Buy Your Copy of "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" by Deke N. Blue

Buy Your Copy of "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" by Deke N. Blue
Your local transit blogger's book is available in Print, Audio or eBook. Just click on the book pic to go to:

Thursday, December 12, 2019


Deke's Note: OK newbies, I know management has been pushing you into full-time operating long before you were ready for it. We all know how the bills need to be paid. While I caution new operators to wait at least six-to-nine months before taking that great leap, today's reality is that many of you are still wiping the transit sweat from behind your ears just a month or two after going out on your own. While full-time operating can be a thrill, it comes with an extra-hefty dose of responsibility to your riders, those with whom you share the road, and your fellow operators. This post is for YOU

Our management these days tends to constantly err on the side of who knows WTF. The more they put the screws into the operational staff who make the wheels roll, we find a great many of our most-experienced operators throwing up their hands and shouting: "ENOUGH! I'M OUTTA HERE!" Perhaps, and most likely, this is by design. The "old days" of transit are being pushed further aside each day as a new brand of corporatists trample hundred-year-old traditions which have been built upon the notion that Safety Comes First. In the mouse-pushing new style of management, numbers come first... not people. Gone are the days when operators were celebrated for not only keeping their passengers and other motorists safe, but were given great latitude when doing so. Mess with an operator, watch out. Now, it's "mess with a passenger, even the most whiny or misbehaved, and the operator is not only put under the microscope, but poked and prodded until they are angry and stressed. As we all know, this is a dangerous game. Given the amount of stress this job provides without any further provocation, our current harassment level can lead to serious safety issues.

When I was a new operator, even though I had driven many types of vehicles in my life including tractor-trailers, I still was not prepared for the intensity faced by public transit operators. Not only was I guiding a 20-ton behemoth through narrow and treacherous streets, but I was faced with being a Customer Service Representative while doing so. Being well-versed in the latter, it was stressful having that mixed with safely operating a vehicle of that size. As a perfectionist, it took me a few months just to get to know how to drive a route, let alone how to deal with such a demanding and often-unforgiving clientele. I'm glad it took me nine months before being promoted to full-time. Many Line Trainees will testify to the fact that driving a 10-hour shift is much more demanding than a split shift of a couple mini runs. A gradual transition from rookie, to mini-run, then to full-time is a longstanding tradition in transit that needs to be strictly-adhered to; not only for safety's sake, but also for the sanity of the new operator.

Help will come from all directions; all you need to do is ask.
When you push a newbie into full-time after only driving a month or so, it must be terrifying for those who have never done my job. Even as a new full-time driver, I was so exhausted after a shift it nearly led me to resign after not quite a year. The stress-level was that of nothing I had ever experienced. Putting such pressure on someone who has just left training is not only ill-advised, it's negligent. Not only are they just becoming familiar with the rules of the road, they're constantly bombarded with the thrills of those who refuse to play by the rules. A stress-battered operator who hasn't learned the ropes is more likely to lash out at a combatant than know how to employ the "customer servicey" bullshit our management expects from us. If management had the brass balls we ALL have (sorry ladies, but I have to use that analogy although yours are often bigger than ours given the added harassment you endure on the job), they would acknowledge there are times when we need to exert our authority. Try arguing with an airline pilot on-the-job, and you'll find yourself in handcuffs as soon as the plane's door opens on the tarmac. In transit, a passenger who has been told to follow the rules simply sends a whiny text to the customer service department, and it's the Operator who is called into question. It's a tricky occupation. It takes years of practice in not only driving, but dealing with the masses who ride transit. In Portland, transit is such a vital part of our economy, our right to strike was made illegal by the state legislature about 10 years ago. This further ties our hands in demanding the respect we deserve.

So to the newbies who either by financial necessity or managerial pressure, find themselves full-time not long after their last diaper is changed by Training, please heed these vital Codes of Conduct:

1) RESPECT YOUR SENIOR OPERATORS. We've learned through thousands of miles of experience. Just because you're driving a bus doesn't mean you know what's expected of you. Study the rules, live by them, and only then will you earn our respect. Watch what we do, and think about what you see. It will come to make sense. If it doesn't, maybe we did something wrong. Perhaps, we did something right and you failed to see it. Either way, ask someone to explain.

2) WHEN WE TELL YOU SOMETHING, LISTEN. If an operator comes to your door or window, open and listen. If we're polite, but visibly pissed off, be humble. You likely did something wrong. If you are respectful, we might teach you something that could later save your ass.

3) REMEMBER TO LEARN EVERY DAY; WE STILL DO. My father once told me, "The day you stop learning from your mistakes is the day you make your biggest one."

4) FOLLOW THE DAMN RULES! Especially on the Transit Mall. They are to be followed without question. See that cross-street pedestrian timer ticking down? Once it hits 3 seconds, close your doors. Whoever comes to your door at that point is late. When your light goes green, GO!

