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Friday, August 13, 2010

From Swansea to Los Angeles

My friend, Matt Davies sent me this photo along with a couple of others. He'd been to a motor show and they had some of the buses that he and I used to drive back in the 70's and early 80's. He sent me them in an e-mail entitled "Nostalgia Rush" and that is exactly what it was. I remember the training bus we had. It was similar to this one but older. It had a crash gear box. That meant that in order to change gears you had to match the speed of the engine to the speed of the rear axle. There was no power steering and automatic gears were a dream of the future. Back then the definition of a "Good Bus" was one where the heaters worked.
When I learned to drive a bus my instructor was Elwyn Richards. He was a tough old bugger. He and I both spoke Welsh but my driving test had to be taken in English. The only problem with that was, in English, I would get mixed up between left and right.
Funny thing is that since living in America where I hardly speak Welsh at all, when I do speak Welsh I get mixed up between Wednesday and Friday.
Anyway, Elwyn got so pissed off at me turning the wrong way, like going left when he said right, that he cured me by smacking me around the ear. It would be "Turn right!" (Smack) "Turn left!" (Smack) and that is how I learned left from right in English.
Things are a bit different here in L.A. We have a modern fleet powered by Compressed Natural Gas. Gone are the days of Diesel. There's not a manual shift to be found and you need to be a computer expert to fix them these days. Everyone has to be politically correct. There's no smacking around the ear and be careful you don't hurt any one's feelings. I'm lucky though, I can curse in a language no one here understands.
I'm an instructor myself these days, Got my certificate from the Federal Department of Transport. The Transport Safety Institute. and a few other bits of paper that would surprise some of my old colleagues. Yes I teach Americans how to drive a bus. I think a lot of my old friends who remember the trail of destruction I left behind me when I was first driving might view this with horror. The wonderful thing about being here is that no one does know me from back then. I'd been a bus driver for almost 20 years before I came to Los Angeles. No one can point a finger and recount my past disasters.
Differences aren't just in the buses though. Over here the Union, (United Transportation Union) is currently in negotiation with the management. Things don't look good. In this present climate no one wants a strike and I'm certain that There wouldn't be a strike if things could just stay as they are. Unfortunately the company may want to take things away, reduce what we have without increasing anything. That could bring on a strike. There may well be moves to increase the amount Drivers pay for medical benefits, reduce the number of full-time drivers and increase the number of part-timers. Other items that could have a negative impact on the standard of living of the staff could result in industrial action.
I hope not. I hope everything can be sorted out but right now I'm not hopeful.

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