Random thoughts from the weekend

Thanksgiving weekend is almost over.  Unfortunately the turkey will continue.

1 – Two for one.  In Toronto, and probably other jurisdictions as well, over the past year there has been an outcry by cycling groups for trucks to have some form of anti-underride bars on the trailers.  This really became an issue  when a young pregnant lady was hit and killed by a truck – I don’t recall if it was a tractor-trailer or not – making a right turn, when she somehow came in contact with the truck and fell under the rear wheels.  Perhaps you’ve noticed, while on the highway or perhaps just watching traffic flow by, that many tractor-trailers now have what appear to be sails hanging from the bottom of the trailer.  These are slightly curved at the front, fitting under the trailer, and then extend, even with the side of the trailer, to the rear wheels.  The main purpose is to reduce the amount of air that gets under the trailer.  Air under the trailer at highway speeds significantly increases drag, which increases fuel consumption.  These “sails” are a way to combat that added air resistance.

There is this hue and cry for some form of protection for cyclists to be mounted on trucks,  but governments are reluctant to legislate such protection. My thought on this is that since many companies are now using these wind reduction panels anyway, why not just make them mandatory? That way, the transport companies get the reduced fuel consumption they want and the cyclists get the anti-underride protection they want.  Makes sense to me.

2 – It’s supposed to be used.  There was an item in one of the Saturday papers, which of course I didn’t bookmark, about some Honda models that have rolled away, even after the driver has turned the engine off and removed the key.  Apparently the problem is that something in the ignition switch breaks or wears with use that will allow the key to be removed without the transmission being placed in “Park”. And, since the key could be removed, the drivers never checked to make sure the transmission was indeed in “Park”. As I said, I didn’t bookmark the item, so have to rely on my memory, but one man broke his leg when his vehicle ran over him.  He tried to chase it and the open door knocked him down.  There is a lever between the seats, or a small pedal at the left side of the driver’s footwell.  That controls what is variously called an emergency brake; parking brake, or in the case of the lever, a hand brake.  Note that second name – “parking brake”.  Activating this feature, either by pulling the lever, or stepping on the pedal, causes a cable to apply the rear brakes.

One benefit I can think of off-hand is that if you’re parked on an incline,  using this takes a lot of stress off the pawls in the “Park” position of the transmission. No more fighting to get the transmission into gear when you want to leave wherever you’ve been.  I usually drove vehicles with manual transmissions, so to me use of the “parking brake” became second nature.  Even when I drove taxi (all automatic transmissions) I’d use that brake whenever I parked the cab at the end of my shift. In the US the feds are looking at issuing a recall for these particular vehicles, but a bit of common sense and making use of the equipment in cars as standard equipment would prevent this happening.  That brake isn’t for decoration – it’s meant to be used.

3 – That isn’t correct.  I freely admit I’m something of a fanatic when it comes to grammar, composition and spelling.  I’ll also admit that there may be times when I don’t get it right either – I’m only human and prone to error.  One place I do expect to see proper usage though is in advertising or other signage in stores.  I’ve previously ranted about the sign in a coffee shop in a mall that asks patrons not to remove trays from the premise, so I’ll just leave that one alone.

I spent yesterday in Toronto with friends and came home today on the commuter train.  These trains have some advertising – where isn’t there advertising today? – and just before I left the train, I noticed an advertising placard.  I couldn’t see who the company was, but they need to have a talk with their ad agency.  The largest lettering on this placard was the following: Be your boss’ boss.

Notice anything wrong with that statement?  What about that incorrect possessive – “boss’”?  It should have read “boss’s”.  People just don’t seem to understand how to use possessives any longer.  Much like algebra, that seems to be one of the first things forgotten once they leave school  But then again, people seem to have forgotten the proper use of an apostrophe in general. They seem to have forgotten, or never learned, that it is used for contractions and to indicate possession.  Instead they sprinkle it everywhere and yes, on occasion they do get it right.  But the handwritten sign on a door admonishing people to “mind you’re step” certainly isn’t one of those occasions.

