Wednesday, May 31, 2017

It's the Driver's Fault... Of Course





It takes me time to wrap my feelings around tragedy. I suppose it does for a lot of people. Now the blood has dried, yet Portland's (and the world's) tears still flow for who we lost. And also, now the transit agency kicks out its knee-jerk reaction with promises of safer rides. After, that is, another tragedy that perhaps might have been prevented... if it had only listened to the chorus within it in the first place.

Words are easy to write or say, but tough to act upon. Many times I've shouted from the keyboard for management to do something to protect us. They came up with cages. They suspended drivers with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for protecting themselves when attacked. They blurted out predictable phrases which sound drafted from some disjointed corporate memo. The problem remains, and that is they do not, cannot, understand what it's like out on the front lines. Insulated from mental illness by an office building far-removed from the trenches, they don't feel the fear that visibly emanates from those of us who make the vehicles roll.

I often wonder about the operator of the light rail vehicle the recent stabbings took place upon. What a nightmare scenario to have run through your head. It must be similar to people who constantly watch the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination. While operators can't actually see events as they happen behind them, the facts have been described in brutal detail. None of the reports focuses on what the operator must feel. They largely focus on the bloody act, the murderer, witnesses and the lone heroic survivor. Only a transit operator can imagine the anguish and grief this brother must feel. I hope he was granted a few days off to recover, but given the agency's lack of understanding, it's easy to doubt. Next comes the public's desire to find someone to blame for allowing such horror to happen.

This evening, I watched a KATU news anchor say (See Transit Increases Patrols) the agency is "working to make its transit system safer, in the wake of the deadly attack." Once again, our agency is reactive, instead of proactive in implementing  changes. It took tragedy for management to sit up and take action. A reporter at the transit center where the murders occurred said the agency has deployed more officers at light rail stops throughout the system. He also stated the agency "plans on hiring an additional 15 officers," and that "riders say they're seeing more transit officers on the MAX." The agency had planned on hiring the additional officers prior to this tragedy, but says this addition will now be expedited. Nothing about the bus system, which tends to experience one or two assaults on operators each week.

Suddenly, the news report mysteriously changes directions. It's one we're all too familiar with: blame the operators. The reporter interviews a few passengers, settling on one who states that "drivers should take de-escalation classes, rather than making things worse." A light rail operator cannot see what's happening in the rail cars. Passengers can alert the operator of possible trouble, but unlike on a bus, operators don't always have personal interaction with their riders. This statement seems to shift blame for the tragedy from the suspect to the operator. As if he could have magically ended the incident with some well-placed Michael Jordan-esque psychological moves, without even having eyes on the scene. During this segment of the report, images shift from light rail vehicles to buses. It makes no mention of the 22 assaults on transit operators so far this year.

Then we hear from our illustrious GM, who of course agrees and says he will see that we operators take "additional mental health training" to "actually grow their confidence to deal with people and provide a really welcoming presence, a safety presence to everybody on the transit system. (Coughing fit here, excuse me but I must gag as well. There, thank you.) I doubt that even a bouquet of roses and a key to the city would have stopped the suspected murderer from committing his bloody acts.

Every time someone enters my bus, they are greeted with a smile and a hello. They get at least a smile and a nod even if they're wrestling with pockets or purse to find money or ticket that should have been ready when they boarded. That's what I was trained to do originally, and constantly throughout my career. Direct eye contact helps me determine the passenger's mood, giving me a hint of how I might deal with them if trouble erupts. We've already been trained on "de-escalation" even if Polly Public in the interview thinks we're always "making things worse." They often haven't a clue of what's going on because they're usually plugged in and tuned out until a situation gets interesting.

Many times, I've calmly explained the rules to unruly passengers, asking nicely that they comply. The escalation usually comes from the passenger, who hasn't been taught the basics of transit code, has learned that they control the ride rather than the operator because the agency rarely backs us up, or refuses to accept we're supposed to be Captain of the Ship. (We were once upon a time, before our hands were zip-tied behind our backs.)

We're expected to bend over sideways, break our backs so we can reach down and kiss the rude bastard's ass, then present our vulnerable bodies for physical abuse, because arguing or fighting back can get us suspended or fired. Hell, that last sentence could get me fired, because it wasn't cleared by the information officer before I dared write it. Screw that. Somebody has to speak up and it might as well be your anonymous Deke.

