Sunday, November 18, 2018

I Hit the Wall Again

Our 19th century architecture in Portland
graces us at every turn.

Deke's Note: I slid into this weekend like it was the World Series, Game 7 and down four runs in extra innings with a body aching like a 90-year-old with hemorrhoids. It was a rough week, lemme tell ya.

A few years ago, I hit the proverbial "wall" that most bus operators do at some (or several) points in our careers. Evidently, I've slammed into that bastard once again. I've hit it so hard my bus bounced back and found another angle to try from. Problem is this time, that wall isn't budging a milliliter. The reason is one I can't understand. Perhaps it's because my entire body is beginning to fell the effects of pressing the brake pedal thousands of times each week. My hips, left big toe, lower back and right knee complain solo or in symphonic agony. There are pains in my soul as well, as those who know me have heard my cries in the night.

No matter, these various ailments are something transit operators grit our teeth and endure. It's not something limited to transit; people in every stressful occupation fight through a myriad of issues every moment of each workday. We just tough it out and keep on rolling. What else can we do? Other than our brothers and sisters, nobody gives a damn. Management makes it crystal clear: be perfect, or else. Even if you are doing your job as trained, those "on high" can make your life miserable as easily as a politician lies for a living. That's why I write this blog... for all my brothers and sisters who feel they don't have a voice. I'll protest the hell out of our injustice for you. It might cost me my job someday, but I'll continue laying it all out for the world to read. To do anything less would go against everything I've been taught by the best parents, family and friends one could ever dream of having. If anything, I'm loyal to what's right in this working person's life. Even if I'm wrong sometimes, each life is composed of a series of individual beliefs and values. This blog is simply a conversation from one who does the job, right or wrong, mile after mile.

Enough jibber jabber. Time for some fun.

Rolled up to a downtown stop this week, about 30 minutes late. On board ambles a sometimes-regular grouch.

"That was a long wait," she growled upon boarding.

Downtown Portland at dusk
on an abnormally-clear autumn evening.
A sweet lass had accompanied me since she boarded, standing just behind the Yellow Line. We've become pals this signup. Nice girl, student, sweet and thoughtfully conscientious. Someone who could easily be my daughter-in-law someday, I adore her like one of my own. Alejandra is someone I look forward to driving, because she's not only fun to talk with but also sympathetic and kind. I could tell without seeing Alejandra's face she was shocked at how rude this aged professional complainer had been to me. Ale had stood there the entire time I was locked within a sea of motorists bound to park at the Rose Quarter for whatever syrupy event was on tap. Rush hour, on top of it all.

"I'm sorry," I replied in a sardonic tone to the snarl-faced bag, "but it's been heavy traffic."

"Whatever," Grumpy Gertie spat.

"I really didn't arrive late just to inconvenience you," I said, my Irish rising. "It's just been bumper-to-bumper through the Rose Quarter."

Not a peep of acknowledgement to the transit operator's plea for gridlock mercy, except her regular command, "Make sure you're close to the curb at my stop."

"I always do," I shot back. "Don't you remember me?" She rides my bus a few times each week.

"I can't remember all of you," she spat back. This rebuke stung like an angry wasp assaulting my nether regions.

Her particular stop is often cramped by cars parked just prior to the zone. Because I know the bus like the back of my hand by now, I'm able to angle my front door just above the curb, lowering it so she can just skip right off my ride without missing a beat. Evidently, it's expected rather than appreciated. Fuck me and my professionalism... by gawd, just do it. You're simply a stupid bus driver, do as I say and I won't call into your one-sided customer service line to complain. She could lie and tell them I was texting while driving, and management would believe her over me in an instant. Job gone, liar placated, another worthless driver bites the dust, no big deal.

As usual, I glided smoothly to her stop just as I do every time, and she exited without a word of thanks. It was my fault traffic was jacked up and she was late. The fact that her aged body easily exited the bus was of apparently no bonus.

