Day 317 – Not That Anybody Asked
I’m about halfway through TriMet probation and, mostly for my own sanity, feel the need to document some of my current reality.
Let me ask: have you been late to work in the past six months? No? Not even a few minutes? Maybe the subway was crowded so you waited for the next train and got to the office five minutes later than usual. Does your car always start and run flawlessly? Is the traffic always moving smoothly between home and work? Did you catch your neighbor’s kid’s cold when you visited Sunday afternoon and simply can’t drag yourself out of bed? What about what you’re wearing? Did you remember to put that blue pen in your shirt pocket? What about the wristwatch the cat knocked behind the dresser? Did you remember to swap yesterday’s shirt with the coffee stain for a fresh one? Did you remember to do laundry over the weekend so you have a fresh one?
Now imagine a job with no sick time and where showing up one second late, seriously one second, results in another employee taking your work for the morning (or afternoon or entire day). You get charged with an “oversleep,” you lose your pay for the shift and you accrue “timeloss.” In probation two oversleeps are cause for dismissal. For the six months of probation you’re allowed 15 hours of timeloss and, for “mini-runners,” each shift is about 3 or so hours so at the very least you’re going to accrue 3 hours of timeloss.
Remember that question about what you’re wearing? Did you get that watch out from behind the dresser or did you you skip it because you were already running late and the car has been a little slow to start on these wet mornings. What about your shoes? Are they still wet from the night before so you decided to wear your gray hiking boots instead? Did a manager at your job notice your shoes and then, just for fun, ask you what time it is. You look at your naked wrist and then get sent home for a uniform violation (you might be able to talk your way out of getting an oversleep, but you’re going to accrue timeloss).
Mini-runners perform this ritual two times per day. If their shift starts at a garage they must show up by their report time in full uniform, sign for their work, get to their bus, do a pre-trip check then depart and get to the start of their run at the correct time. If their shift starts out on the road (referred to as “road relief”) they need to get to a specific bus stop and be waiting for their specific bus to come along in order to relieve the driver. How you get to that stop is entirely your problem. Do you drive your car and park near the stop? Do you take TriMet? Do you get a ride from a friend? Maybe you go to the garage and take the bus driver’s car to the stop, park it at some pre-agreed spot, then give the keys to the driver when you relieve him/her. What if any of a hundred things go wrong with any of those scenarios? If you’re not where you are supposed to be most operators will not wait. They will close the doors and proceed on route all the while sending the message “no road relief” to dispatch from their data terminal. You will get an oversleep and accrue time loss.
I asked an operator once “so how long do you normally wait for road relief?”
“Not one second. If I come to the stop and my relief’s not standing there I close it up, send ‘no road relief’ and take their money.”
Oh, and keep in mind if the relief stop says, for example, “Stark & 82nd,” you need to be at the stop headed in the correct direction, i.e. are you relieving an inbound or outbound bus. It’s fairly common for newbies to be at the correct stop, but on the wrong side of the road. Unless the operator being relieved is feeling charitable the odds are you’ll see the bus roll up, service the stop, and then depart with the operator giving you a big “i just got 3 hours of overtime pay” smile on their face. Sometimes they wave, too.
Again, not that anybody asked, but this is by far the strangest reality I’ve ever been part of. I often wish I could document it better during my actual runs, but that’s not possible for a number of good reasons. My only goal remains to get through probation (April 4th) and then see what might come next. In the meantime I’ll continue this rather punishing ritual doing a job that’s unlike anything I’ve done before.