5) IF YOU FEEL CONFUSED OR UNSURE ABOUT ANYTHING, STOP - CALL DISPATCH! It's much better to ask a question than to become lost. When Dispatch has to send a Road Supervisor to your rescue, it costs the District needless time and money, but they will gladly do so to save injury or damage. Regardless, when you're new, Dispatch expects you to make that call. That's why they're there: to help you. We all know you're new just by your badge number. Don't make things worse thinking "I got this" when there's any shred of doubt in your mind. Best to ask for help before a problem arises than needing it when trouble finds you after lacking to heed this warning.

6) BE VIGILANT. You're on your own "out there," like the rest of us. Don't daydream when you're new; there's plenty of time for that once you've learned the ropes. Scan like you never have before. Learn to predict what other motorists will do, and be prepared for their worst actions. This has saved me many a time; thanks Dad! Practice in your own vehicle. Teach your children to drive like bus operators. Life is precious. We save more than we take. This is an honorable profession, and you're expected to be an example for all who roll Portland's streets. There's a reason it takes three years to reach top scale: you have to earn it.

7) TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES... FIRST! Gotta pee at the end of the line and you're already late for the start of that piece? That's what "Restroom Delay" is for. Make your bladder gladder. Once you piddle, hit "Ready for Service." If Dispatch sends a "Thank You" in reply, that means you're starting out late. Just roll the same way as you would as if you're on time. Be Safe! Be Healthy! No Worries! It all works out in the end... just make sure you feel 110% while you're behind the wheel of The Beast.

8) BE COMPASSIONATE, BUT FIRM. Yeah, you're the Captain of the Ship. Don't take yourself too seriously, or too lightly either. Whenever I've thought I was "all that," bad shit happened. Still, you need to maintain control not only of your vehicle, but what happens within. Learn, but be cool while in control. Tammy Teenager lounging across the back seats with her feet upon them? Call her on it. Nobody wants to sit in the dog shit on her shoes. Someone drunk and passing out, bobbing and weaving in an aisle seat? They could fall over and hurt themselves, and you might be assessed a Preventable Accident even if you did nothing wrong. Why? Because you didn't notice and take actions to prevent it. Stop and lock. Notify Dispatch "Sleeper Check." Argument happening as you drive? Pull over at the next bus stop and alert Dispatch. Just rolling while trying to watch both the road and the confrontation is perilous and unnecessary. Someone apologizes for not having full fare? Smile and thank them for what they put in the fare box, and print them a transfer. Life's too short to squabble over pennies. Even further: someone saunters past you without showing fare or offering to pay, just hit "Fare Evasion" on the CAD and keep rolling. It's not our job to enforce fare. JUST DRIVE! Too many assaults upon us in the past came from arguments over fare. Do you really care whether someone pays? Nah. Not our job to give a damn. That's for the Fare Inspectors to rule over. Your job is to safely operate your vehicle.

9) THE ONLY "STUPID" QUESTION IS THE ONE YOU'RE AFRAID TO ASK. We all sometimes feel stupid when asking what may seem the "obvious" question. You know what? Maybe THAT one question could someday save you from making a horrible mistake. ASK IT. It could be the answer that saves your job, even someone's life. We have all asked questions of our brothers and sisters that at first seemed silly. Even if it is, we're happy to help. We may chuckle while answering, but we will do so anyway. We've all asked the same question at one time. Hey folks, believe it or not, that operator who has a 27-year Safe Driver patch on their sweater is most often all-to-happy to help you. That's why they display that patch. It's a symbol of pride gained over thousands of miles of safe driving, as you'll someday learn the importance of. They have sweated appeals over ridiculous first-glance Preventable Accident decisions, only to have them overturned on appeal. I can personally attest to this edict: ALWAYS APPEAL. Even an incident I thought I was doomed to have hang over my head forever was overturned due to some wise counsel from a revered senior operator/line trainer/union rep (especially our retired Brother Dan Martin... thank you Dan!). You are part of a brotherhood that may be fallible at times, but is always willing to help. Take advantage of your union brothers and sisters, and at all costs, please DO NOT "opt out" of your Amalgamated Transit Union 757. You'll gain more benefit from union fellowship than not, guaranteed.