Ale and I joked about her behavior. "Yeah, I knew she had been waiting all this time, so I just sat there and planned being late just to spite her, didn't I?"

My young amiga laughed at this, and we shared some transit humor at the crab's expense.

Later that night, I rolled up to a downtown stop and heard from a boarding passenger that nine shots had been fired around the corner just a few minutes prior. Cops were flying in from all directions. Dispatch called to make sure I was clearing the area okay. It was a tense moment, but we fled the scene as fast as that sluggish bus could roll.

Sure, but few recognize this.
Yeah, that transit wall I face now is thick and tall. If I were fired tomorrow, I might just feel relieved rather than upset. When you feel no support from management even after the previous GM has retired and the new one has promised a new world full of kittens and joy, the wall just becomes more daunting. Will I successfully come out on the other side, intact and full of renewed optimism? Doubtful. If I come through it at all, that will be a miracle.

At this point in time, we're up to 100 incidents of violence toward transit workers in Portland for 2018. There are still seven weeks left of this calendar, and management makes no moves toward insisting its glorified and pampered passengers treat us with respect. Local media remains typically ignorant, evidently obedient of the transit giant's will to remain so.

That wall keeps growing... I'm a bit too ancient to vault over it these days. Can I get an assist? My brothers and sisters will give me a boost, but management would rather I fall to my death. Please, reach out and give me a hand?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Tunnel Vision Fails to See the Truth

Luckily, the scenery is pleasing.
Life as a bus operator is often ugly.
In today's world, people feel boldly empowered to complain at will. Whether they're sufficiently educated on the subject they weigh in on is of no concern. With a few phone strokes, they can severely alter your public servant bus operators' careers, even if they lie while doing so. It's no matter to them, they're instantly onto a new thread to throw their worthless nine cents into, usually anonymously.

It's these flood waters operators must tread through today. We never know what they'll throw at us. Now add our own management into the mix, who feel emboldened now some have gone through bus operator training. Many have never driven in service, which is an entirely different animal than their pampered, watered-down version. Now they think they know every facet of our jobs, and are watching us with a half-assed eye for any possible infraction we might make, no matter how ill-informed or illogical their complaints may be. It's an infuriating show of disrespect for those who make the wheels roll while the overpaid suits sit in a protected ivory tower.

A young man I'm very fond of and respect highly, new to the job but very dedicated, was speaking of a complaint he received. Anonymously, of course is how it came to him, from someone in a position of power and presumably because of this above reproach. This complaint would be easily disproven in a court of law, but my brother wasn't allowed to defend himself. Any evidence he provided was received with a head-shaking and emphatic NO. It was emphatically illustrated that management believes its own, while operators are evidently lying without question.
"Given this case, it's evident our employer values dishonesty over integrity in its hiring practices."
We often see "millennials" who seem to have their phones surgically attached to their hands. Their eyes are automatically focused on the screen. It's a common myth that a young adult is constantly connected to it. However, bus operators have been intensely-trained and counseled, with hundreds or thousands hours of service under their belt. They are fully aware of the rules we all drive by. They know operators are suspended or even fired for having a cell phone in their hand while in the seat. This young man is truthful and sincere, so when he said that he never takes his phone out until he's on a break, I have no reason to doubt him. I'm a very astute judge of character, and this guy is golden in my opinion. Unfortunately, management believes its own rather than give this young man the benefit of his word. If it ever found anything in his history during the new hire "vetting" process, they would not have hired him. To believe he is dishonest only discredits their hiring processes, not him. In a court of law, this young man would win hands-down. Given this case, it's evident our employer values dishonesty over integrity in its hiring practices.

When you're new to the Extra Board, you can be thrust into driving a run you've never been on with as little as 10 minutes warning. Some have deviations, deadheads and other twists than you've previously learned. In order to know just where to turn, drivers depend on the run's paddle and route's detailed turn-by-turn description located in the pouch. They can be very confusing at first, because the descriptions vary according to what's on the paddle. "If you do A, then read B; if C comes first in an imperfect world, then read D, E or F," can flummox an accomplished PhD, let alone a new driver. You have to flip between several possibilities before finding the one that fits that particular run's paddle.

