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Deacon Who?

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(Note: Ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily shared by the transit agency I work for. This is simply an expression of free speech while describing the work bus operators perform.) I have been (and called) many things in this life. Most of all, I'm a writer who happens to drive a bus. In May of '13 I thought it would be fun to write about my job. As a direct result of this blog, I published a book in November of 2017 called "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" that is available on Amazon. I write to provide insight as to what it's like on a bus... From The Driver Side. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Sun Sets


Patrick's Note: It has been nearly a week since Deke N. Blue passed from his bloggery life. It has taken that long to come to terms with the end of an era. Not one of major importance, given the grievous times in which we endure. However, it is nevertheless with great sadness I announce the death of my artistic twin.


DEKE N. BLUE
MAY 5, 2014 - JUNE 30, 2021



Deke didn't want to die. None of us do, but it comes to each just as every life on Earth greets a sunrise. We're all doomed from birth to someday breathe our last. It's not something most dwell upon. In Deke's short sojourn, he began having fun and through his eight years described much of his 240,000-plus miles on this website. Some of it was painful, at times light-hearted and others angry darkness obscured his original intent. For an eight-year-old professional, Deke was sad at how often he sat here, spiraling down into a world he had not envisioned at his literary birth.

I wanted to describe Deke's fiery exit dying "behind the wheel", even imagined every scenario I might write it to be. Every one seemed fake, but that's not how I roll. Just the facts, dude. Deke is just... gone baby gone.

* * * * *

It was originally intended to be a frivolously literary venture through an exciting new career. And so it was, the first few years. This blog attracted readers because Deke described a life very few considered interesting. Except by those who live it, every moment of their waking lives.

Being a transit operator encompasses much more than the daily trudge to a workplace. It invades every aspect of one's life, daily routines and even our weekends. We become slaves to schedule. One second late can result in the loss of a day's pay, or even losing the job if we fail to assimilate into transit's military-like ritual. 

Time begins working backwards from the time we awaken. Each 3-4 month period, we choose our work schedule for the next season behind the wheel. At that point, a seasoned road-relief operator will begin planning. For us, the job begins by relieving another operator who starts their route early in the morning at the garage. They sign their work on average 15-20 minutes prior to its start time. They pick up that route's pouch. Read the Re-Route sheet if it's dated that day to see what alterations they need to incorporate in their run. Then they walk out to the assigned bus and inspect it as the engine warms up. Logging into the Computer Aided Dispatch computer and the farebox, adjusting their workspace for the 100+ miles awaiting them, they mentally prepare for a day during which they might not return home from. It's a vital ritual performed by thousands of operators across the globe.

I chose to avoid the garage, the early morning ritual in favor of skipping forward in the day. The pay is better for those who work the 2-Midnight roll. Plus, I'm a loner. My personality rubs many wrong; it's better I avoid the masses.

For two years I worked the Extra Board and experienced the crowded conditions of the early-morning bullpen. Although many people entered into my life who have contributed great value to my soul during this phase, it was fleeting. The pressures of constantly putting on a happy face so early in the day to so many, combined with the stress of landing runs I became increasingly weary of, convinced me to sign a regular schedule. 

Chase the buck. That's been the bane of my existence for the entirety of the past 40 years of professional toil. And yes, my decades of work have been professional in nature. It is too easy for the working class to allow society's dictates to describe years of dedication to whatever "job" we land. It has been my goal in each of my careers to do my utmost best in each of them.

Accolades be damned; my efforts were for self-gratification. Why? Because Mom dedicated herself to the belief this brain-injured infant had the ability to great things. She willed me to walk and excel when "professionals" told her to "forget" about me and shove me into some cold and dead-end institution. Everything I have accomplished, albeit miniscule in the grand scheme of global wonderment, has been because my parents never gave up on me. It has been a lifelong goal to prove those doctors wrong, to shine a light on Ma & Pa's dedication to me, their belief in my abilities to love and create through my writing.

So here I sit, this final time writing to you. Here. I don't always know who will chance upon this blog, but evidently I have struck a chord. Over 600,000 times according to Blogger Stats. You may be in India, China, Ireland, France, Canada, or in my beloved United States... it doesn't matter where. The mere fact that you're reading this post evokes emotion because I know it wouldn't be possible if Mom had believed Doctor Dumbshit's ominous statement "I don't believe Patrick will never walk or talk or have a 'normal' life." Her reply: "Bullshit. If I have ANYTHING to say about it, he most certainly WILL."