10) RESPECT ALL OF YOUR CO-WORKERS. You are now part of a fellowship that encompasses many different levels of the Portland Metropolitan Area Transit. Your Station Agents, Road Supervisors, Trainers, Maintenance Workers and fellow Rail, Streetcar, C-Tran ops and ALL Oregon Bus Operators are your new brothers and sisters. And that's a relationship you should take seriously. We work together, we know each other over years of service, and we value our relationships with one another. No matter which garage we work out of, or level of seniority, or rank of position, we're all doing our jobs to provide a valuable service to our fellow Portlanders. Get to know people. You'll find we're all much the same. We love, we live, we all have the same troubles and joys in life. Just because you're new doesn't mean we care any less. We've all been you once upon a time. Welcome to our world. Learn from us, laugh at our common experiences, share what you've come to know. The good among us will help you celebrate. If you find someone who won't listen, give 'em a break; maybe they've had a bad day and the next they'll treat you like a pal. Whatever you find, please just treat each of our own as your family, because we truly are, even though we may be dysfunctional at times. In transit, we are all you have. Management could care less, no matter what they say.

Yeah, I'm a wordy sumbitch. It comes from six decades of hard living and years of learning on-the-job. I want you to succeed; your fellow operators agree. We're not "the enemy," but valuable allies you can learn from. Additionally, I want us to get along. I've clashed with many of you as of late. Needlessly. Our Trainers are awesome, but there's no way they can teach you everything you need to know while successfully navigating this perilous journey. It's up to your senior operators to pass along the wisdom gleaned from our millions of combined miles to guide you to where you need to arrive... safely.

YOU are OUR future. I will be long-retired when you reach the point where I am now. It's imperative you learn that our union depends on you for future leadership. Given management's dim and disconnected view of its operators, please don't be fooled by its portrayal of sweet roses and fine wine if you toe their unrealistic line. Reality shows us how roses wilt and wine sours with age. Even an Operator of the Month can be brought down with one missed scan, or an altercation with a difficult passenger gone wrong. Don't be swayed by bullshit; it surrounds us like the stench of a tightening noose. Hopefully our common plight brings us even closer together. Management is hell-bent upon replacing US with automation in the coming years. The more we can prove our value, the better our argument AGAINST this humiliating ridiculousness of replacing humans with machines. Even George Orwell would shiver at the thought of what management proposes for the near future. Hopefully, this chill of our collective forever-winter induces the same in you.

Transit operators worldwide will heartily-agree with this statement: You are a newbie, but you are now one of US; it's time to act like it and learn how to do what's right. We've all been where you are now. It's hard, very hard. We understand. As such, I will do my utmost best to be patient with you, to bestow my knowledge as needed while continually learning what I need to remain sharp. It's up to you to realize when to listen, to heed, to learn. Also, to be gracious and thankful, even when your seniors may teach during a heated moment. The more you listen and remain thankful and respectful, the more you'll grow. As the years roll by (and they do very quickly, mind you), you will come to appreciate your seniors. We were taught a bit more harshly at times, and may come down hard on you. But in the end, we're all the better for it.

With that, I wish you Newbs all the best. Roll safe, my new brothers and sisters.

My final wish for you: May all your ups and downs be in bed.

Deke N. Blue
Transit Blogger and Author

P.S. Anyone just starting out in this job will benefit from reading my book, "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane," available on Amazon in print, eBook and audio. It describes my life from before I became an operator, through the hiring process (you remember THAT fun) and the first 4.5 years as a bus driver. It retains a 5-star rating, was featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting's nationally-syndicated "Think Out Loud" radio program, a piece of Portlandia forever. Hey, I'll toot my horn as my own best publicist... I'm all I have. Oh, and thanks for reading!

Monday, December 9, 2019

My Transition Between Routes

Deke's Note: Oh, the rigors of driving a bus begin to show signs of a biological breaking down. It's not only tough on the body, but the soul as well. My last post was a true testament to both. This time, after a few long drinks of Scottish nectar, I wax philosophical and nostalgic as the holidays come upon us.

This has been the toughest first week of a new route since I was a rookie. Thank God I have a leader and follower who are well-versed in transit reality. Although I've driven a bus for several years now, experience wasn't enough to prepare me for the rigors of this oft-traveled path I chose for the next three months. Part of me longed to re-connect with former passengers. Another, more-dormant of late side of my transit personality wanted to feel the comfort of a run I once knew to be a mellow roll. One thing I've learned over these years is that every route changes from one signup to the next, especially if years get in the way.

On my last route, I was amazed by the respect and professionalism of my passengers. They had their fare/passes ready upon boarding no matter how long they waited. Many of these folks have been riding transit to work and home again for many years. Their transit reality is part of their daily lives. One bus operator takes them to work, another ferries them home or to their next connection that way. I was but one of many they have come to know along the way. Every three months, they silently welcome a new face behind the wheel of the communal vessel they face after another long day of super-human toils. It was a great honor serving their kind again. I miss their quiet respect, how they always seemed to find the trash can when litter needed disposal. If they failed to greet me upon boarding, they almost always thanked me as they exited my bus. Even when I did not respond in kind, I felt their kindness. It helped me through many a dark day.