If we're then assaulted, the Monday Morning Quarterback team is assembled to watch tape (something we can't do) and nitpick our every move. Very often, the operator is severely reprimanded for something said, a movement made, or a biological reaction to a threat. This from people who either haven't ever driven a bus, or haven't in a long time. It's infuriating at best, disheartening for sure, and has operator morale at an all-time low. We're not protected, we're disrespected, and we're suspected... all while doing our job: safely transporting our fellow Portlanders.

Now we'll apparently be given "additional mental health training." So in addition to being berated and beaten at an alarming rate, we're supposed to become mental health counselors. Hmm. I hope our union is listening to this and bargaining for at least $10 more per hour for this new professional requirement. Will we be allowed to bill the passengers for this service? Can we hang a shingle outside the bus door with our new certifications and fee expectations?

Before I go further, let me do something our management or the local media hasn't done: I commend the light rail operator, whose professionalism has so unceremoniously trashed by the agency and public in this skewed news segment. You are not to blame for this tragedy. It was a senseless act of violence by a suspect who is obviously mentally deranged. No amount of "training" you would have prevented it. You were simply doing as you do daily: safely operating your vehicle. Short of leaving the seat (whoa!) and putting yourself between the victims and the knife, you had no control of the situation, nor could you ever be expected to. My soul feels empathy for you, because you are a silent and conspicuously absent victim. Peace to you as you heal from this incident on your train.

Instead of taking a stand and supporting the brave and steady union workers who make this transit agency hum, our GM threw us under the bus. Once again, the problems are our fault. Not a peep about assaults. No mention of pride for his valuable workers. No wonder Portland doesn't respect us... our own management acts as if it thinks we're incapable of safely transporting 330,000+ passengers a day. Wait a minute, we DO that!

Cage us. Demean us. Blame, suspend, discard and abuse us. This is the new transit agency human relations strategy. We cannot simultaneously drive safely, remain on schedule, provide exemplary customer service, AND physically or emotionally protect every person who rides with us. It's inhuman and foolish to expect anyone to live up to this irrational set of standards.

Sometimes, it's the most down-to-earth people I deal with every day who understand life the most clearly. When Abraham Lincoln ran for the Senate, he constantly amazed people with his homey yet profound stories. Many would groan when he'd say "This reminds me of..." One story of his that stands out deals with basic common sense. It goes something like this:

"I was riding circuit one day when I was approached by two men who asked me to settle their argument. One was a long wiry sort of feller, the other short and stout. The long one said a man's legs should be long so he can see far above a crowd. The short one his legs were stronger and able to better support his body. They wanted to know my opinion. 'Well fellers,' I said, 'I believe a man's legs ought to be just long enough to reach the ground.' "

This is the story I thought of when one of my riders put it simply: "You can't stop crazy, man."

It seems we've come to a point where our legs have been knocked out from beneath our hips, and we're floating in limbo between reality and a surrealistic ground we're supposed to tread. We're like a snake that's lost its head... writhing and twisting in agony while the head keeps snapping. We need somebody or something to step in and sew up the pieces. Otherwise, this disconnect could kill us all.




Monday, May 29, 2017

Tragedy in Heroism

This tragedy reflects on all of us.

"Have you heard the news?" a supervisor asked as I walked into the break room Friday afternoon.

"No," I replied, "but I'm sure it's not good news."

The past month has brought us more operator assaults, a bomb scare near a transit center, other stabbings and shootings. Now this.

"Three people were stabbed on a MAX train," he informed me, and two are dead."

I was stunned. Not that it had happened. I'm becoming much too accustomed to hearing these things. Numb, is closer to how I felt. There's an increasing intensity of violence in our transit system, and I shuddered with the reality that two innocent passengers had died as I drove a bus a few miles away.

Later, I learned the three victims had tried to intervene when a man berated two women wearing hijabs, a traditional Muslim headdress. These men didn't realize they were risking their lives. They were just trying to help ladies in distress. Heroes act without regard to their own personal safety, they just act. One never knows if the guy berating another is armed. Good people step in and protect others, not because they're trying to be heroic, but because it's the right thing to do. In this case, three people stood up for complete strangers, but only one survived.

One of those who died was a retired military veteran, the other a young man just getting started in life. News media reports state another man was also slashed by the assailant, but he is expected to survive. His life however, is forever altered. All three deserve to be honored for their heroic acts.

