Thursday, April 18, 2019

Dear Passengers


Dear Passengers,

My, how you have regressed since the cellphone explosion not quite a decade ago. Back then, you knew how to ride transit. You actually treated us with respect. Now, it seems most collective intelligence has been sucked out of your grey matter and into a tiny chip which stores all you hold dear.

Behold... your willful ignorance is something not to be treasured. Fight it! Come back into the light. Think. It's what separates us from the rest of the animals. Or, at least it once did. I'm beginning to believe we're doomed. Stephen King's book "Cell" is about to come true. Based on what I see from the seat of a bus, which is where many consider a lack of any intelligence whatsoever to reside, many of you are a lost cause. Even so, I'll step out on this trembling literary limb to boost you up from that murky intellectual-free fog and give you some real-life pointers.

Bus Stops

There are thousands of them here. If you have spent any time on a transit vehicle, you know what they look like. Or you did, prior to becoming mesmerized by the latest gizmo in hand. Hint: it's blue and tall. YES! It's a blue pole with a sign at the top! Very good! There's hope for you yet. The sign actually has numbers on it which correspond with the buses or light rail vehicles (not trains, as many call them) which stop there. There are often several lines which service the same stops. As the time for your ride approaches, take a moment and... LOOK UP! Hey, is that your ride coming now? No? Damn! Here's another lesson: Instead of looking back down at the video in your hand, why not tell the bus operator that you're not interested in his service? How, you ask? Harken back to any horror film and imagine you're about to decapitate yourself, making motion with your hand seesawing across your carotid artery. Yes, that's it!

Now Deke doesn't have to stop his bus (for perhaps the 889th time that day, truly), open the door and ask if you need a ride, only to be the recipient of a dismissive shake of the head and a one-eyed askew glance. I actually did not shoot your dog. Why look at me that way? You have cut 30-45 seconds off my time due to your casual indifference. The 30+ people on my bus are anxious to get to their connections, and they were at their stops on time. They don't deserve your selfishness and I desperately need to make my bladder gladder, so fuck you very much. I hope the bus you are waiting for broke down and isn't being filled for another 10 hours. Do not complain to me that you've been waiting six years for a different line and then demand I tell you when it's coming. You will not appreciate my answer.

Shelters

Our transit agency seems to have hired the same fools who designed most shelters around the world, which do little or nothing to protect you from the elements. They are also very hard to see into or through. Don't sit there (yeah once again), looking down at your... whatever. Especially if you have a hair color other than glow-in-the-dark neon.

You are virtually invisible to us for any number of reasons: ads the agency makes piles of money on but fails to use the revenue to intelligently-improve such facilities; trash cans placed directly to the side which obscure the view of anything within; utility poles; illegally-parked delivery vehicles; arrays of discarded shopping carts stolen from the nearest store; or a sign advertising some nearby business. If I don't see you in a reasonable amount of time to stop my 20-ton beast, you standing up as I pass by with your hands outstretched (phone still clutched in one of them) will not guilt me into stopping suddenly. If I do, I'm liable for any number of resulting catastrophes within or around my vehicle. Stopping an air brake-equipped bus takes a lot of pressure and finesse to accomplish safely and smoothly. Your inattentiveness does not constitute an emergency on my part. Better luck next time! Simply pay attention. Once you're on my bus, you can resume looking at cartoon porn on your mental crutch.

Boarding

It's vital to an operator to be efficient at stops. You're expected to be fare-ready when the door opens. Most passengers are transit-savvy and prepared to board. About a third of you tend to stare at your phone (there's the devil again!) the entire time you're waiting for us to arrive. Instead, you should be a responsible transit passenger and get whatever fare in your hand. Holding us up as you ruffle through your pants, bras, backpacks or other accessories looking for your fare is a major time-waster. Wonder why buses are late? It's usually one of two things: traffic or passengers. Often, it's both. It should take no more than 10 seconds for each passenger to board and/or pay fare. The longer our doors are open, the less efficient the stops are. Compounded over 100+ stops in a trip, the late time can increase exponentially. Once you're late, boarding passengers often berate you, costing even more precious seconds to tick off the already-running clock. Just come on board, acknowledge us (yes, Hoppers that means you too) and have a seat. Boom, bam, boom. Quick and easy, as it should be. Move behind the yellow line and hold on, the bus is gonna move.

