Dr. Matt: Charter Bus City

April 27th, 2011

Lord only knows what I was thinking last fall, when I let Benny Jay talk me into becoming The Third City’s general counsel.

But I now know that I got sold a bill of goods.

Benny told me The Third City was an up-and-coming blog that was getting more hits than Willie Nelson’s favorite pipe.

He even showed me plans for a Third City iPhone app that he said he was developing with some software guys from “the Valley.”

My role, he assured me, was to sit tight and wait until Arianna Huffington called with a buyout offer.  Then we’d all retire.

I’m now eight months into this gig, and there’s been no offer from The Huffington Post.

In fact, the closest I’ve come to hearing Arianna’s voice is during late-night reruns of “Green Acres,” when Eva Gabor sings the show’s theme song.

Nothing, however, could have prepared me for Benny’s latest harebrained scheme, which he sprung on me over coffee last week.

Arianna sounds just like Eva Gabor….

“Dr. Matt, I’ve concluded that blogging is not going to get us to The Promised Land.  The Third City is gonna need to start its own bus line.”

I asked Benny if he had been self-medicating again.

“Not just any old bus line,” he said.  “We need to start a charter bus line.”

I wasn’t sure where he was going with this nonsense, so I let him ramble.

“You see, I’ve been reading up on Chicago’s charter schools, and I think I’ve got this racket figured out.”

The old man took a deep breath and continued. “First thing we do is lease a couple of nice buses.  Then we do a big dog-and-pony show downtown.  We announce that Chicago’s public transportation system is broken  We say that it’s been a failure for too many of our citizens.  We tell ‘em that The Third City is here to offer a choice for Chicago’s under-served neighborhoods.”

My demented friend was on a roll.

“We announce that we’ll only hire non-union drivers – preferably recent young graduates from the new ‘Drive for America’ program.  Rahm and the Tribune will eat that shit up.”

Anyone can drive the Charter Bus….

I tried to get a word in, but Benny wouldn’t take a breath.

“After that, you’re gonna draft a press release talking about the need for ‘accountability’ and ‘reform’ throughout our public transportation system.  Oh, yeah – and be sure to use the word ‘stakeholders’ a few times.  The City Hall guys love that one.”

Finally, I cut him off.   “Why in God’s name do we want to get involved with a bunch of Ralph Kramden wannabes who haul folks around town in graffiti-filled buses that smell like urine?”

Benny laughed a wicked laugh.   “You still don’t get it.  We’re not gonna have to deal with the riff-raff.  Our buses will be Charter Buses.

“Sure, we’ll need to let everyone on at the beginning – because our bus company is gonna be funded largely with taxpayer dollars.  But if we happen to end up with passengers who smell bad, or don’t speak English well, or use wheelchairs, we can gently ‘counsel’ them off our charter buses and back on to the CTA.

“This’ll keep our numbers up and improve our bottom line — get it?”

The waitress wandered over to refill our coffee cups.  I suggested decaf for Benny, but he just kept talking.

“Once we’re up and running, we’ll make it a point to pitch a story to the Tribune about every six months.  We’ll say that 100 percent of our passengers have made it to work on time, and we’ve been accident free during that same time period.”

“How can we possibly make that claim?” I interjected.

“What part of ‘non-union charter operation’ don’t you understand?” he responded. “The Trib’s not going to question whatever numbers we give ‘em. They’ll just reprint our press releases.”

Benny sipped his coffee and smiled.

“That’s when the real fun begins.  Pretty soon the foundation money will start pouring in.  Bill Gates will probably give us WiFi equipment and GPS devices.  I’m betting the Sam Walton Foundation will donate ‘greeters’ for each of our bus stops.  I’ve got this deal all figured out.”

Then he paused.

“There’s just one more thing we’re gonna need to make our Charter Bus company a reality in Chicago.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“We’re probably gonna have to name one of our buses after a Pritzker.”

Editor’s Note: Dr. Matt‘s last post for The Third City was Too Big to Fail.

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