The gory details are in the news stories, and don't need to be further explored. It's reported that the accused assailant is a white supremacist, affiliated with groups whose only mission is to spew hatred to those of a different color, religion or background. This is pure madness, but it has intensified a hundredfold the past year. We're in greater danger of terror attacks perpetrated by those of the domestic variety than ever before. The world responded to this attack with expected horror, yet lately we seem incapable of preventing such horrendous acts.

Our country was founded upon the principle that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." First, this includes women. Second, notice the wording of "endowed by their Creator," a nod to what became our country's freedom of religion. Third and perhaps most important, our rights to live our lives in peace and to pursue "happiness." At least three Portland families have been denied this basic tenet of America as outlined in the Declaration of Independence written 240 years ago.

We all see God differently. There is no one correct way. Some may think so, with strong beliefs that their own religion is sacrosanct to others. I don't agree that Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists or Christians are superior to anyone by virtue of their beliefs. Religions preach peace and goodwill toward others. Yet there are those of every faith who are extremists, and that's where the infection festers. It's like they never grow up. Because they so fervently adhere to a certain set of values, they believe everyone else should as well. To them, respect is a dirty word, or one they truly don't understand. Those who don't agree with them are shunned, shamed and attacked.

Remember as kids, how we tended to pick on those who were somehow "different" than the majority? Children don't understand diversity until or unless they are taught. Some never get the training. When I was young, there was a period when I was taunted because my brother is developmentally disabled. I stood up for him, but I became ashamed that I blamed him for something he had no control over. Once I realized how terrible this was, I began fighting back in his defense. Gradually, he was accepted by my peers, but I couldn't forget the pain for many years. When my peers began to understand, they learned to accept. Today, society is less focused on understanding each other. Now we're talking about walls and isolation, rather than realizing our differences could make us stronger. Like I tell my friends with whom I disagree politically, "I'm not always right, and you're not always wrong."

Our country was built upon diversity, yet some of its builders were shunned by those they served. Villagers abroad were ruthlessly kidnapped and brought here as slaves. Even after slavery became illegal, many remained in bondage due to oppressive laws and other circumstances. When they rose up to demand respect and equality, they were violently rebuked. As they fought back, they were imprisoned by the millions in a move designed to stifle their upward mobility. When poison candy is thrown to the curb in a parade, it should be no surprise when it is thrown back.

I've heard the word "hate" thrown around so much that its very definition has been skewed. Many bus operators are accused of "racism" if we insist violators behave. Black operators are also labeled "Uncle Tom" when they refuse to take sides based on their skin color. Women, Muslim, Christian, Jewish and many other operators are berated and abused by people who seem to have been denied discipline as youths. Those who are not white are often told to "go back to your own country." According to our Constitution, this is their country too. Not just one race has fought and died for our freedom.

Common decency is now the predominant minority group. The transit profession receives a dwindling amount of respect from the public. Sadly, this is often compounded by a management that is out of touch with the very people who roll the wheels.

Those who commit violence do not make the world a better place. They magnify society's inability to peacefully co-exist. No decent person I've ever known has told me they "hated" others because of different belief systems. We don't have to always agree, but every great domestic achievement has come through the art of compromise. As long as we all practice the basics of love and respect, there should be plenty of room for all. Hatred is a strong emotion, but it is terribly destructive. Nothing good has ever come from it.

We seem to be at "war" with a lot of things lately, and now we're slitting the throats of those who defend others from hatred. This is a poison piece of candy that shouldn't be thrown back; it's a disease that must be destroyed.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tune Into The MaddHadda

Taking a left turn here, deviating from normal transit bloggery, to pay homage to my friend Torrey "MaddHadda" Dooley. We once took a Biology class together. He was determined to become a nurse, and I had designs on a different medical career. Torrey saw his goal through, while pneumonia ended my chances for a 4.0 GPA and entrance into the school I aspired to attend. My hat is off to this bright young man, who now cares for people with his intensely kind and gentle manner.

There is a generational divide between Torrey and me, but right away I saw his potential to be a shining star. In class, he was attentive and curious. He always brought a smile and his patented positive attitude, even when it was obvious he was exhausted. He drew fellow students to him with a warm and attentive personality. Though we were separated by at least two decades in age, I admired his fierce loyalty and determination.

Just about a year ago, we became connected through FaceBook. It was heartwarming to see that he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing and has a good job in the medical field. It's even more notable to learn he dropped out of school at 15, then later decided as an adult to achieve this all with a 3.7 GPA. Now he also blogs about his work as a nurse. Using language that speaks to young people but resonates with positivity for all, I've found his blog to be a valuable communication tool he uses to encourage people to take positive steps in their own healthcare.

