Monday, August 24, 2015

Singers and Complainers

There are all sorts of characters who ride our buses. I've heard wild stories about particular exploits, arguments between passengers, and seen extraordinary acts of kindness just when I was losing faith in humanity.

As operators, abuse comes with the territory. We get yelled at for being late, even if it's just two minutes. People who don't pay attention and miss the bus because their phone is more important than watching for us call in and complain if we drive by their inattentive asses. But this complaint takes the cake.

I recently had the pleasure of driving Line 30 to Estacada, a small town about 20 miles southeast of Portland. It's a pretty drive, through forests, along a curvy stretch next to the Clackamas River. There are farms, wildlife and wonderful vistas to behold. The passengers are usually nicer than the inner-city folks I usually pick up on different routes.

As we entered the city, a gentleman startled me by coming up behind me as I did a traffic check over my right shoulder.

"Whoa!" I said. "Howdy there, sir."

"There's a guy back there singing," he said softly.

"Yeah?" I glanced at my passenger mirror to see a young man with headphones, softly mouthing the words to whatever song his iPod was playing. I could hardly hear him over the bus noise.

"And this bothers you?" I asked.

"It's terribly inconsiderate," he replied.

Well, now. Considering it was pretty quiet that morning, I hardly thought this was a problem. People are louder on their phones than this guy was just singing to himself. Conversations which can be quite lively create more noise pollution than this feller did.

"I'm sorry you feel that way," I said, and left it at that. The passenger sat down. I glanced at him in the mirror; he saw this and pointed at the musical criminal. I just nodded.

As I drove, my ears were more finely-tuned to this 'problem singer'. He wasn't going to win any talent contests, but he could hold a tune. I didn't recognize the song, but it wasn't profane and nobody else complained. I just let it ride and concentrated on safely operating my 18-year-old bus.

A few stops later, the young man exited the bus. Afterward, the older guy repeated himself.

"I think it was just inconsiderate of him to be singing," he said.

I just nodded politely.

"Sir," I said a few moments later, "I've had a lot worse happen on my bus. People scream at each other, or at me. Crazy people give live lessons in their particular brand of nonsense. Couples have arguments over what to have for dinner. Several people try to impress me of their knowledge of how I should do my job. But seriously, a young fellow softly singing to himself is not what I'd consider a problem."

"Well," he said, "I just thought it wasn't very polite of him."

"Duly noted," I growled. "Just be glad it wasn't me doing the singing, or you'd really be upset."

I could have broke out some of my favorite old country-rock songs. One by my beloved Chuck Wagon and the Wheels comes to mind. Sometimes on my deadheads, sans passengers, I'll let loose my warbling voice on the unsuspecting ghost riders. It goes like this:

"How can I love you, if you won't lay down?
It's not romantic, the way I have to chase you around!
You say you love me, well talk is cheap.
You'll never prove it honey, standing on your feet."

Truly, if I had belted out this tune, there would have been numerous calls to Customer Service that day. Regardless, I thought his complaint was silly. If that's the only problem I have to deal with on a run, I'll take it!

Monday, August 17, 2015

What Happens When the 'Big One' Hits?

How much would this view of downtown change if
'The Big One' were to hit?
Ever wonder, fellow bus drivers, what it would be like if The Big One hit Portland? According to seismologists, we're due for a major earthquake in the Northwest. A big 'un, so they say. And when it happens, things are gonna be a mess.

A fellow driver asked me if I knew our transit agency's plan in case of a disaster. I don't, and I doubt if the talking heads do either. It would be pretty chaotic, to say the least, if disaster struck our fair city. When you consider there are hundreds of buses out at any point every day, we would be the eyes and ears for emergency crews needing to know what routes remain undamaged and/or passable. Depending on the time of year, we could have our buses utilized as shelters or first aid stations.

Chances are, if an earthquake of major proportions strikes this part of the world, we're in for a lot of devastation. Scientists lately have been really talking this up, and it's a major concern for many of us. However, I haven't heard much in the way of disaster planning from our city leaders or, disturbingly so, from our own transit agency.

Earthquakes, to my limited knowledge, shake the hell out of everything. Bridges collapse, freeways become impassable, tsunamis tear up the coast. People are stranded, their homes demolished, cell towers are inoperable and we're unable to contact loved ones. And of course, many are injured or killed.

So, what if? I could be tooling along on my route on a rainy winter's night when all of a sudden the road starts moving side-to-side. I slow down and stop, but things are still moving. Everyone on the bus is scared. Bridges are swaying, some of them collapse. A huge fissure opens a few feet in front of my bus and we start sliding down toward the Willamette River. Whoa, what the hell?

First, I'd want to make sure my passengers and I are as safe as possible. Unless we're upside down or under water, I'd urge people to remain inside. A bus weighs 20 tons and is about as structurally safe as anything you could find in that situation. With powerlines likely down all over, I'd hate for someone to run screaming from my safe haven right into a human cookout. If our radio system remains online, I'd have instant communications with Dispatch and therefore the rest of Portlandia. We'd most likely sit tight and offer refuge to any wandering or injured souls who venture near.

