Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I Hit the Jackpot! (Not.)

The recent readership explosion of this blog has also shown a marked increase of advertising revenue. Numbers of "clicks" have exploded, leaving me with a giddy sense of excitement thanks to added income to my struggling coffers.

This has me dreaming of possible vacations. Shall I return to Hawaii? A trip to Ireland, Italy, Spain or the coast of Marseilles? Will the Deacon realize his dream to emulate Steinbeck's cross country odyssey in a brandy-new camper-adorned pickup truck? Can I finally roam carefree in our nation's capitol, spending a week or two exploring the Smithsonian and all of DC's wonderful sights?

Sigh. I guess not. Since I sneakily allowed ads on my blog earlier this year, I've made a whopping buck-fitty or so. Not exactly a bundle. More like a haphazard mound of pennies. Just about enough to plunk a few quarters down and take a few spins on the Redneck Retirement Plan slot machines.

Seems I'd have better luck dressing in ratty clothes, sporting a makeshift sign out of cardboard reading "Anything Helps...My Retirement Fund is Woefully Short" and standing out on the street with a tin cup.

So it's off to the shower with me. Time to don the uniform blues and make my way downtown to catch... er drive... a bus.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Instant Karma Strikes Again!

"Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna look you right in the face
Better get yourself together darlin'
Join the human race
How in the world you gonna see
Laughin' at fools like me
Who in the hell d'you think you are
A super star? 
Well, right you are!"

--John Lennon, Instant Karma

Two amusing "karmic" things happened while driving my office today.

After an excruciatingly rough week, I managed to remain courteous and upbeat. It was my Friday, and I was determined to make it a nice day. Of course, there's always someone to make it challenging.

When an aggressive driver zipped past both my bus and the car stopped behind me as I pulled from a service stop, she broke three traffic laws. First, she was speeding and driving aggressively; she passed in a turning lane; and she failed to yield to a transit vehicle. A minute later as I scanned ahead leaving the next stop, I saw her truck sideways in the turning lane, with another vehicle angled in front of hers. Although their vehicles weren't damaged, she was screaming at the other driver through his passenger window while banging on his car for emphasis. The other driver appeared to be calling the police. After I cruised by this road rage a cop car sped past, evidently en route to the scene. My only regret is I didn't stop and offer my services as a witness. The cameras on the bus surely captured her antics, but I didn't see what happened. Hopefully, she was cited.

Later as I boarded passengers at a stop shared by different lines, Azzho #2 stood with her back to the bus door talking to someone. She made no effort to board my bus. Nor did she signal that she wanted to board. So I closed the door. At this point she gave the common arms up "HEY!" response, so I reopened the door. Big mistake.

"You're two minutes late and I need to get to work!"

"No ma'am, I'm exactly on-time."

"Don't argue with me, you're late. Now just shut up and drive." Then she walked to the back of the bus, an apparent move by the ignorant arrogants to show they need not treat me with respect, that they're safe in the back of the bus where most shenanigans happen anyway. But I shrugged it off. One more run and my weekend was on. Her rudeness rolled off my shoulder into the trash can.

After I made the right turn onto a major street, this passenger jumped up and said "Hey this is supposed to be the 79!"

"No ma'am," I replied with a smile, "it's the 33." I realized I was going to enjoy this next exchange.

"Your sign said it was the 79."

Well Ms. Dipstick apparently hadn't looked at the overhead signs, so I locked it up at the next stop, got out and checked. Sure enough, the signs were both correct.

So not only did I let her off several blocks from the nearest 79 stop, I made sure not to give her a courtesy stop. You don't treat me like crap and then get a bonus. So her rude behavior resulted in her walking four blocks to catch a bus that would surely be gone by the time she finally got there.

She disregarded all safety concerns and darted across five lanes of a busy street, cursing me the whole way. As if it was my fault she's a jerk, idiot and an imbecile all rolled into one.

Not sure who lit their fuses, but I would imagine both were pretty short to begin with. It was rewarding to see the results.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Just Drive... Asshole

It's been a particularly rough week. Without going into details that might later reveal my identity, let's just say I was the victim of a brutal verbal assault. It happens from time to time, but rarely on my route.

As a bus operator, I'm used to it. People seem to think I'm there to serve them, as if I'm their personal freakin' chauffeur. What they don't understand, or even believe, is that riding a bus is a privilege, not a right. Just because you plunk down a few bucks plus change doesn't give you the right to boss me around. Quite the opposite is true, especially if they decide to make their own rules.

When I'm behind the wheel, it's my bus. Not the transit agency's, not the taxpayers, not those riding in it. I am the captain of the ship. It is my duty to safely transport passengers on a specific route to their destination. Abiding by our Standard Operating Procedures, I am paid to operate a vehicle that is difficult, at best, to operate. In addition to following the law, something most motorists refuse to do, it takes a professional to maneuver 20 tons of glass and steel along narrow streets originally designed for horse-drawn carriages.

A person of average intelligence might deduce it isn't in their best interest to annoy, harass, insult or even assault a bus operator. Most people do not. But there's about one percent of the riding public which seems to delight in it. Professional assholes, you might say. They might be mentally ill, but whatever their excuse, they still don't have the right to put the entire bus in danger. Unless our attention is strictly focused on safely operating our bus, we become a "distracted driver". This is the most dangerous of all the species of humanis operatus, but the most common of the average auto/truck/delivery drivers. The safest of the lot are 100% in tune with their vehicle's surroundings, and constantly predict dangerous behavior in and around it. This requires complete concentration with very little distraction.