Exiting

We must fully stop the bus before the doors can be activated for opening. We throw the switch, the rest is up to you. Even though instructions for opening the rear door are plainly visible on the freakin' doors themselves, you routinely ignore the green light above the door and stand there. Waiting for what? Me to get out of my seat, wipe your nose running after your cry of "BACK DOOR" falls on my suddenly-deaf ears, and open the damn thing for you? What, should I hold your widdle hand and see you safely across the street too? My job is done when I unlock the door. C'mon folks, bring back common sense. Hell, if you're not sure how it's done, why not watch what others do? Duh. It's far from neuroscience.

Fare

Even though transit management is vain in its attempt to be everything to everybody (except its frontline employees), paying your fare is still required to ride. Otherwise, you're subject to "fine or arrest."

This protective parenting act management plays with the public is ridiculous. "Pay your fare, but if not the big bad fare inspector might get you!" The cons are wise to this ruse, and they give us every excuse that's been used millions of times by their co-conspirators. Many are bold and tell us they're riding at their "own risk." Management has folded to special interests who charge them with picking on various ethnic groups just by asking everyone to show a valid fare when asked. In addition, it has drastically reduced the number of fare inspectors, placing most of it on the already-busy road supervisors.

Some advocate a free transit system here. I do not. It takes massive amounts of money to provide the millions of safe rides we do every year. Why should governments foot the entire bill? If it becomes free, you get what you pay for. A local economy depends on transit to move its employees. Those employees have to get to work somehow. Transit costs less than paying for a car, parking, insurance, etc. If you simply give a service away, its value is lost. We're already disrespected (district-wide) every minute we're in service. If the rides were free, we'd become (if we haven't already) the Homeless Hotel, with little room for the working public, Retired Rita, or Stanley Student.


Epilogue

When did the public become unable to function intelligently? While most of it still has a brain, a growing segment seems to have lost a great deal of common sense. Transit management finds it necessary to micro-manage its operators but is too preoccupied with new capital projects to fix its aging infrastructure, or to educate the public. It also fails to stand behind the operators who make management possible. It forgets who does the real work of transit, those of us who are left to our own devices, disciplined for protecting ourselves, counseled for being late while failing to educate its customer base on how to use (and respect) the services we provide. It's a frustrating circle of misinformation, placing us directly in the middle. We're pummeled from all sides, and our hands are zip-tied behind our backs so self-defense is not possible.

Until a spoiled riding public and an inept media decide to support us, we're sitting ducks. Do I sound angry? Yes, I am. Quite frustrated too. We deserve better. Try harder, folks. We're waiting. Meanwhile, we'll keep doing our jobs.

Sincerely,
Deke N. Blue


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Flailing Flunky Fails

Thanks to Neal Berlin for creating this...
you never know what he'll come up with... TwoBells!

Deke's Note: This post is very troubling, considering what happened a few days later. The very day after I began writing this, our Sister Operator which is its subject, was punched in the face as she drove her route. I wonder if she was instructed to stop being so nice? I'm furious, upset for her and her family, and confused as ever about a management who studies a lot then fails every test. Let's return transit to the professionals who provide it! #DekeForGM


Another transit management geek chimed in this week with a frivolous and time-wasting complaint. Seems one of my sisters is "too cheerful" to be in the seat.

Because this self-important, entitled nobody decided an upbeat operator was too unprofessional, they called in a complaint after exiting the bus. It was insinuated that this dear, sweet lady had to be under the influence to exhibit such behavior.

"It (the complaint) went waaayyy up the chain of command," she recalled. As a result, her bus was held up while a supervisor was dispatched to the scene. Their task: to determine whether she was fit to continue in service. This resulted in an unnecessary and frivolous waste of time, an inconvenience to the passengers who enjoy her ride on a daily basis, while this ridiculous complaint was investigated. The operator was publicly embarrassed, but she was left to explain why they were held up. What's worse, is she was instructed to just run late. She was humiliated, angry and in no condition to drive. Evidently, that's of no concern to an out-of-touch management. Safety be damned, get back to work!

Now I understand there have been times when such an investigation is warranted. Although hesitant  to say, it's true a tiny percentage of operators have crossed the line. However, it's extremely rare. Sure, in an ideal world, it would never happen. That being said, we realize our jobs are vital and necessary to the local economy; we also know how reckless driving under the influence is. It happens with motorists around our vehicles every day, and we're trained to predict the worst possible outcomes in traffic.

