Friday, September 30, 2011


Today as I wended my weary way home from work, I went past Temple Square, as I often shall, since it is now on the way home from work.  As I went past Temple Square, I saw a small group of people with red t-shirts that said "Jesus Saves," one of whom was holding up a Bible and shouting something that I couldn't hear, since I was on a train, and I thought:

You guys know Conference is tomorrow, right?

I'm just sayin'.

P.S. You guys do know Mormons (a.k.a. members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe in Jesus, right?

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I write many blog posts about the interesting people I meet (or avoid meeting) on my public transportation sagas.  I realized yesterday, however, that sometimes I'm the weird guy other people see.

There was this one time when I may or may not have loudly quoted Teen Girl Squad on the phone to my wife, which caused a significant amount of consternation on the faces of those who heard me.

Last night's was, if possible, even more awkward.

I was on the phone with commutergirl, again.  She was telling me about how she worked all day yesterday and came home and did a load of laundry, which was more than I had been able to accomplish at home that day (having left at 7:00 a.m. and not returned until after 9:00 p.m.).  My wife and I have this habit of sticking the word "poo" on the end of things as a term of endearment.  It's very silly.  When she told me about her laundry-doing, I said, "I'm glad you're such a productive-poo."  I'm sure commutergirl thought nothing of this.  But the person across from me gave me the best "I hate you for existing" look I've seen in a long time.

I'm sorry I made it awkward for you, dude.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I'm really tired.

I admit that when I finally wended my weary way (alliteration!) back home tonight, I didn't know what to post.  As in, what would be short enough.  Fortunately, I logged onto Facebook first, where I have friends who send me interesting links from time to time, like earlier today.  I thought you might like this one.

You should all be more like this cat.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


A short while ago, the Utah Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), of which I am a member, went on a tour of UTA's new train maintenance facility.  UTA ran a special train to take us to the facility, which is just off the tracks, but not in general service.  We all piled on.

This is what a pile of engineers looks like
The train shop was really cool.  It was kind of like a really really big auto shop.  'Cuz trains are big.

You wanna change the oil on this?

Empty bays

Coming into the main area

Ever seen the top of a TRAX train before?

The control room

Commutergirl and I are on this poster.  No, really, we are.
So, yeah, the train place was pretty cool.  It gave me an appreciation of what taking care of a train operation entails.  It's a lot more than it looks like from the outside.

Monday, September 26, 2011


The circus was in town.  As evidenced by the fact that lots and lots of families with little kids got on the train downtown.  As little miss matter of fact says, "trains start and stop quickly."  All the children were finding imaginative ways to remain upright, and of course they were having a jolly old time doing it.

One boy made it apparent that he wanted one of the loops that people standing hold on to.  (As far as I know, we don't have a special word for those loops in transportation engineering, but if I find out one, I'll let you know.)  Finally his dad lifted him up so he could hang on to it.  As his feet were now a good twenty-four inches off the floor of the train car, he swung happily back and forth with the train for a while until he decided it was time to come back down.  I am required to disclaim here that he was closely supervised by a concerned adult at all times.

I watched him and thought, I'd never get away with that.  In the first place, I'd have to scrunch up completely so that my feet didn't hit the floor.  But I think it would be fun.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I want to start off with an apology.  I know that a lot of my posts lately have been geeky rather than funny.  I can't help it.  I'm a geek!

There's just one more thing I need to geek out about.  If you'll excuse me.


This. Is. So. Cool.  A bus from Salt Lake to Park City!  This is a big deal, guys.  YOU NO LONGER HAVE TO DRIVE TO PARK CITY!!!

I just wanted you to know how I felt about it.

Friday, September 23, 2011


The other day I was sitting on TRAX when, to my utter lack of astonishment, two teenage boys got on and sat across from me.

