Sunday, June 25, 2017

Internal Clocks and Virtual Speedometers

When your body is strapped into a driver's seat, it undergoes many changes. Mine certainly has. The human's normal perception of time is warped into what I call... The Transit Zone. Compared to how I felt and believed at the start of this career, I'm a radically-altered person. This blog was meant to describe what it's like to be a transit operator, so here's a look at how I've evolved.

Keeping in touch with your body's needs and changes is imperative if you plan on living past this career. I've not gained any weight since I began driving a bus. In fact, I've beaten the odds and actually lost some extra pounds. The methodology however, isn't as healthy as my weight maintenance stats sound. There are many factors which determine this outcome. First, I just don't eat as much as I once did. I'm not a kid any more, and my portions are smaller I believe, because my metabolism is slower. While it does take physical energy to drive a bus, now that I'm a few years into it, my body is acclimated to the job. My diet consists of a hearty breakfast, several snacks during my route, then dinner when I get home. I found that if I eat a meal in the middle of my shift, I tend to get sleepy. This is not an ideal state when you're operating a 20-ton vehicle with precious cargo aboard. So I eat nuts or chips as my body asks for fuel. I drink copious amounts of water, and I bring soda along too. Sure, it's not the healthiest of diets. But it works for me. When I'm hungry, I eat. If things work right, I get enough fuel every day. Hopefully I burn as much as ingest. After I've been home a few hours, I strap on the snore inhibitor and snooze for nine hours before I rinse and repeat.

Time is a category that all bus drivers find is a major focal point, but one we treat differently than people in other professions. We have to be punctual (early) to work, and are expected to remain on time during our entire shift. It's a stressor we gradually adapt to. Yet as the years accumulate, time becomes something other than what we've been accustomed to. Days of the week change names depending on what days off you have. Some people take Tuesday/Wednesday off, so Monday is actually their Friday. When somebody asks me what day of the week it is, I have to think before answering, because my interpretation of the work week is entirely different than that of most folks.

I sign runs for about 10 hours a day. Anything more is too demanding. Already middle-aged when I signed on, it's important to pace myself. Years on the Extra Board added to the aging process. Other than that, the word "time" is broken down into "runs." One run, from one end to the other, takes "x" amount of time. I know the route is just over three round trips. The run is broken down into "time points." These are geographical locations along a route where the transit agency expects us to arrive as close to "on time" as possible. Between these points, I'm oblivious as to the actual time of day unless someone asks me. If you do a run long enough, you can pretty much tell someone what the time of day is without looking at your watch or onboard computer screen. I've developed a system for getting through a shift by breaking it into runs. Halfway through my day, I know there are two round trips left before the garage-bound deadhead. During a break, I may consult my watch to make sure I don't overstay my allotted time, but after a while I can tell when a break is about over just by my internal clock.

Speed is something I've come to feel without glancing at the speedometer. I'm too busy watching the scene in front of and around me. I check air pressure when I'm stopped, and other gauges as well. But when I'm rolling, I can feel when I've accelerated to just under the speed limit. My foot just automatically eases off the pedal. I watch the traffic lights and know when they will change. A line trainer once told me to keep my foot covering the brake unless I'm accelerating, and this advice quite often saves my posterior aspect. A stale green light is something I can predict changing about 90% of the time. Considering Portland's antiquated light synchronization system, that's pretty accurate.

One of our trainers told us that eventually, the "good" operator will be able to judge how long to stay at a service stop with a red light ahead. I am never in a hurry, unlike many other motorists on the road. I'll sit tight, and just when I see the left-turn arrow go green, I'll shut the doors and roll up to the intersection just as the through traffic light changes to green. I pass by all those busy bees who were frantically passing my bus as I patiently sat back and enjoyed a refreshing sip of ice water. This also adds to the comfort of my passengers. If I'm not racing to each red light and slamming down on the brakes as I get there, they are spared the forward-backward momentum swings this kind of driving produces. A smooth roll is part of my daily mantra, and I take pride in my ride.

Turning is another function that becomes routine, but no matter how experienced you are, this requires special attention. Veterans have become one with the bus, and know exactly when and how much to turn the wheel. Watching mirrors while simultaneously checking activity in front and to the sides is automatic. If we see something that isn't right, we stop. I've stopped a bus in the middle of an intersection for a good 10 seconds, blocking cross traffic that has the green light, because somebody has entered my safety zone. Doesn't affect me now, but it scared the hell out of me when I was green. Now I just stop and stare at the offender. Once they figure out how to get out of the way, I proceed. Usually these days it's fun to roll past people (with inches to spare) who have pulled up a bit too much, but not too far that I can't complete the turn. Their eyes get as wide as saucers, but if they just stay put, a professional can maneuver a vehicle safely around them.