My literary career began the year I learned to read. Having long disproven the doctors' disbelief in Mom's determination, my life has been astonishing leaps above expectation. Maybe I stumbled a few times and missed my mark. I have often lacked timing. Every accomplishment has come long after it should have. I tend to procrastinate. Pressing tasks are often completed much later than they should. It is a lifelong fault, and each time I face a wall it takes too much time to climb. I'm constantly missing the 8-ball. Occasionally I hit it on the first shot, but usually it takes a luckily-made second chance shot. 

* * * * *

If you have paid attention, you have noticed my writing has become stale. If you're as old as I am, it's like Rerun Season was on TV way back when. Part of it stems from transit management's recent disability. For the past decade it has taken the stance that "the only good worker is a scared one". I have pounded my anger into this chalkboard screech through many a post. Earlier this year, I recognized my pattern was to ignore the literary gems this job affords my artistic soul in lieu of blasting management for yet another (and constant) insult upon US. In fact, it became nearly impossible to return to my bloggerful roots. At that moment, I realized Deke's time was done. My writing about this career could not turn the corner and find a fresh direction. 

Two years ago as I drove Line 9 across the Tilikum Crossing in Portland, I thought of a new story idea and immediately began writing it. Since then I have written on it in bursts and spots, opening and closing the bus door on it through a series of inspirations and doubts. This year I realized my writing career cannot climb any higher if I persist in this addiction to blogging. I knew it was either Deke or something better. So long, buddy. It was fun, for a while. Now it's time to reach a bit higher. Ma and Pa insist that I keep doing so until my hand no longer retains a pulse.

For eight years I have used this platform as a therapeutic tool. It felt good to blast the ills operators face. Then I watched readership plummet. It became obvious many no longer found solace here. Sure, a dedicated few encouraged me to keep writing. But there were signs it had to end. My rants became that annoying skip of a record that required a leap from the easy chair of relaxation to force the stylus forward. Once so coaxed, the sound was the same. Deke had finally rolled back to Ground Zero. Again. The realization struck hard, but it finally was forceful enough to slap me in the face so hard I understood.

* * * * *

So here we are. My first post and the second described just why I began this venture. Because the next dozens became part of JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane (no longer in print) I made them invisible from the blog. It was a ploy just so you would buy the book. (Laughter) It worked for the few dedicated readers who shelled out the $15 to get their copy. Enjoy them... there's only about a thousand or less.

Over the next few weeks, I will open the earliest posts back into the archives. But I cannot write here again. Deke is dead, and needs to stay so. I never believed the book would be a best-seller. I had hoped to do a bit more than break even; it didn't happen. Oh well. A writer's life is like that: win a few, lose more. That's okay. It feels good just to have put it out there.

Although this blog has run its course, I promise to keep writing. It's what I do. I cannot stop until this body finally gives up. It's just time now to point these fingers ever onward.

* * * * *

So, here we are. Thank you for reading. Eight years, across the entire world. Wow. I'm honored and beyond grateful. I'm amazed, humbled and happy. Thank you a million times over. This has been my greatest achievement. So far.

Along life's bumpy road, my greatest wish is that all your ups and downs be in bed. Peace, and love to y'all... I'm out.

-- 30 --



Farewell Deke N. Blue

A shout out to my brothers and sisters 
at rail. I'm sorry to have never written
your stories. My love for you however
is as true as that for my fellow
bus operators.


Deke's Note: See below.

I have tried many times to end this odyssey, with no success. It should have happened long ago. But some habits, even good ones as you know, are difficult to overcome. This time, I have to do it. 

Once upon a time, I began writing about a new and exciting career. Across the street from where I now sit. My sons were teens, I was nearly a decade younger and still full of testosterone-charged vitality.

As I gaze out this Alice's House window, the early morning sunshine illuminates the house we all shared much joy together as my family and I matured. The property has taken on new life with my now-neighbor's vision. It looks different, but comforting in its memories. In this house, my dear friend Alice Crader once lived. I would often venture over as she sat on the porch just outside this window, just to chat with our neighborhood matriarch. 

Alice loved to read, and was very supportive of my writing. Because I love roses, I often deadheaded her blooms with my ever-present pruning shears. We talked of anything and everything as we watched my sons and their friends playing basketball on yonder hoop. Little did I know, Alice's House would become my Forever Home. We are only the seconds here... Alice designed and had this home built to her specifications. We love it so very much.