They both kept trying to talk to each other, as teenage boys will do.  They also kept saying "What?" to each other, every time they tried to talk to each other.  I'm not certain as to whether any actual conveyance of information was achieved during this repeated and re-repeated conversation.

Boys, boys.  Did it ever occur to you that you weren't born with headphones inside your ears?  Or maybe you were.  Maybe I'm more old-fashioned than I thought.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


The 811 is one bus. But it really should be three.

If you were to take a look at the 811 route map (not that I'm hinting that you should, or anything), you would notice that it goes through downtown Provo and Orem, gets on the freeway, goes through American Fork and Lehi, gets on the freeway, then goes down twenty-three blocks of State Street before finally, gasping from exertion, crawling into the Sandy TRAX Station. It's a long old ride.

I've always thought that the 811 should be three different routes. The Provo/Orem one, the AF/Lehi one, and the Sandy/Draper one.

The fact that this map has insets in its insets should tell you something

Last month, UTA started running the 201 all the way down State, duplicating all of the 811 stops in Sandy and Draper. This could not have been more timely. It's somewhat disheartening to realize that, as the crowded bus you're on gets off the freeway, you still have twenty-three more blocks to go, and that your bus will get more and more crowded as you get closer to your destination. You just hope everyone is wearing deodorant.

This month, UTA announced that they will be having public hearings about shortening the 811. They want to take off the Sandy/Draper part, meaning that it will just get on the freeway after leaving the Sandy TRAX Station. This could save YEARS in lost productivity for those of us trying to commute across county lines. The 201 would still cover that section of State Street, so those people aren't out on a limb. It would be more inconvenient for people who catch the bus on State to go down to Utah County, though. They would have to catch the 201 NORTH to the TRAX station to get on the 811 and go SOUTH. Booger.

Also, they want to end the 811 at University Mall, so that it won't go down to Provo anymore. I must admit that not very many people ride the 811 past the Mall in the mornings when I'm on it. But a decent number do. Those who are heading to BYU, of course, can't take the 811 anyway, since it doesn't stop there. My worry there is that the 811 runs earlier than any of the other buses that cover University Avenue in Provo. I used to catch the bus at 4:30 in the morning up to the gym sometimes. That was a discretionary trip, but some people are trying to get to work then. The 830 and 831 don't run until 6:00 a.m. Is something going to be done about that? Is it even necessary to do something?

I'm hoping these changes would happen to increase the frequency and reliability of the 811: right now it only comes once an hour in the middle of the day, and boy howdy is it crowded. It is also often late. Maybe if the route were shorter, they could run more trips than they currently do. Or maybe they're just cutting service to try to save money.

In any case, I hope I can go to the public hearing about this one. It should be quite lively.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


After the fat joke came and went, people continued filing onto the 811. As the last few passengers got on, I looked around me, and . . . every seat I could see was taken except the one next to me. There were even people standing in the aisle toward the front of the bus, but no one sat next to me.

I chose not to be offended.

Okay, world, I thought. You turn your back on me, I'll turn my back on you. I spread out my reading materials and had, by all accounts, a luxurious ride home.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


My wife brought up this article to me yesterday. I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

I grant you that the 327 was one of the more successful "fast bus" routes in Salt Lake County. It certainly ran more times than most. I know personally how very annoying it can be when the transit company makes changes. I understand how these three-twenty-seveners probably feel about their bus being gone. There's just one thing I don't understand:

Point 1: These people used to take the bus all the way to downtown. Cool.

Point 2: These people don't want to ride an inconveniently timed bus to a TRAX station, then have to ride TRAX all the way to downtown. Okay.

Point 3: These people would rather drive to downtown than catch a bus to TRAX.


Sorry, that makes no sense to me, for the following reasons:

Point 4:  TRAX runs all day.  More times, more hours, and more often than the 327 ever did.