Yeah, I can be cranky sometimes. I honk at danger, shake my head at everyday foolishness. Various parts of my body hurt, so I change my posture in the seat. When something scary happens, it's easier now to let it slide off my shoulder. Hey, I perform a vital function to Portland's economy. Gotta keep the wheels rolling. As long as my mind and body are in harmony, I'll get you where you need to go. Safely, smoothly and all with a smile. That's how I roll.

Thanks for riding.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I'm Gonna Honk at Ya

Somebody asked today why I haven't posted lately. "You've been quiet," he said. Ayup. Sometimes it's best to give it a rest. With all we've gone through the past month, I needed time to reflect. Now I'm feeling a bit ornery again, so let's see where my fingers go today.

To honk, or not? 'Tis the dilemma we face. Management says DON'T. Veterans are of differing opinions, and probies are just plain nervous about it. I say, if it needs doing, HONK THE HELL OUTTA THEM. It's a teaching moment. It's warning people of impending doom. If you've driven a bus long enough, you know when that happens. If you've never driven a bus before, you're in upper management and your opinion will sway in the direction of what the public wants. Here's my take on it.

If you run into the path of a bus hoping it will stop in time to avoid making Imbecile Tartare out of you, but to actually think that driver will give you a ride, I'm gonna honk at you.

If you ride a bike without hands on the bars while you text away, then swerve in front of my bus, I'm going to definitely honk at your foolish ass as I brake to a stop to avoid hitting you. Count on it. No, BET on it. Maybe next time you'll attempt to think before performing such duh-worthiness.

If you're too impatient to wait behind my bus for 10 seconds while I drop off a passenger, then zip around me as I'm closing the doors to make a right-hand turn from the left lane as I start to roll, I'm not only gonna honk at you, I'm going to push the horn button so long and hard it damages the steering column and hopefully also your hearing. You might think this rude, or even aggressive. I think maybe my reaction might make you realize that waiting an extra 5-10 seconds could someday save your life, and that my honking wakes you to this fact.

If you pass my bus while the YIELD sign is flashing, and you're speeding up to close in on the 3, 4, or 5 cars who have already ignored it, then honk and flip me off when I lumber into the lane before you get there, then yeah, I'm using my horn. You don't have the right to endanger the safety of the 50 people I'm giving a ride while you rush to the next red light.

If you exit my bus, ignoring the sign above the door that reads "Don't Cross In Front of Bus," then do just that, even though the impatient fools behind me are racing around me across the double-yellow line, for your safety and my sanity, I'm certainly going to activate my loud warning device. Oh, and you're welcome for saving your life after you look up from your phone long enough to see Freddy 4x4 shredding rubber where you might have stepped a moment earlier when you heard my horn over your headphones.

Even though Portland is evidently so broke it can't re-paint lines and BUS ONLY on its transit mall (and too wishy-washy to enforce its own laws), if you disobey the still-legible (albeit ridiculously high and small) street signs warning you to stay the hell out of the two right-hand lanes, rest assured you will hear two mighty blasts from my horn. You'll most likely also hear an even louder horn from the 100,000 lb. light rail vehicle bearing down on you.

If you're an Uber/Lyft driver who insists the transit mall bus lane is the perfect place for you to pick up fares, I'm definitely gonna honk at you. Not only is it rude and against your company's rules to conduct business there, but it's extremely dangerous to your passengers. Expect to be honked at by MOST bus drivers if you make a habit of this foolishness.

When you see a bus stopped ahead for no apparent reason, but decide you're going to pass it anyway, I'm going to lay on that horn until even the dimmest of lights come on in your empty skull. Perhaps you didn't see my hand frantically waving out the window, or the 4-way flashers activate in a desperate attempt to get your attention. The pedestrian or bicyclist who was just creamed in the roadway doesn't need your wheels adding to their pain. Slow down and stop. I don't just stop for no reason. We see things most people don't. You look 10 feet in front of your vehicle's nose; we scan a 180+ degree view 12-15 seconds ahead of us. Pay attention, or yes, you will be honked at. Somebody's life could be at stake; maybe even your own.

