breathe so right away I start to heat up. I want to get outside but Jessica says we need to have a meeting before we go. I tell her I need to get outside and place some cones I requested from parking yesterday to mark a path for the buses to follow up at the top of the road into the loading bays because I don't have the crew to place someone there today. "Fine, take your crew and go do that and then get back here right away." I do and within fifteen minutes we are back in the office. She isn't there. I try to radio her but am told she has gone to WOP and isn't wearing a radio yet. Fabulous. So we go back outside and get ready for the first workforce bus to pull in. But before I do, I spy a pair of those reflective gloves. They have the 2010 logo on them. They're so nice. I pick them up and say, "We were supposed to get some of these." A parking guy tells me that there's boxes of them in the office. We're not supposed to go in there but I am done with the nonsense, as I said, so I knock on the door and when there's no reply I walk in and find the boxes. They are all marked XL. I grab three pair out of the top box and hand one pair to each of my crew and put the other pair on my hands. Done.

No sooner does Guy arrive with our 4:50 departure bus than we start getting waves of WOP buses again. I am down at the bottom of the road directing them all. At some point Jessica radios me for something. I respond and then say, "...and I came back in to have that meeting but you weren't there." "I know I wasn't there," she says with sarcasm, "I had to go to WOP about blah blah blah..." she goes on and on and I wait for her to finish. "I know you know you weren't there," I respond finally, "I just wanted you to know that I didn't forget, and that I came back for the meeting." She doesn't respond.

Later, during a lull with our workforce buses, Jessica calls us all back in for that meeting. When we get there, someone closes the door behind us. I go and open it and say "Let's leave this open during the meeting, shall we? We're all dressed for the cold and we will quickly overheat in here." Jessica shoots me a dirty look and I just hold the look with a blank gaze. Shall we continue? She starts by telling us how she was sent twenty workers yesterday afternoon from another agency and she was supposed to train them and had no idea what they were doing there so she sent them home. I don't know why we need this information but I am about to respond 'Really? When we are short staffed and I am trying to work with just two crew today - you actually sent people home without scheduling them in?' but right then a bus arrives. Jessica sees it. "OH SH**, a bus!" she cries, and then jumps up and runs outside. So we all stand inside and wait, fully geared up for the elements, as she runs out alone and dressed in just a tee-shirt and polar fleece vest to do our job. I look at Olga and we shake our heads. This is starting to border on the insane. After what feels like ten minutes but is probably just five, I tell everyone to go outside and lets do our jobs. We're all too hot to be waiting indoors any more.

I am kept hopping all day at the bottom of the road, directing buses and keeping in touch with my guy up top. Olga came in on her day off to help me or I'd just have one crew today. I give her the clipboard and get her to take all the driver information and the WOP bus numbers. Once the spectators start to arrive, Jessica puts her back in charge of supervising the loading crew as the woman who was supposed to show up for that today didn't arrive. Olga puts one of her crew on to taking driver info but no one tells me the switch has taken place. Jessica tries calling Olga's alternate but there's no answer at 5 a.m., predictably. She gets hold of her later in the day and asks why she didn't show up. I hear her say, "But you had your four days off. You are four on and four off. You were supposed to be here today." Later I realize that Olga and I started out with the same schedule. Four on four off, so we were always working together. But today she was supposed to be off on the new schedule. She booked in for an extra day of work because we needed more workers. How is it that she was off today? Turns out when Jessica made up the new schedule, she screwed up and gave Olga only three days this shift. So that woman was right in not coming in today as she had only had three days off, not four. She originally wasn't scheduled to come in - Olga was. When I try to explain this to Jessica, it takes me several attempts to get her to understand. When she finally gets it, she admits she made a major mistake. Olga and I want to work together. We work well as a team. So Jessica says she will fix the schedule to put us on the same four days again. This is a typical example of what goes on in every area every single day. Jessica always blames the higher ups for changing things but I have my doubts. She seems to make a lot of it up on the fly. You know, she seems like a really nice person and in other circumstances I am sure I'd like her, but she is just not up to the task of manager. In fact, I hear later that she was lamenting to someone that she has never managed anything in her life before. What... WHAT exactly was the criteria for people getting the jobs they got around here? Because I am seeing nothing but people doing nothing they are qualified to do every time I turn around.