So imagine this young driver with this laminated (white) description in his hand trying to figure out where he'll end up while driving down the street. He's watching traffic, obstructions, pedestrians, bicycles, working hookers, scooters and street signs as he guides The Beast along. Just across the street lies in wait a management wonk, who looks up from his phone long enough to see our young brother's bus coming his way. Wonky notices the driver accelerates then pauses, accelerates again. To him, it's enough to automatically assume the driver is doing "something wrong." He gets excited, like a teenaged peeping Tom, a voyeur in the shadows, hoping he'll catch a glimpse of something he doesn't quite understand. Here comes the bus, and the driver is holding something in his hand! Oh my, it must be a cell phone! He has 20/2000 vision, by golly, and he's gonna report this young guy! He almost drops his phone, slippery because he's already drooled on it from the excitement. In a flash, he's decided that (white) thing in the driver's hand is a phone! Bingo! Gotcha, dude!

Since his phone is too slippery, Macho Manager fails to photograph the event. However, in his self-impressive style, he shoots off a text or email to report the driver, saying he was positive the driver had a cell phone in his hand. BAM! Guilty without a trial, no self defense allowed or to be believed above the revered management member. Perhaps the manager's hands were tied, and was ordered not to take the operator's word over his exalted own.

"... we're slandered with little to no recourse to defend our honor."

It's infuriating, this evident abuse of power. Our management has no oversight, can do or say whatever it wants while its puppet Board of Acquiescence just nods along while napping. Meanwhile, we're slandered with little to no recourse to defend our honor.

The local media jumps on any fabricated story about how terrible operators are, no matter how ill-informed the complainer or media are about the nature of our jobs. They're all slow to compliment or commend our actions that save lives worldwide every moment. We're true professionals in a sea of incompetent motorists intent on getting to the red light first with no regards to any other's well-being. If we honk, we're reported. If we're in a collision, one of the questions on our reports is whether we sounded our horn, and from how far away? If we swat at a fly, people call in and accuse us of road rage. Well if you think we were raging at you, then pray tell, what the hell did you do to deserve it? Something foolishly dangerous, no doubt.

"Motorist Slams Bus Mirror"
gets reported... NEVER.
It's criminal to slander someone, yet our management and the public are allowed to do so freely, where an operator is concerned, without any recrimination. Lie with impugnity, no problem. If an operator is even accused of any crime, we're automatically guilty. It's a nasty double standard, but nobody seems to care. Except US. Evidently, we don't count in the general scheme of things.

"This is the best job I've ever had," my friend told me years ago when I was new. "But it's the worst company, by far, that I've ever worked for." Bingo, brother you nailed it.

Any lawyer would have insisted Macho come forward and testify under oath that the operator indeed had held a cell phone in his hand, but that wasn't to be. Our brother tried to explain what he was doing, but his story evidently held no sway whatever. Result? He was suspended. Over a false complaint from someone who supposedly values us. From a faulty witness who "saw" an operator over other vehicles, as his bus rolled  at least 20mph, through a windshield that other operators can't see through well enough to identify who's waving back at us. Yeah, he saw what he reported: bullshit. The operator wasn't even allowed the knowledge of the identity of his accuser, someone who is charged with our protection. In a court of law, this "eyewitness" would be soundly discredited, if not jailed for perjury.

There are few occupations where you can be so recklessly held accountable for something you didn't do. We're assaulted daily, insulted constantly by the public, the media and our own management. Yet, we have no line to call in our own complaints. We dance a ballet through tight streets with practiced ease, safely transporting over 300,000 of our fellow citizens every day. When we're falsely accused, nobody listens, and our voices are drowned out by the supposed superiority of those charged with running the show. We're constantly performing transit miracles, on time nine out of 10 times, and rarely praised publicly for our skill and precision. It's expected of us, but not appreciated by our employers considering how we're treated in these situations.