My new route is a different class of clientele. I've had to adjust from a hatrd-working class to that of a pampered and younger generation. Where my former passengers would profusely apologize if they forgot their pass or had no money to ride, the new bunch saunters aboard without the slightest need to even acknowledge my existence. Still, I consider it my duty to provide each with a safe and courteous experience. It matters not to me whether they pay or not. This might rankle those who struggle to provide fare every time they ride, but it's not my money so it matters not. I just drive, man.

As I reach the near-outer limits of our service area, I'm met with the frigid east winds of the Columbia Gorge. I'll roll into my stop a few minutes early and leave the bus running at least the two minutes legally-allowed so they can escape the elements. After welcoming them to my warm office, I'll hop off to do my biological necessities. Meanwhile, they're safe and warm within my bus. Management has its own ideas as to what constitutes "standard," but I have my own. Until they are actually vested in what happens "out there," I could give a damn what they think I "should" do. Their minutes are on a different timeframe than my own. As long as I have a few minutes to decompress from the run I just endured, I'm good with offering the rest of my break to those who share my toils as a middle-class American trying to bust out a meager living. They are mostly hard-working folk who for whatever reason need to use transit.

As the years furiously click by, I'm constantly reminded of my position in society. I'm in a service-oriented profession. It demands that I kiss everyone's ass, while virtually nobody attempts to kiss mine. Sometimes, it's a wash... who kisses whose is often a blurry line nobody grasps, but in the end, it's me who is the tenuous and oft-unsupported captain who guides the Beast to its destination. I've learned that compromise and compassion go a long way in keeping peace on my ride. Years before, arrogance ruled my rolls; now, I know it's my inner strength and wisdom that reign supreme. Given the volatility of ridership which knows no bounds of reason, it's up to me to provide the link of peace which guides us along life's often unforgiving rolls.

If I feel someone having a hard time with this nightmare we call "life", my life's lessons dictate the need to be the one person in their day who might provide a moment of kindness overshadow their struggles. When I'm successful in my efforts, perhaps a transit "friendship" develops. With regular riders, this relationship is vital. Some people can only relate to those who offer a friendly smile, or a word of understanding and compassion. That's where I hope to excel in this job. Where our management likes to think it feels our pain, the people I serve matter much more. Whether homeless or working poor, I've been there and I do feel what they often express to me.

Transit operators are an amalgamation of those they serve. We're either products of former employment disappointments or even worse. Those who have never suffered the pain of being evicted from their homes because of a missed paycheck could never empathize with those who have. That makes it easy for me to forgive the honest passenger who apologizes for being "five cents short" of proper fare. They are often surprised to find a day pass printed in lieu of some unwanted lecture on having that extra five cents. It's because I have lived what they now do that their apologies are instead met with my "it's okay, I've been there myself, and your change in that farebox is more than others drop into it without even a hello."

When you board my bus without a hello, failing to even acknowledge my mere existence, I am rendered the invisible value who works tirelessly to provide you and those who at least nod as they walk past the same safe and smooth ride as those who say hello and pay their full fare.

You see, all I'm thinking about when you enter that doorway is what time it is. Am I on time or running behind schedule? If I'm early, I might tarry a bit longer than usual to burn time. If I'm too early arriving at a stop, someone who's running a few seconds late might miss this bus. People have deadlines too. If I see you running toward my bus, frantically waving your arms hoping I'll see your panic, I will gladly await you even if I'm late. When I'm downtown on the transit mall, that's the only time you're shit outta luck. Once my doors are closed, that means it's "go time" and you're early for the next bus. That's transit, folks: be ready to board when we're in the first position with doors open; once they shut, you're too late. This is something you should understand rather than complain to our management about.

As I write this, I'm sad that I could not muster the creative energy to write more of my new and exciting novel. That's okay. I'm currently more committed to my transit reality these days than outwardly-reaching personal goals. This is disconcerting to this writer's soul, but oddly-comforting to the transit slave I have become. It's a struggle to serve one master over more-pressing needs.

When I began writing this blog, my promise was to chronicle what it feels "from the seat" of an operator's reality. Hopefully, these words remain true to that promise. Few tend to herald the rigors we roll through. Even less of you commend us for our vigilance. Often assailed, complained about and disrespected, we remain true to what we were trained to do: safely haul our precious cargo to their destination. The vast majority of you are treated to this promise, and you're either unaware or overly-engrossed by what your tethered electronic device tells you is most important. It fails to remind you of your shared humanity.