Take another incident today, for example. Our last bus to Whistler Sliding Center has departed over an hour ago and we have six Americans show up with tickets to the luge today but no bus tickets. When we were in training (and I use that term loosely) for our roles here, we were told in no uncertain terms that if spectators showed up too late for the bus, it was too bad. There was nothing we could do to help them. Even if we put them on a workforce bus, which we were NEVER to do, they wouldn't make it in time for the event anyway, by the time they drove up, went through the security line up, and then walked the 20 minutes from there to the venue. These guys protest vehemently that there was no information when they purchased their tickets online that they needed to buy a bus ticket. I have no idea how almost one thousand five hundred other people managed to figure it out then. Granted, we have about 20 per event that have to go to the ticket kiosk down at the trailer and buy their bus tickets because they also failed to read that a ticket was required so didn't purchase it ahead of time on line. But the vast majority manage to see that just fine. Jessica is called outside to give them the bad news. But instead, she tells them she will see what she can do. She goes back inside to get an information booklet that each ticket buyer gets. These guys say they never got one. Meanwhile, two other Chinese guys join the group. Turns out not only do they not have a bus ticket, they don't even have an event ticket and they want to hop one of our buses to Whistler. This is a definite breach of security and in no way is allowed. But as Jessica comes out and decides to let the Americans ride up with work crew, and without buying a ticket, she also decides she has to let the other two guys ride up as well as they heard her allow the Americans. Today after work, we do have a meeting to work out any wrinkles and this issue comes up. I say that none of those people should have been allowed on the bus, if we were to go by our training. And they should have had to buy tickets to get on the workforce bus because that is not fair to all those who had to pay $50 a head to ride up. I say, "What if they tell their friends, just show up late and you can catch a ride with the worker bus and you won't have to pay?" She shrugs that off as something that will never happen. I tell her that I can see letting the Americans go up with workforce, but they should have paid and there is no way the Chinese guys should have been allowed on the bus as they can't get into the luge. She says there is a place in Whistler where tickets can be purchased. I tell her that can't be the case as all tickets were sold months ago and the only way to get any now is on the fan-to-fan website. She disagrees with me. I am appalled at her lack of knowledge and her flaunting of rules that are in place for security. If Richard found out about this, I think she would be fired on the spot. He fired the head of parking yesterday just for not being strict enough with his crew. He'd blow his stack over this.

At some point in the day, Jessica starts to rag on me about some information I didn't get that I should have gotten. (I can't recall what.) This is news to me. She does it in front of three bus drivers so I pull her to one side. "I am not stupid." I start. "I know you're not." she interrupts. "I am not stupid." I say again, "If you want something, ask for it and I will do it. If you don't ask, do not come at me because I don't have it." I am angry and she knows it. "I was not coming at you." she says. "I am sick of things changing from moment to moment and having no consistency in what is required. When you decide what it is you want, you let me know, and I will do it. Alright?" She starts yammering on about how everything is changing for her as well and she can't do anything about it. "Well until whoever decides how it's going to go, I will keep on doing what I am doing and you can let me know." I say and then walk away.

And speaking of changes and of Richard; at one point I am part way up the road, signaling to a bus just arriving to come up and park. But he continues to drive straight ahead instead of coming towards me. Then I see someone kick cones out of his way so he can drive into the gravel lot. What the.....?? I run down the road and see Richard waving the bus into the lot. Once the bus, and the five behind him, are parked in the lot, I ask what's going on. Because now I have two of my buses trapped behind WOP buses. I am less than thrilled, to put it mildly. But this is the big kahuna so I have to be diplomatic. He says that there's no point in clogging up the road with all of the drivers, it's almost full. And they can't be circling around the block. Really? I had just sent four of them to circle. I ask why, then, were we told that they could and would, when we were in training. He says it's changed and they won't be circling. Man. I am so sick of the constant changes. He goes on about how he once, back in the States, had 20 buses lined up like this and how he just pointed and gestured when they needed to move and it was fine. Huh? What has that to do with this situation? I am done to the death with being micro managed. If you want to do my job, have at it and I will go sit in the trailer out of the rain where it's warm and I can give my back and legs a break. But if I am supposed to be doing this, then let me do it. And if you wanted things to work your way, then where the H, E, double hockey sticks were you on my first day here to train me properly instead of my being handed a clipboard and radio and told to get out there and do it? I have spent hours both on and off the job trying to figure out how to make this all work. I finally have a system that seems to be doing alright and then it gets kicked aside. Just like that. I am so done.

I never get to speak to a bus driver all day, other than Guy in the morning when I give him my phone number and days off so I can play tour guide for him AND the other bus driver who showed up right after him. Safety in numbers. Then he won't get the idea that I am caving on my 'no married men' rule. Oh, I did manage to talk to 'George Clooney' as he was parked in the lower line-up. I told him that I showed his photo to my friends and all of their jaws dropped. He laughed. I told him about the comment - George Clooney with an accent and he throws his head back and laughs... he loves it.