This operator was simply being herself: a sweet, outwardly-friendly and positive lady. If that warrants suspicion, then why do people complain when we act like robots? There is no perfect "way" to be out there. We all have our own personalities; some are strictly professional, others friendly and outgoing. Most drivers are friendly and courteous, not overly so, but just right. Our main job is to drive safely, not to make friends with everyone who boards. It's an impossibly fine line we balance upon, not sure what exactly transit-ignorant management expects from us. They certainly allow many false or frivolous complaints to land in our personnel files, but they're not very supportive of our roles as professionals. When we believe our actions to be just and true for the situation, we're often given the impression the public is never wrong. Bullshit!

What are we? Evidently, nothing warranting commendation from the self-important slug in Sister's case. Maybe they were so mistreated in life they believe nobody driving a bus should dare to be in a good mood, sharing joy with those who duly pay a fare (or not, as happens quite regularly thanks to a please everybody except the operator environment).

Life is how you treat it. This operator who was brutally subject to an unnecessary interruption of her roll, is the recipient of hundreds of commendations for her being a caring and decent operator worthy of public praise. This time, she was called onto the carpet for being what many of us have a hard time doing in light of the abuse we constantly endure.

This complaint should be investigated, as well as to the source. Was the complainant in a bad mood that day, intent on causing pain on the first person having a good day they encountered? Whatever the case, they don't deserve any job in transit management they conned themselves into. Especially those employed by a transit agency entrusted with the safety of everyone on board, including operators. If an unsubstantiated complaint is logged by someone in management which is unsubstantiated, that employee should be called on the carpet just like we are.

There is no excuse for throwing one's weight around; we're disciplined for this even when we have every reason to do so. We're not only charged with driving safely, but also for the well-being of those within or outside our vehicles. Any other transit employee should be held accountable for their frivolous exploits into territory they do not understand unless they have actually done our job. Maybe then these malcontents would think twice before wielding their unchecked influence. If their actions affect us so adversely that we're unable to safely operate due to being distracted, they should be disciplined if their complaint is unfounded.

Many of us were shocked at our sister's treatment, because we know her path has not been easy, yet she has conquered adversity many (who ride our buses daily) could not. One of our most complimented operators with hundreds of commendations, Sister is someone I emulate when somebody comes aboard my bus. She's a diligent, sweet, hard-working and deeply-earnest soul. Our management should be filled with people of her ilk, but instead they hire bitter fools who would be better off fielding calls in customer service of a much-less-important industry. Perhaps that would be a better outlet for their passive-aggressive tendencies. It certainly is not conducive to safe transit to hire people who wouldn't pass the vetting process we do.

This operator works 10-12 hours every day serving her community, has a loving husband and children who depend on her hard-earned paycheck to keep them from a much-harsher life. They are both some of the sweetest people I've known in this job. In fact, they are just like hundreds of my fellow brothers and sisters, the same people who invite you over for a cookout on a fine Portland summer afternoon. Somehow, while on the job, we're not viewed as such but as targets for frivolous complaints.

We all have choices in the seat: be cheerful and helpful, grumpy and unresponsive, or simply robotic. She chooses to be upbeat and fun, and that has resulted in tons of positive feedback from fellow operators and the public. Yet one unhappy malcontent (likely with a non-vital role) feels entitled to cost the transit agency hundreds of dollars in wasted hours based upon their own twisted sense of how an operator "should" act? It seems the money would be better spent in hiring positive people from within. Those who have done our job are better-suited to managing us than some failed flunky from Corporata.

Good job, my dear sister. I wish I could be as happy as you project. I keep trying, and someday maybe I'll match your enthusiasm in spite of all the crap strewn our way. Keep up the good work. You make us proud, and you give me reason to keep trying to make a positive difference. No matter what Joe Nobody says, you're tops on my list of favorite operators.




Monday, April 8, 2019

Portland Transit Fails Its Front Line



Deke's Note: The assaults just keep adding up, and management keeps blaming us rather than the perpetrators. There are numerous accounts of operators being suspended just for defending themselves, or insinuations of our bringing the assaults upon ourselves for daring to insist the riding public obey the most basic rules of human decency. We're made to feel guilty for our own assaults, rather than being supported in our time of terror and justified Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We're tired of being injured and then insulted by those whose job is to simply to support us as we do the real work of transit. Yeah, it's another blog rerun. If you agree with management, go ahead and close this page. If you do so, you support management over those who are tired of being the punching bags of a pampered public. And it you do close this page, you're part of the problem. Sorry, but that's how I see it, from the driver side. #Deke4GM

Just the other evening, another driver recounted an assault he did not even bother to report. He waved off my question as to whether he had reported it, as if it just didn't matter. It does, however, merit reporting. If not for himself, but for his fellow frontline transit workers.