If I pull over because an emergency vehicle with lights and sirens is coming in the opposite direction, and you plus five more bozos behind you decide it's the best time to zip around my bus before pulling over, I will honk at you. What if someone in your family is the one in need of help? Just do the right thing and get the hell out of their way; I will be out of your way soon enough.

When traffic is inching along at rush hour, and your light turns yellow, don't just roll into the intersection anyway and end up blocking traffic which has just been awarded the green light. You selfish punk, didn't your mommy teach you any manners? If I've been sitting through three light cycles only to finally have my progress delayed by your me-first impatience. Yeah, you'll get a special helping of Horn Swonkle.

If you just bought your nightly 120-pack of Bud at the 7-11 and expect me to allow you to inch into traffic when I've been waiting several minutes to make the light, don't just pull out in front of me while expecting a smile, a blown kiss and a bouquet of flowers. Nah. I'm gonna honk as a warning to keep your precious Prius pristine. Besides, I'm already late and letting you in when your wait time has been zero means I'll miss yet another green. Sorry, but I've already smoked your cigar, and I hate paperwork.

If you weave on your bike from sidewalk to bus lane, to auto lane back to bus lane and sidewalk, you'll hear a hearty honk. And when you flash that sign language temper tantrum for daring to alert you of the folly of your behavior, I'll add a polite little beep-beep. To me, it is the perfect response to your gesture; it sounds a bit like "ass-hole."

No, I'm not horn-happy. I typically have to honk every day, but if I didn't, there would be a lot of messes to clean up. It's a warning device. For those who politely co-exist with transit, I truly appreciate you. When you show me kindness and patience, I wave my thanks. With all five fingers.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Newbies, Listen Up!

I've met a few "newbies" lately. They remind me of what it's like to come into this job, a tad nervous and learning from those who have been here a while. I encourage them to ask me anything, because any question they might think "stupid" can't be anything as foolish as my initial inquiries were. The only "dumb question" is the one never asked.

Just to get where they are is an accomplishment. A trainer once told me that of 50 applicants for an operator's job, only one is hired. Of approximately 20 hired for each class, only 15 make it past probation. We're screened and vetted more thoroughly than a politician, and this job pays considerably less. An applicant's personality and ability to deal with the public is more important to management than driving skills, although a clean driving record is obviously a must. Our trainers can take a new hire from terrified behind the wheel to confidently rolling the wheels of these 20-ton beasts. Line trainers show them the "real world" scenarios they'll be experiencing, and how to safely maneuver through six months of intense probation.

Transit operators are some of the most intensely-trained drivers in the world. Once we leave the nurturing guidance of trainers, we glean reams of information regarding our job just by doing it. We're also required to attend annual recertification classes. I've also heard now we'll all be evaluated once a year by trainers who will be giving us "check rides" to ensure we're maintaining safe driving practices. No other professional drivers are scrutinized or trained as thoroughly as we are, yet our agency rarely trumpets our professionalism. All they hear is what the media's talking heads want them to, which is negative. Whenever there's a collision, major injury or incident, someone is always muttering about how we "need more training." Actually, the texting motorists not paying attention who mostly cause these collisions are those most in need of instruction.

Life at Center before the remodel.
With the exception of some people who begin this career at an early age and continue through their retirement, many enter this field later in our working lives. Many have led successful careers in radically different professions. Strike up a conversation with a "newbie" in his/her 50s, you'll often find they've had amazing paths in life prior to working in transit. I've spoken with some operators who earned PhD's to find themselves as bus operators, simply for the benefits.

This is an intensely-more difficult job than most think it is. Transit operation is one of the most deadly professions today. It takes an immense toll on a person's mind, body and soul. Just a few years into the job, my physical health has quickly deteriorated, making me feel about 10 years older than my actual age. I've felt pain in parts of my body that have until recently were fine. An operator's seat may appear comfortable, but it is truly a torture device. After just over an hour at a time in this seat, I often leave it limping like an octogenarian who is leaving his bed for the first time after hip replacement surgery. In one 75-minute stretch, my right foot depresses the brake pedal at least 250 times. It takes a lot of finely-tuned pressure to smoothly stop a bus, and when you perform a physical operation over 1,000 times a day, it tends to ruin body parts. Tell that to a Workman's Comp doctor and they'll insist it's from a "previous injury." Do yourselves a favor and indulge yourselves in regular massages and trips to a chiropractor.

