Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everything You Thought You Knew is Toast

Harley, looking sad, because it's not his first Rodeo either, and he knows what's coming...

Monday evening we had the Barn’s annual Christmas Carriage drivers meeting. Looking around at the hope filled, shiny faces of the Rookie employees, and the stoic expressions of the old Pros, it’s clear to us seasoned drivers that our work is just beginning, and the newbies haven’t got a clue.

This will be my fifth year driving during Christmas. Every year presents new challenges to the slave drivers because it appears that the City of Salt Lake has acquired a hobby, and that avocation is demolition and construction. They have amassed a nice collection of orange cones, too, which makes downtown oh so jolly to navigate.

The rest of the year a driver might amble into the office, bullshit with Ro for a while, chat with co-workers, leisurely pull their own carriage out, get the assigned horse ready, saunter into the driver’s room to change into an appropriate ensemble, hook their partner to the carriage and head out to downtown.

Yeah, forget all that shit. Welcome to our brave new world.

From the day after Thanksgiving until January 1st, the new people will experience a downtown like they have never seen before. The mass of humanity, the intersection clogging traffic, the plethora of panhandlers and street musicians who come out of their hidey-holes is unrivaled by any other event during the year.

First off, anyone who arrives early will be enlisted in pulling out every carriage assigned for that evening. We don’t bother with parking them into the barn lot, we drag them all the way out to the street, where they sit, batteried up, waiting for the horse and driver.

After all the carriages are out, then the horses working that night get yanked out, groomed, tacked up, and wait for their co-worker.

The employees arrive, SILENTLY get their driver’s sheet (if they talk to Ro while she’s on the phone they will receive a withering glare that could melt stone, not to mention the ass-chewing directed at them once she’s hung up) change into their winter gear, get whatever other shit they need and GET OUT! NOW! No chatting, no BSing. It’s Guerilla driving; Get in, get out, and nobody gets hurt.

Then they will proceed to South Gate and attempt to negotiate around Temple Square, where people who only come downtown once a year and have no idea where they are going will test their patience. The concept of the WALK/DON’T WALK crosswalk signs are no longer understood, or obeyed.

They will find that their patience has a very short fuse, and our driving becomes less traditional and more, ahem, creative.

They will start looking for holes in traffic so they can make their ride in the appropriate time. Soon, the horses will start to look for holes all on their own. This, you see is not their first rodeo. Unfortunately some of the horses either don’t realize or don’t care that the hole they have chosen to slide into is, while large enough for the horse, too small for the carriage they are attached to. This can be a little tricky. Some of the horses get road rage. This is not a pretty sight. And when Tony looks into a car window, all pissed off at the driver, he appears to be one of the four horses of the Apocalypse. Okay, he’s a Belgian Draft, so he looks like two of them combined.

The newbies will also learn that whatever traffic laws they might follow the rest of the year don’t apply at Christmas. So, while driving on the wrong side of the road, making illegal turns, cutting corners by using the sidewalk or the crosswalks, making a right from the center or even the left turn lane are usually frowned upon the rest of the year, during Christmas it is “Open Season.”

We even get to drive down North Temple when the cops have shut it down. Why? Because they like us. Because we know where we’re going. Because we slow down traffic and keep cars from running over pedestrians. Because the horses are big and pretty.

So, welcome to the brave new world of Christmas Carriage driving, newbies. Enjoy the warm spirit of the holiday now, because in a couple of weeks you will develop a hunchback, abhor seasonal music, start talking in a series of grunts and growls, and avoid eye contact.

In other words, you will turn feral.

And because of that, to you, dear reader, I take the opportunity to say right now, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Because four weeks from now, if you say “Hi” to me, I’ll probably bite you.


Anonymous said...

Hope you at least have a profitable Christmas season. With all the money flowing out of pocketbooks, seems like there should be some flowing IN to some of them.

Used to go through Albuquerque several times a year. Albuquerque is the old Hopi word for "always under construction never completed."

Watch yourself. Dusty

Lisa Deon said...

Yes, the profit margin makes up for the transformation into a Troll under the bridge. Take care of yourself.

Jenn said...

Yikes, sounds like you have your work cut out for you!

Stay safe and warm!

Anonymous said...

Wow, it was hard to decide which of the posts regarding Christmas that I should comment on. As this is my third Christmas season driving, I can add a hearty "amen" to the comments and laugh as I start looking for the holes in traffic (pedestrian or vehicular) in which to squeeze my horse and cariage.