|We are strong... we are OREGON!|
Call me a sissy, I don't care. So much is given to the male's supposed "superiority" through centuries of ill-guided missives dedicated to our supposed strength, yet most of us collapse in horrible grief when our mothers leave this world.
If not for my mother, I would not be writing to you now in this time of great peril of humanity. We're faced with an invisible assassin which ignores race, sexuality, political affiliation or religious affiliation. It only knows one reality: it serves to kill any human affected. In this mass assault, we have finally become more closely-connected than ever before. In its quest to eliminate our billions, we have finally become ONE. How horrifically ironic.
We have been separated by whatever the corporate mindset has decreed. Now, we're simply humans assailed by a common virus intent upon killing as many as it possibly can. Still, we remain so separated we assault one another for toilet paper. Such a shitty thing, eh? Truly.
Still, as a bus operator in one of America's most-loving cities, I glimpse tiny yet abundant sights of kindness which inspire me to keep on keepin' on. We have the ability to love another enough to rise above yet another challenge to the human genome. There is love aplenty amongst us, and I have seen it in grand moments while doing my job.
Young men gesturing to an old man in insistence he board even though a sudden rainstorm leaves him waiting for the next bus as we can only allow 10-15 passengers on our rides. An elderly gentleman giving up his seat for a mother and her newborn baby. Fellow passengers picking up spilled grocery items for another with napkin-protected hands. People thanking me for driving in spite of this damned virus' dangers. Motorists finally acknowledging the Yield signal upon my attempt to merge back into traffic after servicing a stop.
|I pray that we once again see Portland's streets|
surge with vitality and a renewed promise...
to move forward once again!
How sad that it took a worldwide health emergency for these things to happen. Sure, they occur on occasion when all is safe and well; however it seems that people have become more "human" as humanity itself is so threatened.
Yeah, we are simply "government employees" as I saw a Facebooker comment upon one of my posts on Oregon CityChitChat 2.0. As if that means we're simply willing pawns to whatever disaster befalls humanity. Still, I am human, just as FB Asshole Who Anonymously Comments is. That should allow us the simplest degree of respect. If the government is faceless and sub-human in its service to those who pay my meager salary in death's possible grasp, perhaps I also deserve an equal amount of compassion whilst providing one of humanity's most-vital of services: inexpensive, safe transportation wherever you must go.
All I can do is what I am trained to. Once that commanding wheel of 20-tons is in my grasp, all I can do is roll as years of service has taught me. With resolve to avoid any dangers which present themselves. To keep those within my 40-foot professional prison safe from harm while they ride, simultaneously avoiding mishaps with the irresponsible motorists with whom I roll amongst. That's all I do... as just any bus driver does.
We are constantly assailed. You don't read news accounts of airline pilots, ship captains or train conductors who insist their passengers adhere to their edicts regarding safety. You only read about bus or rail operators who seemingly "fuck up" when someone doesn't pay attention and ends up injured or dead. The headline always reads "Bus/Light Rail Vehicle KILLS Pedestrian" rather than "Pedestrian Fails to Heed Warning and Ends Up Injured/Dead". It's always assumed that it's our fault that someone is injured or dies due to their own inability to ensure their own safety.
Before this stupid bug caught our collective attention, our local government decided to employ a panel of local busy-bees to "investigate" transit-related mishaps, as if our own internal investigations aren't enoughTruly. We are assumed guilty, having to prove our innocence even in the most obvious cases of our supposed "victim's" inability to sense the danger of several tons of doom headed their way. It's as if personal responsibility is a thing of the past. We're held responsible for the most ridiculous of humanity's failures. I remain incredulous, given my constant vigilance for those who fail to take their own safety into account. Why not employ a board which investigates the stupidity of those injured by their lack of vigilance for their own safety?
We are simply human. Although intensely-trained and constantly vigilant, we're only able to predict the obvious, often even past the least of what our imagination may suggest. Sometimes, even our most-intense vigilance fails to catch the most ridiculous of failures. Imagine the horror my fellow operator felt a few years back when a bicyclist slipped and fell into the rear duals of a bus, only to be chopped into bloody road kill pieces. Rolling up to a bus pulling away from a service stop, the cyclist made the fatal mistake of using one hand to bang upon a moving bus in hopes of stopping it, only to slip and fall into a 20-ton killing machine. That operator was not at fault; the cyclist did not realize the danger of simply touching a moving bus, and died because it. From that fatal moment on, the bus operator has had to live with that fatality, not of their own making.
|Someday, Roger and I will once again|
enjoy a friendship that has lasted
nearly half a century.
We work through the worst of conditions. This pandemic is the worst any human has had to endure. Police, firefighters, EMT's, healthcare professionals and vital-retail employees along with transit operators and are the most endangered. We go to work fully-cognizant of our collective peril. Still, WE endure. WE cannot "work from home" or escape the pandemic's constant threat to our health or that of those loved ones we might infect without even knowing we do so.