So climb aboard and have a seat. Keep those phones on silent, respect your operator and fellow passengers. Enjoy the ride. That's the simple credo of transit. And me? I'm happy to provide the service. Oh and by the way, you're welcome.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Random Rants of a Current Bus Driver

Deke's Note: This was meant to be a series of notes for my next blog post. It's hard for me to simply make notes; once the fingers get warmed up I can't stop. While negative in scope, after four outta five days of torture on a different route this signup it reflects my thoughts for the week. I wanted to find something more positive to say, or relate a "feel good" story from my rolls. However, it's been a constant week of disappointment and passenger disrespect. Other than my attempts to make a connection with a five-year-old boy, it has been the worst first week of a signup... ever. I promised from the start to describe what it's like "from the driver side" and this delivers. It may not be what you want to hear, but hey... it's my therapy.

* * * * *

Why I Don't Participate in Company Functions

What led to my current dismay: rosy outlook at first, dimmed early by "this is the best job I've ever had, but the worst company I've ever worked for." How prophetic.

Never liked "mass feeds" or "feel good" bullshit parties. If the company truly "cared" about its operators, it would show this via better relations, fewer takeaways at contract negotiations, re-designing SIP, educating the public, not sending out snippy letters about "leaving the garage 3:27 late," creating a legal department to advocate for operators who have been threatened/assaulted, promoting a former bus operator to the GM position, recognizing this blogger's blog/book without his fear of retaliation while engaging said operator in meaningful feedback, celebrating more "feel good" stories about operators/supes in local media, and following up when an operator is publicly accused and later cleared of any wrongdoing.

I passed through the "company holiday party" with disgust. Only in the garage for a few minutes, I hated being there at all. In my five minutes, the corporate pretty lady passing out "goody bags" full of bullshit "patting themselves on the back for OUR hard work" propaganda, didn't even see me. Hauling my 35-pound backpack full of on-the-road necessities, I trudged through the throngs of holiday revelers with a sour face, intent only upon escaping into the wild where I truly belong: the roads of transit.

The most successful companies truly celebrate their customer-level employees, rather than giving them lip service (aka Costco). The level of disconnect between management and operations is staggering, fueling the horrific low self esteem and morale Portland transit has ever seen.

The nasty letter I received when our contract was expiring that basically said "since the contract is expiring, we can and WILL pass on ALL added premium costs for your insurance to YOU. Nah nah nah nah nah. Because we can." So much for the LAST pay increase, two years ago. Is this what we can expect with the tiny beans you throw our way this time? I'll be sure to vote NOT on whatever carrot you dangle this time; it means nothing two years from now. As a single-earner household, I cannot afford to even buy a home in this market with what you pay me. Even though I'm sacrificing my body to transit, it doesn't value me enough to make it worthwhile.

Life Rolls On...

At my age, finding another job is out of the question. Although I possess decades of real-world experience, technical know-how and savvy, I'm less than 10 years from retirement. That makes me persona-non-grata in the job market. I'm stuck, and you KNOW it. Therefore, I'm screwed. Doesn't mean I will kiss your ass though. I do my job quite thoroughly, knowledgeably and competently, thank you very much. Other than that, the less I can interact with management the better. It's much too incompetent to rank my attention, let alone my respect. Only a few mid-management folks are worthy of my respect. Any higher than that, and I'll pass, thank you.

So yeah. If I ever make Lead or Senior Operator or whatever, don't throw me some fake appreciation party. Just interoffice mail it to me. My satisfaction comes from those Safety Awards, not an elementary school attendance award. Hey, I'm proud of our newest Gold Master Operator Cynthia Kassab, she deserves special recognition for the superb operator she has always been, but still... how many times did she drive sick when she really should have been home in bed rather than sharing her illness with passengers, fellow operators, etc.? How many times has she felt threatened, been abused or under-appreciated for her efforts? Why should we sacrifice our health for some bullshit award? When you're dead, nobody will remember those meaningless pieces of paper. In fact, few will be lucky to be remembered at all. (I still remember YOU, Trainer Stewart and others who have fallen.) When I'm sick, in pain or otherwise not feeling I can give my passengers 150%, I'll stay home and bypass the fake award program. It's not worth it to do otherwise... for ANY of us.

SAFETY has been replaced by SCHEDULE. With this scenario, as I said years ago, the term "customer service" is rendered obsolete. As CS wanes due to management's mis-management of what we're trained to do, it's WE who suffer the slings of the pampered clientele.

A brother approached me this week about doing some work for a "committee" he's on. Seems he's been bullshitted into making a presentation for them, asked if I'd help. I honestly would rather not. I hate committees. It's another way for corporate bullshit artists to con us into believing they actually care. Not buying it for a minute. However, I was interested in the report he told me about that describes how the stresses of our jobs become "background noise" as the years progress. We don't actually realize how the "beep beeps" and passenger insults and management interference and diesel fumes and other motorists' antics contribute to transit operations being one of the top stress-inducing professions in the world. While I trust my brother's passion to try and do something positive for us, I healthily distrust management's motives for yet another lame attempt to show they care what we go through. Given its callous lack of compassion, I cannot lend myself to such folly.