New drivers who read this might think, "this guy should just retire, he's just another bitchy old-timer." Seriously, I'm simply a realist with a few years in the seat. There are things I need to be doing to offset the damage this job causes my body, and I'm working on exercising and stretching more often. It's too easy to become complacent and not listen to the body's needs. Unless you want to retire into a casket, heeding these warnings is crucial. You need money when first starting this job, because the initial pay is dismal. You tend to work more days, sign the Extra Board, and find other ways to chase that first paycheck comma. After a while however, it will catch up to you.

Pre-remodel brothers enjoying a game.
These days, I just roll over and go back to sleep when I see a phone call from my garage in the middle of the night. They're just begging people to work their days off. Sure, I could use the extra money. The government gets a big chunk of it, and this guy just wants to live long enough to spend what he already makes. That's usually just enough to cover the monthly essentials.

Take care, you newbies. Congrats on making it this far. Stay safe, don't take unnecessary chances, and never be afraid to ask a veteran driver that question you might be embarrassed to ask. It might just save you a shitload of grief. Just remember we've all been where you are. If you're smart and cautious, someday you'll be where we are.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Another Slap in the Face

Gee, let's protect those who harass transit workers
and disrupt service, like this guy.
I'd rather not.

A few months ago, several Amalgamated Transit Union 757 members testified before an Oregon House of Representatives committee on House Bill 2717, which increases penalties for those convicted of assaulting public transit employees. As it stands now, an assault on one of us is only a serious crime if we are rolling wheels while in the seat. The new bill broadens the scope to include assault on any transit "employee... assaulted while acting in the scope of employment."

The new bill would provide more protection to operations employees who may not be driving at the moment of an assault, but are performing duties related to transit. This would (hopefully) include operators who are waiting to relieve another operator, supervisors in the field, and mechanics making sure our wheels keep rolling. It's a step forward, considering an increasing number of people think nothing of punching, stabbing, slapping, spitting on or threatening us simply for doing what we're paid to do.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Senate decided to sponsor SB 357A, which is another criminal-coddling measure that will reduce the penalties for those convicted of Interfering with Public Transit. Several people have testified in support of this bill, saying that the law as it stands disproportionately affects people of color. One person in support of the bill states "Fear-based protective measures which are achieved through the increased criminalization of poverty have been proven not to protect society, instead only increasing the historical burdens weighted upon the shoulders of communities of color and low income." I'm sorry, but breaking a law isn't the fault of society, but of the person who commits the crime.

Interfering with Public Transit has little to do with "poverty." Sure, poor people can't always afford to pay, and jailing them for fare evasion is similar to a form of debtors' prison. Why not separate Fare Evasion from IPT? To reduce punishment for the larger problem of troublemakers interrupting the flow of transit would only encourage more mayhem on our rides. Our transit agency has a new habit, as a brother of ours states, of "trying to be everything to everybody, while failing on every front." Management has eroded any sense of control of our vehicles, when it was once understood that we were truly Captains of the Ship. This bill would further erode our ability to maintain a peaceful and safe atmosphere for the majority of those who pay their fare AND behave in a civil manner while riding, by coddling people who don't pay. Fare evaders are often the main source of trouble and disruption of our duties. It doesn't matter what color their skin is, or the amount of money they have. I've had miscreants and social mutants of all points on the socio-economic scale.

Instead of further weakening penalties for criminals, shouldn't we be working toward a safer transit system for all? Those who shout obscenities, harass other passengers, insult and assault operators and other transit employees are like ragweed growing in a park once graced with flowing, perfect grass. Nobody wants to get down on their hands and knees to remove the problem plants, but failure to do so allows the weeds to reproduce on a greater scale. Many fare evaders I deal with ask if they can ride free, and are usually polite about it. As the district has instructed us, I no longer refuse rides for lack of fare. I still warn them they're riding at their own risk, but this falls on deaf ears because the word is out: nobody in management or law enforcement seems to care if you pay.

Separate the two, but don't lessen the penalties for troublemakers. In fact, since incidents are mostly caused by those who have mental illness, why not increase funding for their treatment? Jail sentences don't do anything for their ailments or lift them out of poverty. However, insisting that operators act as mental health professionals while continuing to erode our benefits is beyond insulting. We're the scapegoats, it seems for every negative transit occurrence, be it mayhem, murder or collisions. It's easy to blame us, rather than take responsibility for poor management and legislative failure.