I only manage to grab one 15 minute break all day. By the time the last bus leaves, I am in agony. My back is killing me, and not in the usual place. It's right across my upper back and extends into my rib cage. This is a pain I only get when hunched over my binder all day at work (in film), thus I now use a music stand to hold it higher. When I head inside to take off my gear, I get the overwhelming urge to vomit. I run around to the back of the trailer to do it away from where anyone walks, and then fight it back. I will do anything not to vomit and I manage to fight back the bile and not throw up.

When I get home, I try to eat a little dinner but feel nauseated again and can't eat. I call Shawn to fill him in on some changes we have made to how we stage the buses to avoid the shmoz we had yesterday. From now on WOP buses go to the left only, and we will park them in two rows at the top. Our buses, to WSC, will go to the right and into the bays, snaking down the right side of the road. The workforce buses will go straight into the gravel parking lot. He says I sound tired. I tell him I think I am coming down with the flu. He gives me the recipe for a concoction he learned about while teaching in China. You take a can of coke, and bring it to the boil on the stove with a golf ball sized piece of ginger finely ground into it. Then you pour it into a mug and add the juice of a lemon and a tablespoon of honey. Drink it down half an hour before going to bed.

I find all of the ingredients in the house and cook it up. At first it doesn't taste too bad, it just has a bit of a bite. But as I get farther and farther down the mug, it starts to taste awful. I guess the ginger is getting stronger. I am worried I will just bring it all back up, and I almost do but fight it down. I fall into bed, completely exhausted and feeling like I've been hit by a bus; no pun intended. I sleep like a log and wake up feeling much better. I think it must have been food poisoning from the horrible half of an egg sandwich I ate at work yesterday. We are provided with a sandwich a day made by the same caterers that make food for Air Canada. It is the most dreadful food I have ever had and have stopped eating it. Except for yesterday. I was so hungry and the egg salad didn't look so bad, even though there was no butter - as usual - on the bread and no mayo. It was a bit dry, and when I kept coming across chewy bits the consistency of cooked chicken breast, I threw out what was left. I should never have touched it.

(I found the picture of the tee-shirt after I came up with the title of this post and was searching the internet for a photo to use as I had no time to take pictures today!)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

WHAT A DAY!!!!

I got four hours sleep last night. And we have our first group of spectators to load today, meaning 40 buses more than usual. Not a good combo, I am thinking.

My van gives me a lot of trouble on the drive in today and I ponder how the resulting rise in my pulse, and blood pressure - I am sure, and the tightening in my chest along with the current of stress I feel run through my body can't be good for me. Usually if I feel all of that together once a month, that's a lot. Now I am feeling it almost daily. If this van dies on me on the freeway at 3:30 a.m. I will be beside myself. I do have BCAA now, so that is some comfort. But to be late for work is a dreadful thought. To be without a car means I will probably have to quit as there is no public transportation at this hour.

I make it there and get suited up in the usual reflective vest. I grab two flashlight wands along with my clipboard and walkie. Jessica suggests I take two walkies so I can monitor what is going on over at WOP and hear when they are sending us their overflow buses. I hope I can keep the two straight and not talk on their frequency when meaning to talk to my crew. I find out that they have two events they are loading for today and so will have over 70 buses go through. It doesn't occur to me at that moment that, again, I have been given misinformation. I will find out in a few hours that their buses will not be long gone by the time ours arrive, and the result will be a massive cluster. Blissfully unaware of this fact, I head out to greet our first bus driver.

It's Guy. The French Canadian one who is sweet on me. He tries to kiss me on the lips instead of the cheeks this morning and so I pull away and tell him no. He tries to grab me back into a hug and says he will just kiss my cheeks but I tell him "Too bad. You blew it." He pouts.