Ah well.  I’ve resigned myself to the idea that when it comes to proper English usage, as my tagline reads, I’m a lone voice calling in the wilderness.  Still, it would be nice if one person listened.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Read the damn signs!

People should really learn how to read signs – other than signs offering something for 50% off that is.

On the main thoroughfare near my home run three bus routes.  One of these is the local bus, run by Durham Regional Transit (DRT).  The other two are intercity routes, run by GO Transit (Government of Ontario Transit, hence “GO” and one of the few things the government of Ontario hasn’t screwed up too badly).   The two intercity routes are the route 94, which runs from Oshawa to Yorkdale Plaza in northwest Toronto, making all regular GO stops along the way.  The other is route 95, which also begins (or ends, depending upon direction of travel) in Oshawa, but ends at a different terminal and only makes certain stops.  At some stops, there are signs showing both the DRT and GO logos, indicating that the local coach and the route 94 will stop there.  There is an additional note “Express” for the 95 at its designated stops.  At all stops are also signs, in English and French, that instruct passengers to flag down the bus they want.  With three distinct routes, this makes sense rather than have each coach stop because someone is waiting when they might not want the bus that stopped.

If you’re familiar with buses, either because you take them or you see them in your rearview mirror (intimidating, aren’t they?), you know that on the front is a destination sign.  With the electronic signs now in use, the GO buses display the destination on the top half of the sign, such as OSHAWA GO, and the bottom of the sign displays places they stop, such as Pickering, Ajax GO, Whitby, so that people will know both where the bus is going and what cities it stops in along the way.

What prompts this is that today I travelled into Toronto.  You may recall in my posting of yesterday, “Now they’re using Benin”, at the end of that post I mention  I had a better use for the $100 they wanted, that use being a pair of red stilettos.  Went and bought them today – they look fabulous ☺ .  Okay, now back to my story.  Despite all the signage, people still won’t flag down the coach they want.  They’ll just stand there and expect the bus to stop.  The drivers are aware that passengers have to indicate, usually by waving, that the customer wants them and not one of the other routes, so don’t stop unless signalled.  On at least three occasions today (I was sitting in the front seat on the right side) I noticed people at a bus stop who just stood there. Every single one of those people appeared to get most upset when the bus kept on going.  One person got lucky because the light just past the stop was red and the bus had to stop and that person managed to board the bus.  What she said to the driver I won’t repeat, but the driver simply pointed out the sign says to hail the coach and that since she hadn’t done so, he didn’t know he needed to stop. Lady, read the damn sign.

As I wrote above, the front of the bus displays the destination and various towns and cities it stops in.  With all this information available, can you see any reason why someone would have to ask the driver if he’s going to Oshawa?  Read the damn sign – it shows the destination as OSHAWA GO in capital letters no less.

Is the problem, and it isn’t just restricted to public transit but anywhere there are signs, that people can’t read anything when the words contain more characters than a word in a typical text message?  Is it perhaps that  they just can’t read; or are too lazy to exercise their brains for the length of time to read the words “Hail GO bus” in green against a white background?  Could it be they feel they are too important and those instructions are for other people of lesser importance?  They would rather ask the bus driver foolish questions.  These questions could be answered before the bus even stopped if they would just read the damn sign.  And,  answering these unnecessary questions can, and often does, put the bus behind schedule, thereby inconveniencing the other passengers – those who did read the sign.

Okay, I’ve ranted and I feel better. Now to go and see if those shoes really do look as good with the outfit I had I mind as I think they will.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.
And remember to read the damn signs!

Cat.

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Quality’s gone downhill

In every taxi fleet there are two kinds of drivers: there are cab drivers and there are those who just drive a taxi.  Every taxi dispatcher to whom I’ve expressed that knows instinctively what I mean, but if you’re not a taxi dispatcher, I’ll explain it.