Across the street, FromTheDriverSide was born as I sat at the keyboard wondering "what the hell should I write next?" Writing is my soul’s mirror. Thoughts reflected me, and became words via fingertips. I wrote strange nothings or short stories, always searching for a muse. Then one night as a rookie bus operator, I thought it would be cool to write a journal of sorts about my life as a bus operator. Along the way, I documented several feelings related to those who make the wheels roll.

Early on, Al Margulies (RANTINGS OF A FORMER TRIMET BUS OPERATOR) asked "who is this guy?". He marveled over my comment that people were dangerously-close to being squashed "flatter than a sand dollar on diet pills". Later, he chuckled at my comment that some people were "too lazy to masturbate". He has constantly plugged this blog on his own, and once interviewed me live online about my book as I excused myself on a date with my Beloved. Thanks, Al... your support has always been more than a word digger could have imagined.

Next came another new friend and brother Tom Horton. He helped edit my book, encouraging me every step. When OPB's Think Out Loud interviewed me, he sat in the "Green Room" with Beloved and listened as I stumbled through the grilling I received. Tom has been conspicuously absent from my life the past few years, and I miss him. But he has dealt with many personal obstacles and I love him enough to leave him be. Even so, thank you Tom for being one of my earliest and most constant supporters.

Having been read across this magnificent globe has been my most rewarding accomplishment. We who do the work of transit often have similar feelings no matter where our buses roll. To have my words viscerally felt by hundreds of kindred souls is my treasured honor. I have always written what it feels as THIS operator; to know that it resonates with my fellows makes it difficult to stop.

Along the way, I have made some incredible friendships with many I hope to someday meet in person. Fellow writers Robert at bustropical.org in Florida, Author Billy Alsheimer in Rhode Island, Bruce Whalley in Melbourne Australia, Tommy Tompkins (TommyTransit.com) have inspired me along the way, and impressed me with their individually-creative insights on transit. Although we operate across separate continents, there are parallels which bind us together in this strange world of transit. The parallels and perils of our profession draw us closer than than the miles which separate us. I dream of a Meeting of Artistic Transit Minds someday, where each of us (and others not necessarily or immediately known to this group) come together. If Billy has his own dream realized, I hope to help.

Most of all, I thank my Beloved. She has endured being referred to as "Mrs. Blue", which she detests. She has supported me through my many episodes of self-doubt with steadfast devotion to my craft, edited my ill-advised phrases, soothed my mistakes over which I feared the worst, helped edit the book and celebrated each triumph these past eight years. Beloved is my First Reader, my most revered and trusted critic, and the first editor of any word that might be misconstrued. Mostly, she is the dampening of my excesses, the balance to my excesses. Beloved brings peace when life seems all turned turvy. Thank you, my sweetest dearest love. Hopefully this endeavor grows into something much greater.

To write my experiences as a bus operator has rewarded me in more ways than I can describe. Mostly, I hope I have done honor to a profession that is often ignored unless something tragic occurs. My tales have been in dedication to the thousands who grasp the wheel no matter what confronts us. We are often assailed by the riding public and those who oversee our every moment in service, but we persevere.

Deke's Note: This was meant to be the "last" one, but I found the voice once again to hopefully do justice to eight years of writing. You want to read it, go ahead. It's just above this one.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Farewell LIl' Buddy


"What, you want to sit here? I'm busy."
RIP Silas aka "Pudding".
April 1, 2011 -- June 14, 2021

Deke's Note: Tonight, I am emotionally spent. Sure, it's my weekend and I should be enjoying it. Except for one horrifying and sad point of reality, I am.

He has been with us since he was a wee lad of six weeks. His mother either died or abandoned her litter, which is unnatural at best. From Day One, when a school bus operator found five newborns in the Willamette bus barn and hustled the surviving two baby brothers to Paws Shelter, he was hand-fed and coddled. 

On the way home from adopting this wee fella, he crawled all over me as I drove us home. Purring in my ear, knocking my hat off and digging his kitten claws into my shoulders, he chose me as his favorite human. I reciprocated. He has been my constant companion throughout this blog, as I put together my book... he insisted on loving me. I have responded in kind. 