All too soon, the droves of buses from WOP start to pull into our lot and I get busy getting them parked up in the top lot and down the roadway to the right, to leave the left side for our workforce buses. I am supposed to start having five crew as of today. I have three. And only one, Shawn, is a self-starter. Soon I won't even have him as he is going to be the alternate supervisor so will work on my days off (the one Angus One hired barely speaks English and didn't show up for her first day of work. Awesome job A-One. Yet again). That's good and bad. Good because we have worked out a system together and now he will be able to maintain that on my days off so that the bus drivers and workforce will have some continuity and won't get confused. Or at least that's how it is supposed to work out, but with changes and misinformation happening constantly it is difficult to ensure any sort of consistency. Bad because I have no idea who I will put in his position. He is down on the roadway determining whether the bus coming at him next is our workforce bus, WOP overflow bus, or our spectator bus and then place it in the correct lane. It's dark out. It's raining hard. When the bus turns in, it's lights blind you so you can't read the small sign in the window - when they have a sign. They ran out down at the ever incompetent depot, so not all have them. It's a difficult job but he handles it without a hitch and so I can focus my attention elsewhere. I put one guy at the entrance to direct buses up the road, and the other at the top parking lot to park them. I have the driver log clipboard and gather information from each of our bus drivers. I don't have to bother getting info from WOP's and that's a good thing. Until I get a radio call from Jessica telling me I need to get it. I radio back and ask why I need to do that, it's WOP's job. She changes her mind and tells me just to get the bus number. It's one more thing to add to my list but at least it's just the number I need.

It's raining hard and my paper is disintegrating, despite the plastic sheet over it, and it's difficult to write. My jacket is proving not to be waterproof as I am starting to feel damp on my arms. My polar fleece gloves are soaked through. I spied some pretty skookum gloves on Doug, Richard (the big boss from Florida), and a few others the other day. They are black and bright orange with reflective strips on the backs. Why are people who are indoors at a desk job wearing those gloves while those of us outside, in the dark, directing traffic haven't been given them? Next time I see Doug, I ask him just that. He seems embarrassed a bit and says he has more in his office and will see that we get a pair each. As it should be. So far I haven't seen any come our way.

Buses for workforce have a set schedule that won't change for the entire time we are here. They arrive, or should, at half past the hour but they often arrive way too early and sometimes three hours worth at once. This is a dispatch issue. We have one that departs at 4:50, four at 5:50 (but we only ever send one to Whistler and the other three go back to the depot as we don't have that many passengers), one at 6:50, 8:50, 10:50 and 11:50. On the schedule it shows that we should be moving anywhere from 150 to 450 workforce daily. I think the most we have moved in a day is 50. We have sent buses up with one person aboard. And these Olympics are supposed to be green. Right.

I send Shawn on his break. With a Oh Henry Easter egg. I bought one for each of my team for doing such a great job yesterday.

The spectators who like to be super early have started to arrive and are waiting up top. I am still parking WOP overflow buses when our buses for the spectators start to arrive. I pull them over into the gravel parking lot as they are an hour early and the lanes up to the loading zone is blocked with WOP buses. I radio Jessica and tell her that we are starting to get WSC buses and so need to stop taking WOP's. She radios back that we have to take them. I ask her what happened to the 'circle them around the block' plan if we don't have room. She tells me that we need to bring them in and park them. They are coming in by the droves. I now have them in both lanes going up to the top, meaning that if I can't clear them before my next workforce bus arrives, I have nowhere to put him. I am super frustrated. This was not supposed to happen. I radio over to WOP and tell them I have no more room for their buses. We have over 30 of them parked here. It's a nightmare that was never. supposed. to. happen.

I am working on getting the right hand lane cleared so that I can bring up our buses when I hear a bus start up behind me. I turn around and it's one of our spectator coaches and he's starting to pull forward. I stop him and walk over to his window to ask what he's doing. He ignores me. I knock on the window and motion for him to roll it down. He does. "It's time for me to go load." he says. "I don't have the way clear for you yet. I need you to wait here." He rolls up his window and pulls out. I am pissed. I radio Jessica, who is up top with the loading crew, getting prepared. "I have a sliding center bus who is getting in the line. I tried to hold him back but he thinks he knows best." I say. As I watch him go up the road to get stuck behind WOP buses I hear more buses start up. The other sliding center drivers try to follow him but I stop them and put cones down in their path. That should hold them until I figure out what to do next. After a few moments of deep pondering, I decide to let them go and get my guy to clear the WOP buses to the right up top first. That way we can start to get our buses into position for spectators.

I then radio my guy at the entrance and tell him to direct any WOP buses to the left and ours right from now on. He radios back that he 'copies' and then lets the very next bus, which is WSC, into the left lane. God help me. He's a doctor from Nigeria, here three months. Very smart - can't comprehend English so well. I get the bus backed up and moved to the right lane and then realize that, yes it's our bus but it's an accessible bus (can take wheelchairs) and it needs to go up on the left and park off to the side up top for when we need it. Mamud was right after all. So I get the driver to back up again and put him in the WOP line up. Once he's stopped, I go up to him and apologize profusely and beg his understanding that it's our first day with all of these buses. He is really nice and is very understanding.

