Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm a Man

In 1967 The Spencer Davis Group released "Im a Man", and in 1971 Chicago's cover version - which had originally featurfed on their first album "The Chicago Transit Authority" - scrambled all the way to #48 on the American charts. I knew that would fascinate you.

Actually, at more than 7 minutes long, it's surprising it got that far. It's bloody good, though.

I am now fully licenced, and I've had my first week of one-on-one tutoring. Yes, I have been responsible for the safe commuting of several hundred trusting Aucklanders. My driving abilities will be assessed by two seperate examiners next week - possibly Monday - and I shall be allowed out completely on my own.

I feel nowhere near ready. Actually, I'm confident that I can drive the various vehicles quite safely, and have proven that to myself. But I never knew what bloody hard work it was. And the responsibility of the job is a little terrifying. No matter. My main tool is, actually, my Mother In Law, who turns 93 on the 29th. I simply imagine I have her on board, in one of the middle seats. If I can drive so that a frail little old lady is safe and comfortable, then I'm on a winner.

And what does that have to do with "I'm a Man"? Nothing. What does is this: It puts me into close daily contact with all the regular drivers. Up 'til now I've only really mingled with my fellow trainees. Now we're all rubbing shoulders with the hardened men of the front line.

I chose those words deliberately. I've watched oh, about a thousand war movies. Love 'em. Read about a gazillian war books. Love 'em. And this whole recruitment / training / replacement / meeting the veterans thing reminds me hugely of  the new recruit movies that I'm so familiar with.

The environment in the Drivers Room is unashamedly masculine, despite the fact that around 15 to 20% of the drivers are women. The language would shock such delicate flowers as my friends Gillian, Jo, and Liz: three women I daren't get in the same room together. The combination of three such luminous personalites would cause the sun to go nova. Back on the subject now, Mathews.

The male drivers are split into two groups. The first is a bunch of greying older white men, while the second is a grand mixtures of younger immigrants: the Sikhs, Sri Lankans, Malays, Chinese, Turks, Albanians, Indians, Azbekistanis, and so on. There's a smaller sub-group of middle-aged Chinese and Pakeha men who just shrug when the noise gets too high.

The more men you get together in a confined space the more basic the conversation gets. 10 men might talk sport, barbecues, penises, drinking, and rooting. 20 men and it's just sport, penises, drinking, and rooting. Over 21, and you simply forget about sport and drinking.

Most of it is mocking - self-mockery as well as putting down their colleagues' sexual capabilities. The stench of testosterone is palpable. The malice is non-existant. Everything cutting remark that's made (and I've heard a hundred very witty and very original lines every day) is made in pure jest, and is designed to make the speaker a bigger wit than the target.

Yes, it's competitive. What male endeavour isn't? It's all "I'm A Man". The intellectual contect is nil - while the cleverness quotient is very high. Most of these men aren't, it must be said, well-educated. But there's not a stupid one amongst them.

I know they're all bright, because not a one of them has any time for my friend JohnKey the Donkey. And anyone who agrees with me must be clever. Right?

Listening to: Santana, "Shape Shifter". Extraordinary.

Reading: "Broken Jewel", David L Robbins. A favourite author, and this is his best.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I'm Part Of The Union

In 1973 the band with the highly plausibnle name "The Strawbs" belted out the anthemic "Part Of The Union". It got to #2 on the British charts. We don't need to know much more than that, really.

The bus business is highly unionised. Just as almost everyone describes him or herself as a bus driver (or mechanic), so it is that just about everyone who earns a wage is a member of a union.

The bus drivers have a choice of two unions - which means they aren't entirely united, which does seem to be a little silly. When we (the training group) were being inducted into the company, representatives of both unions came and talked to us. Neither one was complimentary about the other, yet they work together in the annual wage / conditions neghotiations with the company. They just wanted our money. They wanted us to pay our dues. And no, paying our dues wouldn't turn us into immortal blues musicians. Oddly, we were also talked to by the Operations Manager, who dressed like a real estate agent and told us of the value of joining the union of our choice. The union people and the suit also told us that joining a union was totally voluntary.

And so, as union members do get slightly better conditions and overtime rates than those who choose to not join, I have signed up. Also, I am not politically averse to unions. I take great pride in being a bleeding heart leftwing pinko liberal ratbag. So, you can't touch me. I'm part of the union. Or part of one of the unions, anyway.

BIG NEWS: I am now a fully licenced bus driver. I am now legally and lawfully allowed to drive cars, motorcycles, and heavy road-going vehicles up to 17,000 kilograms.Or some ridiculously large weight, anyway. My licence also boasts a "P" endorsement. This doesn't mean I can sell Class A drugs. It means that the State has found me to be a fit and proper person, someone who can drive a fare-paying passenger vehicle.

This doesn't mean my training has stopped. It simply means I can now be put into a bus with a tutor, to actually travel the routes with passengers in the vehicle. After a week or so I'll be allowed to be behind the wheel while the tutor sits behind me, ready to behead me should I do anything stupid.

Several of my classmates are already in this mode: they got their "P" endorsement through before I did. Being a Fit and Proper person after having lived in Austrralia for several years in the 1970s is, apparently, not easy to demonstrate.

You'll have noticed that I am using my old "Maundering" blogsite. This is because I have, for some reason or other, lost the ability to actually write a new blog on that site. Google really didn't want me to write a purely bus-oriented blog. If you're new to the "Maundering" site, feel free to browse a few of the old offrerings. You may - or may not - be amused at the rantings of a middle-aged left wing liberal pinko etc.

LISTENING TO: Robert Plant, "Band of Joy". Very groove and cooly.

READING: Still working on "The Hunger Games". And loving it. Am shortly going to start "The Devil All The Time" which has been recommended by the ever-reliable Gillian in a Million.

WATCHING: Saw the new "Sherlock" programme last night. Very brilliant.