Whatever happened to common sense in government? Oh wait, those two terms shouldn't be used together, because they rarely happen concurrently.

Deke's Note: Please remember to call your state legislator and voice support for HB 2717, which stiffens penalties for those who assault us. The bill is moving slowly through the House, and is now languishing in the Ways and Means Committee. No vote has been scheduled, but now is the time to add your voice. If we don't speak out as ONE, we can't blame anyone but ourselves for allowing it to fail.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Challenge to Management

"Operators should be better trained at de-escalating tense situations," said the public several times after the horrific murders on our light rail. As if these things wouldn't happen if only the drivers had better training.

What a load of crap. How about this, folks? We drive a bus or a light rail vehicle. In order to properly handle the mentally ill passengers who ride transit daily, we'd need a PhD in psychiatry. A few classes here and there ain't gonna give us the ability to talk a tweaked-out druggie or a mentally-disabled person out of creating mayhem.

People don't realize that when we're operating a vehicle, we're constantly performing calculations, precise physical maneuvers, and watching every which way for potential trouble. When problems arise on our vehicle, it's usually one person making everyone else's life miserable. We stop the bus, determine who the troublemaker is, and ask them to leave the bus. This requires a certain amount of finesse and a loud, authoritative voice. If the person becomes violent because they choose not to respect our position, they will often assault us. How we react is scrutinized ad nauseum by a management team that has little or no empathy for us.

My suggestion is for management to train the public, to warn them not to assault us or they will take drastic measures against our transgressors. It's called "having our backs." Instead, they usually kick our backsides. It's inhumane to those who make the wheels roll, but we seem to be easy targets.

I've been told by many who have worked transit for decades that there once was harmony between management and the union employees. There was respect, even some admiration flying in both directions. Not today. Now we're subject to review and suspensions if we fart in the wrong direction. This must stop in order to restore our transit agency to the top spot, but it won't.

I challenge our top management, and its rubber-stamping governor-appointed governing board, to do the right thing. Take our training and actually drive some miles in the seat. Perhaps then you'll understand what it takes to do our job. Unless, of course, you're chicken. You're pretty safe in that ivory tower.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Switching Lanes and Obscenities

Self portrait.

It gets a bit boring for me to do the same route every signup, so I tend to switch back and forth. Driving the same route all the time tends to make the job dull and predictable. It also allows for complacency, a trait that has only brought me sorrow.

This week I bounced into a route I haven't driven for a while. It's a bit more challenging, with more rush hour traffic, different people and a change of scenery. Some of the passengers remembered me and were surprised when I opened the door at their stops. It's nice to be remembered and to catch up with them. Some of my former regulars have altered schedules from when I last saw them.

Driving a different route is also a good way to address bad habits one develops over time. Various body parts have been giving me trouble lately. Sore shoulders can point to poor posture and hand placement on the wheel. I've switched to using my weak hand, which is weird but places less pressure on the side which is sore. You don't realize bad habits until something starts to hurt. Regular massages help, and that's become more of a necessity than a luxury for me. Operator seats are not as comfortable as they appear. You'd think a machine that costs half a million smackers would include a seat engineered with the operator's comfort and health in mind, but they don't. Of course, there are all shapes and sizes of us, and what works for one person can be a nightmare for the next. The newer buses accommodate a larger person easier than the older models. Driving a newer bus, even though it might be a tad comfier for a big guy, presents driving challenges with the expanded front end. I still don't know why they added a few more feet to the front end. It presents vision barriers which have been proven to be deadly. They also make turns a bit more difficult.

Many of us rarely get the same bus every day. It takes a while to remember (by feel) where certain controls are located. Once you feel comfortable, it's usually toward the end of a shift. Then you get another model the next day. So not only are you struggling with seat controls to find the "sweet spot," but your left hand is roaming around the side panel like a teenager's clumsy first attempts at petting. Sometimes you find the right button, others involve a painful rebuke.

The first day was pretty easy. Traffic was light and I was able to make some valuable observations. I studied the paddle (schedule) and found the "bubbles" where it's possible to make time and where it might be necessary to burn some extra minutes. These things were stored deep in memory and all came flooding back as I drove. Since management has its tighty-whities in a bunch over schedule, I've been paying closer attention to time points and such. (The schedule-bangers still piss me off, but it's not a battle I'm gonna win, so I just do my best and keep driving safely and smoothly.) It seems I'm doing something right, because my OTP (on-time performance) numbers are at 90%. That's pretty damn good, and if they think they can do better, it would be fun to watch them try.