He warned me about the guy, who was menacing and threw a cup of soda on him and threatened to punch him. My brother described the perp to a tee. Luckily, I never saw him. Otherwise I would have refused him service, and that alone could have resulted in another assault.

People in management have no idea what we go through out here. They have some misguided notion that transit passengers are all roses and fluff, full of good cheer and brotherly love. They seem to believe how we treat passengers dictates their behavior toward us. If we're assaulted, the question is always assumed: What did you do to warrant this preventable incident? Answer: we were doing our jobs as laid out in the Standard Operating Procedures. Expecting people to pay fare, behave reasonably and to respect the ride.

All these points are posted on our rides in large print. The biggest problem is nobody reads signs on transit vehicles. People feel entitled these days to act as they choose, and no transit worker whether operator or supervisor, have any right to correct their horrid behavior. Management backs them up, along with an ineffectual and irresponsible local media which eats anything transit feeds it. Nobody wants to rock the boat, except those of us who are on the receiving end of an unforgiving fist. We are ignored by the very media charged with reporting upon what ails society today. Evidently, our plight doesn't warrant their attention.

I have attempted on many occasions to bring the media's attention to our collective plight. Willamette Week: "we're going to pass" on the book. Oregonian? Crickets. OPB? Only if we're given editorial permission to cover a "feel good" story about a bus operator who wrote a book. Forget about any follow-up, you should be grateful we noticed you at all. Oh, you're being assaulted? Never mind, we'll pass too. Portland Monthly? Ha! You transit workers are lowly bottom-feeders, not worthy of mention to our high-end 22nd-story high brow residents. KOIN? KATU? You're inept, inattentive, lazy and out of touch. Transit management won't allow us to report that.

I guess we'll all just suffer in silent anguish. If our own management, local media and the general public don't care, I guess we're on our own. We can't even defend ourselves without fear of suspension or termination. And y'all just sit there and fail by letting it happen without even a swing at it. Thanks guys.

Female transit workers are especially vulnerable to disrespect and assault. Those who mistreat us are emboldened by what they determine to be the "weaker sex." This is without merit, because any lady who does the work of transit is tough, worthy of the utmost respect. They are equal to men in every aspect, yet they are treated with extreme disrespect. You don't hear about men being sexually-assaulted on the job, but women are constantly subject to harassment and vile treatment. The toads of transit feel emboldened to attack our sisters of the road. Many have been horribly assaulted in physical altercations that any man would consider worthy of instant physical retaliation. However, any such self-defense is not only frowned upon by our lawsuit-fearful agency, but also deemed worthy of suspension or termination. It's a disgusting way to treat those who should not fear risking their very well-being just to earn a paycheck. Cops have guns; we have only our wits.

Our politically-appointed "Bored" of Directors, which approved taxing the metropolitan-area working class to support its out-of-control management boondoggles, simply sign off on whatever they are told. Sure, they endure monthly meetings with the public, but they appear disinterested as to whatever public testimony they pay attention to. They're actually nothing but a glorified joke. Pandering as necessary, the board is too accustomed to accepting the status quo to do anything considered to be rocking a leaky boat.

We're tired of being disrespected by the public, but to endure it from our own management is an insult. It digs as deep as the blade one of us will have to endure to our very death before anyone takes the perils of our job seriously. Management sees numbers and liability; operators and others on the front line see psychological anomalies in passengers capable of bloody mayhem. Management controls the local media's perspective by dumbing down the number of us who are assailed on a daily basis.

Our brother Henry gives us real numbers of assaults and menacing incidents several times each month, but management has its own metrics to serve an apathetic media. Unfortunately, the media tends to not give a damn, as evidenced by the lack of any investigative reporting on the subject. They are a bunch of lazy, public opinion-pandering wussies who wouldn't know a story when it slaps us in the face every day we drive Portland to work and safely home again.

