Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Look-out Men

My transportation to school is a 20 passenger white van provided by a private service. There are two teacher vans and I ride van #40. The bus stop used to be conveniently located right in front of my apartment building, but now I walk about two blocks away and wait with another teacher. Occasionally, like this morning, my colleague will point (she doesn't speak English) to indicate that we are meeting the van at another location. How she knows where the van will pick us up is a mystery to me because I never know where, but I think there is an intricate system of calls and text messages from the look-out men in the front seat of the van. Aside from being teachers, I think their job is to watch for closed roads and police officers doing random traffic checks, and to remind the driver to go back and pick up passengers who missed the van on the first drive-by because the first pass was 20 minutes earlier than said passenger was told..(just in case you're wondering, that passenger was me...)

Anyway, back to today and a little back ground information...the city has been modernizing the roads by my house for as long as I've lived here, but I think it's been more like two years according to my boss. It's a mess: dusty, noisy, random pieces of equipment left out to trip over, random power outages and internet disruptions as the wrong wires are cut or attached or whatever. And, at random times the city workers will stretch some tape across the road (kind of like crime scene tape) to indicate that the road is closed. (There's no such thing as the American digital signs indicating that on X date the road will be closed for x number of days)... Anyway, this morning was one of those days for a closed road and some road construction work. Often passenger cars just disregard the tape, send out the person riding shot-gun to hold up it up, and then proceed on through the construction zone. But today a police car with flashing lights was enforcing the stretched tape across the road.. thus the new van pick-up location.

Last week the look-out men had gotten some kind of word from fellow van drivers that there was a random traffic check on our route to school. All vans and cars were being stopped, all papers were being checked, and entire vans of teachers and students were late to school. But, thanks to Van #40's look-out men, our driver made a quick left turn, crossed a major highway, geared down to go up a steep hill, and raced through some farms and down a dirt road to avoid the traffic stop. I'm not sure if the look-out men were joking or if something was lost in the translation, but I understood them to say that our driver did not have a license and it would be a problem to be stopped.

Unfortunately, yesterday our look-out men must have been chatting because they did not see the police officer pulling over all the speeding school vans just in front of our school. (There were at least four of them!) We were stopped for speeding I think,(I would estimate 20- 30 km/hour over in a school zone.) The driver's papers were taken, the police officer gave a quick glance though our van (so glad I did not have to show my heart always skips a beat when I see a police officer) and we were allowed to be driven on to school. But I'm sure the driver had to go back to retrieve his papers and/or pay some money...

In spite of not knowing where to meet the van, the service is a memorable experience, and the look-out men are quite entertaining. Oh, and did I mention that the van leaves exactly 10 minutes after school lets out? So much for working late....

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