We have endured a love-hate relationship: he loved to make a mess of his litter box and watching me clean up after him. Silas pestered me until I shared my dinner, then insisted I feed him wet food before heading to bed. If his water bowl was stale, he would tip it over and feign innocence. Wherever I wanted to sit, he beat me to the spot and dared me to move him. I still have scars from our disagreements.

Now, he's dying. Only 10 years old, middle-aged for a cat. My son used to let him out at night when we lived across the street. Silas would roam, then meow outside my lad's window until he let him back inside. We have kept him indoors, fed him special food, endured his frequent urinary troubles and scolded him for terrorizing Lady Kitten. He has moved with us twice. When I come home from a long shift driving a bus, PuddinTat is the first to greet me, demanding to be held so he can purr in my ear and knock my eyeglasses askew with affection. It's something I look forward to. This week, for the first time in a decade, he will no longer be here to welcome me home.

Today, we have to say goodbye. His health problems have become too aggressively expensive to maintain. Having dosed him with the last pain meds on hand, he lay in my wife's arms for two hours. He snuggled me as I held him, purring through his drug-induced daze. Tears dull my vision as I write this, because I know next time I write you, he won't be here stepping on the keyboard demanding attention.

People refer to pets as "fur babies" and other such cutesy names. Silas is simply my buddy. We have argued, loved and endured a decade together. Now, he's in too much pain to hold onto any longer. Devastated I may be to lose him, it would be cruel to allow him to endure any more suffering.

When I drive this next week and you happen to catch me en route, please don't be offended if I don't wave. Look closer and you'll see tears flowing down my cheek. For when I lose a friend, it's okay to cry. I'm doing it now, and he's snuggled close to me.

So long, you annoying, lovable little fucker. I will miss you most assuredly more than you will me.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

600,000 Hits and Still Growing Friends




Thank you very much for reading.

650 posts. Over a million words read in over 20 nations worldwide. A book. New friends and possibilities. It all began as a simple writing exercise. It became a habit I’m apparently unable to leave behind. 

Habits can be suffocating. I’m hoping this blog can adapt in style and energy, but lately the writing is stale. Posts often sound repetitive. I have tried to stop writing here before only to have another topic pop up as I drive my bus. Still, I am buoyed by your comments of support. Mostly, I write to give YOU a voice, the countless thousands who do this job with little appreciation through thousands of dedicated hours in the seat every day.  

Whenever I contemplate ending this blog, too many issues cancel the decision. There are still many roadblocks to overcome. My solution is limiting future posts to issues upon which I cannot honorably ignore. To produce consecutive series on Maintenance, Dispatch, Road Supes and Rail still resonate, if my fellow union brothers and sisters will help me. I desire to help those whose job is a vital role in any transit-powered economy. It's a far cry from what this blog's original intent was.

While the jury deliberates upon whether this blog is just a stepping stone to joys yet to be found, there is still work to be done here. I hope some of you decide to chronicle your own experiences behind the wheel. Each of US have many stories to relate.

My delight has been to find several other transit voices, those who echo my own initial excitement as I began this career. It's a writer's dream to reach others at the farthest ends of these fingers' touch. I enjoy my new friend Bruce Whalley in Australia, who rode with me in '19 with his wife upon their visit to Portland. My life is enriched by Constant Readers Ken and Helen Coates of Newcastle Upon Tyne, England; they met us during our 2019 Scotland Adventure, after having made their acquaintance on holiday at the Oregon Coast a few years earlier.

A very inspiring and friend I have yet to meet in person, Tommy Transit, taught me how to creatively acknowledge those who ride my bus. My friend and fellow author Billy Alsheimer in Rhode Island, has been working on his dream of producing a television series about bus operators, one I prod him about often. My fellow blogger Robert in Florida (BusTropical is awesome!) is someone I exchange postcards  with and has long supported this blog; someday I hope to ride his Florida roll.

To you countless others who have reached out to me the past eight years, or asked me to sign my book for you... priceless memories I will never forget, thank you ALL for giving me constant and overwhelming joy!

Thanks again. This blog has been the most rewarding experience I’ve known as a writer. It's definitely one of the highlights of this wonderful life. I’m honored you have allowed me this podium. If I’m lucky, I’ll step up from it as an improved artist to a wider audience. One can only hope, eh?

Peace, y’all.

db



Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Unite and VOTE ATU757 Members!


Deke's Note: PLEASE VOTE! I do so almost every time. Whether it be a local, state, national or union election. Sometimes it's a slam dunk. I know who, what, and how I'll vote long before the ballot arrives. THIS election has been different.

