Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rants and Reviews

HAPPY THANKSGIVING YA TURKEYS!


Wow, what a week. First, this blog was reviewed by Jonathan at bikeportland.org. While on one hand I appreciated the publicity and many great comments which gave me insights from the cyclists' point of view. On the other I was amazed at how many of those readers are simple boneheads. They can't distinguish satire from reality, for one. Others are liberally-infused with an unhealthy dose of hypocrisy.

While many appreciated what we do 'out there' while keeping people safe, others questioned our methods. Somehow, we're expected to be emotional robots when we avoid colliding with them, saving their lives whether they realize it or not. As our adrenaline level rockets sky-high after a near-miss with an errant bicyclist, we're often treated to the one-fingered salute. How many of you can honestly say that if you saved another's life and they flipped you off, you would nod and just say "Bless you, child"? Not many, I'll bet. All because you used your 'warning device' (aka 'horn') to alert them of impending disaster. It's silly, childish, and contraindicative of the majority of intelligent and attentive bicycle-riding public. Because I have the audacity to call stupid behavior just that, I'm labeled "angry" and "horn happy".

My good friend and brother, The Rampant Lion, was astounded someone would refer to us that way. In fact, he took it a step further.

"If you're a f-ing scofflaw, and you're doing something stupid and unlawful, like riding your bike across a crosswalk, then, without either signaling or looking first, you swerve back into the traffic lane in front of my 40,000-lb. machine, you bet your sweet bippy I'm gonna honk at your ass!" The Lion roars a lot louder than I can.

So for those who cannot maturely interact with the world into which they blindly venture, I'll jump back a few years and treat them accordingly. I'll wash their 'binky' in a politically-correct organic antiseptic, so no nasty old bus driver's epithets won't infect their fragile temperaments. (We're cursed and belittled all day, every day by ignorant ne'er do wells, but we tough it out.) Then I'll buy them a soft little bunny to cuddle. (Personally, I prefer my bunnies fried or in a finely-seasoned Welsh Rarebit.) Then, I'll give them a ba-ba infused with ganja juice to mellow them out. (Some of us resort to a fine scotch after a week of work, but are unable to taste the forbidden THC fruit, as per federal law.) Finally, I'll tuck them in wif a rancid blanky made of street detritus, singing James Taylor's Damn This Traffic Jam until they settle into a fretful nightmare.

Folks, I won't sugar-coat what we face out there. If I wake a few people up or even piss you off, I'm doing my job as the author of a transit-related blog. Maybe you'll read something that could possibly save your own life. I truly want to help you be safe. You're 100-200lbs. on a 20lb. nearly-invisible two-wheeled self-propellant sharing the street with a 40ft., 11' tall, 9' wide 20-ton monster operated by an attentive and vigilant professional. You're most likely safer near a bus, if you follow basic common sense rules, than you are around cars or delivery vehicles.

We're actually very nice people. We go to church with you, coach Little League, salute the flag, vote in elections, and feel sad when one of you is injured (whoever may be at fault) in an accident with a transit vehicle. If my 'ranting' offends you, I heartily invite you to read elsewhere. I'm not always negative, but as traffic gets worse each year, our jobs become proportionately harder. Sure, I pounce on stupid behavior. But you may notice I have a softer side. There are some funny bits here and there, so I've been told. I'm not a growling, spitting, finger-bending ogre who eats little kids for dinner with cute kittens for dessert. If you don't like it when my truths offend your fairy tale image of life, too damn bad. Go tell Stephen King to knock it off when his characters chop off limbs or think firestorms upon various pissers-off. You don't see him acting these stories out in real life, and to lambast me for it is just ludicrous.

Yeah, I "rant" in here. It's great therapy! It keeps me safe, sane and able to treat passengers to a courteous and safe ride. Before the crybabies chimed in when FTDS was reviewed, I had 42,000 hits. An overwhelming majority of comments have been positive. Many of my readers also drive a bus, and they say my writing usually mirrors their own thoughts. Operators and passengers all over the world read this blog to the tune of 4,000 a month. From humble beginnings to this point, all has gone well. I'm very grateful for this opportunity, and I thank you for your honest opinions, agreeable or not.

One thing this experience has taught me is that I've reached that point in a bus driver's career where I need to step back, take a deep breath, and not allow things affect me so deeply. If I seem angry to you, it's only because my fellow Portlanders practice ignorance at the worst times, and when they do so around my bus, it's highly stressful. Any sane person would be affected by a near-miss. If you believe these are all the fault of bus operators, you're horribly mistaken.

For the first time in my career not long ago, I had to stop driving in the middle of a shift because I was verbally assaulted. Nobody has ever spoken to me in that manner, tone or with such rudeness; not even my first wife, and she was a doozy. Sure, I've been verbally abused before, but this time I was so upset and angry that had I driven further, the incident would have caused such a distraction I couldn't have kept my passengers safe. When I stepped off the bus, my hands were shaking, my soul was in turmoil. I was glad I made the decision to call it a day. Even though they were inconvenienced by my decision, those riders understood. Some even thanked me, and said they were sorry I was treated so poorly. Such kindness brought tears to my eyes.

Peace be with you this holiday season, and I hope all your ups and downs are in bed.


