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The mechanics of a bus rider

Mechanic Jeff Bailey at Empire Bowl in Redlands

For more than ten years, Yucaipa resident Jeff Bailey has ridden Omnitrans to Empire Bowl in Redlands where he works as a mechanic.

“The bus stop used to be right in front of the Shakey’s next door, but that changed earlier this year when Omnitrans cut out a small portion of Route 19 that went up Colton Avenue. It’s an inconvenience because I have to walk about a mile from Redlands Mall to get to work. But with the 19 leaving Yucaipa every half hour now instead of every hour, that’s a lot nicer for me. It used to take me an hour and 20 minutes to get to work, and now it only takes 40 minutes.”

Jeff loves working on machines, and he is in his element when surrounded by tools in his workshop.

“I’ve been turning wrenches all my life,” he says with a chuckle. “I was in the Air Force for 10 ½ years active duty and 11 ½ years in the reserves as an aircraft mechanic. So I came to this job fairly well prepared. I just had to learn the machines. I had a good working knowledge of tools and mechanical principle, so that worked out all right. I was hired here as a Class B Brunswick mechanic. I worked with a guy on the bowling machines for about three nights, and then they told me I was good to go. We’ve had people here that we’ve trained for two weeks, and they still didn’t work out. They just don’t have it.”

Empire Bowl mechanic Jeff Bailey

Jeff believes that some people are just born with a natural curiousity about how things work.

“I think you either have mechanical aptitude or you don’t. My dad had it and so did my grandfather. It runs in our family. For years my dad worked the coal mines in Pennsylvania and was later promoted to the preparation plant were they grade and sort the coal. He was the mechanic on all the machinery there.”

As an Air Force veteran, Jeff feels his military experience gave him a strong foundation that he carries over to the workplace.

“You learn discipline, work ethic, and the importance of being on time. In my 15 years of working here at Empire Bowl, I think I’ve only called out for one day. I leave the house early and I get here early—just in case. So if there’s a mechanical breakdown on the bus, the next bus will still get me to work on time. That’s a decision I make. I never want to be late.

“For the most part it works out fine. The schedules are set so you know what they are. I don’t have any trouble with them. It’s hard sometimes because I get out at midnight. For years I was taking a cab home. Now I pay my nephew for about half the price. If I was working day shift I would use the bus both ways”

Because he’s been riding the bus so long and knows the schedules, Jeff says he never really has a need to use NexTrip.

“I did download the Omnitrans app though,” he admits. “And I have the map on my tablet. This way, I can research the routes when I need to go somewhere out of the ordinary.  Besides work, I go to Stater Bros, Walmart and the VA Hospital. I don’t get into San Bernardino too often.”

Omnitrans bus rider and Empire Bowl mechanic Jeff Bailey

An avid golfer, Jeff also enjoys spending time on the golf course.

“I belong to a senior men’s club, and we play golf every Wednesday at Calimesa Country Club. I don’t miss that! Most of the time I catch a ride, but if I need it, OmniGo drops me off about a half mile from the club. I only carry about three clubs with me, so that’s alright. I enjoy the game. My handicap is 19. I started playing almost two years ago with a 29, but I’ve been coming down. I’m about at my limit now. At my age I can’t hit the ball as far as I used to. I’ll be 68 in October.”

A front desk call comes in over the intercom, and Jeff jumps up to address a problem on one of the lanes. After making a quick adjustment to the machine, he returns with a smile.

“The bus service has been pretty good for me overall,” he says, wiping his hand on a towel. “I  know most of the coach operators by face, but not by name. On Sundays, the driver is a young fella who always has something nice to say. In inclement weather, he tells us ‘you don’t have to stand out there. Come on in the bus.’ He’s a nice guy and looks after everyone. People appreciate that.

“You know it’s funny. Sometimes we get new drivers on the route who have never driven it before. They might be covering for someone who got sick that day.  Every so often, they’ll start to make a wrong turn, and we have to say ‘no, no—our turn is down farther.’ And they say okay and apologize. They do their best for us, and we look out for them if we can.

“Riding the bus is very convenient. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it. I’d have to move closer to work, or maybe just retire.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson