Reflections and Expectations: Short Turn

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What an interesting last few months it has been. Join me in a look back at these last three months in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

April, May and June 2017

Birthday, April 4 – I turned 28 that day. That was pretty much about it.

Relay for Life of Mission Viejo, June 3 to June 4 – For the second year in a row, I participated in this local American Cancer Society-sponsored event to support the Canedy family — friends I’ve known for almost seven years.

Each year, the event raises money for cancer research in a variety of fun ways put on by the dozens of teams that participate. I was part of the Green for Bean team that the Canedy family has had going for more than a decade — taking turns walking laps around the track at Saddleback College, raising money for our own team and supporting others as well. I’ve financially supported the team since 2011 before finally being able to join them in the annual event last year. It’s always a great feeling and a great time being there.

MTI convocation ceremony, June 17 – This year, I attended the graduation ceremony for graduates of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. I was in attendance to cheer on my former classmates graduating after me, as I officially graduated last December. I already had my turn at last year’s ceremony, even though I had to return in the fall semester to finish out one more course. Still hasn’t hit me that I’m an alum of this program. I’d give it some more time.

VTA coach operator training, May 3 to June 13 – For a six-week period, I was among the class of initially 30 students who were training to become coach operators (bus drivers) for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). This intensive nine-week program is conducted a few times each year, preparing students to become part of the next generation of bus drivers to fill vacancies created for any number of reasons (retirements, deaths, terminations, promotions among the common reasons).

During week six of this nine-week program, I was dismissed. That brought the number down to 27 students who remained standing as of that day I was cut (two students before me left on their own volition weeks before this).

This opportunity was months in the making. The recruitment process opened up for applications in late January, initial written exams took place in early February and interviews in early March. I spent the remainder of March and April obtaining a Class B driver’s permit, getting fingerprinted, submitting to a physical exam among other administrative matters before officially being on-boarded in early May.

I always knew this would be a challenging endeavor, perhaps the most challenging of my lifetime. But it was one I very much anticipated and looked forward to taking on once that day came. In my interview and throughout the training program itself, I often talked openly about how my lifelong experience and appreciation for taking transit would be an asset in this capacity once — and if — my roles reversed from passenger to operator. I went into this program with a genuine interest for the work at stake, even though I possessed no previous professional experience as a commercial vehicle driver.

When it was all said and done, I progressed as far as I did but not enough to the point where I could have become a full-fledged coach operator. I truly did give it my best shot in this expectedly challenging program. I learned a lot from this experience, some of which could be applicable in other areas of my life and career as well. 

I am heartbroken and disappointed that I wasn’t able to make it all the way through and possibly beyond. Nevertheless, it truly was an experience of a lifetime. I’m grateful to VTA, its training personnel and my former classmates for making this experience one that I will never forget. Hopefully not before long, I’ll get to see some of my former classmates welcoming me onto their buses one of these days. I’ll look forward to that.

July, August and September

Job search – That last item made this the third time in the last year and a half where I lost a job. Where will I go next? God only knows.

It’s summertime – No big plans yet. It’ll probably be a series of small things to keep me going. I’ll go find some more books to check out at the library. Yes, I started doing that again recently. First time in years, really.

Let me hear your stories. How have you been in these last few months? Any fun summer plans ahead? Share your thoughts below in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

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On This Sunday: Four in One Afternoon

Tuesday was an unusual day for Bay Area commuters.

All during afternoon rush hours Tuesday, four rail-related incidents played out where trains struck something or someone: Caltrain against a pedestrian in San Mateo, VTA light rail train against a pedestrian south of Fruitdale in San Jose, Amtrak against a car in Santa Clara and BART against a person at San Bruno station.

Individuals in the VTA and BART incidents died shortly after while no injuries were reported in the Amtrak incident. No word on the condition of the pedestrian involved with the Caltrain commuter rail train.

I was affected by the VTA incident. I left work in North San Jose at 4 p.m. — an hour earlier than usual — and was supposed to be home in Campbell by 5:30 p.m. Long story short, I ultimately arrived home at 8:10 p.m. There were a bunch of conflicting information about bus bridges that resulted in me getting home nearly three hours later than expected. Now, I already have a plan in place if something like this happens again.

