News and Notes

« Sat.07.29.2000 »
1:53 am EDT    66°F (19°C) in Ann Arbor

UPDATE #94 -- 6 MORE UNTIL 100

This will be the update in which Larry bitches and moans about how the drivers in the lovely city of Ann Arbor all suck.

Having driven University buses for over a year, I've come to expect idiotic behavior from your typical "Joe Blow Driver." It's a pleasant surprise when a car actually does something courteous to me, like actually waiting behind me at a bus stop, or not deciding to zoom around me at Warp 8 when they see me attempting a high-performance bus maneuver, or whatever. I've learned how to deal with idiot car drivers and their bad (sometimes dangerous) habits, and avoid tangling with them.

It's the so-called "professional drivers" about whom I shall bitch tonight. That is, the drivers who are out on the roads making a living. In the last two days, I've nearly had two run-ins with these types. I mean, you would think they'd know a bit more than your typical driver -- you would hope for safety's sake that they do -- but after these two incidents, I think I was sadly mistaken to assume that.

Both incidents took place on the Northwood route, about 24 hours apart, and separated by about ½ mile. "The Holiday Inn Incident" occurred Thursday afternoon, at the corner of Stone Drive and Hubbard. I was making a left turn, with the legal right-of-way, from northbound Stone to westbound Hubbard. I was probably 70% through the turn when the driver of a shuttle van going to the Holiday Inn-North Campus decided that he/she didn't have to sit at a stop sign for more than 0.0000008 nanoseconds. Now, of course, these buses that I drive are 40' long. Your rear end doesn't clear the intersection until about three seconds after the front end, at typical turning speeds of 10 mph or so. So, here we have a situation where my rear end hadn't completely cleared the intersection, yet this van was trying to proceed eastbound on Hubbard! The driver had to veer on to southbound Stone, then make a quick left-right combination to get back on to eastbound Hubbard. I observed the scene in my left-side mirrors, and shook my head. Apparently the driver just couldn't have waited another half-second for me to clear the intersection.

As if once wasn't enough, it happened again at 5:15 pm last evening. "The AATA Incident" took place at the intersection of Hubbard and Hayward streets. Before I go into the details of the near-tangle, I need to explain this confusing intersection. Hubbard street approaches the intersection from the Northwood IV area running north-south, but you can't continue southbound beyond the intersection. Hubbard makes a left turn at the intersection and becomes an east-west street. To the west of the intersection, the east-west street is known as Hayward. Still confused? So am I. Anyway, I was attempting the left from southbound Hubbard to eastbound Hubbard, and the AATA route #22 bus was traveling straight west from Hubbard on to Hayward. (Remember, if you're going west on Hubbard and you want to continue on Hubbard, you have to turn right and go north.) Almost exactly the same thing happened; the driver decided he couldn't let me clear the intersection, and did the same veering trick to go around my rear end. The difference between Thursday's incident and Friday's was that the AATA driver had to veer much farther to his right to start out. Basically, it looked as though he was going to complete the right turn; that's how far he veered before cranking his wheel left to get going straight again. Another difference was that I believe the AATA bus had a passenger on board, while the Holiday Inn van was empty except for the driver. While I just shook my head in dismay after "The Holiday Inn Incident," this AATA guy pretty seriously pissed me off. He was putting himself and his passenger, as well as me and my half-dozen passengers, in danger, just so he could move a little more quickly. I'm going to be reporting his ass on Monday when his supervisors return to the office. Hopefully, he'll get chewed out big-time.

I don't know if it's something Greg Cook (see my updates from a couple months ago) is trying to do as part of his plan to destroy U-M Transportation Services, but it could be that he's sending a message to his route #22 and route #36 drivers (AATA's two main campus routes) to do anything they can to be ornery, rude, or dangerous around U-M drivers. I've certainly noticed their level of professional courtesy go way downhill this summer, while at the same time, the talk of an AATA takeover of U-M's system has been ramping up. Coincidence? I'm not sure.