Some passengers actually said they missed me. That's nice to hear. I work very hard at providing them a smooth ride. Evidently, some of their recent operators have been of the bump-and-grind variety. Passengers have also noticed I don't tolerate much more than passing obscenities. When language becomes too predictably vile, I tend to creatively steer them toward more polite discourse. This seems to have resonated with many of the regulars, because younger people have a limited vocabulary. One guy found this out the hard way. He cursed me and was immediately invited to revisit the sidewalk. "Fuck" me, you say? Nah. I'm exit-only. Tell it to the mirror and find the nearest exit, Rudy.

The word "fuck" has many uses. It can be a noun, verb, pronoun, adverb, adjective; it's also a common form of punctuation and even a prefix. However it's used, this expletive has become too common. It's unnecessary. Problem is, many think it's "okay" to verbally fornicate with regularity. They often , and their "freedom of speech" is at stake. My position: learn better grammar. Read a fucking book, dumbass. Preferably a classic, when profanity wasn't as common as goose turds in downtown Milwaukie. Maybe then, your vocabulary will improve. Otherwise, keep your gutter mouth outta my damn bus. Try watching Mr. Rogers reruns for cryin' out loud.

My summer work is hard, but a refreshing change. I was late a lot this week. This aging body is feeling its age. But I get to regularly view our city skyline from a uniquely picturesque vantage point. I no longer dread going to work. Learning a new schedule has my brain engaged on a higher level. My next book is based on this route. The wheels are moving in new directions, my tanks are charging, and I hope to meet more interesting people over the summer. The paycheck should improve a bit, and with any luck, my book will finally hit the online shelves.

Summer's almost here, and I'm all for it. Let the sun shine, and will someone please turn off the fucking rain? Thank you.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

JUST DRIVE! The Book Is Closer

I thought, "Gee, I've already written the posts. Putting a book together should be easy." Yeah right, Twinkle Fingers. After a year of work on it, the book "Just Drive -- Life in the Bus Lane" should be available within a month or three.

The first part was easy. I pored over my blog posts, selecting those I thought were good candidates for the book. It was fun reading my early, sometimes yawn-inducing and clumsy pieces. It was interesting watching my career unfold from greenhorn to hardened road warrior. When I had the list finished, I began to pull the posts into a file and giving them the first edit. This took a few months, because this aspiring author also had to, well, drive a bus. It's hard work and takes a lot out of a middle-aged perfectionist. About three nights a week, I'd be up late bringing them up to par.

When I started this project, the blog had about 60,000 hits. I didn't want to stop writing new posts, so it was a challenge to both work on the book project while also writing new material. When I had my first draft done, the blog was nearing 80,000 hits. Then it came time for my first hard edit. They say you should clean up 10-30% of the word total in editing. My first run thinned the book by nearly 20%. Two of my buddies then took it and offered edits, and I knocked off another 15%. Not quite sure it was up to my standards, I gave it another run and killed more unnecessary words, phrases and entire posts.

The final edits were finished a few months ago. It was 97% ready, but my wife read it and found a few typos and other oddities. The manuscript was finally done. Unfortunately, the work had just begun.

Writing with a pen name presents many challenges. Convincing a brother to help me out, he agreed to set up the business end. Problem is, he has a job too. Setting everything up is a major undertaking and patience is a must. We worked on a cover design, and finally found one we like. Now it needs to be set up in a file format that the publisher can work with. There's a question of whether some artwork will be included. My buddy Tom has some fun caricatures of my alter ego that might find their way into the finished book.

While one of us is setting up the business, this guy is studying how to prepare the finished files to send to Amazon. It's a slow process, but if we don't do it right then it could just end up a big old sloppy flop. So patience is paramount. It's always been my dream to write, design and publish my own book. The finish line is coming into view. Soon I'll know if all this work ends up making us a few bucks. Maybe we'll end up with enough for a few bottles of good Irish whisky, or perhaps more. Either way, it's been a learning experience. Thanks once again to you all for your support these past four years.

Oh, and since I started the book the blog has doubled in its hit counter. We're now up over 125,000 hits!

I've seen many of you, and heard your question, "Where's the book, Deke?" Answer is, soon. Thanks for your patience. I'll need your help with marketing, please. And for those of you who know me by sight, please remember to keep the secret amongst us. I'll sign yours, "Truly, Deke."