Missing from the local media are what we do for those we serve. Present are stories about how a MAX operator slowed down for a family of geese on the tracks. Hell, most bus and light rail operators give the feathered population the respect of any other pedestrians. It's a no-brainer. We don't want to kill anything, human or otherwise. Another operator walks a man with dementia to his door and gets a commendation from Dispatch but no other mention. Others constantly watching a 180-degree (or more) view around their vehicle to save other motorists from themselves warrant nothing more than an extended middle finger (which I'd STILL love to figuratively see bent back to the breaking point by someone who actually appreciates what we do).

One thing the media consistently fails to report are the dozens of life-saving efforts our operators perform every day. We're constantly bombarded with bulletins from law enforcement regarding missing persons, and quite often they're located due to the sharp eyes of transit workers. Dispatchers always tell us we are their "eyes and ears" on the pulse of Portland, but the media fail to see anything but what is fed to it by a dominant transit management. If our heroics on a daily basis were fairly reported, perhaps we'd receive the respect we earn every day. But no, we're "just bus drivers" to the general public, due to the lackadaisacal reporting methods of our ineffectual and corporate-fed group of media lemming lackeys.

According to management, the numbers of us who are assaulted are negligible. Why? Because many don't report incidents of menacing/threatening or actual assault incidents Here's a few examples of what transit workers go through every day of the year. In 2018, there were 116 incidents in which we were subject to a less-than-grateful riding public. They include spitting, sexual assaults, physical battery, intimidation and menacing, pepper spraying, liquid-or-bodily-fluid-drenching, and horrific verbal assaults nobody should expect to endure on any job. What's worse, we're not allowed to defend ourselves, which makes us sitting ducks to anyone who chooses an operator on whom to take out their aggressions.

If we charge an assailant with assault, we're assessed time loss for court appearances and receive no legal support from management when we testify. Most often, defense attorneys depict us as the perpetrators, and their clients as lily-clean victims of our supposed bullying. We're the typical example of "trickle down" anything: what flows down the pipes to us is usually yellow or brown, and it doesn't smell good. In short, we're the bad guys. I guess we deserve being shit upon, if we are to believe the propaganda.

Once a year, management all across the globe take a few days out of their self-important busy schedules to participate in their media-intense "Transit Worker Appreciation" events. They trot out their lackey media darlings as they make appearances on our vehicles to pass along meaningless baubles and inedible snacks to those of us who make their jobs possible. Oh wait. You work the swing/night shift? Too damn bad, they only work banker's hours. So much for extending service to 24 hours on some lines... those operators and supes rarely see a single lick of appreciation on their shifts.

Does this sound like "appreciation" to you? Even those who are treated to the exaggerated displays from upper management aren't convinced they truly care about the many plights confronting frontline workers. It's all a sham, and we're expected to gobble up their faux appreciation.

So management, your controlled media, and pampered public, don't expect us to bend over backward in our pain-inducing seats to accommodate your outrageous expectations. Because of your collective incompetence, we've fallen from being "one of the most influential voices of transit - if not the model - for American transit" in 2012 to not even being mentioned in a Google search today. It's disgusting, an insult to those of us who sacrifice our bodies and souls to make it all work. Why? Management, that's why. It is bloated, inefficient and incapable, unless you ask them for an opinion.

We also have an ungrateful and apathetic public which complains more than commends those of us who get them safely to their destinations as close to 100% of the time as is humanly possible. We're here 365 days a year in the worst of conditions to provide safe rides to an economy which depends upon its transit agency to transport a large percentage of the economy's workforce. Add an ineffectual and inept media who hasn't performed investigative journalism since Jesus was a child, and you have a transit mess. We need a major shift here, or we might as well call it a bust and abandon mass transit here for good.


Wake up Portland, you're asleep at the wheel. Good thing we're doing our job; you have failed not only us, but yourselves as well. Good job at doing nothing positive at all. We'll keep doing our jobs, whether you pay attention or not.

Oh and by the way, and you're welcome.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Kicking the Can Around


Deke's Note: I'm feeling great tonight. This blog registered its 280,000th hit this week, I had a  commendation from a situation I was sure would net me a complaint, and a passenger I had never met recognized me as Deke N. Blue. It was a week which saw Mercury in retrograde, whatever the hell that means, except for a slew of miscreants giving me a hard time. It would be an average week for a bus operator, but these things happen to all of us, not just to this writer who drives a bus for a living...