Well, that's it for the "professional" drivers. All I have to say about Joe Blow Driver is that most of them are just plain stupid. I was driving my car around town, and this one guy laid on the horn and zipped around me when I tried to change lanes in front of him. I displayed the international "FUCK YOU!" hand signal; it was almost therapeutic to do that after the summer of shit I've dealt with on the roads. If you get the idea that my anger has been snowballing for a while, and now I'm letting it all out at once, you're right. The last time I went back home to Dearborn, I was almost thrown for a loop when I saw how courteously people drove there. It must be an Ann Arbor thing. Maybe because Ann Arbor's a college town, and the average age of city residents is lower, there is just less common sense floating around in the city. Maybe it has something to do with this paraphrase of a quote delivered to me by my 8th-grade teacher: "There is an inverse relationship between brains and common sense. If you've got brains, chances are you don't have common sense."

Jeez, it took me an hour to write all that. Since I've started the "Larry-uses-this-page-to-tell-other-people-how-dumb-they-are" theme by bitching about drivers, I might as well continue it with my selection for the Top 10 countdown. Enjoy Number 6, from June 10, 2000, where I bitch at people who tried to threaten my freedom of speech on this site.


It's been a very busy week. I worked 34 hours, including some shifts at weird times of the day. I'll be getting tomorrow off, so I'm going to go drop by my parents' house for a while.

I got into a situation recently where a post I made on my message board came back to bite me in the ass. Apparently, a few of the wrong people took exception to the profanity, as well as totally misconstrued the intent of the post to the point where it looks like I attacked one of my direct supervisors at Transportation Services. I think what happened is that when I signed up to speak at next Thursday's Regents' Meeting, one of their executive secretaries decided to check out my page; I have a feeling they do that to get an idea whether I can be coherent, or will just be a stark raving lunatic. In any case, she saw the post; it made its way all throughout the University on Thursday, from the Regents right down to Bitsy.

I have this much to say: I feel that this is a case of invasion of privacy. Yes, it is publicly available information, but when you secretly go around spreading untrue rumors about it, and furthermore don't bring your grievances with it straight to me, it becomes invasion of privacy.

Whoever you are that saw the post and took exception to whatever was in there, you have a few lessons to learn about how to deal with stuff you don't like. You completely mishandled the situation by not attempting to contact me first; for the love of God, my e-mail address is all over the site! If you had e-mailed me, the post would have been taken down sooner, no problem. But no, you had to tell everybody else at U-M about it first, and just hope that I heard something about it from somewhere. You also went around spreading false rumors about the post -- there is NO WAY IN HELL I referred to Pat Cunningham as a "parking Nazi." How you made that inference, I really don't know.

Yes, some of the post may have been over the top, and I know some people can't seem to stand the use of profanity at all. My father is a prime example. Still, the entire post was within my First Amendment right to freedom of speech; judges have said it time and time again that the only unprotected speech is that which threatens the security of the nation or a state, or attempts to incite "imminent lawless action." My post did neither, so therefore, it constituted protected speech. Furthermore, THIS IS A PERSONAL WEB SITE. I am only representing myself here, not some company or whatever. If I cannot speak my mind here, then what is this, the University of the Soviet Union?

Oh, and I know what University lawyer types will say to that one, "the post showed clear hatred of the 'hospital bitches,' who he blames for taking all the parking here. We cannot accept hatred such as that here at U-M." That is bullshit. NOT ONCE DID I SAY I PERSONALLY HATED THEM, OR ANY ONE OF THEM. NOT ONCE. I attacked the general attitude about parking at the hospital ("I'm above having to park elsewhere and take a bus, I'm so important"), as well as the current "caste" system used for parking permits here. It seems to me that if you think you're important, you can get a Blue permit in no time, but if you're just a schmuck like me, good luck.

I really don't think there's much more that can be said about "Christmas cards from the city," or the meter maids and officers who spread the holiday joy. I think I said that all in the post. It seems to be the "parking Nazis" and "hospital bitches" references that stirred up the most trouble.

The official word here from this site was an apology and retraction, which I put up on Thursday. I must say that I personally feel there is damn little to apologize for, but people above me on the food chain here took offense, and life is a game of knowing when and for whom you have to kiss ass. So, if nothing else, I had to appease them and try to make the situation look good. Of course I'm seriously pissed off about this, but I can't just go and accuse people who are pissed off at me of having twisted the story around. Like I said, there are times to fight stuff and times to kiss ass, and when it could come back to bite you in the ass and cost you your job, even if the people in authority are wrong, you kiss ass.

I've gone on way too long with this, but I needed to make my thoughts on the matter known.