17 comments:

  1. Well said. Those who are offended by what you say are most likely the worst offenders.

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  2. To the readers of BikePortland.org:

    First, let me say that I gladly share the road with bicyclists who willingly follow the same rules and laws that I do. I'm trained to allow you a safe distance when you're in proximity to my bus, I willingly yield to you the right of way when you occupy the lane in front of me, and very much appreciate it when you signal your intentions that I may anticipate your movements.

    But, to those of you who harbor this perverted sense of self-righteous entitlement to risk your own life as you see fit I say, "OH NO, YOU DON'T!"

    You, who cross against the light, enter traffic without stopping or looking first, or pass on the left without changing lanes, go risk your life and limb on someone else's time. Go jump out of an airplane or off of a bridge where you can't hurt some unsuspecting innocent in the process.

    You obviously think you're entitled to carry out your crazy-dangerous move because all motor vehicle traffic must yield to you. That assumption is bound to get you killed. If not you, then your threatening behavior is setting a lethal precedent for some other bicyclist with lesser skills at tempting fate.

    YOU DO NOT have the right to threaten the well being of that poor little 5 year old girl strapped into the car seat of her mother's car when your risky stunt finds you bouncing off of their windshield. YOU DO NOT have the right to risk traumatizing the witnesses aboard my bus. And, last but not least, you are not entitled to endanger my career, my livelihood, or my sanity by becoming a thump under the rear duals of my bus.

    If you expect anyone else to share the road with you, then you must share an equal responsibility to abide by the same rules and laws that are written to keep us all safe when doing so. If you do, you won't hear a peep out of me.

    But, when you screw up around my bus, when you deliberately scoff at the law and cause an unwarranted risk to others, I will roar like the rampant lion. The least you will hear is the sound of my horn warning you of the danger you're posing, and that you'd better pay closer attention to the risks you're presenting. If that shakes you up, then GOOD!!! Maybe you'll look twice before doing that again.

    Odds are, you probably won't.

    The Rampant Lion

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    Replies
    1. I couldn't have said it any better; and I say it every shift.

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  3. I fully concur with this Blogger, and the opinions he shares!!!

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  4. Gawd I wish I had your writing skills! Perfect follow up editorial to all this latest Hub bub of silliness

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    1. Oh now Al, shucks and doggone it. Stop, you're makin me blush an chit. (But thank you!)

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  5. Thought I'd add my two cents. Been driving bus almost three years. Most of the time I love it. I mean I really love it. However like any job it has it's moments. When you are on the road as much as we are and interacting with the public that is to be expected. Sometimes you realize people are not so much mad at you but a bus driver from yesterday. Same with cyclists. Like the one that decide to ride his bike at 5 miles per hour right in front of my bus on Hawthorne. Every group has its jerks and everybody has a bad day. I know I do. I actually enjoy trying to give a positive customer experience as much as I can. What is really great is seeing people's demenor change. I am glad you posted your last couple of posts to show some of the challenges we deal with. Ignore those that defend bad behavor.

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    1. Yeah, I hear you. Jerks are a dime a dozen; the nice guys are out there, but a bit more rare. Thanks for the note!

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  6. Hi there- I am a new reader- I followed the link from BikePortland. And I want you to know that I appreciate your skill and obvious care. And I do ride a bike much more often than transit. When I read your words from a couple days ago
    "We're always watching for dangers, predicting behaviors, altering our speed or making slight alterations in our course to avoid accidents. People do stupid things around our buses so often we're used to it. " Thats exactly how I ride my bike. And pretty much the same words that I have often used when talking about staying safe on a bike. So, we have a lot in common.

    Nancy from Corvallis

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    1. Nancy, it's cyclists like you we appreciate out there. Thanks for reading!

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  7. Hi Deacon,

    It has been great having you comment on BikePortland and I've enjoyed meeting you via email this past week. I hope we can to use our respective platforms to foster understanding and awareness among different types of road users.

    On that note, I was very disappointed to see that you chose to refer to some people as "boneheads" and hypocrites in your opening paragraph. Name-calling is not a good way to set the example for everyone else. Hopefully you'll be more careful with how you refer to other road users in the future.

    Regards, Jonathan from BikePortland

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    1. Thanks Jonathan. But while some of your readers didn't pull any punches either, I'd say the name-calling stats are about even. Let's move forward, but remember... I calls 'em as I sees 'em. If someone pulls a maneuver which puts my passengers in danger, I'm not going to sing them a lullaby. Let's just keep it safe 'out there', Portland! Peace.

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    2. I notice jmaus starts with a compliment then goes into criticism. I am an avid cyclist and see behavior from many cyclist that only make the motoring public dislike bicycle riders even more. Most of them seem to comment on his blog. Screw them and if they don't like being called bonehead, they will dislike what I think of them even more.

      Dark clothing, no lights and the way they ride may get them killed. Good for them! One less asshole on the road! You can't fix stupid!

      What ever happen to being responsible for your own safety and accountable for your actions?

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    3. Responsibility is harder than blaming someone else these days, it seems. I thought 'bonehead' was generous, myself. But you know, it won't help us to keep harping on each other. Just by writing about how it feels for operators 'out there', perhaps awareness will save someone's life. I don't write this blog to piss people off, but it happens sometimes. If the public had a clue as to how many stresses we deal with, perhaps its impression of us would change for the better. As for me, I'm okay with being labeled a 'hothead' if it helps me keep people safe.

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