I'm insulted at my brother's treatment. He was suspended for three days without pay, for something he insists is not true. We're "shepherds of the public safety," The Rampant Lion tells me. I drive with this in mind every moment I'm in the service of our community. It would be nice if my employer backed us with support, rather than into a corner without any reasonable means of self defense. Instead, we're served a hypocritical day once a year when we're told we're "appreciated." Some of us, anyway. Those outside of banker's hours are totally ignored.

My only satisfaction comes from the passenger who tells me on the way out the door, "Thanks for the smooth ride, I appreciate you." I'm glad somebody does. Perhaps management should take Perry Passenger's hint.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Selling My Book Ain't for Sissies

If anything, I'm a stubborn sumbitch. Hey I thought a few years ago, I'll write a book of blog posts! What a stroke of genius! The damn thing's already written, I just have to put it all together, and by jingo it'll be easy! Just get it published on Amazon and sell a few zillion copies and I won't have to drive a damn bus 55 hours a week any longer!

Riiiiiggggghhhhhhttttt. Fuhgedaboudit. It was a long, tedious and patience-testing project which was about as "easy" as pulling a rusty nail out of my foot. The editing itself nearly pushed me harder than braking an old bus going downhill. Eventually, the book was published and I had seen it through to completion. That in itself was an accomplishment from one who started building his eight-year-old daughter a dollhouse only to present it to her when she was 17. At least the book only required 18 months to produce, but it also was the catalyst of my first on-top grey hairs. Fuzz budgets.

The book's "success" has been about as lukewarm as the Oregon coast in December. While readers have generously written 30 five-star reviews, the revenue production rivals about 1/20th of minimum wage, or less. Oh well, not a terrible start to a literary career... there have been less glorious debuts.

Now I've produced the audio book version of JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane. In one month, there have been an unprecedented SIX copies sold! That's just enough for a bottle of middle-shelf Irish whiskey, but it may take about five of them to accomplish an ambitious marketing plan for this new version. I've hired Jess the Audiobookworm to sponsor a "tour" of the book on several reviewer blogs. This is supposed to generate interest in the book, but there's always the chance these full-time reviewers will not look upon my baby with the pride of its author. It's a risk, but I've never backed down from a challenge. If I fail, there's always the next book, and the one after that, followed by more... yadda yadda yadda. Like I said, stubborn is me modus operandi.

My "head shot." Glamorous, eh?
So here I sat for about 20 minutes tonight, reading through the things Jess needs to start the tour. One of these requirements is a photo of the author. Any volunteers? Y'all know Deke doesn't have one of them thar photograff(sicop: spelled incorrectly on purpose) thingees(ditto). A pseudonym requires anonymity, and plastering a photo of myself on the internets would spoil this disguise forever. I reckon I'll shoot her the head shot showing only my personalized cap.

Part of me wonders if I should just pull the damn book, count my losses and move on to the next book. After all, maybe a twelfth of my Portland brothers and sisters have purchased it, and a smattering of others across the States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. I'm not feeling sorry for myself about it. Rather, I'm a realist. People just don't like to read much these days, unless it's on a phone screen, especially if they do what I write about. The truth sucks, but it remains thus.

I'm no King, Twain or Vonnegut, just plain ol' bus driving Deke. I'll keep writing because that's who I am. This literary challenge to myself began later in life than it should have, but later is better than having never done it at all.

There. A post about writing instead of complaining about the road bozos we constantly endure. Hopefully, you'll keep your eyes crossed for me. Otherwise, I'll be driving until I leave the bus in a casket.

The 77-year-old future Deke will hobble out to his bus and tell a newbie, "Just help me into the seat sonny, I'll take 'er from there!"

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Scoot Your Ass Over!

How scooter-fools appear to the vigilant bus operator:
not quite "there."
Deke's Note: Is this blog still relevant? Is it read beyond the stubborn few, or sliding into irrelevance? I've been thinking hard on these questions this past week. Reading seems to be a lost art, as three-minute videos, limited-word Tweets and YouTubers take over the minds of millions. Regardless, as long as I have something to write about, I'll continue. Ideas keep coming, so I reckon this blog ain't done yet.

Our society seems hell-bent on destroying itself. It seems to have begun with the advent of everyone having a cell phone. We're more disconnected now, although the "Cellular Revolution" was supposed to give us collective knowledge. People are more in tune with a small screen than with their immediate surroundings. When I began this blog, cellulism was becoming a phenomenon; now it's pandemic. Within all the competing connections there's a frightening lack of personal responsibility. I fight this curse as well, walking down the street checking my business email or catching up with FaceBook. It seems sometimes an annoyance to have to simultaneously remain aware of what's happening in real life. Five years ago, I scoffed at this behavior, but I'm often "one of them."

A bit small, but pointing in the right direction!
Bus operators all know how dangerous the streets have become the past few years, but it's not obvious to anyone else. Not only are other motorists intent on selfish ignorance, but there are more dangers than ever. The advent of the for-rent scooters has become an epidemic of foolishness. Several times each day, I see scooter-renters shoot through lights that have turned red seconds before they even reach the intersection.

On the transit mall, I'm even more vigilant in scanning side streets as I see my light turn green. Scooterfools don't look in either direction, their headphones bleating outside noise away as if it matters naught. These contraptions have given me, albeit grudgingly, a greater appreciation for skateboarders. At least the latter seem to be more cognizant of what's going on around their artistic multi-wheeled gymnastics. They tend to realize that their tricks gone awry could land them directly in the path of my 20-ton behemoth, and communicate with each other when we're around. I appreciate that, and give them a wave in thanks for their vigilance.

On my route yesterday, I had the honor of rolling with Bobby, an artist with a firm grasp of what it means to be "artistic." He reminded me that art accepts many forms, and cannot be easily defined. My drawing is atrocious, and I can't even produce a decent stick-man, but I am at home with this keyboard. A guitarist plays the same chords as a pianist, but the sounds are deliciously different. We discussed how art encompasses varying canvasses, and it was a wonderful departure from the banal "Hi, how are you" to engage an entertaining and intelligent passenger in conversation.

Bobby also understands how people interact with transit operators. He uses a wheelchair for locomotion, and agrees that life is more dangerous today. I'm trying to steer clear of people who don't watch out for themselves, while he maneuvers through those who don't see him. Bobby's safer on a bus than he is on his own, and I fear for his safety.

We're all responsible for our own safe passage through this world. Some take life for granted and believe it's up to others to watch out for them. It's a shared responsibility though. While the Art of Self-Preservation is merely stalling the inevitable, people need to accept their mortality is real. Birth, life and death happen to us all. We eventually pass beyond this life, but I shouldn't have to witness anybody's final act of foolishness. Plus, I hate blood on my bus.

My fellow bus operators everywhere are constantly watching out for you ill-attentive individuals. Please look up from your cell phone long enough to avoid our watching you die. It's a serious concern to someone behind the wheel of a bus or light rail vehicle. Shouldn't it be yours as well?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Slap the Hand Away that Hushes Us

Hello again. It's been a gnarly three weeks since I wrote to y'all. I've taken a vacation, dealt with tremendous personal crises, re-connected with old friends and walked a few trails of my youth. The tears of an aging troubadour have fallen in three states. My soul was unable to relate as it has here, so I just stopped. Through an intensely painful event, I found how many people truly love me and are always there. My gratitude is eternal, and the healing has begun. To describe what I've been through would unnecessarily reveal my true identity. However, I'm not ready to "come out" yet. Let me explain why.