Sometimes, I will chastise a passenger if they're chatting a bit too loudly on their phone, or if I can hear the music in their earphones. It's distracting, and takes me out of my safety zone. General conversation on the bus is white noise, just like the diesel engine. When a passenger erupts into a vile, profane and ignorant tirade when a bus operator asks them to abide by agency rules, they have put the entire bus at risk, and everyone within it.

So when Jim Jerkoff, who is highly impressed with himself or on dumbass pills, decides he doesn't have to obey me, things can turn sour. Fast. By cursing, shouting and screaming at me, he hasn't just dented my safety zone, he has demolished it. Rather than elaborate on our heated exchange, here's what I dearly would love to say to one of these imbeciles, but cannot if I want to remain employed.

JJ: "Shut the fuck up, don't tell me what to do. I pay your salary so shut up. Just drive Asshole." (Comma omitted on purpose.)

Me (over bus intercom): "Ladies and gentlemen, at our next stop I must ask you all to disembark from this bus. I've been instructed to 'just drive Asshole'. Since there's only one person on this bus fitting that description, I'm sorry but all you polite and decent people must leave so I can carry out his command. Thank you for riding, be sure to thank Asshole for this inconvenience."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Signup Shenanigans

Signups are a stressful deal, especially here these days. For the first time in years I was able to jump off the Extra Board into some work I truly enjoy for this signup. I was dreading the next one...

As you put in years as a bus driver, you expect a few things to happen. First, the more you drive, the more experience you gain. This makes you more valuable, and above all, safer. Years of driving are also supposed to give you seniority. I've been climbing the ladder gradually, but I defer to those of my brothers and sisters who have toiled at this for centuries. (One year as a driver can age us 3-5 years, so if someone has been doing it 20-30, yeah I'd say it must feel close to 100.) With seniority should come the "plum" runs, the juicy ones that are off early and pay nicely. Senior drivers have earned the right to pick these.

When your transit agency alters runs so that senior drivers are now getting what they aptly describe as "shit", they have a tendency, and a right, to be angry. A sister friend of mine said she had to sign something that's out six hours later than she did this time. Six hours later. That's not right. She's been an operator for many years more than I have. Now she has to scramble to rearrange her life because some bean counters say so?

Apparently, there were supposed to be two options hung at the garages, so operators could compare, then vote on their preference. This did not happen.

I've only driven under a handful of years, so I don't expect the cream of the crop. We all have to bide our time, put in the years and climb up the seniority ladder. However, this time I ended up with three runs which give me over 10 hours overtime a week. This is something I shouldn't expect for a few years yet. Even though this is good for my bank account, I feel as if I'm cheating my senior brothers and sisters out of something they should have.

One of the "powers that be" at our agency is on vacation this week, so no resolution is immediately foreseeable. An option for this mess is to scrap the whole signup and start over again, or to keep what we have and try to change it for next time. The latter solution is certainly not a popular choice.

If this is a ploy by the agency to set union members to squabbling amongst ourselves, it's a pretty good plan. The union meeting a few nights ago was full of grumbling senior operators. The executive officers could only tell us to fill out the survey forms and voice our frustrations there. Since they agreed to this mess, the membership is pretty put off by their actions.

The newest drivers seem to have the best picks this time. I've benefited where I shouldn't have. While I truly like what I picked, it feels cheap... stolen. After putting in 10-15 years or more, I would feel cheated if I were one of the senior operators. I hope that once I get there, I'm not thrown under the bus like they have been this time. It's a terrible way to treat the most valuable operators we have.

Sorry, my brothers and sisters. Fair is fair, and I will fight for your seniority. You've earned it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Road Relief

Evidently, people from all over the world are readers of this blog. Many of you share my occupation, so you understand when I say we're not paid enough of the hours we're actually in uniform.

When you meet your bus en route, also known as a road relief, operators here are expected to not only be on time, but to arrive early. If you take public transit to your road relief, you're expected to be two buses (or trains) ahead of your scheduled run start time. However, we're only paid pennies on the dollar for road reliefs. A couple of bucks is not proper compensation for getting there early and waiting. If your buses only run every 20 minutes, you can arrive up to 40 minutes or more prior to your road relief time. So for 20-40 minutes each day, I'm actually giving my time away.

Hey I don't expect to be paid for travel time from home to work. But if my actual "work" begins before my scheduled time and I'm not being paid for it, there's a problem. While waiting for my bus to arrive, I am asked questions at least five times a day. I'm in uniform, expected to represent the agency, but I'm not being compensated for my time. If I get relieved on the road, I should be compensated for the time it takes to get from the relief to my home garage because only then am I truly "off the clock".

Just throwing in my two cents here. But I'm curious... of you readers who hail from transit agencies around the world and in this country (USA), what is your road relief pay? What are your thoughts on compensating operators for all the time we spend in uniform but are not being paid? Please either comment under this post, or drop me a line at deaconinblue@gmail.com, or on the FaceBook post this article appears under.

Thanks and stay safe out there folks!