Sunday, August 30, 2015

The games following the games

The ParaPan games were not as popular as the PanAm games, but it was certainly more impressive. People with disabilities work harder and better at their other abilities. Yet, they give no excuse, and their determination is amazing.

Once the PanAm games were over, my shifts for the ParaPan games started the following week.
Here's an account of my shifts.

Saturday, August 1:
6 o'clock shift in a 'blue' car C212 and sent to the airport. There is however, no staging and I was deployed to Terminal 3 where I sat for a bit and then chatted with the Venue Manager there.

I was moved to Terminal 1 around 10am.
There, I had a nap, and then chatted with the Venue people there. That day, I met M, who welcomed the guests inside of the secured area and escorted them out to the cars. I was 5th in line and they were expecting 4 guests in the morning. The next guests were coming after 3:30pm. M gave me a tour of their area and told me about his job. I had nice chats with the people there, but at 2:15pm, I requested to leave early and the controller granted me permission. I heard the other blue cars being released 30 minutes later when I was on the DVP. M became a friend.

Thursday, August 6:
6 o'clock shift, but got there 5 minutes later than usual. Charlie 964 in Red group. I met Lynn from my last shift of the PanAm at the depot and hung out with her till I was deployed to the Sheraton at 7:00am. I had a blast at the depot, chatting up with another M (say M2), part of the team at the depot.
At SHR, I was part of a long line up of cars there and Anthony, the supervisor of the venue transport team, was quite entertaining. I had a trip to the village and a trip to Corus Quay. I ended the day at around 2:30pm from the Sheraton. Anthony had gone to the torch relay at David Pecaut and brought us pins back. All in all, a very good day, even though I was stationed at SHR for 3 hours at the head of the line.

Friday, August 7:
After a morning of work, I got to the depot at 1:45pm for my 14:00 shift. Charlie 332 in the blue group. M, from the airport had another shift today, so I looked for an opportunity to go there. But it was not meant to be. I was going to go to the airport as an RFT driver, but another girl, Willa went and my trip was cancelled. I was asked to stay behind at the depot. I was kept at the depot all afternoon with Chun, Laura and Cherryl. I hung out with the schedulers Gary and KB and they needed to schedule drivers for special T1/T2 assignments the following week. Gary had already scheduled me for a special assignment for the Monday, so I was assigned to IPC on the Tuesday. I told Gary to call Merle to get him for IPC on the Thursday. Later, I witnessed and posed as jury in a 'trial' in the control room. Abdi, a controller, was given a yellow card for sending a driver back to the airport when the driver was to stay downtown. It was all fun. I played ping pong with Willa later and then watched the opening ceremonies for the ParaPan games on the big screen. At around 9:30pm, Cheryl wanted to go to Nathan Philips Square to look for something at the store and Laura decided to bring her. I decided to tag along and so all 3 of us went into Laura's car. We dropped off Cheryl on the way back. We came back to the depot just after 10pm and took some pics with the car I never drove.

Monday, August 10:
10:30 shift for the 'Culture' at the SHR.
I went there for 9:30 to say hi to the Transport crew there and then went to the 4th floor to report for duty. My first fare was not to be before 13:30, so I hung around until 12 noon and then went for lunch at NPS. I then picked up the car from the underground garage before parking myself, in the rain on Richmond street for half an hour. My 13:30 never showed up. I was deployed to Billy Bishop airport where I picked up half of a band, 'Les Chercheurs d'Or' from Montreal. It was nice chatting to them in French. I dropped them off at the hotel and was then free to go after parking the car back at the same spot.

Tuesday, August 11:
This was my T1/T2 assignment day for the IPC. My shift time was changed from 10:00, to 7;00 am.
Ulpia was one of the other drivers, along with 2 Bryan's and a Ben. Laura was supposed to be on this shift but she walked in at 7:50 and was asked to stay behind.
I picked up 4 ladies from Montreal at the SHR and drove them to MIS, the Hershey Centre. We watched goalball while the IPC members visited the venue. We then had lunch before driving them to Whitby. We dropped them off at a mall across from the ABL.We drove back to MCDC where my car was taken and given to Chun. I met Chun later at PAC when I went to watch sitting volleyball and swimming with the folks. M was now working at PAC, so we met and chatted for a bit.