Hello world. I'm back, this time with a lighter heart. Not the usual harsh critic of management but rather your fellow road warrior, tweaker of tires (pardon the pun), brother at the keyboard. It's been a rough week. Anyone who says our job is "easy" should have rolled with me this week. They would have marveled at the insults and hardships we constantly face. Instead, I'm left alone to describe it for you. 

First, let me explain our version of "tired" for you, in the context of a transit operator. Unlike most jobs, ours encompasses every aspect of our lives. How we sleep, eat or use our time off is dictated by the job we do. From the first moment we awaken we are conditioned to perform. We eat breakfast, take care to ensure we are clean and presentable. Our lunch is packed and ready when we walk out the door at the precise moment necessary to arrive at the garage in time to catch the proper bus or train to our relief point. As we leave home, we're looking forward to the next 12 hours of our lives. It is up to us how each day on the job plays out. We can either be "up" for what lies ahead, or dreading it. It's mixed bag, and we have to be prepared for whatever rolls toward us. Management is only concerned with our being on time. Whether we ever come home again to our loved ones is of no real concern to the spreadsheet goons who rule over those who do the work of transit.

(I'm so beat now after 52+ hours this week I can't even think straight, let alone write coherently. I'll finish this later. Off to bed I go.)


* * * * *

Back now. It's funny that as I attempted to describe how tired I was last night, I nearly fell asleep smack dab on the keyboard. That's more descriptive than any other words might do justice. When the mind has handled so many tense situations, the body exhausts itself  and just shuts down. Sleep is all that can restore the body and mind. Last night, even my innate desire to write to you could not be fulfilled. In fact, I recently awoke from an evening nap.

Local artwork. Gotta love it!
Even as the years as an operator pile up, stamina comes and goes. I thought the past week's slate of beautifully-sunny days would fill my bus with happy passengers. It did, but it also allowed for the worst in some people. Still, I attempted to make their day better, even if for a few minutes. For some, this goal was achieved. I retain the ability to help people laugh at the common absurdities of life. When this doesn't work, simply leaving a situation to play itself out is often the best course. Fingers crossed all the while, I monitor life on my ride.

"Please," I said into my microphone on several occasions, "keep the audio silenced on your phones and other electronic devices. Thank you!"

While management would chide me for attempting to retain control of my bus as it panders to the lowest common denominators who would do anything to distract us, this is one rule I strictly enforce. When people ask me why, I politely explain. Normal conversation, while largely absent in these days of cellphonitis, is just white noise. When someone listens to music or videos, it is difficult to concentrate, or pick out sounds we need to hear such as normal engine noise or nearby sirens. Also I tell folks that if I allow one to listen out loud, then others think it's okay until there's a tumultuous and unwanted jumble of concerts playing. Plus, one person's favorite tune might drive most people mad. So, I insist people use headphones. It all boils down to my being able to safely deliver them to their destinations. 

"You can't tell me what to do," one passenger told me. "You're just a bus driver, so just drive. Asshole."

That tempted me to key the mike and insist everyone else but him to get off the bus so I could... "just... drive... asshole." Instead, I offered him a walk in the beautiful sunshine, or to simply do as I asked. Lazy bastard chose to ride, damnit. At least he shut his device, and himself, up.

My week ended on a positive note. Rather than bore you with the details, let's just say I helped a gentleman in distress. He was someone's father/husband/uncle and friend. Very sweet old fellow who had a kind word for everyone. A blessing in the form of a jovial gem, after a day full of sneering snotballs.

"William," I told him as we parted ways, "it was a pleasure serving you."

It is, truly a pleasure. Bus operators all over the world find people who need a helping hand, and we all strive to lend it. I was but one of many that night, and it felt damn fine.

* * * * *

The last passenger to depart this week surprised me.

"You're that writer Deke," he told me. I jumped in my seat, shocked that someone I had never met had shattered the bubble surrounding this manufactured dual personae.

I could not lie, and he would not be thrown off the scent. What he said next floored me.

"Yeah, you're Deke, and you're a legend."
Yeah, this felt good.
This made me laugh heartily out loud. "Why naw, I'm just another ornery old bus driver."

"Maybe, but just keep doing what you do." With that, he exited my bus, leaving me chuckling to myself as I swept the bus for trash and possible lost and found items. I shook my head, amused yet pleased my writing drifts on to the eyes of folks I'll never have the honor of knowing.

"Legend, my ass," I laughed to myself.