MaddHadda's blog can be found at TheHoodNurse.com. Congrats Torrey, and thanks for being the man you are. Lord knows we could use more like you.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

YOU Keep Me Going. Thanks!

So I went off on a tangent the other day. It was my tribute, albeit a clumsy one, to Orson Welles. Thanks for all the kind comments, but I am anything BUT a "great" writer. I only type what I think, and any of my friends can attest to the fact (though bless them, they won't say it) that I'm just an ordinary guy. Kinda boring, in fact.

I've always tried to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am. It only makes me better. My mother and father gave me the courage to believe I'm capable enough to excel. In my life, my only enduring accomplishment is love: of my wife, my children, my parents, grandson, brothers and every friend who has helped me along the way. I may be able to construct a sentence, paragraph or a piece which makes sense. Beyond that, only time and much more practice will tell. Creativity is a gift, or a goal to which I constantly strive to achieve. I write because it's what I do best... second. First and foremost, I provide for my beloved family. They come first. Not this job, or the transit agency. The most enduring legacy one can achieve is those we leave behind. I don't know that my example is worthy of praise, but I've always done my best. It's all I truly have. It's also paying tribute to those who gave me the gift of life, an homage to their sacrifice.

Many of my friends disagree with my politics, and I theirs. But we communicate our ideas. These points may be disjointed. They can be divisive. We can be extremely feisty in our debates. But I separate my political beliefs from the values which draw me to these wonderful people. We all breathe the same air. Our blood is the same color, no matter what spectrum our skin falls under. I am a firm believer in the proposition that debate breeds common ground, something today's political climate severely lacks. There is no absolute, except for decency. There is, however, room for compromise. There is also love, which we could all learn to share a bit more.

Since I was a wee lad, it has been my goal to write and publish a book of my own words. I could never have imagined it would be about driving a bus. But it's done, folks. It only awaits the creation of a business, which my publisher is working on. I won't beg you to buy it; I will only ask for that honor. There's already plenty of marketers out there pleading with you to click on this, buy that, extend yourself beyond what you can afford. I am just a writer. If you buy my book, it will be a compliment of the highest order. More valuable to me that any award or commendation on my humble skills. It will mostly be a tribute to everyone who has encouraged me to do this for many years, and to my stubborn mother.

There you have it. No bitching about my employer, motorists or passengers. I've enjoyed seeing my hit counter click to 120,000 this week. It's my turn to thank YOU for hanging in there with me these four years. So thank you. I don't know where this blog will go from here or how long it will last. I hope I'm still employed after "Just Drive, Life In The Fast Lane" is published. Most of all, I just hope I can keep writing. The keyboard keeps calling me near, and I respond with keystrokes. As long as you keep reading, I reckon I'll be around a bit longer.

For now, it's time to drive a bus. Safe travels everyone.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dire Warning of Looming Disaster!

The vessels of our impending doom.
At first, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I thought the man from Harrison Street was sent as a hoax some friend had elaborately planned. This entire story had the feel of some science fiction nonsense, like a movie straight out of early Hollywood. My early training as a journalist however, led me to investigate further. What I've found is so chilling, so terrifying, that I report it now in fear of my life.

Writing as Deke N. Blue has afforded me a cover the past four years as I prepared to report this devastating news. It's all been a sham designed to throw agency spies off my trail while I gather information specifically for this article. It is perhaps time I reveal my true identity, to protect myself from certain recriminations for what I'm about to inform you, but that will come in time. First, prepare for the most outrageous of schemes by not only our transit agency, but of our own transit agency as well as others around the globe.

I write this from a secret bunker deep in the hills of the Cascade Mountains. My exact location is camouflaged by an intricate network of servers administered by freedom lovers worldwide. Any attempt to locate me could endanger the worldwide network we all know as "the CAD." Since time is running short, I will get to the point.

Bus operators have unknowingly become key elements of a plan to eliminate dissenters of a cabal whose intent is worldwide domination. With the steady decline of the middle class has come an increased wealth of the elite. This tiny number has come together to launch such a diabolical plan as never seen before. With the Earth's resources stretched to the limit with nearly eight billion humans competing for sustenance, we have reached the breaking point. The well is running dry, and those at the top are on the brink of putting into effect the most horrific chain of events mankind has ever known.