Eventually I get the right lane cleared so that my buses can get through. We pull our workforce buses into the gravel parking lot until I can get the left lane clear for them. It's semi-organized mayhem for the next few hours until we finally stop getting WOP buses. Then all goes like clockwork. I hate, hate, HATE that we have to take their overflow. They should have to deal with it themselves as it screws us up something terrible. And so much for our schedule never overlapping with theirs. I have to work out a solution to this before it happens again.

Shawn comes back from break and I go up top to start taking information from the spectator drivers. Buses are parked and the drivers are out, socializing. It makes it murder to get all of their information as I have to locate each driver in the order in which they are lined up. They are each on a 15 minute schedule of four buses at a time. I am supposed to make sure they are parked in the order they are scheduled but that is about the last thing I care about at the moment. They show up when they show up. If they can't keep to their schedule and show up at the right time, that's not my problem - I figure. And with only three crew instead of five, I think we are doing a pretty damn good job of this.

Most of these drivers are French Canadian. A few are from Alberta and others from various parts of the states. It's amazing to observe how the drivers in each group have similar traits and the differences between the groups. The guys from Alberta are very cordial and polite. The guys from the states are loud, brash, and either very cranky or very funny. The French Canadians are flirty and very happy. I am having such fun with them all. And I make it my mission to get a smile out of the cranky Yanks whenever I can and most of the time I succeed. I walk up to one bus and the driver opens the door. I am shocked when I see his face. He is the image of George Clooney, or what George will look like in about 15 years. I start my spiel and can't help myself. "Bonjour! Ca va?" He replies, "Bonjour! Ca va bein!" "I just need to take some information from you. I will need to get it every day and I hope you won't mind having to repeat it all of the time as I won't be able to remember everyone's info. And do you know you look just like George Clooney? Do you mind if I take a look at your accreditation tag?" He looks confused. "George Clooney" I say slowly, "you look just like him. Don't you get told that all of the time?" His face lights up. "Ahhhh. Oui. George Clooney. Yes, yes. All of the time." "I thought so." I say and then proceed to get all the info I need.

Later, when I have a bit of a breather, I see him with some other drivers jabbering away in rapid-fire French and having a laugh. I walk up to them and ask him if I can take his photo. The other drivers want to know why I want only his photo. "Because he looks like George Clooney and my friends won't believe me unless I have this picture." I say. So he poses as the other guys rib him and I get a great shot. I thank him and he smiles. He has his hands in his pockets and I reach out and take his left one out and point to his empty ring finger. "Ahhhh!" I say, "No ring. So you are a free man?" He laughs and grabs my gloved hand and feels for a ring on my wedding finger. "Ah! No ring!" he says. "Nope." I reply and walk away as they all laugh.

The rest of the day goes well and we manage to get one thousand five hundred spectators loaded and on their way to watch the luge. We still have a couple of workforce buses to load. One is in position and Patrick, the driver I went to Whistler with, comes over and asks me to speak to a passenger. Apparently she is very upset and he wants me to hear her complaint and try to calm her down. I head over with him and we board the bus. There's about 15 people on board and they all look at me. No one says anything so I say "I hear someone's not happy. Who is that?" A blond woman, about 48, to my left pipes up. "That would be me." She explains that she was turned away from the usual gate she enters in and was sent way down to the other end of the campus. When she tried to park in the workforce parking lot, the attendant wouldn't let her down the road to it and was very rude to her. She ended up parking far away and now is concerned about having to walk all that way back in the dark when she returns tonight. Another woman pipes up and says that her husband dropped her off but that he wasn't allowed into the workforce parking area either and now he has no idea where he is to pick her up tonight. Another woman says pretty much the same thing and a guy in the back is ready to quit over having to park so far away that he had to run to make the bus. The first woman wants to know why the bus at night drops them off all the way up in the top lot anyway, when all of their cars are in the gravel lot at the bottom and the bus drives right past it and then they have to walk down in the dark. I tell them that I will do everything I can to resolve this issue. That I will try to make sure that from now on they get dropped off in the workforce lot, that they can park there tomorrow, and that the rude Impark attendant is reprimanded. I sympathize with them and say that there has been so much confusion and trial and error, but that everyone is doing their best to get it worked out to everyone's satisfaction. This seems to mollify them all and they thank me.

