Saturday, September 20, 2014

Operators the New Punching Bag

Dawn reveals most of our buses are already "out there", with operators safely delivering passengers.

Once again, one of our operators was attacked while de-boarding a woman described as "crazy". Apparently unprovoked, she punched, pulled the hair and scratched a driver's eye.

Crazy Rider has reportedly done this before. The road supe said she'd hit him recently and the police had arrested her five times in the past month! As for our victim operator, she reportedly continued on route. I wish she'd been removed from duty and transported for medical care, for her sake. It is a common mistake for injured people to bravely decline medical treatment. I truly hope she's okay.

This MUST be dealt with. But how?

Operating a bus is much more than it appears. We're tasked with taking fare and dispensing receipts, keeping watch over our passengers for their own safety, in addition to keeping those around our bus safe. As for me, I don't care whether someone shows me a lottery ticket or a bus pass when they board. I'm a fare informer, not a fare inspector. In fact, I'm told that breed of district employee is extinct. Since the position was eliminated by our unwise district management, I have not had a single authority figure check fares on my bus. Not once in over a year. If I give, on average, over 300 people a ride each day, then about 70,000 people have ridden my bus in that time period. Given the propensity for some people to cheat the system, you can bet at least 1,000 (or more) have shown me expired or otherwise invalid fare.

I don't care, either. Since I began driving a bus, several of my brothers and sisters have been attacked. Some have been critically injured. Do I think a simple bus fare is worth arguing over? Absofreakinlutely not. This latest attack on a sister, however, was reportedly unprovoked. Evidently, the passenger (I hesitate to use a more profane descriptor) was deboarding when she turned around and attacked the operator.

Luckily, I have never been attacked. Some people I know, not so lucky. How would I act? Male bravado dictates I'd open a 5,000 gallon barrel of whupass on the freak. I'm not so sure how I could do that while facing a knife, gun, brass knuckles or any other weapon. Chances are good the attacker would strike when I'm least prepared to defend myself. District operating procedures dictate we not leave the seat during an "incident". I suppose it's better for them if we're sitting ducks. Public punching bags. Fist targets. Spit receptors. Hair donators. Blood donors.

Are we poised for a fall, like this log?
Which leads me to the disgust I feel for the district's inaction when it comes to driver attacks. Sure, the media relations people spout off about how they're "very concerned with the operator's well being, and are conducting a thorough investigation". Usually, it seems they're investigating us rather than Joe Scumbag. When our sister Pamela was brutally attacked last December, my fellow ATU757 members were at the court hearings to support her. Where was anybody from the district? Nowhere to be seen. On my day off, Christmas Eve, I dressed up in my uniform blues and drove downtown with many of our fellow brothers and sisters to stand beside Pam in court as she faced her attacker. Where was our GM? Probably drinking eggnog and admiring his new light rail bridge. While they may wax eloquent to the press, mouthing "outrage" without actually expressing it, they let us down when it comes to enforcing our safety.

Evidently, it's a minor felony to assault a transit worker on the job. The district offers a piddly $1,000 for "information leading to the arrest" of suspects accused of assaulting us. It should be more like $10,000, and then perhaps people would pay closer attention. There should be an automatic jail term of at least 60 days for the guilty one, permanent exclusion from using public transportation, and lengthy probation and counseling. The district has repeatedly been asked to display photo posters of those excluded or charged with assaulting us. The most normal in appearance could be driver beaters in disguise.

If someone were to assault me, resulting in my beating the living shit out the attacker, the tables would turn. The media would headline "Bus Driver Assaults Innocent Rider". I could be fired, arrested, and sued in civil court. Except for union representatives at my side, I'd be alone, having to prove my innocence rather than the district backing me up. The "outrage" would be turned toward me, not my attacker.

Yes, we're very angry right now. The district is disrespectful of us, misrepresents our contract philosophy, and works harder to terminate than protect the very people who diligently make the wheels roll. They hire more managers while eliminating vital operations positions.

It's a dangerous job. We don't "just drive a bus", as Lars is want to say. It's brutally hard work, and deserves the community's utmost dignity and respect. We save lives, deliver people safely to their destinations, and show acts of kindness thousands of times each day. Yet out of 100 calls to customer service, it's estimated that less than five are complimentary.