This blog's main purpose has been to describe this operator's life "in the seat." Sometimes, my thoughts and actions run afoul of what our management might consider appropriate for their model of what we "should" be. I've never been one to conform to pre-determined notions dictated by anybody. "I yam what I yam," Popeye the Sailor Man famously said. That's me, Deke says now. To reveal my identity would shred any sense of freedom I have to write my life as a public servant. Only a few besides my fellow transit workers actually read this blog anyway, because the local media refuses to give it any mention. We're just lowly transit operators after all, not worthy of public notice.

There are few voices of the true blue-collar workers today. It's my duty to honestly describe what happens "out there." Readers worldwide have written that my words often accurately portray what they feel as they cruise along their own city streets in a bus operator seat. Others say this blog opened their eyes to the dedication of purpose their own bus operators display. Occasionally, people will take issue with certain topics and challenge my innate stubbornness. Whatever the case, FromTheDriverSide has become a living conduit between whoever you are, and whatever I've become in the evolution of a rolling civil troubadour.

Management naps while we suffer.
This struggle of an anonymity hidden behind a thinly-veiled, manufactured dual personality is a burden I deal with intensely every day. I want to reveal myself, but reality dictates a different path. There's a lot of work to do as a transit blogger. That series on bus maintenance will happen someday. Each shift gives me bloggish ideas, but they appear briefly then vanish as the most important topics take precedence. An ongoing pandemic of aggression toward transit workers consumes much of my literary efforts here; I feel there's not enough public awareness of our plight. We're at 97 incidents of violence against us now; our management blurs its own statistics so it can brag how "crime is down on the system," but we feel the truth. We've been shot at several times this year, beaten, threatened, harassed and falsely-accused of many things beyond normal comprehension. Still, we continue to provide this community with top-notch public transit. We're safe, steady and smooth, unlike our management or local politicians.

A local news station recently ran a story about a passenger filing a lawsuit against our employer alleging a bus operator refused them service because of their skin color. We're calling bullshit. This happens every day, in that people falsely accuse us of "racism" when they don't get their pampered way. Transit is simple: be at the bus stop, on time, with fare ready. Otherwise, take a walk. We don't have time to pander to the unprepared. The reporter failed to offer our side. This tends to convict the operator via one-sided vilification. It's dirty laundry at its ugliest, and I wonder why our union didn't step up and demand more responsible journalism.

We're often portrayed as the "bad guy" in local media, when we actually save lives and commit countless acts of kindness each day. Take our brother Jeff a few summers ago, who was back-stabbed in the media by a passenger who accused Jeff of many things, conveniently omitting his own faults. Once Jeff's story came out, the media disappeared. There was no vindication for an operator who had served 18 years on the job. He was left to hang on the ropes; he retired rather than fight another futile battle with management. Once in a while our spineless local media throw in a "feel good" tale about a bus operator, but in reality these stories could fill an hour-long newscast each day. I sincerely doubt the recent accuser of racism told the "full story" of his encounter. People complain all the time via lies and slander, are often racists themselves, and we're left victims to this one-sided fool's game. The media eats every morsel fed to it without the slightest remorse or professional responsibility.

Just last night, a dear friend of mine sat "in the seat" as police leveled their weapons at a heavily-armed passenger and removed him from her bus. It's a line I've driven before, and I shivered at the reality this could have happened to me. She was likely left with the haunting thought... what if he had used one of those weapons on me?

Of those 97 assaults, mine was one; a dear friend of mine has suffered two of them. The 94 others were suffered by fellow public servants simply doing their jobs. We shouldn't have to worry about our safety, but few others do. Our management says the right words, but doesn't stand behind us. We're left wondering what is acceptable, when decency dictates we shouldn't have to second-guess our own self-defense. Try that shit with a cop, and you could be shot dead. Punch a bus operator, no problem... you'll likely see the court system offer a plea agreement equaling a tap on the bum and a "be nice, now" utterance on their way out the door.