When that bus departs, I walk down to the trailer to speak with Maq, the head of the Impark crew. It's a totally different department and company running it than ours. Jessica intercepts me on the way and asks me why I need to talk to Maq. I tell her and she says to leave it to her to deal with. I reluctantly do so, not knowing if she will remember or if the information will get passed along accurately. I guess I will have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

Once all of our buses depart, including the workforce buses, I would love to have a meeting to talk about how the day went and issues we had and come up with some resolutions but that doesn't happen. Jessica does inform me that WOP was sending us all of their buses instead of using the space they have to stage them (they can load five and hold ten) because they were just too lazy to bring them in to hold them. I am ticked of to hear this and tell her that it is totally unacceptable and that it can't happen anymore. She assures me that she will talk to Doug about it and that it will be dealt with. I hope so because I don't know if I can deal with a day like today over and over again. I am not getting paid enough for that level of stress.

I go to sign out and return all of my equipment, and I check tomorrows schedule. I have two people scheduled to come in and one of them isn't Shawn. I have no idea how I am supposed to manage all those buses with just two crew. I feel like quitting.

Friday, February 12, 2010

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!

The Olympics start TODAY!!!!

The WOP (Whistler Olympic Park) departure hub, which is across campus, have their first event today. Pretty soon after getting our first workforce bus underway at 4:50 a.m., we start parking dozens of buses for WOP that they haven't got room for. It's a good practice run for us.

My biggest concern so far has been how we will use the narrow, two-lane roadway that connects the gravel parking lot (where workforce parks and our trailer is located) with the upper parking lot (where the spectators will line up and load onto our buses) to stage not only our workforce buses and our WSC (Whistler Sliding Center) buses, but also the WOP overflow. I just can't make it work, logistically, in my mind. When I present my concerns to Doug, the overseer, he assures me that at no time will our schedule overlap with WOP's. Their buses will be long gone before ours start to arrive. I want to believe him, but with the constant down-flow of misinformation that I have encountered so far, I am skeptical to say the least. We shall see.

I am finding Jessica very frustrating to work with. She is scattered, disorganized, and will blurt out the first thing that comes to her mind when asked a question - and it is most often wrong. The directions as to how we will organize and do our jobs changes not just daily, but seemingly moment to moment. To say that Game Day does this all the time - it's all they do for events like the Super Bowl - the amount of confusion and misinformation is staggering. On my first day, I was basically handed a clipboard with some forms on it and told to go out there and get to it. Get to what, exactly? I am supposed to be supervising a team, yet I have little to no idea as to what each person's role should be. So I get out there and figure it out as I go along. Today is my 7th day on the job, and I think I have most of it figured out. As long as they don't keep changing things, that is.

I am in the work trailer when the news flash comes on that an athlete has been in a terrible accident on the luge. The footage of it is horrible to watch. We are all subdued and upset by it. I hope he won't die but he hit that pole so fast, he must have some terrible injuries.

When work is done, I drive home in my dodgy van - it's giving me a lot of stress and I now know that transmission is on it's last legs.

As usual, my friend and her daughter are eager to hear about my day. I tell them about the accident but they heard already and tell me that he died. What a terrible start to the games. I feel so badly for his family, they must be devastated. And I can't imagine how the rest of his team feel, as well as the other luge athletes. I would be terrified to go down that track now.

I quickly change clothes and then head out to buy some groceries and some snacks for tonight. It's the opening ceremonies and I am going to watch them with my friend at her daughter's place as we don't have cable here. I get it all done just in time to head over there. When I arrive at the apartment, no one is home. It's half an hour until it starts. I manage to get inside the building when someone else goes in and wait outside the suite door. Finally the daughter arrives and, with 10 minutes to spare, we turn the TV on and start preparing the food.





We have a great time eating good food, drinking the BEST martinis, and loving the ceremonies. I have to admit, I was concerned that we wouldn't do a good job of them, given all the disorganization I have experienced so far. And knowing that they would probably contain a lot of First Nations content, was concerned it might come off as cringingly awful as I found the Lillehammer ones were with all those elves and discordant music. Gosh, they were hard to watch. But I thought Vancouver did a spectacular job, despite the mechanical failure that lead to a bit of an awkward wait for the torch to appear and the resulting three supports instead of four. I particularly loved the bit with the whales. That was amazingly real. I also loved that they changed the speech and lowered the flags to honor Nodar Kumaritashvili. Sixteen thousand people made not a sound during the minute of silence to honor him. Very moving. WELL DONE VANCOUVER!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

HOLD THAT BUS!

Back at work today. The torch relay is due to pass right by us at noon.

The Impark guys had a great chance to practice parking masses of people last Sunday as the big church up the road, Willingdon Community Church, uses the BCIT lot as overflow parking. There were three waves of cars as they have three morning services, and the ensuing hundreds of cars were parked without a hitch. We even managed to keep them from going up and down the roadway we use to stage the buses on. Well done kids!

