Monday, December 14, 2009

Mastering The Time/Space/Traffic/ Continuum

I had Saturday night off. Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t work Saturday night, it only means that 1) I wasn't scheduled to work and 2) I made no money doing it. But it's okay, I did what I did because I wanted to.

At least once a season, many times more, one of the employees comes downtown on their night off and assists the drivers. This assistance may take the form of driving their horse partway around the square during the ride so the driver can have a potty break, handing out food or helping Ro stage at South Gate. I planned on having this particular Saturday night off because I had an URWA (Utah Romance writers of America) Christmas luncheon during the day, immediately followed by a URWA board meeting. Typically we don’t finish up with the lunch that follows our meeting until late afternoon, and by the time I arrive home the day is shot to hell. Not being a fan of rushing (which is why I'm always at the barn early— if I'm rushed I will forget to put something important on my carriage and then suffer the remainder of the night without it) I never sign up to work nights preceding a function.

So, I chose not to work on the busiest night of the season. And I'm good with that, because dealing with horrendous amounts of traffic, tweaking, angry pedestrians, and surly shuttle bus drivers is just not my style anyway. I never enjoy working that hard because I'm basically lazy.

But I did go downtown. My first clue that Saturday would be the ultimate cluster f*ck was when I exited the state highway to merge onto I-15 which was backed up for miles. So, instead of joining the mass of vehicles at a standstill, I excited onto the surface streets and made my merry way to the center of downtown. And I had a distinct advantage over the *other* motorists— I knew I had a prime parking spot reserved for me in the heart of the cacophony.

For those of you unfamiliar with Salt Lake City, Temple Square is where the meridian marker is. That makes Temple Square the point of origin for all addressing on the city grid system. To find Temple Square, you look at the North/South and East/West addresses and go in the direction which makes the numbers gradually reduce to zero.

On the south side of Temple Square, there is a single lane reserved for the carriages. It spans both the east and west side of the South Gates. The area reserved for us on the east side is twice as large as the west side, and during normal operating seasons we utilize both of them. When we have a stager, the person who organizes or gathers your group, runs your credit card or tells you that you need two carriages because nine people, no matter how skinny they think they are, will not fit on one carriage together, we only use the east side to assist in the flow of carriages. That leaves the west side empty. Except if we leave the west side empty, people will park in our reserved spaces. This creates a huge mess, especially if we have so many carriages waiting at once that we end up parked in the middle of the intersection of South Temple and Main Street. So, since people seem to be unwilling or unable to respect signs posted by the city clearly stating that the area on either side of the gates is carriage parking/tow away zone, we strategically place large orange caution cones to defend our spot. And the west side is where Ro parks to stage, with a big "Carriage for Hire" sign in her front window to alert Parking Enforcement that although it's not a carriage it is in fact a company vehicle. You see, we own that little piece of real estate; it's part and parcel of what our yearly license fee pays for and by God we're gonna keep it!

Anyway, my usual thirty minute drive took me an hour. And I didn't have to be anywhere on time, so I wasn't stressed. When I arrived, South Gate was busy, and Hardrock was at the front of the carriage line so he ran over and moved the cones out of the way for me so I could park in our little piece of heaven, which of course royally pissed off everyone behind me on the hunt for a parking spot but I don't care. That space was mine, I'd already licked it.

I found Carriage Driver Kar already there, helping Ro with traffic. When a carriage is loaded the stager will step out into traffic, stop the vehicles, and allow the carriage to pull out. We don't really impede the flow anyway because no one is moving more than four feet at a time on nights like this (there are three in a row, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) but you take your life into your hands doing this because, while no one ever wants to hit/hurt the big pretty horses, a carriage driver on foot might as well have a big red bull's-eye positioned in the middle of our Carhartt bibs.

So, divvying up the responsibilities, Kar held the horse steady, I yanked off and threw the blankets on the exiting/entering patrons, Ro gave the sales pitch, then Kar stopped traffic. Occasionally we took turns shooing a motorist out of our lane. Folks unfamiliar with downtown mistakenly think they can park wherever they see an open spot, and poaching in our territory is frequent.

I also gave Coco, who also was not "working", money to run to Arbys and get twenty Hot Ham and Cheese sandwiches off of their dollar menu. Because, having driven on nights where you are cold, exhausted, bored by going around in the same circle over and over, frustrated with motorists who have no clue where they are going, there is nothing like a snack. And let me tell you, at that point in time, that lukewarm sandwich that someone walks up and hands you is the best damn sandwich you've ever had.

So now I have the next three days off. It snowed/sleeted/rained on and off last night and everything I own is damp. I've brought all of my stuff home to dry out in my garage and now my jeep smells like a swamp filled with horse crap. But it's all good. By Thursday the garage will smell like barn, and I'm actually okay with that aroma. And the only cars in my garage are mine. ;)

1 comment:

michelleblackler said...

You may say you are lazy, sardonic and irreverent, but you are a jolly damn fine person if ever I read one. And way tougher and more patient than I could be in your stead.

Thanks for your always engaging contributions.