Day 224 – A Couple Myths
Yeah, so at the moment I’m driving a bus and the comparisons to Jackie Gleason and The Honeymooners are straggling in. Might be a good time to address some questions that have come my way and pre-straighten the record.
Myth 1: Nobody would actually choose this line of work
At present TriMet is on a massive hiring binge. The target bandied about is 20 new bus operators coming out of training every 3 months. I mention this because TriMet was on a hiring freeze during the great recession and they are now actively trying to make up for lost time and effect a level of institutional change. The idea of being a bus driver as a “fall back” or “desperation” job is largely absent from the recent graduates and incoming trainees I’ve spoken with.
A high percentage of TriMet riders are classified as “choice riders” because they have other means of transportation, but choose to ride TriMet for various reasons. By the same token a growing percentage of TriMet employees are “choice employees” in that they chose to apply to TriMet for the unique mix of benefits and job advancement potential. I’ve yet to find somebody who said “well, I can’t seem to find any other work, so here I am.”
Myth 2: Driving a bus is body-destroying path to obesity
As with any job requiring your butt in a seat for hours at a time (hello coders) whether or not your body goes to hell is entirely up to you. Yes, there are morbidly obese bus operators. Yes, for some, the life expectancy after retirement from the job hovers around the 2-year mark. But both of those facts are mitigated by the presence of many, many, healthy drivers committed to a long happy retirement burning through the piles of money they put aside during a 25 year driving career.
“It’s actually really simple,” points out one of the more energetic trainers, “don’t eat shit. Yeah, many of the layovers are at fast food joints, doesn’t mean you have to get a double quarter pounder every time you’re there.”
Granted I’m only two weeks into this bizarre experiment, but I’ve actually lost weight and I feel better than I’ve felt in years. In many ways it can actually be a healthy lifestyle.
What? Healthy? Well, yes. To do this job you must be extremely alert. To be alert you must, no exception, get sufficient sleep. For some that means a solid 8 hours. So, given the traditionally horrible hours part-time (aka “mini run”) drivers endure that means asleep, not in bed but asleep – headed for R.E.M., by 9pm or earlier in order to survive the 4am alarm.
One of the negative factors on sleep quality, for me at least (yes, i have data to back this up), is alcohol. Annette and I have basically stopped drinking during the week. We are also very careful with caffeine since I need any caffeine out of my system, for sure, by 9pm. No coffee or any caffeinated beverage after 3pm for me.
The next negative factors are sugars and carbohydrates: just say no to both. So no booze on school nights, no (or very restricted) sugars, almost no carbs, low-fat, high-quality protein and both cooked and raw dark, leafy greens for an evening meal plus a conscious effort to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep. Fold in at least a daily hour of dog walking and walking to/from road relief and you can see where I’m going with this.
Lastly there are the restrictions of the CDL to consider and TriMet’s policy, probably mandated by Federal law, of random drug testing. Get pulled over with basically any alcohol in your bloodstream and risk losing the CDL. Lose the CDL, no more driving job. Test positive for illegal drugs (or legal prescription drugs not disclosed to TriMet) and risk your job.