One of the French Canadian bus drivers has taken a shine to me. I joke and flirt with all of the drivers; they are mostly over 60 so I figure it's safe and they seem to eat it up. This one has taken me seriously and today when he arrives, he kisses me on both cheeks and tells me I am beautiful. Is he kidding me? I am wearing a toque, and my kids will tell you I look horrendous in any hat but especially a toque. I have no makeup on. What hair is showing is straggly and wet. I am bundled up in five thick layers so resemble a toffee apple in shape. I laugh him off but he is serious. A bit later he pulls me aside and tells me he would like to ask me out on a date. I smile and tell him "Sure. That would be nice." He is happy. Then I think to ask him if he is married. You never know with the French - even the if he is just French Canadian. He hems and haws. Oh-oh. Either he's married or he is struggling to find the English word for 'divorced'. I am betting it isn't the latter. "I am not married." he says. So it is the divorced word that's giving him trouble. Or not. "I live with a woman." He adds. "Oh! So you are married then, or as well as." I say. He shrugs. "Yes. But it's ok." I laugh. "No, it's not ok." "Oh.. come on," he says in his lovely accent, "you only live once." "Yes, I know." I reply, "and that is why I live this one life with integrity." He shakes his head and looks forlorn. "Cheer up," I say, "you'll get over it." He smiles at me. I am called on the radio and have to walk away to do my job. A bit later he pulls me aside again. "So, I would like to see Vancouver on my days off. I would like you to be my tour guide." I shake my head and grin. Persistent if nothing else. "I will show you around Vancouver if you like," I reply, "but that is all. Just as your tour guide." This mollifies him and he drives away a happy man, waving goodbye. I might have to rethink this decision.

The crowds begin to gather for the torch relay. The Whistler volunteers start arriving for the 11:50 bus and gather on the street to watch. They want us to hold the bus until it goes past. I talk to Jessica, the manager, and she makes a phone call. The result; the bus must leave on time. I think that's just mean. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these guys. They're volunteers. We should be able to do this for them. We go up to the street to watch as well. Eventually we are joined by Doug, the overseer for both our departure point, Whistler Sliding Center, and the one across campus that goes to Whistler Olympic Park. I go talk to him and tell him that the volunteers should be able to stay and watch this. He thinks for a minute and then says, "Let them stay." Good!!!

There is a high school across the street and the powers that be let all of the kids out of class to watch the torch go by. It's a huge crowd. As they wait, they motion to trucks that go by to honk, and most oblige. At each honk a loud cheer goes up. It's fabulous.

Eventually the torch relay trucks appear and the kids go wild. Then the torch bearers appear and the flame is passed from one to another. It continues on it's way and the crowd cheers and claps. I get a bit teary. It's great to see that we have as much national pride as the USA has. We just keep it under wraps to let it go at times like these.

As soon as it's over, we gather up our volunteers and get them loaded on the bus. It departs twenty five minutes late, but who cares. It was well worth it.

(Photos by Jessica - my camera was in my car)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

FIELD TRIP














I got up at 3 a.m. to drive into work. It's my day off.

So why would I do that? Because the driver of the first bus that leaves in the morning offered me a trip up to Whistler. I haven't been up there for about 7 years, and so haven't seen the new highway. I also want to see what changes have been made for the Olympics. I want to drive the route up there to see the drop-off points for the workforce crew, the order they are in, how far apart they are, and other details so that I can be better informed when I am asked questions by the workforce because, so far, I have been able to answer hardly any.

My car gives me a lot of trouble on the way in. Ever since I had the new alternator installed, as soon as it warms up it starts to feel like it will stall, even when on the highway going 100km per hour. It usually only lasts five minutes or so then all is fine for the rest of the trip. This time it starts almost straight away and doesn't stop for most of the drive in. It's stressing me out hugely as I just can't afford to get it fixed and I don't want to miss any work.

I get there alright and the bus is pulling up to it's spot as I get out of my van. We leave about ten minutes later with only one other passenger, a woman in her late 50's - I would guess - who is a RN and applied to volunteer with the medical department but is working in print media. Go figure.

It's dark the whole drive up, but the driver - Patrick - gives a running commentary on the points of interest along the way. I listen attentively and it's a good thing because later I will need to remember what he's saying but I don't know that right now.

It's about a two hour trip and it's still dark when we arrive. Patric takes our passenger to the last stop. As we turn into the road that runs along the back of the new part of Whistler village, the trees lining the road are completely lit up with tiny blue LED lights and it looks like a fairy land. I try to take a photo but it doesn't turn out. I need to be on a tripod or at least leaning the camera against a solid object that isn't moving.