Our management is complicit in the negative perception of today's transit worker. We're plagued by double-standards regarding the very policies we're supposed to uphold. Passengers flaunt this corporate weakness, refusing to follow the most basic rules because they're supported by our management while we are not. Confronted by a touchy situation on the road, any decision we make is often torn to shreds by corporate nerds desperate to be everything to all passengers. We are professionals who make decisions on-the-spot. We're left to the wolves. If we defend ourselves, we're subject to severe discipline on the fluttering winds of whoever's opinion is the flavor of the day in our wishy-washy management. We're a confused workforce, not sure how we're supposed to operate.

Yeah, I'm still pretty upset as a transit blogger. There are thousands of voices crying to be heard, while management plugs its ears and issues meaningless, contradictory edicts. "Stay in the seat and accept your beating or you'll be suspended or terminated" is what we're hearing. Judging by what has happened to many operators, this seems to be the status quo. I'd dearly love to hear our bumbling talking heads get on some news station and have a Donald Duck temper tantrum over the number of assaults we've endured over the past five years. But all we hear is... silence. The media won't cover the story, even though I've begged them to take notice. Guess how that makes us feel? Yeah, exactly. Ignored, and left to die. Literally. One of us will have to go to our grave before these boneheads realize we're "playing for keeps out there." It's kind of hard to realize our collective reality when you're protected, not working on the front lines of a violent society.

Maybe this post will turn some of the babbling heads. It will likely piss them off, but too bad. We're beyond pissing, spitting or hitting. Licking our wounds, we feel isolated by all who take a salary without lifting a weak hand in our defense. An expensive cage might make the numbers drop a corporately-acceptable percentage, but we have to leave the seat sometimes. When that happens, rest assured I'll not lie down and take a stabbing or shooting peaceably. I'm gonna fight tooth and nail, as any human's biological "fight or flight" response would require in "reasonable self-defense." If I damage the assailant, I'll be surely fired by a lawsuit-fearful management while my assailant is glorified by the corporately-eviscerated media. But at least I'll be alive, fuck you very much. Failure to protect myself means you can "out the Deke" because I'll be angry enough to mercilessly haunt you all if you don't parade my corpse in an organized riot. Display me like the martyr I would become, and haul me throughout Portland streets to my rest in a bus painted black, for all to see what they did to me.

Like anyone can actually read fine print;
but hey, at least it's a mention of "the law"
on our buses.
We're cowering to management when we should all be shouting LOUD. I've asked operators to come forward to describe their assaults and how they have dealt with them, but haven't heard a peep. They're afraid of retribution. Yet it only takes one anonymous shake to start an avalanche of opinion. Be brave, fellow operators. There are hundreds of you out there. It only takes one voice to take the stand we need to rally behind; the voice of the pain I feel for you, the pain I've felt with you. Staying quiet only plays into the hand management hushes us with. Slap that hand away and force them to take a stand for once.

So hear ye, hear ye. Deke hears ya, alright. If management figures out who I am, my job is toast. It's a chance I'm willing to take, because my parents taught me to stand up for what's good and right. My "coming out" party will have to wait, because there's just too much work to do, for you my dear brothers and sisters. Somebody must say it; might's well be me.

Let's hope we don't hit 100 by November 1. Stay safe, and remember I'm thinking of you each time you see me wave. We only have each other, and I'm here for you.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Smoothly Rolling Into A Brief Absence

Man, I truly love my Friday work. It's not really  Friday, but it's mine. This route is a blissful respite from the weekly toil. After roughly 6,500 depressions of the brake pedal, my roll is easy on the sooty foot and soul.

Portland is truly a majestic city. Its rolling hills and meandering rivers, heart-stopping vistas and fascinating residents have mesmerized me for nearly two decades. Whenever I slip into a bad mood, one of you make me smile or laugh. If one motorist pisses me off, another amazes me with kindness. There's a balance here that makes life roll off my shoulders into my soul.

After years of dealing with management blunders, I've learned to forget them when I'm "out there" rolling my big ol' wheels. It's just me and the hum of the road, passengers quietly reading their screens, and a big picture window to view.