I don’t believe there was a connection among the four incidents although it was certainly unusual as it all played out in the same region among similar modes within minutes or hours of each other. In all my years as a transit rider, this is one of the rare occasions where I’m affected by a major system disruption. Not fun at all for anyone to endure.

Caltrain has certainly been experiencing an uptick in fatalities on its tracks this year, surpassing records of previous years. More than a dozen have died this year, some of them ruled apparent suicides, after being struck by its commuter rail trains at mostly at-grade crossings. The agency in charge of operating Caltrain has taken measures to mitigate the number of deaths involving its trains including upgraded signage and signals and increased patrols along its crossings. Long term, grade separation throughout much of its route should greatly help although nothing will fully stop people from finding their way onto the tracks.

No matter where you live, committing suicide by trains isn’t the answer. Even if it doesn’t always seem like it, your potential actions also put others in danger as well. Talk to someone if you feel this way. Call 1 (800) 273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. We really don’t need anything like Tuesday in the Bay Area again. None of us do, especially you.

On This Sunday…: Month at a Glance

Clockwise from top left: San Jose State University, Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Jose City Hall, BART Silicon Valley ribbon-cutting event in Fremont on Friday, Downtown San Jose

Clockwise from top left: San Jose State University, Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Jose City Hall, BART Silicon Valley ribbon-cutting event in Fremont on Friday, Downtown San Jose

Also, join me in looking back at the month that was in my latest Reflections and Expectations.

Have a wonderful weekend, America.

Reflections and Expectations: Save Me, San Francisco

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Downtown San Jose, Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Jose State University and San Jose City Hall

Okay, not quite San Francisco. It’s difficult to find a song about the South Bay subregion of the San Francisco Bay Area.

As I’ll go more into shortly, I moved to the Bay Area from L.A. on Oct. 11 to seek a change of scenery while finding ways to keep my professional hopes alive. So far, it is slowly working although I’m still getting there.

I can only hope that the move is worth the gamble. It took a tremendous amount of risk and gutsiness — thank you, Jessica Lawlor, for the latter attribute — to make it all happen. Time will tell if that gamble pays off.

Let’s look back at the month that was and look ahead to an even more productive one this month.

October

Moving to the Bay Area – Last month, I made the move to the city of Campbell in Santa Clara County, located in the South Bay subregion of the San Francisco Bay Area.

This marked the second time in two years I relocated from Southern California — the last one being to Philadelphia in August 2012 before moving back to the Golden State around this time a year ago.

A big part of why I moved was that my career prospects remained dismal in Southern California — the part of the state I spent nearly my entire life in and where my career began — and that the Bay Area seems to hold hopes that I still have a fighting chance. I still remain in graduate school through San Jose State University thanks to the distance-learning nature of the program.

I adjusted surprisingly quickly and well during my first two weeks. I was able to secure housing in Campbell the day after I arrived in the Bay Area. I consider myself lucky in that regard as it was a difficult process to find the right place with the most reasonable monthly rent. That was a major hurdle I was glad to clear as quickly as I did.

Now, the focus is on finding any kind of work here for the time being while still pursuing something more permanent and relevant to my career goal. I’m close to finally settling that matter, hopefully sooner than later.

IMG_4120BART Silicon Valley event – As part of my efforts to connect with the transportation professionals in these parts, I attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 31 for the completion of a grade-separation project in Fremont as part of the larger BART Silicon Valley Extension project. A contact of mine at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) invited me to participate in the event.

I used to attend events like this during my two years as an intern at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) from May 2010 to August 2012. Now, I’m looking to get back into the same kind of public affairs and community relations work I did for OCTA at any of its counterparts in the Bay Area — VTA, BART, SF Muni, AC Transit, consulting firms that work with transportation clients among others. It was great to connect with some of the professionals at the event. I hope this is the beginning of new and real opportunities ahead for I miss being in this line of work.

November

  • Job search – There’s a reason why I moved here to the Bay Area. There’s no turning back and that’s exactly how I want it to be.
  • Thanksgiving – I don’t expect to have any plans this time around. Unless someone in this region invites me over that day, this holiday could play out the same way as 2012 when I spent Thanksgiving alone in Philadelphia. Either way, I’ll make it productive and fun somehow. Hopefully, there will be more restaurants open that day and not just a McDonald’s like in Philly in 2012.

I’ll leave you this edition with the titular song.