Am I jaded? Contrast my current attitude with that which I had coming into the job. Great benefits, #1 transit to broken promises, constant cutbacks while "prettying up the system" and ignoring operator issues such as proper facilities and horrible traffic conditions vs. tight schedules, retirees being thrown under the bus, newbies being pressured (and allowed) to go full time LONG before they're ready, the JANUS decision encouraging workers to stop paying union dues while their brothers and sisters foot the bill for contract negotiations/arbitrations etc. It's obviously a long-planned ploy once again to "divide and conquer" the middle class while it argues amongst itself which side contributed most to its suffering.

Yeah, I'm down and out. How many of you bought my book? I went into debt to produce a tome that outlines most of our issues that are rarely broadcast, but perhaps 1/6 of my local brothers and sisters bothered to buy a copy. It makes me feel... ridiculous. Still, enough read to make my words at the very least, worthwhile. Somebody has to say something, it might as well be me. Many of you read but don't always agree with my arguments, and that's fine. At least you read and respond. I'm not always right, and you're not always wrong. Still, I try to reflect just one concept: how I feel rolling six wheels.

To those of management who read and don't respond, you're missing a great opportunity to open a dialogue with those you oversee. Our well-being should be your TOP PRIORITY, not statistics. Meaningless numbers pale in comparison to what we do out there. We deal with the reality you only read about in your countless memos and reports. It's easier to deal with our pain from some exalted comfy chair in an ivory tower. Board meetings, committee meetings, plastic outpouring of fake support for a diamond-studded workforce... that's YOUR reality. Mine is the countless interactions with the drug-addled homeless, the poor working class (who I try to help at EVERY opportunity), and the self-entitled snobs who ride our system in lieu of driving their own vehicles. Some are genuinely-kind, while many take the opportunity to send uninformed and nasty complaints with little merit or understanding of the BIG PICTURE we have learned via thousands of miles on the road in horribly-unforgiving seats. Over two-thirds of these complaints should be thrown out before they even reach our managers, but instead we're insulted by them every day. It's discouraging at best, mind-numbingly depressing and discouraging as usual. Rare is the commendation, because it's oh-so-easy to complain rather than lift us up with kindness.

Tonight, my back is screaming in agony. I didn't injure it at home, as your Workers' Compensation phonies would argue. The years of twisting and turning to see things other motorists don't even try to see are taking their toll. My body is breaking down due to the unspoken rigors of the job. If it fails, you'll just find another body to take my place and move on. Deke will no longer matter, not that I do now. Just like hundreds, thousands before me, I'm only useful while there's a steering wheel in my hands. When the pain is so unbearable I fail to turn quickly enough to make that once-in-a-lifetime scan that avoids an accident, you'll discard me without even so much as a "Thanks for all those lives you saved over the years."

Yeah, I'll be at work again the next service day. It's my Friday, and I have many miles to go before I sleep. Whoever's woods these be, I hope you'll know... I'll still be there when they fill with snow. For a while longer, anyway.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

My Thanksgiving

Deke's Note: I feel really happy when something good becomes of my being a city bus driver. Especially on a cold night, an hour before Thanksgiving, it was my pleasure to help someone who needed a lift and a moment of hope. It feels as if all the verbal spears chucked at me are all for naught. For some, the sharp points are always present...

We are a nation of plenty. While a greedy few control the vast majority of wealth, a majority of us work ourselves into early graves slaving for those who pull our puppet strings. Gone are the days of our grandparents, who mostly fended for themselves and pulled through the Great Depression. Now, we're dependent upon the captains of modern slavery just to pay them their due and have enough left over to afford whatever makes us "whole."

Still, we find ways to remain happy and feel as if our lives have meaning. We love, we laugh, we struggle, we enjoy our lives as much as providence allows. Then there are the few who have somehow slipped between the cracks. Perhaps their childhood was Oliver Twist-ish, or a few neurons stopped firing along the way. As a result, they roam our streets begging for handouts to either feed their Jones or simply find a tidbit of food or shelter.

Often, it's easy to ignore them, yet sometimes impossible. I remember a time when I was young and had moved a thousand miles from home to "find myself." What I "found" was that life can slap the innocent right upside the head when idealism doesn't reconcile with common sense. The youth believes that somehow, all will be made right if they just work hard; in some cases, they think everything should be magically provided for them without any effort. In my case, the effort was there, but the results were less than marginal. Regardless of my woeful earnings, I learned to eat what I could afford.

The proud owner of a 1976 Datsun Pickup with an insulated shell over its bed, a warm rest was achieved by snuggling into my sleeping bag curled up with my dog, parked on a remote mountain path near a meadow. A forest I called home; most times the wind my only friend. It was peaceful; if only I still had my journals composed during that time. What others thought I lacked in creature comforts, my life was enriched by what I did have: the love of my dog, plenty of food (and beer), and scenery that could have stolen the breath of God. Canned food could easily be heated over a campfire, and showers could be had at a health club near where I worked. As a 20-year-old, this life was ideal. As summer ended, my hard work rewarded me with a roof. Thank God, because that winter saw temperatures dip 20 degrees below zero. What had been that young man's dream could have quickly turned into a nightmare.