Wednesday, August 12:
6 o'clock shift with Merle. We talked about him arriving early to secure us spots at a venue and we decided on RYA to watch wheelchair basketball. M2 was there and directed me to the correct line to be in the same group as Merle. I was assigned Charlie 626 in green and Merle was Charlie 191. Merle and I left at 6:15am after chatting with M2 for a bit. Merle and I asked control whether his name starts with a 'J' or a 'D' because I was convinced it was Dave. But it was not, it was John that time. We were at RYA most of the day. I went to the village twice, once with an athlete and her doctor to get her jersey. They were from Peru. I got the same doctor later and he gave me a pin. Merle and I were separated just before lunch, he was sent to ABL. When he got back, we had lunch and soon after, I was sent to PAC in Scarborough to drop off 2 Japanese delegates. I couldn't get the radio out there so I asked Merle to radio in for me. We met again back at the depot and had cake before leaving for the day.

Friday, August 14:
The weather for my last shift was not looking good, so I took the TTC to the depot.
I arrived at 13:00 for my 14:00 shift and went directly to the trailer for the controllers. I looked for John and Dave. Patrick was there too. Gave them cookies and a thank you card and took pics with them. Then waited for my shift to start.
I was Charlie 199 in Blue. I asked Daniel to send me to PAC, but he almost didn't. M was at PAC, so I wanted to go there. I drove the Secretary General of the Jamaican delegation with her 2 kids to York, just before 5pm. In the meantime, M visited the parking lot, but I wasn't there. I watched sitting volleyball and then went to have dinner. M joined me and the other drivers. We were called back around 20:30 and I drove 4 Colombians to the Intercontinental on Front street. I was then sent to PAF at UofT before being called back at 22:00. I went back to the control trailer to sign off while the control guy looked on and collected a few pins left with Kristina by Laura. I then got a hug from M2 before I took the shuttle to Union.

In retrospective, the ParaPan games made more on an impact on me than the PanAm games did. Maybe because these games were more low key, so fewer drivers and more opportunities for things to happen for me. I made new friends during these games. Some of these friendships may not last, but at least one is on a good track to last. These 7 ParaPan shifts were by far more eventful than my PanAm shifts and maybe because sensing the end approaching, I lived it more intensely. Or maybe just the fact that these shifts were closer together than my PanAm shifts, there was more continuity in my experience.
It was bittersweet when I attended the closing ceremony at Nathan Philips Square the next day, but it certainly provided closure. These games are over, when are the next ones??

Sunday, August 09, 2015

What I do for a living...

Over the last month, I've met a lot of strangers during the PanAm games. At every shift, I would undeniably get the ultimate question: What do you do for a living? 
My answer is usually a variation of 'Java Developer', 'programmer', 'software developer' and/or 'IT person', depending on the facial expressions I get when I say those answers.

I do not look like a typical software developer.
According to TV shows, I should look like:

Abby from NCIS

or, like :

Penelope in Criminal Minds

or like :

Stefanie in CSI: Cyber
Why do they all have to look nonconformist?
Why can't a woman who is good in IT and/or computers look like the average Jane? Why can't they wear normal clothes, wear normal make up and act like it is totally normal for women to be in this profession? And why, why do they all have to have funky hair??!?!

I hardly ever think about it, but there are not a lot of women in my profession.
I also never think about how much the outside world regards software developers as a species of its own. People who understand computers versus those who just use them. The look I get when I say what I do for a living is usually either one of awe because I seem to have found success in a field where women are not supposed to be successful, or one of surprise because I do not conform to the idea people have of software developers. 

Women have brains, some even have brains that are more performing than some men. Then why would people be in awe that I can be a developer? If a man can be good at problem solving and can learn how to use a programming language, then why can't a woman do it? The brain, or rather the intellectual field, is probably the only field where men and women may be compared at the same level, unlike sports where men are naturally inclined to have bigger muscles. I do not consider myself a genius, and I do not deserve to be looked at in awe, as if I have a higher IQ than the average Jane who may be an accountant or of any other profession.

Similarly, I do not think people should be surprised that I do not look like a developer. If they come to my office, they would notice that the few women doing the job do not conform to the image that TV shows paint of women in the profession. We dress business casual, usually in mellow and down to earth colors. None of us has pink-colored or blue-colored hair. 
None of us carry more gadgets that we can carry. 
But also none of us sit at home and program for fun. 

Maybe women with pink-colored hair do sit at home and code for fun.
But what I do is what every other software developer knows how to do. 
In a nutshell: collect requirements, design, code, test and deploy. 
Nothing more, nothing less.
Maybe TV shows need to work more on making female programmers part of the mainstream than trying to paint them as unusually smart women who opted to pursue a career in a field where only men are expected to succeed.