Cab drivers are those people you want behind the wheel of any cab you call or hail.  They’re the ones who open the door, turn down the AM/FM, refrain from using their cell phones while you’re in the vehicle and are usually courteous.  They also know the most direct route from where you are to where you want to be.  Now, I think every taxi bylaw in existence has a clause that states the driver is to take the most direct route unless the passenger says otherwise, but I could be wrong.  These are the drivers who will help you with your groceries or luggage as well.  You know – the kind you don’t mind tipping.

Those who “just drive a taxi” are the reverse of that coin.  These are the ones who won’t do anything to help you.  They’ll do the bare minimum that might qualify as customer service. You want the door open – open it yourself.   If you ask, they will begrudgingly open the trunk so you can stow your stuff.  As far as anything else – sorry, that’s not in their job description.  And although they will just sit behind the wheel while you struggle with your burdens, they will grumble about getting a lousy tip.  Sorry guys, tips have to be earned, they don’t come automatically.

What prompts this posting is not one, but two cab rides I took about 24 hours ago.  As I’ve  probably mentioned before, I exist on a small government pension, which is always in my account three banking days before month end.  Frequently I will go out early to a 24 hour supermarket to pick up few things, which is what I did this morning.  I always call the same company for a couple of reasons.  The first being a sometimes misguided loyalty since that was the company I drove with when I started in the taxi industry.  The second is they are the largest fleet in town and usually provide fast service.

As I said, I drove a cab for seven years and yes, I was a cab driver, not a taxi driver. So obviously I not only know my way around I and, I’ll admit perhaps unfairly, judge the service I receive by the kind of service I provided my customers.  I must have been doing something right for although it’s been seven years since I drove, every so often one of my now former customers will say “I wish you still drove”.

The first cab ride, from my home to the supermarket, was a taxi driver.  When he arrived, he stopped about two car lengths from me and expected me to walk to him.  I’m standing at the edge of a curb by the drive in my apartment complex, so there was no reason he couldn’t pull up.  From his later actions, I know why he did it.  Had I in fact walked to the cab, he would have turned the meter on, then gone around the turning circle.  At current rates, that would have added thirty cents to the fare.  I live on a side street, one block from the main thoroughfare.  When there is traffic, such as during the day, it is usually faster and much safer to turn right from my drive and go to the stoplights if you want to go east.  But at four in the morning, in my town, about the only thing on the road are police cars and other cabs.  Most drivers will turn left from the drive and go the other way to a second side street that leads to a stop sign controlled intersection with the thoroughfare.  It’s usually much faster.  This guy of course took the traffic signal route.  These signals are controlled by a sensor under the roadway.  He stopped short, then slowly inched forward.  Another forty cents.  There were emergency vehicles coming the opposite way.  This is a four lane road and the only vehicles are the taxi I’m in and the fire truck.  He pulled over to the curb and stopped.  Not just stopped, but waited until the fire truck had reached the intersection a half-block behind us.  When we arrived at the intersection where the plaza with the supermarket is located, he made to turn onto the north/south route.  Because the plaza was built around existing buildings, the entrance is about 100 yards up the street from the intersection and the internal roadway runs on a diagonal back toward the east/west thoroughfare to a point about 50 yards from the thoroughfare.  Again, a way of running up the meter.  He didn’t seem happy when I told him to proceed straight to the next set of signals and turn there.  By the time he finished his foolishness, what should have been a fare of less than eight dollars cost $9.70.  I usually give the driver ten bucks and that’s just what he got.

And of course, once I finished my shopping and called a cab, I got another taxi driver.  He could see I’ve got my hands full of shopping bags but made no effort to open the side door of the van.  When I got my foodstuffs and myself into the cab, I noticed he had the meter on even before I had the door closed.  I made note of the cab number and later that morning called the owner, whom I know, and told him of this.  He apologized.  On the trip home I was serenaded with loud heavy metal music and for some reason, even though it was 60 degrees out, he had the heater on full blast!  If he’s cold now, what’s he going to do when winter comes?  And of course, all the windows were closed and since it was a van, I couldn’t open the window beside me.  My requests to turn down both radio and heat were ignored.  This driver was priceless.  Between the supermarket and my home there are exactly three traffic lights, one of which is again controlled by a sensor on the cross street.  He managed to hit every single light red.  Once he pulled into the drive at my complex, if I hadn’t told him to stop right there at the entrance, he would have gone around the turning circle which would have meant, considering his stunts with the lights, the fare would have been over ten dollars.  Again, this is a run that usually is less than $8.  And of course, he ignored the fact I had all these groceries to get out of the van.