As I worked harder, earned more and could afford better lodging and food, those times became fond memories. Forty years later, that kind of existence is a nightmare. Driving a bus, I roll through and with those who have not a tenth what I do. Many are older than me; their skin is thinner and gaunt from spending so much time in the harsh winter elements. My hair is blissfully less-gray than theirs, my limbs more youthful, the spring in my step quite a bit more jaunty. The grateful recipient of a wonderful childhood gave me the foundation I needed to not only survive, but to excel. While I still reach higher for "something more," recently it has become apparent that I should be thankful for what great gifts I already have.

Last night, I reached out to someone in need. This elderly man is without a home. While I could not give him a warm hearth to call his own, perhaps my attempts of kindness made a difference. He was alone and scared; I felt guilty to be so damn lucky. We connected, and hopefully our meeting was good for him. My actions are not important enough to be chronicled here. To do so would simply be tooting my own horn, which has been out-of-tune for so long it would sound contrived somehow to coax that warbled tune out of it. Instead, please join me in sending prayers to this poor soul. He needs your love more than I do; I've reveled in your support for so long, it's time I ask to share it.

So I leave you here, on this Thanksgiving 2019. With a wife who loves me more than I deserve at times, three beautiful and incredibly-successful children, and a lifetime of memories some wish they had. It has been a wonderful life, one even Jimmy Stewart's "George" would agree is worth celebrating. I am content with what I have achieved, given my life's dubious beginning. While I still reach for greater heights than I have already achieved, I could die today and feel this life was rich and meaningful. Until then, my arms always point upward, for to look down is something I cannot do.

Please join me in praying for those who have so lost their way, or never found it, that they roam alone without a home. Peace be with you and yours this holiday season, and also with those who have trouble finding it.

With love and respect,
Deke N. Blue

Monday, November 25, 2019

Self-Inflated Middle Management Complainers

Deke's Note: I wanted to refrain from writing a post tonight, but the antics of middle-management in our transit system are becoming too brash and insulting to let pass.

As my brother had his lunch spread out upon the wheel well, where many of us enjoy a brief repast and hopefully silent refuge from an unforgiving public, he was assaulted by one of our (too) many middle-managers. Supposedly, by what I can ascertain from the information our brother presented.

Here he was, our time-crunched operator, trying to maintain a conversation with a loved one via cradled telephone as he multi-tasked eating his meal. We have limited time on our breaks, during which our agency mandates a ridiculous "open door policy." If we adhere to this, we're often confronted by people who ask us when some other bus line is scheduled to arrive, or when our bus is going to depart, or why some other operator may or may not have been "rude" to them.

I'm sorry, but when a bus operator is trying to use valuable "recovery time" to squeeze in a meal or head into a restroom on an urgent biological need, we're often confronted with an unnecessarily-needy and insistent public. Our supposed indifference is considered "rude," yet our time-vital need is much more important to US than their lazy inquiries are. Their questions can usually be answered by simply accessing apps on their "smart" phones. Until humans are rendered obsolete in transit operations, which is something management has made known as a future goal, we insist on a break at the end of a line from a consistently-impatient ridership.

It is often a constant: these demands we know everything we're not remotely capable of while working diligently to guide an unforgiving vehicle smoothly and safely through miles of dangers unrealized by those we serve. Once we safely reach the end of the line, we're able to relieve straining bladders, shove some nourishment into our bodies and stretch before climbing into a hellishly-unforgiving seat to roll the opposite direction from where we recently arrived. To be interrupted, often rudely, while we revel in a few moments of silence and communication with those who worry we'll even arrive safely home, is horribly upsetting. It's also an insult, one that should be reported as a violation of transit code if nothing else.

If you work in middle-management within any transit system, you should know better than to harass the people who make your worthless job possible. Of all people, we expect you to be respectful, courteous and supportive. When you falsely accuse of us of callousness when we're simply trying to eat or pee, it's YOU who are being horribly invasive and rude. If we snap at you, it's because you have interrupted a rare moment of serenity. Try doing OUR job, walk in OUR shoes, before you judge.

One person who enjoys a cushy, overpaid job they're apparently under-qualified to hold, once reported a young operator for holding a cell phone in his hand as he drove a route he never had before. This complaint resulted in our young brother's being suspended. What he actually held as he drove was a route description. While I would have counseled him to put it in the "cutter," a now-obsolete piece of transit history which held paper tickets we once distributed to fare payers, he held it in his hand as he manipulated the steering wheel with the other. Alternately scanning as he consulted the white, laminated turn-by-turn bus operator's bible, he rolled past some puffed-up newbie management wonk. Ruh roh, Raggy, some ignorant spy just mistakenly reported you for holding a cell phone in your hands, a big no-no you know is so. That's why your phone was stowed as per Standard Operating Procedures.

