Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yet Another Totally Awkward Tuesday

(Photo used with permission of freebackgrounds.com)

I didn't get a lot of participation in the Totally Awkward Tuesday event last week, but I'm going to try again this week. Perhaps last week everyone already had blog posts written. Now that people know they should write about an awkward moment for Tuesdays, perhaps they've had time to write their stories and will participate this week.

Or maybe there just aren't that many people interested in playing along, in which case this will likely be the last week I do this.

Here are the rules:

1. First, write a blog post about an awkward or embarassing moment that you either participated in or witnessed. Include a link to this blog post in your blog post.

2. Use the MckLinky widget (new widget this week) at the bottom of this post to link to your blog post from mine. Leave me a comment, too, and include the URL for your blog post in the comment. That way, if for some reason MckLinky doesn't work properly (I'm new at this), at least everyone will be able to find your post through the comments.

3. Come back later and read everyone else's awkward and embarassing stories.

4. Laugh a lot!

To start things off, here is my awkward story for the week:

This happened back when I was a student bus driver, in college. Click this link for a prior story about how this was my favorite job ever.

I had signed up to drive a charter bus from the University to Washington D.C. so a student group could attend a play. My Dad lived in Northern Virginia at the time.

My instructions were to drop off the students in front of the theatre, then find somewhere to park nearby and wait for 3 hours, and then drive back to pick them up.

I thought it would be more fun to pay a surprise visit to my Dad.

So I dropped off the students and headed out of D.C. to my Dad's house in Northern Virginia. I timed the trip so I'd know how long I needed for the return trip, so I wouldn't be late.

I pulled the bus into my Dad's driveway and walked in the front door.

My Dad and step-mom were surprised (no, that's not the awkward part), amazed at the giant bus filling up their very long driveway, and happy to see me.

We visited for about an hour and a half, and then I figured I'd better drive back to D.C., allowing a little extra time in case I made a wrong turn or got a little lost in downtown D.C. This was in the 1980's, well before cell phones and GPS navigation systems were standard issue, so I had to rely on my printed map (remember those?) to find my way, and if I got lost, there would be no way to call anyone for directions.

I pulled onto the freeway near my Dad's house, and about a mile or two later, the bus engine sputtered and stalled. I coasted to the shoulder of the freeway and stopped the bus. It would not re-start. I tried again. And again. And again. Nothing. It had plenty of gas. I tried again. Nothing.

Then I started thinking, "Holy shit, I am 20 miles from where I'm supposed to be and I have 40 minutes to get there, and I'm not supposed to be here, and I can't even call anyone for help and what the hell am I going to do?!?" To say I panicked a bit would be putting it mildly.

I looked around. No one was stopping to help. Everyone assumes bus drivers are in radio contact with their dispatchers, but those two-way radios only had about a 60 mile radius in which they worked. There was no way to radio the supervisor when I was hundreds of miles from the office.

Lucky for me, there was a small gap in the huge wall that lined both sides of the freeway. I don't know whether they just hadn't built the wall there yet, or whether some angel tore it down for me, just for that night. I've looked for that gap in the freeway wall many times since then and never found it. But anyway, there was a gap in the wall that was maybe 100 yards long, and I could see several backyard fences with houses on the other side. I was lucky they were fences and not the ever-present 10 foot high block walls that they build here in Phoenix.

So I scrambled up the wooded hill and climbed the easiest-looking fence with no dog in the yard, intending to walk around to the front door to knock. Instead, just as I jumped down into the yard, a man came out of the house through the sliding-glass back door and demanded to know what the heck I was doing in his back yard. He sounded pretty annoyed. He didn't appear psychotic. I could see a wife and kids inside. But I have to say, I was scared - would he assault me? Call the police and have me arrested for trespassing?

I told him my bus had broken down and asked if I could use his phone. He looked at me skeptically (I used to get that a lot: "You are a bus driver?!?" as if small-ish college kids could never drive buses) and then looked over the fence and saw the bus down the hill on the freeway shoulder. I guess he decided I was harmless and was telling the truth, because he said I was lucky the dog had been inside. And then he said I could use the phone.

But the awkwardness didn't end there, because I had to explain to my supervisor that the bus had broken down and where it was. And then had to confess I had violated the rules by going to visit my Dad in Northern Virginia, instead of hanging out near the theatre.

Once again, I was lucky. My supervisor was actually fairly sympathetic, although he withheld judgment about whether I'd be fired, saying if I made it back to the University with relatively happy customers, I'd have a better chance of keeping my job.

He told me a couple of things I could do to try to get the bus going. He suggested that I not turn the bus off again if I got it going.

He said if he did not hear from me again in the next twenty minutes, he'd assume I was ok (to save me the time of coming back to make a second phone call if the bus did, in fact, start), but that I should call him from the theatre to confirm I had picked up the students and if he hadn't heard from me in an hour, or if he heard from the charter group at any time complaining that the bus had not arrived, he would have to send a backup bus and then I'd really be in a heap of trouble.

Nothing like a little pressure, right?

I thanked the family profusely for letting me use their phone. The man let me out through the back door and watched me climb his fence and scramble back down the hill to my bus.

And again, I was lucky. The bus started when I tried the tips my supervisor had suggested. I drove downtown. I was flustered and made a wrong turn and, with all the one-way streets in downtown D.C., it was another 15 minutes before I found my way back to make the correct turn.

I was twenty minutes late picking up the students and was berated by the faculty chaperones. Apparently the play had ended a little earlier than they thought, so they had actually been waiting for more like half an hour. Fortunately, they had not yet called my boss to complain.

More awkwardness as I explained that I had had difficulty starting the bus and had made a wrong turn but that I thought the bus was ok for the drive back to the University and I did know how to find the freeway again to get home. More awkwardness as I explained I had to go inside to make a phone call before we could leave. They grumbled about the late bus for half the ride home, until I agreed to make an unscheduled stop for a late-night snack at a McDonald's. Then they all felt better and went to sleep.

Again, lucky me! No one ever complained about the late bus, and I did not, in fact, get fired, although I did have to buy my supervisor a few rounds of drinks at the next happy hour, to keep him from ratting me out to the Transportation Manager.

That was my tale of rampant awkwardness for today. Now tell us yours!


Anonymous said...

Hi there, nothing to say about awkwardness today.... i cant seem to think of any tale, and truth to tell, i forgot abt it *too many things in my mind is my excuse*

But I am still directing traffic to you. who knows, there might be someone who wanted to share something.

Quilter422 said...

God, but I miss those happy hours! (Of course, one Russian Quaalude now and I'd be out cold. I have no more alcohol capacity.)

Anonymous said...

I absolutely forgot that it was TAT! I got caught up in other things today...I do have an awkward story, but it's no longer Tuesday. Sorry to see you didn't get any participation. But, glad you didn't get fired from your bus job! Great awkward story!

Raine said...

gosh, that mustve been so embarrasing!