The reason so many people remember me from the cab is that I would open doors.  I would help with groceries and, although I’ve forgotten it now, knew what speed would see me sail through non-stop because all the lights would be green.  I turned the radio down if someone was in the cab.  Unless is was twenty below, I rarely had the heater on high, the exception being that I was just starting my shift and the cab was freezing.  And I never used my cell phone for personal calls when I had a passenger.  I was always polite and knew where I was going.

Yes, there are still some good drivers out there.  I’ve got the phone numbers for four of them on my cell phone, but I knew they wouldn’t be working at four in the morning, so didn’t call them.  But based on yesterday morning’s experiences, I really have to say that the overall quality of customer service with that cab company has really gone downhill since I drove.

So, if you get a cab and the driver is polite and helpful, tip him well.  If you get a man who “just drives a taxi”, ask for all your change back.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and good taxi service) too.

Cat.

Turn where??

This was freshly pressed last month from Catsworld1

Have we become so convinced GPS technology is so infallible that we’d rather follow instructions from an in-car unit than believe what we can see through the windscreen?  What is it about these units that seems to remove the last vestige of common sense from vehicle operators?

An item in today’s on-line Toronto Star tells the tale of a man in Alaska who had just driven his vehicle (a Subaru, not that the make has any bearing on the story) from a ferry.  Then, when his GPS told him to make a hard right turn, he did so – and drove down a boat ramp into the harbour.  Now granted this man had just moved to Alaska from the lower 48, but even so, I’m certain he’s seen boat ramps, or photos, or videos of boat ramps, so it shouldn’t have been an alien construct.  The vehicle apparently contained most of his possessions, plus two dogs and a cat.  He was rescued as were the dogs.  The cat drowned.

Now, if your GPS told you to make a turn and you suddenly found yourself driving down a concrete ramp toward a body of water which had boats floating in it, don’t you think you might have the sense to do two things – first, HIT THE BRAKES!  And second, doubt the accuracy of the GPS instructions.  But, hey! The GPS says turn here, so turn here it is.  I recall reading, quite some time ago, about a man in England who also slavishly followed the instructions from his GPS.  Because of his apparent conviction the system couldn’t be in error, he drove his rather expensive vehicle (can’t recall exactly, but I believe it was a Rover of some description) down a horse trail, which narrowed the farther he went.  Imagine what tree branches would do to the paint on the sides of a Rover – ouch!  Eventually, when he found himself stranded at the edge of a cliff, he had the sense to use his cell phone and call for help.

A few years ago, my son came to visit me from the west coast.  He’d been raised here in this part of southern Ontario and knew the roads well.  He’d had lunch with his brother and was driving to visit me.  Before he left the restaurant, he programmed my address into the GPS app on his cell phone, more to see what it would tell him since he didn’t need the instructions.  Just as well he knew where he was going.  The GPS would have had him make a turn down a road some two miles east of where he actually should turn.  The GPS got ignored.

Unfortunately these tales of people driving into farmers’ fields or boat ramps or down dead end roads based upon instructions from a GPS unit are far too common.  People, two things: the GPS unit is made by humans.  The software (maps, etc) is written by humans.  Humans are fallible.   And second: Do you not know how to interpret what you see through your windscreen despite what the GPS tells you.  Had this man in Alaska used his sense, his car and possessions wouldn’t be waterlogged and his cat would still be alive.  The GPS is not intended as an alternative to intelligent thought and action on the part of the driver.  In fact it is nothing more than an electronic map.  And unfortunately it isn’t as accurate as a paper map.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist.  If you’re driving, remember that you know more than your GPS does.

Cat.