I don't want a cage around me while I drive. Most riders are friendly, polite and respectful. They thank me for the ride, and wish me safety throughout my shift. I love 95% of the people who ride, and I don't want to be shielded from kindness. I just want to feel as if my safety actually means something to those whose salary is quadruple mine. And, I want to feel as if district management has my back, rather than being poised to kick my backside.

My hat is off to the Line 9 driver today. May you heal wholly, both physically and spiritually, from this horrible attack.

Peace be with you all.
DiB



13 comments:

  1. WOW! You are really doing some HARD HITTING material lately! It's excellent stuff! Keep it up!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Al. I was once a journalist, and I've been known to hit pretty hard when necessary. I truly appreciate your support!

      But this subject truly needs to be hammered, repeated, and spread around. Not just my version, but others as well. We need to be heard MORE by the public.

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  2. That operator did NOT continue on route, was taken back to the garage. But good writing.

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    1. Where is your evidence Jason? Post the call. Our information tells a different story

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    2. Well folks, I'd like to know as well, if the operator continued. I only wrote what I was told. So any clarification would be appreciated.

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    3. Jason, who is my partner on the Trimet scanner twitter feed says he 'heard' what dispatch said. However, (and he is very fond of telling me this himself) the dispatch communication is not always the story. It's quite possible that after discussion the driver did continue in route and that was not put over the air. Trimet officials have become very proficient in keeping sensitive information off the air cause they know we are listening

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    4. I am quite sure that a lot of police feel the same way Deacon but another group of people who I bet would agree with you wholeheartedly are bank employees.

      Years ago, banks provided bullet-resistant glass, security guards, and cameras to protect their employees. I have not seen bullet-resistant glass or a security guard in years. The banks have adopted a "friendly" posture at the expense of employee safety. It also probably has a lot to do with expense. It is cheaper to have a few banks robbed than it is to put in and maintain security.

      One other subject that has cause a lot of the assaults as well as a lot of other societal issues is when the courts emptied out the "mental" hospitals back in the '70s. Society was not then and is not now prepared to handle these folks. More than a few of the mass shootings were perpetrated by these folks. More than a small percentage of our homeless consists of these folks. We really need to find a humane way in which to deal with this segment of our population.

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  3. Greetings Deacon!

    It's been a while for me, so if you'll indulge me, I'm going to hit on a few subjects here. I went back through and reread your posts from about April 2014 to present.

    1) I think you are a great writer. You come off as articulate and well versed. I enjoy your point of view.

    2) You rarely (me, more often) make grammatical errors, but once in a while one slips in. I would personally ignore most, but I have three "pet peeves", and you used one of them in a post. It is "Fred Meyer", not "Fred MeyerS" (no S on the end. Drives me bonkers! (The other two are "medium" instead of "median" and "accommodation" instead of "commendation". The car is stuck in the medium. He received an accommodation for his good service. UGH! lol)

    3) I liked your explanation in a previous article about Time points. The only thing I would maybe point out as well is that the stops in between time points are an estimated time, and they are perceived times by the customer and not actual arrival/departure times they can count on. They should use the time point prior to their stop in order to catch the bus; trying to estimate a time in between time points is not a recommended practice. If they tell you that you're early at the stop three stops past your last time point but have yet to make it to your next time point, their statement is not technically true. WE DO TRY to judge our time by the Bus early/late clock but the only clock we are held to are the time points. Agree?

    continued----

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  4. continued from last comment....
    4) I missed your "survey", but here's my vote. I especially liked "Relieving myself". It's a "been there, done that, got the tee shirt" thing but each time I read it, I get this ear to ear grin on my face! Priceless!

    5) In my humble opinion, it should be noted that it does get preached while you are in your basic Bus Operator training you are told not to leave the seat, but I have always believed this logic is flawed. For starters, I'm not going to yell back at my passengers in the very back of the bus if I have a manageable situation in which the P.A. is ignored. I'm not going to sit in my seat while Joe-Drunk-off-his-butt is harassing some female teeny boppers in the back. There ARE many other situations that I would go back to deal with that space doesn't allow here, BUT BUT BUT, I would assess the situation FIRST. I'm not gonna take on a 300 lb gorilla by myself. I'm not going to take on a man and a woman in a knife fight...the doors will open and my P.A. will announce "the cops are on their way!". On a side note: I have NEVER EVER seen an SOP, Rule, written guidance of any form or kind, HR rule, NOTHING in writing that states you can't get out of your seat. YES, I am aware they instill it in your head in training. There are and will be real world situations that just won't always allow that. It's going to be a judgment call on your part. If it's not something your received on paper and signed for, can they come after you for it? I've left my seat too many times to count, but all for legitimate purposes and all where I assessed the situation first and ALL where I had the back door activated first.