Point 5:  TRAX isn't subject to traffic until you get to downtown, it doesn't get caught behind accidents on the freeway, and it doesn't even foul up when the weather is nasty and all the cars on the freeway are going ten miles an hour as their drivers silently curse the day they were born (at least, their windows are rolled up, so it's appears silent unless you're in the car with them).  It's actually quite nice.

Point 6:  TRAX stations have parking lots, last time I checked.  You could park at a TRAX Station, which would be faster than catching a bus to it, and still not have to drive downtown.

Point 7:  The 327 was a good bus, but it's not like it stopped everywhere.  It only stopped on a couple of streets, and while those streets were carefully chosen, they weren't the only streets people lived on.  People had to do things other than walking to get to a 327 stop, anyway.  And what about people that don't work conventional hours?  They exist, too.  I'm one of them!  The 327 would have been largely useless to me.  TRAX is not.  On the other hand, TRAX is not useless to you, I don't think.

Okay, now I'm ranting.  But there are people in Utah County that would kill for a TRAX line that close to where they live. I have personally had several narrow escapes after such people made attempts on my life.  These people would tell you that maybe TRAX can be your friend.  Don't give up on it before you even try it.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Today on the 811, I was sitting in a seat all to myself, relishing the unprecedented amount of personal space I had, but realizing that, as we were approaching UVU, all personal space would soon be compromised.

It turns out that there was a respectable, but not excessive, crop of anxious people waiting at UVU. One of the many people who filed on was a rather large man who eyed the seat next to me for a second, thought better of it, and proceeded to speak to the person sitting directly behind me.

He said, "I guess I better sit by someone skinny." I felt unfairly, if implicitly, categorized.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


It was the 811. It was in the morning. Nobody was particularly perky. In fact, it was pretty quiet. And then:


Several of us looked around. We finally located the source of the snoring, with his head blissfully hanging downward, completely oblivious to the outside world.


He woke up and fell asleep several times, snoring away each time he drifted off. I don't think anyone ever said anything to him.

Friday, September 16, 2011


(9/8/2011) Sometimes I think my brain is playing tricks on me in the early morning. My brain will say to me, "This light coming up is 500 east," when really it's 700 East and I ought to start watching for when to pull the cord.

Or my brain will say something like, "That's odd, why are there only two cars on that Red Line train? Shouldn't there be four?" Only I see when I look closer that there really are four, and I don't know why I couldn't originally see the other two.

Yesterday, I saw a 21 go past. The number on the back said 72. I checked several times to make sure it wasn't a trick of my brain. It wasn't, as far as I can tell.

This morning, as I sat at the same bus stop, I saw another 21 go past. The number on the back said 72 again.

Either it's not a trick, or my brain is getting really good.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Fall asleep on the bus at your own risk.

The other day on the 811 I was placidly seated, reading a textbook, just preparing to settle myself into the banality of it all . . .


A man sitting in one of the sideways-facing seats near the front of the bus had fallen asleep, and as the bus went around a sharp corner, he fell right off his chair and landed on the floor.

He was obviously confused. Someone helped him up, and he resumed his own placid posture. The bus driver pulled over, got out of her seat and asked him very pointedly several times if he were okay. He insisted he was, so we continued our journey.

Please, please, be careful how you fall asleep on the bus. The next thud could be you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Every morning when I get on the bus, the sun is not up yet. It peeks its head up over the mountains somewhere between home and school; since this takes about two hours, I feel I'm giving the sun quite a bit of leeway here.

Every morning, the sun comes up a little later. Since I am a little farther along my journey, this means the sun keeps coming up further south for me. Now, this may sound silly to you, but if you were on the same bus every morning, you would notice, too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Yes, buses get flat tires. It doesn't happen very often. But it can ruin your morning.

The 811 got a flat tire the other morning. In Lehi. Far away from the garage. It would have taken as long to send a replacement bus as it took us to wait for the next one. The next one came a half-hour later. And boy, was it crowded.

