I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Saturday, February 6, 2010


In bed by 6 p.m. with the alarm set for 2:30 a.m.  I have a hard time falling off to sleep but finally manage it with the aid of a humidifier and my Ocean Wave sounds on my iPod.  I wake up every hour or two though until the alarm finally goes off.

I dress in my Olympic togs and am out the door right on time at 3:15 a.m.  There's no traffic at all on the roads and all of the lights are green for me.  I zip down the freeway and pull into the parking lot for the workers right on time at 3:45.  That gives me 15 minutes before my shift starts to find out exactly what it is I am supposed to do.  I head inside the new-looking construction trailer that will be the transportation hub for the Whistler Sliding Center (WSC) office for the next three weeks.

The girl that is my manager introduces herself as Jessica.  She seems very upbeat and jolly and I am guessing in her late 20's or very early 30's.  She tells us right away that she is from the states and that her husband travels all over the world in a rock band.  She then attempts to give us some instructions but it becomes apparent almost right away that she has no idea what she is talking about and it seems that I might know more than she does.  I can't figure out how that can be but it turns out, she just got here yesterday - from the states - and hasn't had any training.  She did, however, get an orientation bus ride yesterday.... up to Whistler!  Why she would need to go up there when she, nor any of us,  will ever have to go there for the job is beyond me.  So as she stumbles around in her thought patterns, guessing at answers to our questions and seeming to make most of it up as she goes along, I try to make sense of it.  And this will prove to be the case as the day progresses and we keep getting conflicting directions and answers.  The one thing that is clear, is that one of my team's responsibilities is to get information from each bus and driver as they arrive and line up.  Stuff like the VANOC bus number, driver name and cell phone number, time scheduled to arrive and the time it actually arrived.

The other supervisor, who I will work closely with, is Olga, a Russian woman in her early 30's who's title is 'Systems Supervisor' - meaning she is in charge of loading the buses.  She has to check that each workforce member has his or her accreditation (the giant tag around the neck) and is at the correct bus hub.  There is another hub across campus that goes to Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) and we must be sure that is not where they should be.  It ends up that we get buses that belong over there, not just people.  Everyone is a bit confused, to say the least, on this first day.  It's a good thing we are transporting workforce only for the first week and a half so that we can get used to this before we have to deal with hundreds of spectators a day on top of workforce.  

I have three crew to supervise this morning; Nicole, George and Teck.  Nicole and George are young.  George is fresh from Germany.  Teck is a bit older and is Asian.  They suit up in the traffic vests and I grab two flashlight wands for Teck and two for George.  I hand the clipboard to Nicole and we head outside into the drizzling rain.  I give the three of them a quick lesson on the way to signal with the wands and then get a chance to show them as the first bus arrives.  I wave the driver in and then to the right with the wands and send Teck running up the road to help get him parked.   I leave George at the entrance to bring in other buses scheduled to arrive soon and take Nicole up to the bus to collect the information we need.   Nicole watches as I do this first bus and then I hand off the clipboard to her to continue with the task as the other buses arrive.

There's a constant flurry of instructions coming over the radio for Olga and me from Jessica back in the trailer.  A lot of it contradicts something she has said previously and I am finding it very frustrating.  It seems that nothing has been planned out thoroughly; it's more a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of thing and a lot of it is left up to us supervisors to figure out.  And there's a lot of logistical things to figure out.  But it's fun and the bus drivers are great.  They are very flirty and I will get a proposal before the day is out.  From a seventy-one year old driver who just celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.  When I remind him that he's been married for fifty years, he laughs and tells me, in his southern drawl, that she's three thousand miles away so it's okay.  He's a hoot.

The first four or five drivers that come in are locals whose regular route is to Whistler so they are old hats and very confident of their jobs.  Unfortunately, we find out at the end of our shift that they thought they only had to go to one stop and so blew by about three others that they had workforce to let off at.  WOP only drops off at WOP.  Our hub, however, not only drops of at the Sliding Center, but at several others as well.  No one bothered to tell the drivers that.  When the passengers tried to tell them they should have stopped to let them off, they said "Oh no.  We just go to WSC." we find out the next morning from one of the workers.  We are not sure if Olivia should have told the drivers where they were dropping off but she makes a note to do that from now on.  It's that sort of thing that we are figuring out as we go along for not only today but for the next two days as well.