If he only knew the real me, he'd think twice about that. For now, I'll take the compliment.

Thanks, everyone. You're the reason I still kick this old can around.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

My Belief in Goodness


Just when my belief in humanity reached its deepest pit, someone lifted my spirits.

Not long ago, my usually-cool, smooth and calm ride was insulted by a foul-mouthed unruly female who appeared to have been dragged out of a sewer, shaken but not stirred. Her use of f**k was boorishly-regular and I told her to clean up her language. Our management would tell me to leave my own morality out of it, but I don't subscribe to its "please everybody" attitude. If someone is outrageously and loudly profane, it is an assault on decency and I don't allow it. Sure, I use many profanities, often liberally. However, this is not something I was taught is acceptable in public.

When another passenger wasted my time by hanging half-in, half-out of the door while boarding, I impatiently implored him to either get on, or get off. He was having a conversation with another person, and I was nearing five minutes late. Anyone in transit knows that five minutes is the break-point. Once you're over that number, your follower's passengers end up on your bus and the lateness rapidly compounds itself. It was a testament to my experience as an operator that I wasn't later, and I still had a chance to salvage the short break which awaited me at the end of the line. My patience was stretched as thin as my bladder walls, and he was rude to me as he walked by.

"Fucking jerk," he said as he sat in the Priority Seating area.

"WHAT did you call me?" I said in a very loud voice, ensuring he could hear me. My Irish was up by that point, having Smelly Shelly already give me a hard time. She reminded me of my first wife, and that tends to raise my hackles quicker than usual. PTSD, even after not seeing her in over a decade.

Randy Rudelips just stared at me.

"Because," I continued when I should have just let it slide, "if you called me a jerk, then I'll show you just what one is. Get off my bus." I sounded like Clint Eastwood, fury turning my voice into a menacing whisper.

Then Smelly chimed in. "You're rude to that guy! You're a rude bus driver, just like you have been to me!"

It was ON at that point, I turned in my seat and reminded her how I had asked her to rein in her vile tongue just a few moments earlier.

"You can't tell me what to do!" she screamed at me. "I'll have your job for this!"

"You couldn't DO my job, lady," I retorted. "Now you can leave too." By this time, I had tied up my bus and put in a call to Dispatch. Randy left the bus in disgust, or perhaps he knew I meant business. (One less dipstick to deal with; now I had to deal with Smelly.)

She refused to exit, even when I told her she could leave voluntarily or in handcuffs. Dispatch called and I asked for police to escort Smelly.

"Either she leaves this bus, or I do," I said.

Dispatch advised me to continue to the next time point, where they would ask police to meet me. I gleefully awaited the look on Smelly's face when they forced her off my bus. Her male companion was counseling her not to mess with a bus driver because he knew the probable outcome. The steam rising from my ears likely set off alarms in his more-rational brain.

As we pulled into the stop, no cops were there, nowhere in sight. I feared the worst. Still, I told her they were en route and she could sit and wait with me. Her next move was the most intelligence I had seen from her: she left. The cops never showed, and I was angry. Oh well, I had decent people on my bus needing to make connections and appointments, so I rolled.

Considering I had raised my voice and nearly lost control of my emotions, a complaint was what I believed would result from this incident. Instead, another passenger called in a commendation. Her words stunned me; I was angry with myself for not handling the situation better.

When someone verbally assaults me, it triggers my self-preserving defensive stance. I have worked very hard to deal with people assertively rather than allowing my emotions to rule, and have improved greatly the past few years. This time, I had allowed my pride to dictate my actions rather than hard-learned verbal judo. I was ashamed of how I handled it, and realized an assault could have resulted.

Assaults however, are not our fault. We are human, and when one insults another, we strike back. Our job plays out in the real world; management's exists in some fairy tale wonderland where everyone remains cool under pressure. We're supposed to "remain professional," knowing someone could have a weapon, or lash out with a fist or splash us with urine or hot coffee. Yeah, for that reason alone I should have handled it better. Excuse me for not having the ability to stifle the human "fight or flight" biological response. We're on edge much of the time, and can make mistakes.