First, my apology. I promised to continue a tradition where I would pose questions to our local union candidates and post their responses here. For several reasons, I failed to do so this year. I'm sorry if I let you down. I won't discuss why it happened so this time, but I regret not following through on my promise.

Next, it has been a long-standing policy of mine to keep my political votes private. Especially in a union in which several candidates are friends of mine, who I love and respect on many levels. Each has dedicated much of their time (and money) to improve our lives as transit workers. We ARE a family; sometimes a dysfunctional one prone to argument and intense division. I detest negative campaigning; it disgusts me. It's the same wherever people depend upon others to level the playing field for each other. Even so, we rise or fall as one.

I thank each of the candidates for their time. Every one of you has a specific vision of how things "should be" within ATU757. On some occasions we agree, others we differ. However, please know that even when we vehemently disagree, you are above all... my brother/sister. I respect your point of view. This is an honor on the highest level for me. Even if we disagree completely on tactics or the means to which an end is met, I am eternally grateful for your devotion to our local. Each of you running for office has done incredibly more for me than I have for you. THANK YOU ALL!

Each of the top three office candidates have worked hard to do what they believe is best. Some of you I know personally. We have shared joy and pain together. Others I do not know as well as I would like to. When I color in that ballot square, it may not be you. For weeks I have studied your words and tried to understand your ideals. It has been very difficult to make my choices; one has been especially agonizing, picking between two or even three.

I'm a classic Libra in that I have a very hard time making decisions. Especially 50-50 propositions. That's why I rarely, if ever, place bets. Often when I am convinced of a "sure thing" I have been incorrect. That doesn't mean my choice will be wrong either way. 

This election is vital. They all have been. Whoever wins will undoubtedly make mistakes that leave some of us feeling we voted incorrectly. When this happens, remember the other person having won instead, may have done something else we disagree with. 

None of these candidates are perfect. Mistakes will be made. It's the human condition. However, I prefer to believe as an optimist, that whoever wins the election will work strenuously on our behalf. They will be the buffer between management and US. It's vital to support our team even when we may disagree.

Now please mark your ballots and send them in. It's time to make our choices. We have seen dismal member participation at our agency in recent elections. Your vote might swing the election to your candidate. Every one counts.

Whoever wins, please give them support and encouragement. If we keep fighting amongst ourselves, we lose. I pledge my full support to the victors-to-be, whether I vote for them or the other one(s).

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

So-Called "Heroes" Roll On



Deke's Note: Never before have I so earned a vacation. When I finally set the brake in the yard ending that final shift, my sigh of relief was more pronounced than ever before. Why? Because this past year has been more challenging than anything any of US have ever experienced. The relief I felt was overwhelming. Still, I did my duty. Cleaned my operator area of any detritus left over 10 hours, closed all windows and overhead vents, and scouted for any items left behind. Upon exiting my rolling office, I tried to exalt in my joy of vacation, but it puttered out like a bus fart. Here's why.

"Heroes Work Here" greeted my last vacation in October of 2020. "Bullshit" was my constant and ready reply. That "h" word has been thrown around like a battered beach ball at the final hours of Spring Break, and it is ripped, torn and the color kicked right the fuck out of.

We approved a hard-won, yet still inadequate, labor contract after over a year of negotiations. Management played hardball even as we choked through smoky fear and a pandemic economy. We have yet to be rewarded by back pay, as management sits back and plods along as if WE don't matter. Hey folks, we suffered through numerous economic hardships supporting our families while fearing our own economic frailty. While others screamed for righteous recognition upon the ladder of the vaunted American Dream, our profession stagnates. Years of miles upon the unforgiving streets has yet to earn us respect even as the cost of living soars above all who struggle to pay the lords of capitalism. THEY get rich, WE get tired, often dying before we are RE-tired. 

Gee, thanks. F-you very much. 

If I were truly a "Hero", my back pay would have come instantly upon ratification of our agonizingly-long contract negotiations. Yet, we wait without any hint of when the heavily-taxed money we should have seen years ago appears before us.

Any true hero would have been hoisted upon the back of Management personnel, given a true welcome back to the Garage, the GM Himself heralding my safe return after 15 months of guiding the Bacterial Express through pandemic/choking smoke/ice and snow with the same determination shown during "normal" conditions.

