So I’m getting to the point where I am a pretty experienced trolley driver. I know where the dead spots are, gently come to a crawl right before them, and then smoothly accelerate once I’m past them. (For the uninitiated in trolley operation, dead spots exist in the wire where the wires cross. Why? For that, I’d reference a basic electronics course for what happens when you cross the hot wire with the neutral or ground – but that’s another story.) For the most part, I give folks a smooth ride and don’t lose my poles. Since I returned to Atlantic base the only time I’ve had to futz with my poles is after dealing with the temperamental switch turning right onto 4th Ave from Jackson St.
I haven’t really thought about my poles much. Except now, it’s raining. You see, when it’s raining there is a nasty carbon filled soot that drips off of the wires. If you get out and have to put your poles up in the rain, you get dripped on – typically in your face – with this stuff. To understand what it’s like, repeatedly rub a WHOLE BUNCH of pencils all over thick copper wire, add a built up layer of diesel soot and generalized pollution to the mix, and then drip some water over the wire so the water ends up in your face and on your clothes. Do this all while looking up at the wire, in the dark, while maniacs in SUVs drive around you with the assumption that your reflective vest is a car-proof vest and not simply a device designed to enhance your visibility.
Ok, so now I’m thoroughly obsessing about not losing my poles. I’m carefully approaching corners so as not to throw the poles off. I’m dutifully slowing down in the special work. (Disclaimer for supervisors reading this: I *never* speed through special work! And of course, I’m paying close attention to when I need to signal for the correct switch. (Trolley drivers use our turn signals to tell the poles where to go. That’s why you sometimes see us signaling at odd times)
Except now, I have drunk on my bus who is obsessing about the horrible traffic that had Pine street backed up. The traffic was caused by this evening’s unfortunate shooting, but SHE’S GOT TO GET WHERE SHE’S GOING AND SHE DOESN’T CARE WHAT’S CAUSING IT. WHY AREN’T THESE STUPID BUS DRIVERS MOVING. Ok, you get the idea… Anyway, while listening to her yap about the traffic, I became distracted and missed my switch at Pine & 5th Ave. I had to stop the bus, get out with my reflective pseduo-car-proof vest, and put my poles onto the correct wire so I could turn left onto third. Ok, no biggie – traffic was a mess anyway so I didn’t even delay anyone.
After allowing the drunk to leave my bus under her own power (as opposed to leaving with the assistance of the Police), I then turned the corner onto 3rd where traffic was much better although still thick with buses trying to escape the mess on 1st. I was in the clear – well, until I missed a 2nd switch because I signaled right without meaning to switch to the right turn wire for Union St. Pop! Off go the poles as I drive straight while they tracked to the right. At this point I’m blocking the intersection at 3rd & Union with my poles hung up in the wire. The street in front of me is empty while both lanes of 3rd Ave behind me are packed full of buses. Lovely.
Fortunately, I was able to don my trusty reflective vest, wiggle the poles out of the wire, and get moving again. But the whole experience has reminded me what happens when I start to worry about something. It usually just makes the whole situation worse. I’ll try to be more mellow next time it rains.
If you’d like to see some examples of “Special work” take a look at my “Trolley Wire” set over on Flickr.