Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Great Lakes Jam Vans

The other day, I was sitting and trying to write something for a client when things went horribly wrong and I began to think about other terribly odd occurances in my life.  One of them had something to do with a absolutely cold as the bizarro world version of hell and a minivan.

I would like to take you back to the winter of 2000, a simpler time when people were still amazed by Flash based gaming and they hadn't exactly started throwing large crates of unsold VHS tapes into dumpsters yet.  Yes, it was a simpler time.  Back in the good old days of the year 2000, one could go into a store and ask for a twelve pack of blank audio cassettes and not get looked at like you just announced you were going to rob the place.

It was my last morning waking up at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, a technical school or sorts for those that past the basic training stage of their time in the military, yet not quite at their ship yet.  They had some schoolin to get to.  However, if you for some reason washed out of your tech school, they sent you to something called Seaman ATD school.  Which of course from perspective alone, if you weren't actually in that particular school you talked about those in it as if they were part of some leper colony.  I, not having a doctorate level knowledge of calculus, got to the Seaman ATD school sometime around the beginning of December.  Two and a half months after washing out of my original school.  That's how many people were flunking out of other schools, there was a almost three month wait to get into the new one.

What did one do while waiting?  Well, you could either sit and answer phones in the school's office, or you could volunteer for the North Chicago Housing Authority.  It got you off of the base for the day and you were usually done by one in the afternoon.  More on that another time.

Back to my last day.  When I woke up I realized that it would be my last morning waking up in the dorm building and that I was going to be getting down to my aunt's who lived about thirty five miles away in Chicago.  I had no idea how I was going to get there at the time, but I knew that I would have to quite seriously bring everything I owned to the school with me that day.  Which means lugging two large bags full of stuff about a quarter of a mile down the street to the building.  On one of the coldest days I had felt in my life up until that point, and I'm counting growing up on a town on the Great Lakes.  Different lake this time, but the same colder than hell conditions.  I remember during that long ass walk thinking to myself I still had no idea how I was going to be getting to Chicago, and that if I decided to take a train how exactly in the hell was I going to be getting from the base to the train station.  I had practically no options.  Save for one.

The Jam Vans.  People that attended the Great Lakes NTC know full well what I am talking about.  To this day the words "Three Dollars Take You To Gurnee" might ring either good or hirrifically bad memories for some of you.  The vans were essentially a taxi service offered by some local residents.  For a nominal fee they would shuttle you around to specific places in the area.  For example, two bucks would get you to the train station, and three dollars would get you to the Gurnee Mills Mall just outside of town.  They charged fairly reasonable rates for those that didn't have a great deal of money, which was pretty much all of us.  There wasn't anyone that was going to be on base long enough to bother getting a car, so the vans were it if you were averse to taking the bus.

The one main, and this is a really big problem with the vans, is that it wasn't as simple as you paying the driver the couple of bucks and you were on your way.  These gentlemen wanted to wait until there were at least a dozen or so people in one of these vans before they would even put the thing in gear.  So there you are, just trying to get to the train station and you're at the bottom of a pile of a dozen other people.  It was every bad thing you've ever thought the clowns at the circus must have gone through when stuck in that little car.

But they were reliable once on the road and would pretty much take you anywhere.  I don't know what the status of these things are now and the last I heard is that since 9/11 they aren't even allowed on base anymore.  If anyone reading this has any info on the Jam Vans, please send it in and I will post it.

So back to my story.  I told one of the instructors about my little transportation problem and I was told not to worry.  We take the tests, all pass except for a few.  Which was puzzling since they were feeding us some of the answers.  Time comes where we have to all get into our respective vans and go off to the airports.  I was taking a train from Chicago to Michigan for my two weeks off so it was just better for me to take the van to Chicago and go about things that way.  I had it arranged that for like thirty dollars or something like that the driver would take me right into the city, which he probably didn't mind since he was likely making about three hundred bucks on the trip alone just dropping people off at the airports.

He drops the folks off at the airports and for the last twenty miles or so of the trip it's me, alone for the first and last time in one of these vans.  I never realized that there was a sign on the inside of the sliding door listing the rules of the vehicle.  One of which read "Fine For Vomiting Inside Van: One Hundred Dollars.

This always puzzled me.  Did the Jam Van drivers have this widespread of a vomiting problem that they all had to sit down and have a conference to discuss the fine system.  I don't imagine they had a union, so making the vomit ban the same across the board must have proven challenging.  I can only imagine how heated the conference to figure out what the fine was going to be.

That's all for now.  If you happen to have something that needs to be written and on the quick, be sure to leave a message and we can talk terms.  Also, if you have something that is a smaller project and you need done quickly http://fiverr.com/sandidanrackley is the place to go.  Thanks for reading.

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