No, please don't call me a "hero". Unless I save a toddler alone and blocks from home some early morning. Or only if I stop some testosterone-fueled beast from terrorizing a lass, pull a family from an early-morning house fire or stop my bus to pull a motorist from their crumpled car before it explodes. More horrifyingly-real and commonplace these days, if I stop another from catching a random bullet.

We do this across the globe with regularity, yet we're kicked to the curb whenever respect is due. 

I do not consider myself heroic just for doing my job, no matter how perilous the conditions. I just wish my transit management did. Instead, it would rather persecute us for the silliest of perceived infractions. 

We roll wheels no matter what assails Portland. Incessant rain, occasional snow/ice storms, fire or disease, we show up. It would be nice if this simple fact were amplified to our populace, along with simple rules for riding, by those whose job it is to protect and support us.

It's sadly telling that we are lamely labeled "heroes" while our management tirelessly assails us, hidden from media coverage. The only time our story is told is when one of us is falsely-accused of some ridiculous lie, or in the case of my beloved brother who was recently the victim of an errant bullet, thrown to the masses in a simple case of the all-too-bloody commonality American "freedoms" afford us.

Humans are frail. We ask a lot, so that we may pass a better tomorrow upon our beloved spawn. Machines we are not, but that is what we are doomed to become. When we are replaced by non-feeling robots, management will no longer have to worry about contracts or human rights. You see this in their bored faces whenever we implore the "Bored of Directors" to hear the least of our pleas. They are the robots of today; WE, the worker bees who make the honey you all benefit from.

Beware the moment "heroes" are replaced by robots. You won't feel guilty for not thanking us on the way out a bus or rail door. Just keep on looking down at your phones, folks. Nobody will greet your entry or wish you a fond farewell, or stress over hundreds of dangers which could propel you forcefully forward into a disastrous situation while skillfully eliminating each instance. 

You're welcome. Humans guide you to your destination no matter your ignorance of our professionalism. Operators, Dispatchers, Road Supervisors, Maintenance... we're all out there ensuring a smooth ride for your pampered safety. Our management coddles and supports each whiny complaint even though you fail to acknowledge or even see the countless disasters we avoid while you surf the internet. 

Just keep ignorant, Safely-Guided Public. You have no idea how unsafe our management propels you into your ungratefulness. 

We show up anyway. We have mouths to feed, roofs to maintain, futures to build. And you know what? We'll keep doing it no matter how much you insult/assault us. No thanks to you, we're there every 15 minutes or so.

You're welcome. Now please pay attention. Have your fare ready before we open the door. Be kind, respectful and honorable. That's all we ask. The rest is up to US.


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Easing into a COVID-Earned Vacation

At least Portlanders have retained our 
infamously-odd sense of humor
throughout it all.

Deke's Note: SO much to say, but so little time. You see, I just earned another VACATION from driving a bus, and it feels OH SO SUBLIME! Also, it took time to wade through Blogger's bullshit "new stuff" before even accessing this site. Finally, I can write to you! Bear with me; my thoughts are jumbled.

I'm so damn... tired. It has been a full seven months since my last vacation. COVID was in full killer mode, it was my birthday week, and a lot has transpired since last October. Usually, seven months is just that. Pandemic-wise, each week feels like six. I cannot remember one from the last. They're all full of random bullshit, and it piles up to the point I don't want to recall any of it. But as a blogger, it feels like I must do so. 

The past year: COVID rears its ugly head and causes panic; ridership plummets as people self-quarantine; Deke pens a story nobody reads; the economy nosedives as people lose jobs; historic fires blow choking smoke and embers into our buses, forcing us to close bus windows we had hoped would blow virus particles free from our lungs; protests and violent riots chase us out of the downtown transit mall further terrorize our workforce from operators to supervisors and maintenance workers; a fierce winter storm shuts down transit for the first time in modern history. If Mother Nature wanted to wreak more havoc, she could not have thought of a more chaotic year.

The worst part of it all, to date, was hearing mid-shift last week that my beloved co-worker had been shot while behind the wheel. Our worst fear, realized in one who sacrificed his body to be bloodied in the seat working his day off to help a management that has fired many experienced workers and forced many others into retirement before their time. It's a wonder that bullet didn't kill Dale, but he's a helluva lot tougher than those who manage us. I am so thankful he is on the mend, and making us realize how happy we are that bullet didn't hit him a few inches askew.