Once we drop off our passenger at the Whistler Village stop, we head back where we came from but this time Patrick turns into the other three stops; the media center, Whistler Creekside, and the last one, the Athlete's Village. Only we can't see the village because it's behind a bank of trees but there's a huge tent set up behind a security checkpoint. The buses for the athletes must drive into the tent and stop where bomb sniffing dogs and their handlers will go over each vehicle with a fine tooth comb. Once cleared, then they can continue on to pick up the athletes and transport them to their venue.

On the way back down the highway the sun is rising and the Tantalus Mountain Range is lit up pink. Patrick pulls over to a lookout point so I can get out and take some pictures. While we are there, an RCMP SUV pulls up to check on us. Apparently, any bus or vehicle that stops they come over to check out now that all security is beefed up for the games. There are RCMP all over the place. Even one on every street corner.








When we stop later for a doughnut and hot chocolate at Tim Horton's, there are at least 20 RCMP in there and I joke with them about the stereotype of cops and doughnut shops is true. We ask where they are from. Some are from Langley, some are from Ontario, and others from Alberta.

Patrick told us on the way up that there is a pod of whales in Howe Sound at the moment so now I am on the lookout for them. I spot something in the water far below and watch it for a bit but it doesn't move so I assume it's a log. I mention it to Patrick and he looks over and says that it is a whale. What I thought was a branch is it's fin. I am squinting at it, trying to make it out when suddenly it disappears under the water. Yep. A whale. We also see a few bald eagles in the trees at the side of the road near a small river. Apparently there have been a few black bears on the sandbar just up a short way from the bridge we drive over but there aren't any around today.

I ask Patrick about the trouble I am having with my car and he thinks it might be something as simple as low transmission fluid. I tell him I just had the oil changed and asked them to check all of the fluid levels and specifically that one and they said it was fine. But he tells me that unless they checked while the vehicle was running and in drive, you can't tell if it's low. Well I know they didn't do that as I was sitting in the car the whole time. So I need to do that as soon as I can.

When we get back to BCIT, Olga joins us and we turn around to make the trip back up to Whistler with a new group - three women and one young man. This time we are going to Whistler Olympic Park which is on the south side about thirteen miles from Whistler Village. It is full daylight now as it is 10 a.m. and the sky is blue with a few clouds. As we drive along, Patrick tells me that I will now give the guided tour that he gave me earlier. So I try to recall everything he said and remember most of it as we pass the mine at Britannia Beach, which used to be the largest copper mine in the British Commonwealth, and as well mined some gold, and is now a museum; Shannon Falls, the second highest waterfall in North America (or so Patrick said but when I check later at home, it's the third highest falls in B.C.); and The Stawamus Chief, the second largest rock and the largest granite rock-face in North America (or so said my ex).

It's a beautiful drive up in the daylight but so painfully free of any snow, at all, anywhere but on the highest peaks. Usually at this time of year, the snow is piled ten feet high at the side of the road where the plows have cleared it off. I know it's nothing we can do anything about, but it's kind of embarrassing. The whole world will be watching and there's no snow. In fact, I heard on the news yesterday that it's the warmest January on record since they started keeping records. There isn't any snow at the side of the road until we get to Whistler proper and then it's not anywhere close to what is normal.

We turn off at the road to WOP, the acronym we use all the time at BCIT, and before too long we pull into the large parking lot. There's another issue with the warm weather. A few of the huge areas they cleared for parking is so soft and wet, the buses get stuck. This is because they fully expected the ground to be frozen, as it should be in January. So now they are frantically trucking in gravel to fill and firm the soil in the last few days before the games start. So between trucking in gravel, and trucking in snow from Manning Park (a five hour trip, one way) to Cypress and then heli-lifting it to the runs, we must be going seriously over budget even more than anticipated. It's not cheap to rent those massive helicopters day in and day out. It's a nightmare, really. There's no other word for it.

There's a group of bus drivers just arrived on two buses along with the big boss from our post down at BCIT. He's brought a bunch of out-of-town divers up to learn the route and how the drop off and pick up will work in this huge lot. He is surprised to see me step off the bus and seems impressed that I would take a day off to come up here and learn the route.



When we head back I get a good look at the Peak to Peak Gondola that connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. It's really, really high up. My daughter rode it with her husband a few weeks ago and she said that when she looked down, she was terrified as they were hundreds of feet in the air. It looks terrifying from way down here. But I'd like to come back and ride it some day.
All photographs are mine and not to be copied without express permission from me (click on them to see the large version).
Some names have been changed to protect my butt.



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