Even as transit management believes it is doing all it can to keep us "safe" from this pandemic, transit workers everywhere are constantly exposed to COVID-19. Masks and gloves alone cannot keep us safe... this bug knows nothing but how to kill. It will seep into US as long as we endeavor to keep the wheels of transit rolling.
Those of us who kick this bug's ass will long remember its' horrible grasp upon our collective resolve to endure. We will mourn those lost, hopefully small in number, incredibly dear to us even so. We must resolve to angrily demand our management consider us VITAL to its "Mission and Objectives" forevermore, rather than relegating us to budgetary items left to bottom-line negotiators.
WE move transit. WE are worthy of respect over and above simple budgetary concerns. For over a century WE have been the face and nuts-and-bolts of transit, and will always remain so. WE attend the same churches as our passengers, coach their children in sports and other endeavors. WE are the human FACE of transit, not simply some number on a list. Once this nightmare is past, please remind those who "manage" US that we are much more valuable than our ATU757 members are given credit for.
When you next board a transit vehicle wearing a mask, having had to wait an additional 15-30 minutes because the previous bus already bore its' maximum number of passengers, PLEASE do not berate the operator for your "inconvenience". That operator has likely been verbally-assaulted by several passengers a few stops back. Their stress level is likely MUCH higher than yours. Not only have they endured the normal stresses of operating, but also the stones of frustration thrown at them from those previously left behind.
I hate leaving people behind, having done so during normal operations. Given today's necessity of "social distancing" we are under enormous pressure to protect not only those already on our vehicles, but also those who wait in the rain hoping we have room for them. We are not heartless assholes who enjoy your pain as we inform you there isn't room for you to board. We're simply trying to do our jobs under the most stressful of conditions.
We will get through this. It will be difficult at the least, painful most likely, horrific and depressing for the next few months. Still, I pray our fellow Portlanders will prevail through a collective strength gained over nearly two centuries of perseverance that remains our local source of pride. Throughout our history, Oregonians have been resilient. We were the first settlements of the United States' Pacific Coast push.
Our ancestors endured the unimagined rigors of westward expansion to settle a region once only known to the Natives who peacefully resided here at least a thousand years before our arrival. Our ancestors settled here, faced hardships none of us could imagine in our now-pampered existence. They paved former wagon ruts into highways so future settlers could further-enrich this wondrous land of rich soil and wondrous vistas. We robbed its former inhabitants of their lands, and owe our prosperity to those who endured long before our arrival. We owe them a promise which we have constantly failed to provide: peace and prosperity. We can only repay our debt by a collective resolve to do right by one another, and to finally fulfill that promise.
It was my dream of a better tomorrow that I moved my family here nearly two decades ago. Once upon a long while ago, I rolled a tractor-trailer through Portland in amazement and awe of its incredible beauty. "I could live here!" I exclaimed as my truck rolled through the Columbia Gorge. Passing the misty wonders of Multnomah Falls, I yearned for the chance to stop and throw some bait into that wonderful river I rolled alongside. A few years later, I brought my young family here from Arizona, and we loved and grew alongside you all.
Now, I share a worldwide concern that we simply survive this pandemic. Given my constant exposure to those of you I love and work beside, only my Irish luck and centuries-constant American grit pushes me onward. I will continue doing my job until my body forces retirement. Until that time, all I have is what I do... write my truth to this profession. If this body falls victim to the bug we all fear, then so be it. However, I'll fight that little bastard with all I have. My ancestry bids me to do no less. We have lived on this continent since the early 1700s. I fear not, for my ancestors faced much worse. My will to persevere is imbedded in my DNA. I'll do what I must. It's all we have, isn't it? We must not fear anything but fear itself, as Franklin Roosevelt implored us nearly a century ago.
This is OUR World War; our common catastrophic event. It encompasses the entire planet, all of humanity. Throughout my journey, I promise to write. Even if this little bastard invades my body, I'll fight and write it. With God's help and hopefully His guidance, I will do my best. However, my prayers remain with my family and also with YOU and your loved ones. May we finally find that inner strength to come together rather than constantly fighting amongst ourselves. If we fail, then kiss humanity's ass goodbye.
In the past week, I have seen many signs of Oregon's strength and commitment to our fellow citizens. A few days ago, we sent 100+ ventilators to New York, our country's most-densely populated cities and therefore virally the most hard-hit. Because we have been practicing social distancing for weeks now, our infection rate has lagged below national norms. In a gesture of goodwill, we give freely to our fellow citizens across this beloved continent in absence of our own government's response to collective agony. If our federal government cannot help its own, then it becomes the will of its people to rise above political ridiculousness to save itself. It's truly sad to witness the federal government's failure to take decisive steps to safeguard its own citizens in favor of an economy that cannot survive if we all die.
I pray, with all I have ever before, to see you on the "other side" of this. Peace, safety and health be with you all. May this Easter have special meaning for everyone, Christian or otherwise, as we collectively pray for humanity's renewal.
|My enduring dream is that my Beloved|
and I return to Edinburgh and
all of Scotland's long-lasting beauty.
Deke N. Blue