Millions will be put to death or imprisoned and sentenced to lifelong servitude. Only certain "chosen ones" are to reproduce the future's civilization. Even as I write this, the first phase of execution is about to begin. This blog has made me Public Enemy #1005, which puts me in this initial elimination group. Any bus operators who have history of defending themselves against outrageous policies will be the first chosen, without their knowledge of course, to assist in implementing this plan.

Notice how many transit operators have been lured into this once-honored profession the past five years, only to find benefits have systematically declined in the same time period? There is a reason. Management, under direct and highly-secret orders from the Department of Transportation, has put into effect policies that force operators to adhere to schedules to the fraction of a second. The reason? Because transit operators are part of the first elimination phase. Timing is precise, as massive amounts of people will need to be quickly transported to disposal plants, in order to create the element of surprise.

Buses are secretly being programmed to revise routes at certain intervals. At precise moments in a route, busloads of sacrificial passengers will be rerouted to thousands of hidden encampments around our country. Operators are to have no control of their vehicles once a specific time point has been reached. The HVAC systems will suddenly produce a sleep-inducing vapor that will affect all within the vehicle. An autopilot device will assume control, and several different bus lines every hour will experience this deviation in the normal schedule. Buses will immediately roll to their predestined encampment, usually located in sparsely-populated areas as to eliminate suspicion from locals. Upon arrival, the HVAC systems will deliver a wake-up call for the passengers, who will be given a few minutes to revive. Doors will not open until that moment at which the passengers become aware of their surroundings.

Passengers will be forced to exit the buses into tunnels which lead deep underground. Once they arrive in the processing center, they will be evaluated by transit personnel. Those found fit for productive enslavement will be spared. Rejects will be executed by firing squad.

The first wave is scheduled in about a week, my source reports. It will be a massive undertaking, with an estimated 20 million Americans taken to camps the first day. By the time the first wave has been found missing, martial law will have taken effect and mass incarcerations will follow. Within two months, survivors will be given their new, lifelong work assignments. There will no longer be "retirement." People will simply work until they die.

Media and journalistic outlets will be silenced the end of the first day to quell dissent. Protests will be strictly forbidden, with military outposts defined immediately following the first wave of removals. Those not taken the first day will be served with a strict curfew. Anyone without management credentials found outside past this time will be immediately executed.

Transit operators, known for over a hundred years for their efficiency and professionalism, have been chosen as conduits for the first phase. Contract negotiations have been stalled and outrageous proposals from management put forth to further stymie any progress during the planning phase. So-called "protective cages" around operator seats have been installed on some buses, but are to be installed on all vehicles by week's end. When the bus is scheduled to reroute, the cages will lock the operator within so that any escape attempts are futile. Operator windows will be sealed shut, making the driver a captive in the seat until his/her own fate is decided at their encampment.

I understand your disbelief, shock and amazement. When this plan was laid out to me by my informant, I also felt it too crazy to be true. Yet the recent militarization of transit agencies, especially locally, in the past few months, adds credibility to the claim.

Strict adherence to certain policies has lately been insisted upon by management. Operators not in compliance with uniform standards have been disciplined and counseled. Our on-time performance has been scrutinized and operators have been written up for the tiniest infractions. We've been systematically trained to withstand passenger abuse and torment, and any self-defense by operators has been met with suspensions or other punitive measures. This seems to be a ploy to beat down our resistance and foster a sense of military discipline within our ranks.

That $11 million our transit agency says is to be used to improve transit police facilities is actually a secret budget line item which is being used right now to construct an underground encampment and human disposal facility deep underneath in our own city. The ruse of repairing light rail tracks in our downtown is to mask the final construction phase of the camp, which is a modernization of the shanghai tunnels built in the 1800s. An offshoot of the MAX line will funnel thousands of my dear fellow citizens to their certain deaths.

By fall, the entire world will be transformed to near-prehistoric times where slavery and population domination will be the new norm. The idea of self-government will be a history no future generations will ever learn. Our civilization as we know it has only days before total "sterilization."