Dispatch has sent us all of our mornings buses by 5 a.m.  But they go out at 4:50, 5:50, 6:50, 8:50, 10:50 and 11:50.  The last two guys are not happy at all.  They have a long time to sit around and they got up at 2 a.m. to be here.  Also, they were thoroughly trained on the Lonsdale Key to Cypress Bowl run.  So they know exactly how to get from point A to point B over there.  They have NO idea how to get to Whistler from here, as they're from Altlanta.  Chalk up the first big blunder of many, in the next three days, by Dispatch.

The games purport to be green.  Our first bus (and they are all tour buses that seat 55 passengers) leaves with one passenger.  The second bus leaves with two.  The third leaves with six.  The fourth with four.  The fifth with eight.  The sixth with two.  Yep.  That's right.  In fact, the numbers on the schedule show that only a couple of buses were to leave with that few.  We actually have three buses that are scheduled to leave at 5:50 and there should be 130 passengers between them.  But for some reason we just aren't getting those numbers.  Most of these workers are volunteer.  I am wondering if, now they have their pretty uniforms, they have what they signed up for and don't plan to show up at all. 

It's really cold outside at night so we take turns going into the trailer to warm up.  But that's almost worse than just staying outside because once you get toasty warm and come back outside, it feels twice as cold.  I decide to stay outside unless I have to go in for a work related issue.

Nicole goes to use the bathroom.  One of three port-a-potties.  She comes back complaining that it's too dark in their to see where anything is.  We need lights inside or something to light it up until the sun rises.  Which it eventually does and is nice and sunny and warm as soon as it rises above the trees.

We are released at noon to go home, even though my hours are until 2 p.m. because there's just nothing to do now the last bus has left.  We still get paid for a full 10 hours so I am happy to leave if that's what they want.

On day two, it's rainig a lot in the morning but I stay pretty dry in my skookum jacket and snow pants.  Even my polar fleece gloves seem to repel the rain.  I am with one less crew member today as Teck was told not to come in as we really don't need four of us with so few buses coming in.  My big issue today is that there is BCIT traffic using the road we are staging the buses on, to get from the upper area to the lower area of the campus.  Even though I have signaled for them to slow down, they rarely do.  I go into the trailer and talk to the parking supervisor, Dave, about how we can make this road safer for my crew and the passengers and he radios his guys stationed at the top and bottom of the road to make sure to signal for the cars to slow.  It doesn't help.  When one guy speeds up after being signaled by a parking attendant, I step out and signal for him to stop.  He does for a second or two, and I signal with large gestures for him to slow.  He floors it around me and up the hill past my crew and some passengers.   I am furious.  I guess Jessica saw me because she calls me on my walkie and tells me that in no way shape or form am I to stop the cars.  I radio back and tell her I understand the rule but if I feel my crew or myself is in danger I WILL stop the cars.  She tells me I can't.  I repeat what I said.   About an hour later I am standing at the side of the road, watching for a bus to arrive.  I have my hood up because of the rain.  Suddenly there is a truck passing me from behind.  I never heard him until he was right beside me and it made me jump almost out of my skin.  Not two minutes later, one of my crew and one of Olga's is coming down the hill, hoods up, and a truck comes right up behind them and they don't hear it.  They continue to stroll down the road until I yell, "Watch your backs, a truck." and they jump off to the side.  They are both a bit rattled and tell me they never heard a thing.  That's it.  I have had enough of this and so I go into the trailer and tell Dave that we have to do something about the safety issue of this road.   He decides that, although we are not supposed to, he is going to cone off the road at the top and bottom, and his guys will turn cars back.  Once that is done, the stress goes right out of my day and I can concentrate on other issues.

The rain tapers off but there's no sunshine today as the clouds are thick overhead, so we stay cold pretty much the whole day.

We have more passengers today, but still nothing like the numbers we have on our schedule.    And I get to go home early again.  I could get used to this.

On morning three I get there at 3:45 to see two buses in the parking lot beside the trailer.  It's meant for workforce vehicles.  I go into the trailer and find out that one bus was here overnight and the driver slept in his bus.   Strange.  Olga and I are also told that the schedule has been changed.  Instead of leaving at 50 minutes past the hour, they will now leave at half-past.  So 20 minutes early.  We soon find out that it seems no one bothered to pass this information on to the workforce members and they are not arriving in time for the change so the bus leaves without them.  They are unhappy, to say the least.  This is typical of everything I have experienced so far with these games.  The left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing most of the time.