Music roars silently in my mind, the steering wheel slides from my touch into a smoothly-rolled turn. Suddenly there's something new to marvel upon not there three hours prior. I'm beating a rhythm with my feet and hands as I accelerate into the fall colors which give way to green grass and cloudy panoramas. It's like a wakeful dream. Passengers board and I greet them without seeing their pain. My smile sends peace, my soul ignores the rude. It's just a job, but one I love.

Music to the soul: a wheelchair-using passenger gave me a cherished compliment the other day. "You are one of the smoothest drivers I've had the pleasure of riding with," he said before rolling off the ramp. His sincerity astounded me, and it felt oh so good.

Stunned, I offered a belated reply: "Thank you! My boss would LOVE to hear you say that. I certainly did! Thanks for riding, sir."

An ADA commendation would be nice, since I always work hard to give folks a ride as smooth as my first girlfriend. Unfortunately, I haven't ever had one. That's okay though. His cherished words made up for the thousands of smooth rolls I provide each week without verbal kudos.

I'm taking leave of this blog for a few weeks now. At risk of betraying my identity, I embark upon a blissful week of vacation. Since this literary exercise deals with transit, it only makes sense I leave it behind with the grind. Time to relax with friends, look back and into the future while resting the joints made sore by unforgiving bus operator seats. Sip a bit o'whiskey, leave my Portland behind and stride forward into my past. I'll be back, perhaps with a few surprises in my literary knapsack.

Meanwhile, please visit Amazon and buy JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane if you haven't already. I put my heart and soul into that book, and everyone who has read it insists a great read awaits you. If not, thanks; at least you read this.

Safe travels wherever you meander, my dear readers. Until these fingers return my words to you, have a nice week or else I'll record a bus fart for my next post.

Later, ya lug nuts.

Friday, October 5, 2018

We Can't Please 'Em All the Time

"Our policy is that when someone approaches your bus at an intersection, you're supposed to board them," the voice told me. Not my voice, but one of authority. In order not to publicly bash my union fellows, I won't say who or what department. They were simply stating local policy.

In my mind, I was thinking "Bullshit I'm gonna let that dumbass on my bus." Checking myself, I told the other voice in a controlled one of my own, "I'm aware of policy. In this instance, I determined it wasn't safe."

While the blubbering heads of transit spout more "gotta please everyone all the time" bullshit every day, operators are finding it harder to balance common sense with the insanity we face on the road. Especially when we're on the transit mall, certain operator rules of the road must be followed just to keep the flow rolling. When I'm in the first position, I'm watching the cross-street pedestrian timer. Once it hits three seconds, I close my doors. This means I'm no longer accepting passengers, no matter how frantic they appear. During rush hour, there could be up to five buses behind me waiting to roll up, and I won't delay them. If you're not on my bus when the doors close, you're too late Sorry, but that's the culture management has sown, and they need to back us on it or roll the wheels back a few decades. This "let them on" mentality is in direct conflict with its on-time bullshit. If that's what they want, okay then. Just cancel the customer servicey crap because it just doesn't jive with being on time. It certainly doesn't encourage safe driving practices, but evidently that no longer matters because the "Safety First" signs disappeared from our inner sanctum last year. You can have schedule, but not also safety and customer service all packaged together. It just doesn't work.

Not too long ago, Portland's transit was ranked Numero Uno by the National Transit Safety Board, but now languishes around 20th. We're no longer the passenger-friendly system, but don't blame the operator. We're controlled by a group of neo-corporate bumblers who have never driven a transit vehicle in service. They have no idea what damage their edicts have done. They took driver training and think they know it all, but we have the inside track. If you want a good system, fire management and hire from within. We'll right the wrongs and the ship will sail to the front once again.

Until then, be at the stop on time, or you're simply early for the next bus. We have a schedule to keep, and it's an unforgiving one. Whine to the CS Line all you want, but we can't please you and management at the same time. Get used to it, chums.