We're expected to endure the worst insults out here, and still remain composed. Usually, I can handle these situations with some self-deprecating humor, remain humble and salvage an acceptable outcome for everyone. That's ideal. But the real world doesn't always happen that way. Not only must we deal with many rude and nasty people in our bus, but those outside of it as well. They cut us off, flip us off, spout off and commit the most foolishly-stupid stunts imaginable in traffic. Pedestrians, skateboarders, bicyclists (of the unprofessional kind, unlike those who frequent BikePortland.org), delivery drivers, for-hire and other taxi drivers, teenagers bound for fatal glory and many other self-entitled mutts.

It was "Transit Appreciation Week" when this happened. Once again, I saw nothing but leftovers from the bankers hour management that likes to make itself feel good by giving out false praise and appreciation to those who make their own jobs possible. Empty words echoing off absent bodies and detached voices... that's what their happy-sappy event seems to me.

When I received the commendation from a passenger who witnessed the incident, I was stunned. Her words were humbling, because she commended my handling of the situation, and felt sorry I was treated so harshly. It was extremely kind and sympathetic. To me, that was true appreciation for what we do "out there." This passenger went out of her way to send me a message of support, when I was sure it would be a complaint.

Thanks Kerry Kindness, you are why I get out of bed every day... to give people like you a ride.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Wow, I'm Rich!

Thanks to you, dear readers, my entry into the gambit of allowing ads on my blog has paid off. It only took three years, but I'm $104.76 richer.

While the amount seems tiny compared to the zillions major advertisers reap from your "clicks," it's a figure I thank you for. Truly.

Humbly yours,
Deke N. Blue

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Another Transit Project Fail


Deke's Note: I was only going to write one post this week. However, I saw an article from a local news affiliate which just blew my mind. It truly flabbergasted my sense of frugality vs. foolishness. Let's see what you think...

Three years ago, our agency built an innovative transit/bike/pedestrian bridge over the Willamette River. It's a marvel to behold. Night light colors on the spans vary according to the river's water temperature. While there are a few design flaws (only two bus lines share the span with one MAX and one Streetcar line, and they share a transitway) on this billion-dollar marvel, the Tilikum Crossing is truly a spectacle to behold.

Now, our agency reports it plans to place wind turbines on this bridge. Wow, I thought, what a great idea! Given the wind that whistles down the river valley, it's an innovative way to create energy. I read further, eagerly wondering what our management gurus would do with all that electricity. What came next astounded me.

Fixed upon the wondrous turbines will be more lights. The energy generated by the turbines, the article reported, will be stored in batteries with the resulting power feeding the lights illuminating the turbines.

Really?!? REALLY?!?

I shook my head in a dazed amaze-state. Usually able to comprehend and retain information in one read, this was different. I had to read it again, looking for some rational explanation why our agency would throw $350,000 of hard-earned taxpayer money at such a boondoggle. The words were the same as I remembered. It simply floored me.

When President Lincoln's wife Mary tried to refurbish the White House after the first inauguration, Abe was infuriated with her spending so much money on what he deemed to be "flub dubs." Extravagant and unnecessary, said the man who grew up in log cabins with dirt floors. To him, the Executive Mansion was luxurious enough, especially given he was sending young soldiers to fight and die to save the Union. They slept in tents or out in the elements. He couldn't justify using taxpayer money to "fancify" a building that was only 60 years old by then.

If I were GM, I could find any number of vital projects to spend what equates to several years of my current salary. More ergonomic and comfortable operator seats/cabins come first to mind. A down payment on a Downtown Transit Mall remodel. Improvements to MAX overheads so they're not so negatively impacted by extreme cold or heat. Lighting at hundreds of dark bus stops, so we can see intending passengers. (A pilot program a few years saw lights added to a few stops, which were already lit adequately by streetlights.) Improved benefits for union employees, giving back what was taken away due to the incompetence and mismanagement of pension funds by management. Improved facilities and hiring from within for Vehicle Maintenance workers. More restroom facilities. Increasing service to levels not seen in a decade. Serious attempts to educate the riding public on simply how to ride transit.

See where I'm going with this? Instead of installing flub dubs, we could be making serious improvements on what is already here. But no. That would make too much sense.

Given the artwork installed when the Orange Line was built, rusted boats with trees in them and other such goofiness, I can't expect fiscal responsibility from this bunch of corporatists.

I'm still shaking my head. What's next? Hand brakes on buses with pedals for operators to propel our own vehicles? If that happened, I guess the money saved on fuel could be spent on bicycle seats for operators. Pretty stupid idea, yeah. Not as bad as electricity generated solely to illuminate another transit folly, I reckon.

#Deke4GM