One 811 worth of people is enough to make the average person's facial muscles twitch. Two 811's worth of people is absurd. I couldn't move. There was a person to the left, to the right, in front of, and behind me. And by "to the left" I mean directly to the left, as in, there's no space between me and the person to my left.

My hand, holding onto the bar, was right next to the air conditioning vent. I couldn't move it beyond the reach of the vent. I felt like, when I got off the bus, it would be covered in frost, it was so cold. Fortunately, it wasn't. But I had to rework the blood back into my fingers afterward.

Directly behind me were two men conversing in Portuguese. They were talking about how people who speak Spanish always act like they can understand Portuguese. It was an interesting development that I could understand most of what they were saying. I can't always, but I usually can when an American speaks it. At one point, when one of them said something on the order of "O espanhol parece português mal falado," I felt like turning around and saying something like "El portugués parece español que se dejó fuera del refrigerador por demasiado tiempo," but I couldn't, because I couldn't see who was talking behind me, and I would hate to direct my biting retort to the wrong person.

Because we were on the bus after the one we intended to catch, all the BYU-bound people on the bus were hard pressed to make it to class on time. We ended up getting off on University Avenue and hoofing it, since (this seems to be a pattern, invented by the devil) at every transfer point with a bus that stopped at BYU, we just missed the transfer. As in, we saw the 830 and 832 receding in the distance, twice. Twice!!

I had to walk all the way across campus to the Clyde Building, but I made it by 10:02, just in time for the professor to say, "Before we start, let's take care of some business." Whew.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


The last two posts may have made you fear having to stand up on a moving bus. This is a good thing; a little fear motivates people to be more careful than they might otherwise be.

Standing isn't all bad, however. My brief but growing experience of commuting on the 811 has made me revise my seat-finding algorithm. Following my present algorithm has started giving me a sore trasero, which leads to my fidgeting around during the ride, which makes my immediate neighbors (and you've always got them, on the 811) vaguely uncomfortable.

So I may have to start alternating which side of the bus I sit on. Or I could stand and let someone have my seat. With my luck, however, the first woman I offer my seat to will refuse my offer, call me a chauvinist for thinking she can't handle the ride standing up, and glance at me occasionally with cold disdain as I fidget in the seat next to her.

Friday, September 9, 2011


On the same eventful 811 trip I mentioned in the post before, another college-aged young man was standing, because there was insufficient seating. As often happens, the bus driver had to brake in rather a precipitous fashion.

This young man also had managed to keep himself upright for an appreciable length of time, but was forced to obey the laws of physics when forces were developed in his body due to the braking that prevented his continued static condition, a.k.a. he fell over.

He didn't fall all the way over; he was able to steady himself on a nearby stationary surface. Unfortunately, that nearby stationary surface was someone else's shoulder.

He reacted very strongly to this, saying something like this post's title. The possessor of the shoulder in question apparently regarded as high the probability that what had just happened was an isolated incident, because he was quite calm about the whole thing, and even seemed a trifle amused at his fellow passenger's consternation. Fortunately for him, experience bore him out. His shoulder remained unbothered for the remainder of the trip.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


The 811 is crowded.

When more than about 35 people ride a UTA bus at one time, some of them have to stand. This is a fact of life, and one that doesn't seem to cause too many people too much anxiety.

Recently, however, on a crowded 811, a young lady was standing in the aisle. This is evidence that we live in a gender-equal society. She had done pretty well keeping herself upright, until the bus driver had to brake rather rapidly and she found herself suddenly careening toward the seat next to her, where an observant young fellow was sitting.

I say observant, because he was apparently conscious of the fact that someone was careening toward him. In one swift motion, he rose from his seat and assumed a standing position in the location formerly occupied by the young lady just as she managed to assume a seated position where he had just been sitting. As far as I could tell, this was even accomplished without undue awkward personal physical contact.