How did we get this far without even knowing it? Mostly, and sadly enough, this is a product of our own ignorance. Allowing transit agencies to govern themselves has created a global catastrophe. Where past generations theorized of intelligent life from beyond coming to annihilate our civilization, initial plans for this genocide began shortly after the Roosevelt presidency. Decades of misinformation, divide-and-conquer tactics, assassination of the political center, religious fanaticism and insensitivity to human decency have all been part of this plan. Our conquerors and executioners are of our own creation, conceived in a collective refusal to simultaneously embrace both logic and compassion. A mass infusion of technology has removed intellectual curiosity; it's been replaced by compliance, voter apathy and acceptance of sensationalism. We stopped reaching for stars, and instead grabbed each other by the throat in an attempt to reinforce the incredible falsehoods we have accepted as our own personal truths.

There is so much more to write, but I haven't the time. I must move after publishing this post to another safe location. From there, I will try to send out more warnings. If strange occurrences start to happen, it could be a prelude to the impending disaster. If so, DO NOT ride transit. Save yourselves!

For now, wherever you are, I implore you not to dismiss this post as the insane ramblings of a Pre Annihilation Tragedy Reformation Informing Conspiracy Killer.

Make peace with each other. Enjoy what we have left. Once this contract is signed, we're all doomed.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Happy Birthday Deke!

My pen name and the blog are now four years old. I guess that makes me the youngest smartassed anonymous bus driver in town. Or maybe just an aging hippie who doesn't know when to shut up. Either way, it's been an interesting run, and I thank you all for continuing to read. In fact, more people read my words than listen to me speak, so maybe I'll just shut up and write some more.

Hummin' along in the seat, sometimes I wonder what I'll write about next. There's always something that happens which could spur a post idea. Often times, I forget what it was when I sit here to write. As I meet more drivers, they will tell me stories of their own which might inspire me or just piss me off. Usually, that's because management is great at finding new ways to mess with us. But hey, I've had quite a run of bitchy posts, and I'm tired of being angry. Imagine Don Rickles on uppers, without his humor. Not a pretty sight when I get pumped up.

Then there are things I want to write about, but figure I just shouldn't. Might offend someone. But you know, some people don't think twice about offending US, so screw it. People are so damned touchy these days. You can't pick on anyone in a fun-hearted but wicked way lately, or their panties get twisted. Others get so huffy their sphincters tighten so much when they fart it's like compressed air trying to penetrate a footlong pin prick in a titanium wall. Even when it's not even registering in the deepest recesses of our minds, we're accused of racism, sexism or who-knows-what-else 'ism if we lay down the law to code-breaking riders.

People can be such downers. It would be so peaceful if I could just drive the beast without picking anyone up. Imagine the looks on their faces when I'd whiz by and just wave! Hey, at least I'd be on schedule.

It would also amuse me if my passengers would all open the windows and photograph rude motorists who zip past across double yellow lines or against my flashing Yield light. That way, I could just innocently shrug when they blast by honking their annoying little testosterone-lacking horns.

We're currently in the midst of contract negotiations with the transit agency again. One of our main sticking points is our Service Improvement Program (SIP). You'd be amazed by the amount of blatantly-false complaints called in about us on a regular basis. Oh, how I'd love to have a phone number WE could call to complain about impatient and oblivious boneheads in traffic. It would also be cool to have access to the camera footage on our buses to use against them when they call in false complaints.

"Oh," the Customer Service Rep would say to a caller, "the driver of Bus 3599 flipped you off after cutting you off in traffic? Hmm... let me just pull up that tape. Okay now, it looks like you were paying attention to your phone rather than the road and the driver's professionalism saved your sorry ass. And there's no flipoff from the driver. Thanks for calling, but I'll be sending this footage to the local police department and you should expect some citations in the mail next week."

There I go, dreaming again. Next time you drive by a smiling bus driver, there's no telling what he's thinking about. Especially this one.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Amazing Bike Race

Sometimes, people really need to be somewhere. There was one young fellow on a bicycle who had missed the last stop I had serviced, but I soon found out how desperate he was to catch my bus.

There was already one bike on the rack, as Zippity Zane pedaled away hell bent for leather alongside my lumbering beast. The next stop was on the far side of the intersection I had stopped on the red for. Zane sped up to the corner and frantically waved at me. Up at the stop stood a man with his own bicycle. Ruh roh. Only room for two bikes on the rack. This was shaping up to be a showdown.

Zane pleaded with me to allow him to put his bike on the rack as I waited for the green. A moral dilemma for a bus driver? Not really. I don't board passengers unless I'm at a bus stop, especially when they have a bike to load. Besides, it's not safe to load a bike at a red light. I shook my head no at Zane, who dropped chin to chest, defeated. At first, I thought Zane would race up to the stop and compete for the bike rack with the passenger who was already waiting for my bus to arrive. To his credit, Zane rolled up just past the man at the stop, turned and watched to see if the other cyclist would get off the bus. He never said a word to the man who loaded his bike in the second spot. Then, Zane sped off ahead.