Shawn and Mamud have replaced Nicole and George today.  So I have to train them with the light wands and the radio.  They are super smart and get it right away.  Turns out Shawn is some CEO of a company and Mamud is a doctor from Nigeria.  They are here just for the experience of working at the Olympics.  It's not the first time I have felt that the people who have applied to work at these games are not being utilized to their full abilities.  Olga speaks fluent Russian, for petes sakes.  Why is she moving passengers onto buses?  Shouldn't she be the guest services for the Russian delegation, at the very least?  Or maybe translator?  I just shake my head.  I know I should be doing something more than moving buses about, that's for sure.

We have a lot more passengers today.  Still not the numbers on the schedule but a lot more than either of the days before.  It turns out that most of them showed up the other two days but had no idea where to go because there is no signage, waited around where they thought the bus would be, and then went home when it didn't show.  I don't know if there is supposed to be signs and they just haven't arrived yet.  None of the signs I know we need for the spectator boarding areas have arrived.  So maybe there's more that points the way to us for the workers that are coming as well.  I don't know.   But we have a lot of very frustrated people arriving out of breath, after having run over from some distant point, just to discover that their bus departed 20 minutes early today.  

Olivia gets the directive to keep the old scheduled time for the 10:50 and 11:50 buses.  It seems that the order to leave early was another screw up by Dispatch and should never have happened.  So all those people who left on the other buses plan to show up 20 minutes early tomorrow.  I am glad I am not working tomorrow because they are going to be furious.  I am sure of it.

I spend some time today writing out everything I have worked out for my crew.  I have numbered each position, written down a description of that position's duties, and worked out a solution to a huge problem of how to park buses that may need to get out before the others ahead of them, including an 'accessible' bus - for wheelchair bound people.   We only get a couple of those a day, once the spectators start to arrive, and so I had to come up with a way to set it aside while dealing with our other buses  AND overflow buses from WOP which are supposed to park in our area.  This has been a nightmare for me to try to figure out and today I tell Jessica that I don't believe we can accommodate them.  They will have to stick with the original plan, which was for them to circle the block until there IS room over there.  Otherwise it's a logistical nightmare.  I have no idea, when the bus pulls into the lot, whether he is ours or theirs and thus where to put him.  Once he's parked in a line, others will come up behind and then he can't be moved.  If we have two lines, one ours and one theirs,  and take up the whole narrow road, I can't get the accessible bus through.  And how do I know which line to put which bus in anyway because, as I said, I can't tell when they pull in, who's they are.  So I don't want WOP buses in our lot.  I hope she can work that out.

It was very cold this morning when I got out to my car; I had to scrape a thin layer of ice off of the windows.  It is by far the coldest morning we've had of the three.  Despite having added a turtle neck sweater to my three layers of Olympic togs, I am freezing cold.  I spend a lot more time in the trailer today.  But eventually the sun comes up and it gets nice and warm again.

Olga and I let our crew go early again but we stay behind to get into a golf cart with Jessica and tour the top lot where we will load spectators and suss out the area and potential issues.  We come up with positions for each of Olga's crew and work through a few other kinks.  We sign out at just after 2:00 p.m. and I am ready for my four days off.

As I write this blog, my phone rings.  It's Jessica.  Tomorrow's staging supervisor, who hasn't worked yet, just called to say she won't be coming in.  Can I come in?  I say yes.  So no day off for me just yet.  And tomorrow is going to be 'fun'.  The parking lot is used by a church for overflow parking and hundreds of cars will be using the road we blocked off for the past couple of days.  Oh joy!!  But the parking lot attendants will use it as practice for the flood of vehicles we expect to get once spectators arrive and I am glad for the extra hours.  It turns out that with my new schedule of four days on and four off, all but one week I will only get 30 hours.  That coupled with the pay reduction, I won't be making anywhere near what I first thought I would when I was hired by the agency back in October.

Olga With Dan, One of Her Crew

Post Script: Can I just say how much I HATE the new Blogger and how it totally screws up where I want to place the pictures? I have fiddled around with this post for over an hour to try to get them right and I can't do it. I must leave it as is as I have to get to bed for my early rise tomorrow.

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