Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16, 2009

I had to bring my car in for some service this morning, and I took the courtesy shuttle to work after I dropped the car off. I’ve always been fascinated by the driver of the courtesy shuttle, just as a general concept. At any point I’ve ever taken one, it always seems to be an older retired man who may be bored around the house and is just looking for a way to spend a couple of days a week getting out and doing something. (As a matter of fact, just by typing “courtesy shuttle” into a Google image search, I found the picture above.) It seems like a perfect job for someone in that situation, “Hey, here are the keys to a company vehicle. Can you just drive people to and from work today?” I’ll tell you, if I was retired, I would gladly work a couple of days a week as a driver.

But there’s a bit of a conundrum in the sense that you’re partway between taking a taxi, and riding with someone you know. I mean, at the end of the day, this guy is getting paid to drive you somewhere, to chauffer you to your destination. But it’s also just a guy in a van (or SUV, or maybe even a car)…there’s no meter on the dashboard, and no uniform. So what’s the proper protocol? Do you sit in the front or in the back? Either one can send the wrong message, depending on the individual.

If you sit in the back, does it say to the driver that you are viewing this as just a taxi, and that you are just being transported, period? Conversely, if you sit in the front, is it an invasion of his space if he’s expecting you to sit in the back? I generally sit in the front, but I’ve had a couple of occasions where the driver looked at me like I was crazy once I got in.

The driver I had today was rather interesting. He was one of those guys who always knows “a quicker way.” You know the guy I’m talking about…the one who can’t possibly take “the shortest way”, because he knows a quicker way on the back roads or side streets. Today, as soon as we got on the expressway, he got off at the very first exit and said to me “There’s a slowdown up there. This will be quicker.” He then proceeded to take us on a back road through auto wrecking yards and took us to another entry point back onto the expressway. A five-minute detour to avoid a “slowdown” that would have taken about a minute.

Then after we get back on the expressway, rather than getting off at the exit that he should have, he instead goes one exit further and gets off there. The funny thing about this is that if he would have gotten off at the earlier exit, it’s just a gentle merge onto a street where you proceed north for a couple of blocks and then turn right. By taking the second exit, he now has to turn left across 3 lanes of traffic just to get on the road, and then turn left again just to get to the same place he already would have been minutes earlier. Two left turns instead of a merge into traffic. Very confusing.

On top of that, he further complicated it by turning left a street early and roving around the back roads in an industrial area where he introduced yet another stoplight he could have avoided, and instead of being able to turn right at the lights, like we would have been able to do on the “original” route, we now had to wait for the light to cross the intersection. So, a direct route became a convoluted back-road adventure, all in the name of “saving time”. Oh, the irony.

I didn’t say anything. This is his gig, and how he likes to spend his days. If he believes this is the best route, who am I to rain on his parade as he spends his days ferrying people to and from the auto dealership?

But it certainly was a scenic adventure.

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