Zane rolled along, ahead and behind my bus for another mile. I was hoping my other cyclist would exit because I started feeling sorry for this kid. He was really working hard to keep within striking distance. He beat me to a transit center and was waiting as I rolled up. His face was a mixture of dread and expectation. But alas, the bike rack remained full as I finished servicing the stop. He bowed his head again, and I gave him a look of sympathy. He shrugged his shoulders and smiled at me, saying "Oh well." I waved and mouthed "I'm sorry" at him. He just smiled and waved back.

Considering I've seen people actually push and shove to get that coveted bike rack spot, this kid was polite, persistent and patient. It looked like he was about 16, and raised by parents who taught him manners and humility. Except for the part where he asked if he could board before I made the stop, I think he was pretty cool about it. He seemed to realize this was a rude move as soon as he asked.

I wish many of those who are his age were more like him. Most of them won't even look at me as they board. People like Zane make me want to bend the rules sometimes. This wasn't possible however, on a busy rush hour run. Plus, it would have been rude for me to do so, considering the man ahead was already at the stop.

Kudos to Zane, for obeying the unspoken rules of decency in transit. There are people who could learn a lesson or two from this young gentleman.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Busted! Hair, Not Fare, Cutter Caught

They caught a bad guy this week. Nasty dude. Likes to masturbate and wipe the mess in ladies' hair. Or he'd cut their hair with scissors and run off the bus. Glad he's off the street. Again.

Funny thing how our transit agency will turn over boulders and mow down trees to ensure a passenger assailant is brought to jail. It protects its passengers, occasionally. Still won't clean the buses, but if someone cuts your hair you can be confident they'll be hauled in by a vigilant public and dirty laundry media.

Hit a cop? We've seen what happens then. Beat up an operator? Oh well, that's just part of the job. Suck it up, buttercup. Nothing here to see folks, keep moving along.

Whenever an operator is assaulted, our agency should provide the media with photographic evidence just as they did in this last incident. Our assailants should be captured, arrested and tried for their crime. Then they should be permanently excluded from riding transit. Surely, if someone assaulted one of our management team at their place of work, that assailant would be punished to the extent of the law.

Last year, we had 55 reported assaults. There have been at least 20 this year to date, that I know of. Probably more that haven't been reported. No photos on the news. Nothing from the news. No screaming from the union leadership to the news outlets. Not a peep out of management.

Just drive, people. Nobody cares, is what the amplified silence suggests. Well I care, damnit! Don't you? Do you care that people are being assaulted and told when they use self defense that they're not allowed, and could lose their job? Do you care that operators who do defend themselves are often suspended, even when their actions are justified and legal?

I care. Come on, transit and your paid-for media, do your job and protect us.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Ride Naked? My Ass!


OK, so now management thinks it can toy with our short hairs, does it? Adding to the latest insults, it has slapped another sweaty mess into our increasingly-toxic gas chambers.

This message came down to all buses this week: "4:28p *FYI to ALL.. with the warmer weather just know that (agency name here) DOES NOT have a policy that passengers need to wear shirts or ANY clothing for that matter. Any questions see your Station Manager."

This removes the operator's ability to exhibit professional judgement. I'm surely not alone in my disgust when a female passenger reaches into her bra to pull out a wad of sweaty, crumpled bills and shoves them at me, as if I'm supposed to insert them into the fare box. Now imagine unbridled boobs possibly swaying into my No-Go Zone. I don't need to see bare chests on anyone while driving.

Even though Oregon has a fairly-relaxed attitude toward nudity, each municipality's code can override state law. Portland's City Code (Code 14A.40.030) states: "It is unlawful for any person to expose his or her genitalia while in a public place or visible in a public place, if the public place is open or available to persons of the opposite sex." 

We're told from training onward that when we're logged into a bus, we are considered Captain of the Ship. Guided by rules of the road and standard operating procedures, we're allowed certain latitude in decisions which affect all those within the confines of our vehicle. Operators are trained in skills of operation, and in dealing with a large cross-section of the public. It takes experience to accommodate this diversity, and a particular ability to empathize with this grand swath of humanity. We must often put aside personal beliefs in order to serve the common good -- a balance that must be kept to allow personal freedom while protecting others from behavior that could provoke or endanger them.