Having achieved this daring maneuver, both parties decided it was best not to mess with it. The gentleman remained standing, and the lady sitting.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


One of the previous skateboarder's compadres must have seen what happened to him, because he (the second boarder) tried a different innovative solution to getting onto the platform.

Unfortunately, his solution involved trying to board over the tracks, as if they were flat. They weren't. Needless to say, he didn't get far.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


There isn't any skateboarding at TRAX stations, ideally. Which doesn't stop people from boarding right up to them before they stop.

The other day a skateboarder came right up to the platform on his board, and, probably in the interest of doing something cool, hopped off his board and waited for it to roll downhill. This was rational, because he was on a downward slope when he did so.

It didn't come.

The funny part for me was that I couldn't see the board. Just the guy waiting.

Finally, he bent down and picked up his board. He was then able to board the train without incident.

Monday, September 5, 2011


School has started. Which means I occupy myself on long bus trips by reading textbooks and doing homework.

When I am not in school, I often occupy myself on long bus trips by reading other books. Commutergirl has a book about art that looked interesting to me one day, so I took it with me for the next several days of busness until I had read the whole thing.

Many of my fellow bus patrons regarded me with a mixture of suspicion and incomprehension as I read the art book. Some of them were probably judging me because I was reading a book with naked women in it. One interlocutor in particular, upon seeing me reading the book, said, "Yeah, art, like that one guy who was on The Simpsons (R) who painted all those Mexicans kissing." (I eventually figured out he was talking about M. C. Escher.)

Then one day I rode the 817. The 817 stops at two train stations and two universities, and is therefore almost entirely peopled by college students and professors. I was reading the art book, and it was by far not the nerdiest thing on the bus. I suddenly, jarringly realized that I don't belong in normal society. Maybe I will have to stay inside a university forever.

No, I think I would go insane.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


A while back, I was doing an assignment for my Transportation Engineering class.  This involved sitting at an intersection and recording how many cars/trucks/buses went right/left/straight at the intersection.  For the assignment we were given a sheet of paper with boxes in which to record all the turning movements we saw.

I was sitting on the corner dutifully making tally marks in all the right boxes (I assume they were all the right boxes, and there was no one to prove me wrong), when a pair of college-age girls came past.  I assume they were freshmen, due to the nature of their conversation and the fact that they seemed blissfully unaware that I could hear them talking about me.  This is a rare gift that most people gradually lose as they progress through college.

Girl 1: "I wonder what he's doing?"
Girl 2: "He's probably working on an art project."
Girl 1: "Yeah, I hear lots of people at BYU are all artistic."
Girl 2: "Yeah."

I suppose I could have explained my educational history to them, but that would have taken so long and would have burst their "We can talk about people in front of them and they can't hear us" bubble rather suddenly, which can be traumatic under the wrong circumstances.  So I kept counting traffic.  I suppose there is an art to traffic counting, but I don't know if it counts as one of the Fine Arts . . .

Friday, September 2, 2011


People in my life have, one by one, been finding out about my epic commute to school.  They are, understandably, concerned for my welfare. They often say things like, "Wow, that's a long drive," in an effort to commiserate with me.

Then I tell them that I take the bus.

And then they faint.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Today at BYU I was waiting at a crosswalk with several other BYU students.  I often am.  I assume they are, also, often waiting at crosswalks.

As sometimes happens at a crosswalk, there came a moment when there were no cars on the street we were to traverse, but the light was still red.  As often happens when this happens, one intrepid soul on the opposite side of the street from me began crossing the street anyway, and soon everyone else on that side was crossing, even though the light was still red.  Everyone, that is, except one.

One girl kept still with a look of determination on her face, even as everyone around her took off into the intersection.  She didn't budge until the light changed and the chirping started.

I've been in that situation before, and I've found it surprisingly hard to resist the peer pressure inherent in the fact that everyone around you is progressing on their journey to wherever they're going, and you're not.  It takes more fortitude than you might think.

Whoever you are, I respect you for this.  You go, girl.