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...

Saturday, February 13, 2010


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.
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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