"Many times we find ourselves at odds with the confusing edicts of managers who, with little or no practical experience in transit, simply cannot fully understand the context in which we operate," said one of my brother operators. "Because they have never been city bus operators, how can they possibly be our respected or effective leaders?"

This "riding naked is okay" policy is ill-advised. It sends the message that it's one's "right" to offend the sensibilities of the majority. We are not an Adults-Only nightclub. Our buses and trains are horribly unsanitary  --  to the point of life-threatening toxicity -- due to the lack of routine cleanliness. This policy forces an already-vulnerable public to be further exposed to potentially virulent biohazards. There must be a line drawn which separates acceptable transit behavior from the unsanitary.

Art which is considered inappropriate by some is beautiful to others. This is a freedom most understand and accept. But people have the opportunity to avoid exposure to art or opinion with which they do not choose to experience. Conducting one's business while nude in public is a visual assault upon an audience not given a choice in the matter.

Children ride our buses, and they should not be subject to nightmare-inducing visions of Harry Hubert's ample arse. A bus or train should not be considered the same as a locker room. People already suffering from life-threatening diseases ride to and from health treatment centers, and the slightest exposure to harmful germs can be a death sentence. Elderly people, whose immune systems are already weakened, could be infected by the additional filth now thrust upon them.

How would our passengers feel if they boarded my bus to find me wearing nothing but boots? Of course, this would be in violation of our uniform policy. Complaints about my "behavior" would skyrocket.

What does Safeway do if a customer walks in with sweaty genitals dripping on the floor, on the fruits, vegetables and meats? I think their bread is made with a much more healthy brand of yeast, and don't need Polly Natural's added variety. No, these customers understand the concept of "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service."

"Because children come into our store, and for other health concerns, we require that people have to be appropriately dressed," a Safeway employee responded to my inquiry. Thank you, and I will continue to shop there, as always, completely and appropriately dressed.

Of course, as summer nears people are apt to wear more revealing fashions in an effort to keep cool. Swimsuits? Sure, as long as everyone (especially juveniles) covers up the nipples. It's discriminatory to insist women cover up while not also expecting men to do so.

How would you feel, standing in line at the bank or library, if another person walked up and stood next to you and your children... nude? Hey, we're all "sexual beings," right? Not necessarily. It can be terrifying for children to view exposed adult genitals. It can be equally distressing for the operator of a public transit vehicle to be forced to allow nude exhibitionists to ride. One person's "rights" should not infringe upon basic societal norms. Unless you ride or work in transit, apparently.

I'm no prude. With a healthy libido, I am long-married and happily monogamous. Of course, I enjoy the sight of an attractive human body. If I enjoyed staring at nude people, there are appropriate venues for this. How many people outside of the adult dancing or nudist colony industries are expected to endure a hostile work environment because their employer refuses to enforce basic human decency? Sure, not all my fellow operators will agree with my stance, but I'll wager the majority consider nude passengers a further erosion of common decency in our workplace.

In Portland, it's evidently legal for people to conduct themselves in the nude, in public. We have the upcoming "Naked Bike Ride" in June. Mildly amusing for many, not so for others. It's an example Portland's vexing habit of coddling a minority while offending the majority.

Clothed passengers, the overwhelming majority in transit, could be offended by transit nudity. They might blame the operator for allowing it, and possibly cause a disruption in service. What if we pick up a naked rider in one town where clothing-optional is legal, and drop them off in a nearby city where it is not? Doesn't that make us an accessory in a public indecency charge? How are we to know whether a nude rider isn't a child sex offender hoping to claim more victims? Of course, this isn't to say that exhibitionism is a sign of mental illness. It is in my opinion however, extremely narcissistic and selfish.

In the past few months, the transit agency has told us that people cannot be denied service for lack of fare, that we must continue to provide excellent customer service while also strictly maintaining schedules, and that we will be suspended for defending ourselves when attacked. Now people can ride butt-naked too? What's next? Lap-grinding strippers giving pole dances? Open urinals on buses and trains? Mattresses made available for open sexual encounters?

I'm weary of this rampant series of insults upon those who perform one of this city's most vital jobs. I'm figuratively thrusting my arm upward in self-defense, even though operators are suspended for this move. It's the only decent thing to do.

Cover up Portland, if you want a ride. Nobody should have to see your birthday suit.