Even so, transit workers constantly show up to serve our fellow citizens. Even as management concocts new ways to torture us. Suspensions, terminations and utter ridiculousness follows us every roll of the transit wheel. We roll along, gritting our teeth, determined to do our jobs no matter natural or corporate obstacle. No hazard pay, ridiculous signs lamely proclaiming "Heroes Work Here" as our numbers were terrorized by a bloodthirsty management, and a plummeting morale among those who kept transit afloat despite its mismanagement of our well being.

This past week, I told you management had called for volunteers to be on our Director of Bus Operations "new task force on safety". Ha! I thought. Okay, I'm game. Let's see if this is the real deal, or just another ploy to get our hopes up only to slay us with "budgetary constraints" and other corporate jizz for "we really don't give a shit, ha ha!" After one meeting, the jury is still out. Chances are good, it's all for show as I expected. I mean really, don't we already have another such corporate "safety committee"? What came of that? I'm not feeling any safer.

We're still waiting for the money they owe us in back wages after approving a new contract. A simple computer query would instantly calculate what we're owed, yet we still await payment. Huh. That's how they treat "heroes" I guess.

Why should I put any strength behind my agreeing to discuss "Operator Safety" with a management that is more concerned with disciplining us than paying us what we're due? I'm skeptical, to say the least.

* * * * *

Most of all, tonight I am relieved. For nine days I won't have to put my life at risk for a public that would rather bitch and moan about any perceived mistake I might make, no matter its ignorance of the ridiculous rules I operate within. 

A few asked what I'm a gonna do my week off.

"I'm not gonna drive a bus," was my reply. And that's vacation enough. 

* * * * *

Driving a bus is not anything like it once was. The past decade, Portland's transit agency has doubled down on pleasing the unforgiving riding public while making our lives miserable. The toll on those who roll wheels has become insanely-past unbearable. Yet here we are, still and always showing up for work even in the most miserable conditions. Pandemic, fire/smoke, ice/snow/freezing rain or unbearable heat, we take the wheel while management brazenly brags it is "working from home". It's difficult to show any respect for those who rain horror down upon us as we suffer the worst possible conditions.

Meanwhile, we have an Interim General Manager who seems to have a heart. Like many of us, I hope for the best but am conditioned to expect the same ol' same ol'. I gave up my quest for the top job because my "qualifications" don't meet corporate standards. Why put myself out there? It would be a joke to the "Bored of Directors" to consider someone who actually understands the plight of transit operators. Their purchased media mugs would make a joke of my "lack of qualifications" and I would be subject to ridicule. No thank you. To chase an impossible quest is more than I can stomach. My ego is not sufficient to withstand the scrutiny necessary to pursue the improbable. I'm faulty at best, unwilling to defend my perceived misgivings, at worst. I have too little time to fight battles I cannot win. Fuck it. Sam, go for it but don't forget where you began your transit career, like most of us.

I have been beaten down by extremely-low expectations from those whose very job should be to support US. To say I'm tired belittles the reality of my utter mental and physical exhaustion. I'm 60-years-old, hoping to find some security in a looming retirement after 40+ years in the blue-collar workforce. The government taxes us heavily when we work more than we're expected to and then sucks even more when we leave the workforce. When I die, they'll tax my carcass for the pittance it's worth. Retirement is not a pretty scene for most of us, but it's ALL we have to keep us going. Most of us won't live long enough to enjoy it anyway, given the toll this profession has on our mind/body/soul.

Retirement into a casket is all too often our lot. It's too sad to contemplate.

So here I sit, happy to have nine days absent from the seat's torture. I'll dread my return to the seat. I will play, enjoy time with my wife and sons, begin and finish home projects, work on my upcoming novel, drink to excess and rest at every opportunity. At my age, a nap is 40 minutes of bliss. Yard work, housecleaning projects and helping Sam move will ease my aching soul. Seeing dear friends will be a calming elixir. Treating my PTSD, avoiding transit-related nightmares... byproducts of this profession. Even on vacation, I cannot escape the reality of a profession which beats us into a hardly-recognizable facsimile of who we hope to be. 

The sun has risen. It's time for me to snuggle next to Beloved for my first rest sans alarm in too long a time. Nighty night, dear readers. Stay safe, would ya?

The Sun Sets

Patrick's Note: It has been nearly a week since Deke N. Blue passed from his bloggery life. It has taken that long to come to terms with...