    6) While I am aware that your primary focus of this blog is for the driver side of things, it is noteworthy to mention that they have also had 2 or 3 Field Supervisors assaulted in the last 6 months as well. Word is that someone in management tried to partially blame the supervisor for one of these assaults because she left her car after dark to handle the situation that, at the time, didn't look hazardous. She was told she should have stayed in her car and waited for Police, yet they are the ones who schedule only one supervisor on duty late at night. So, do your job but be psychic and know in advance when it might turn on you...if you get assaulted, you had to have done something to provoke it. Oh, and if they DO assault you, they can make a bare-minimum effort to defend themselves, and only after they have been assaulted first.

    continued-----------

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  5. continued from last comment-
    7) Speaking of Supervisors, several have told me that their boss keeps flip-flopping on them on what and how to write tickets. One week it's ok to write a certain type of ticket, then someone (the customer who got the ticket) will complain and management will come back and tell them to stop writing it. The policy and procedures change so often and they are finding out that there will be no backup if they follow what they thought were the guidelines they were supposed to follow, so some have responded by writing very few tickets at all. Too afraid it's going to get rejected or god forbid, the complainant objects. So you're letting people on with a close facsimile is not quite the plan of the day for some of these guys, but it's heading that way if they don't get their bosses support.

    In closing, I really like these paragraphs, especially the first: "Yes, we're very angry right now. The district is disrespectful of us, misrepresents our contract philosophy, and works harder to terminate than protect the very people who diligently make the wheels roll. They hire more managers while eliminating vital operations positions.

    It's a dangerous job. We don't "just drive a bus", as Lars is want to say. It's brutally hard work, and deserves the community's utmost dignity and respect. We save lives, deliver people safely to their destinations, and show acts of kindness thousands of times each day. Yet out of 100 calls to customer service, it's estimated that less than five are complimentary.

    I don't want a cage around me while I drive. Most riders are friendly, polite and respectful. They thank me for the ride, and wish me safety throughout my shift. I love 95% of the people who ride, and I don't want to be shielded from kindness. I just want to feel as if my safety actually means something to those whose salary is quadruple mine. And, I want to feel as if district management has my back, rather than being poised to kick my backside."


    Ok, my novelette is done. Again, great work! Your blog...post all or part or none of this...your call. You're doing great work Deacon.

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  6. Wow! You get the "Longest Comment" award, my beloved reader!

    First and foremost, THANK YOU for editing my posts. Since I write "on the fly", with perhaps a brief read-through before I post each piece, I'm usually without constructive criticisms such as yours. I truly appreciate the corrections... I will probably comb thru each post in search of my transgressions. I am truly a perfectionist.

    Second, your kind words are humbling. Writers feed off praise, and yours have me bursting. It is a struggle not to write just to have a post. There must be a workable idea for me to write. At the moment, I'm wordless, but maybe an idea will pop up soon.

    Do you have a workable nickname? I "get" your screen name, but it's rather awkward to address you as such. How about Chuck?

    ;)
    DiB

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  7. OK Chuck, I've searched and found what you mentioned.

    First one: Yes, it IS Fred Meyer. Corrected, and thank you.

    Second: When a driver is praised for his/her work, he/she is "commended". If they are "accommodated", they are given some sort of bargain, or deal. So when we are singled out for something positive, it is definitely a "commendation". If a driver does something special, or out of the ordinary, for a passenger, he/she is making an accommodation for that person.

    Third: The middle of a roadway, separating traffic traveling in opposite directions, is a 'median'. A spiritual advisor or a psychic could be classified as a 'medium', or my former shirt size long ago.

    Don't mean to be a jerk here. I truly appreciate your finding things I could be wrong about. I am human, prone to mistakes. But I hate making them. When I do, I fully expect Dear Readers to call me out. Then I'll fix them.

    ;)
    DiB

    ReplyDelete