Most of our bridges were built before codes were in place for ensuring building stability in case of earthquake. They will likely collapse. Except for our new Tillikum Crossing, which also has water lines running on it. The new Sellwood Bridge, if complete, is engineered with a large subduction event possibility in mind. For the most part though, our roads and bridges will likely be out of commission for months, even years.

Depending on the scope of the damage wrought to our fair city, we could be stranded for days. How would we survive? There are no emergency provisions on board, except for the snacks and water I keep in my backpack. We're not allowed to keep weapons on our person, so we'd be at the mercy of any crazed survivalist wanting to score notches in his gun. I'm sorry, but the thought of fighting off a lunatic armed with a fire extinguisher gives me the willies. The possibilities of nightmare scenarios abound. Finding out if our loved ones are secure will be vital to us all.

Road conditions here suck, in the best of conditions. The idea of anyone "evacuating" in an emergency is a sick joke. We would all be worried sick about our loved ones, hungry and tense. While buses can run a whole day on the fuel on board, once it's gone the comfort zone disappears. Once conditions become safe enough, we could all be facing a long walk home.

The City of Portland has thought of the 'what ifs', and they have a very informative and helpful preparedness guide ('The Big One' Survival Guide). I have not been able to find anything put out by TriMet as of the publication of this post regarding bus operations, but there is a Standard Operating Procedure for Rail Ops (SOP055).

Surely my readers have wondered this same 'what if'. If our transit agency has, it's a secret to me. I'm curious to know what our southern neighbors in California have to say about transit worker preparedness. I'll bet at least one reader has dealt with emergency situations in their community. If you have, please feel free to contact me via this blog (comments), email ( or on FaceBook (Deacon Blue).

Except for my fellow operators, I doubt if any management from our transit agency will venture to offer any info, but I'd love to hear it.

In the meantime I'll just keep on tooling along, ready for whatever happens.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


A dear lady friend, whom I haven't seen in quite a while, approached me at the garage as we finished our runs the other night.

"Can I ask you something personal?" she asked.

"Well," I replied, "I suppose so JuneBug. What do you want to know?"

"I was reading From the Driver Side the other day, and I think I made a connection. Are you the Deacon in Blue?"

Wow! Pow! Slammo! Zing! Bam!

Busted. So much for that pseudo anonymity that has led to my self-perpetuated dual personality. There was no question as to which one of me would respond.

"Um," I stammered, "what makes you ask that?"

"Because, if it IS you, and I think it really is, you talk just like you write. It is you, isn't it?"

There it was, laid out on the table. My dual persona, ready to be devoured. Yet all was not yet lost. Several people know my true identity, and JuneBug is about as safe a friend with my 'secret' as anybody. It was just a bit unnerving that she was able to make that connection. I mean, we're friends true enough, but we haven't spent much time getting to know each other very closely. She's one of those people though, who make you feel as if you've known each other for years. Easy to talk to, really sweet and friendly.

"Well," I told her, "You guessed right then. But I had no idea..."

JuneBug laughed. "I knew it!"

"Really though?" I asked, incredulous. "I actually write how I speak? I had no idea."

Evidently, I do. My wife doesn't see it, but perhaps that's because she's so close to me. It's fascinating though. I've written since I was about 10. It's always come naturally to me, and I reckon my style is akin to you and I just sitting here having a conversation. It seems comfortable if I just write as if you're right across this desk watching me type.

Only problem is, I hate people watching me write. Somebody might just guess who I am.

Friday, August 7, 2015

How About a Shout Out?

With over 100 posts under my belt (along with some extra/unwanted baggage), it's fun sometimes to take a look at my 'audience' and revel in the fact I have readers all over the world! 

If you take a peek at the stats below for the lifetime of FTDS, you'll see that besides US 'muricans' and our friendly northern neighbors, there's quite a spread over this entire blue marble. What I'd like to know is, who are you folks in Poland, Russia, France, England, Ukraine, Australia, and Germany? Why are there no compadres de Mexico? Am I too brash for Japanese readers? Not brash enough for Spaniards or Greeks? Of course I don't want to gloss over my biggest audience right here in the USA though. I'm a curious type of George. Pleased as pumpkin pie to have all you wonderful folks reading my ramblings, but I often wonder what brings you folks back time after time? Surely it ain't abundant 'talent', because Lord knows that's in short supply.

I know some of you must share these posts, and I thank you. My goal was 100k hits by the end of this year, but I'd have to write several posts a week to come close to that. If you're a bus operator, you know our lives don't allow enough idle time for that to be possible. Besides, I'm not that greedy. If there's nothing to write, I refuse to post just to see more hits. I'm not that cheap, no matter what Mrs. Blue says.

So would you do me a favor and chime in with a comment and let me know who and where you are? It would be fun to get to know some of you, hear about your experiences and grow a community of people via From The Driver Side.

Thanks for reading!

D. Blue

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