Unfortunately for you dear brother, Mr. So-and-So had this unfounded perception that we are constantly disobeying the rules which we are strictly governed by. Not so, Mr. Evil So-and-So. Even though our young brother loves his phone as you (and the rest of us) do, he knows through training and experience it is forbidden to hold the damn thing as we drive. What a ridiculously-ludicrous accusation you lobbed at this decent young man who I truly admire! I could say worse, but refrain from doing so, or even mentioning your name which I know, for fear of being fired for daring to expose truth to your ignorant fallacy. You all know my name, but I still maintain a policy of not outing you even when your crimes against us are obviously callous and disrespectful. Shame on you, Mr. Middle Management.

This guy swore he "saw" our young hero holding a cell phone, from across the street with parked autos obscuring his vision through the windshield of a bus. Bullshit, dude. Take your bloated sense of superiority and shove it. Happily, this suspension was overturned due to the fierce determination of a fiercely-protective ATU rep who helped set the record straight. Video evidence failed to prove the shady complainant's case. This pretentious public employee holds a seat of ridiculous power as we once again fight for a decent contract. I shake my head in utter disgust at this piece of persistently-demoralizing reality.

While you're impressed with your need to show superiority, we're probably dealing with a number of insulting incidences dealt us over the course of our last trip. Perhaps we've successfully dealt with a situation that could have resulted in our injury, or even death before you bursted on the scene in your supposed and unwanted boast of superiority. The last thing we need is your whiny complaint over something you know little, possibly nothing, about: the tough job we perform with grace and skill where you simply offer an uneducated opinion.

If you ride transit while also working in its management, it's imperative you show at least a minimum of respect for those of us who do the work which affords you your cushy job. Ours is MUCH more difficult, fraught with dangers you don't even understand, having never done our job. Just ask the family of Thomas Dunn, if you even recognize the name.

Yeah, I thought you wouldn't. You're welcome for the safe ride. It's something we provide thousands of on a daily basis, usually punctuated by the thanks of those who exit. In your case, you chose to further abuse, falsely accuse and humiliate your operator as you exited. Just go away... quietly. We'd truly appreciate that exit.

Hopefully, you look up from your handheld device we do not use while in service, which would have answered the question you so rudely put forth to my brother, in time to save yourself from a close encounter with some cellphone-stoned and not-so-diligent motorist (other than a bus, whose operator is predicting your every move) as you cross that street. You can rest assured we'll be watching out for you, no matter what position in life you hold at that given moment in time. We might even honk our horn to alert you of the danger you are blindly stumbling into. It's OUR transit reality, something you should look into from time to time, as you settle into your comfy office chair tomorrow.

Yeah, you're welcome, even if you failed to acknowledge our brother's diligence. It's just how we roll.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Fools Insult Me, Yet Insult Themselves

Deke's Note: You may have noticed my extended absences from writing here. It's not that I have little to say. If you've read this for a while, you know sometimes I just can't STOP. Once in a while, it's healthy to take a step back, think about your blog's direction versus where it meanders, and find ways to rein it back in. I've beat so many dead horses with my bitching, PITA is about to trample my keyboard. So here's a few shorts, and I thank you all for hanging in there with me.

"Please," I ask cyclists as they board, "remind me when you leave that you'll be grabbing your bike."

It's commonly understood I do this out of concern for the pedalists' safety. There's no need to describe the carnage possible if my request is not heeded. These folks get it; even the toughest-looking hombre or lass will at least acknowledge my request.

I recently had a cyclist take offense at this request. He told me, "I don't need to be told to do this," he huffed and puffed in indignus ridiculi. "I always tell the driver I'm going to get my bike as I get off. I'm tired of you guys saying this."

"Well, excuse the request, Mr. Huffledork, but it's put forth solely out of concern for your safety," I replied, a bit miffed at his tone and attitude. "I get about 100 or so bikes a week on my bus. How am I supposed to know you always tell us? Through osmosis? Gimme a break, willya? I'm just trying to keep you safe."

"Blah, blah, blah," he mocked, employing a gesture with his hands equalling his childish retort.

It was the last run of a 56-hour week, and I was tired. The vast majority of my riders know I'm friendly, polite and concerned for the safety of all in and around my Beast. A few passengers who weren't plugged in and tuned out sat up and paid attention to this exchange. It got a bit heated after that.

Instead of "sit down and shut up," I chose the high road.

"I will err on the side of your safety any day, sir." Perhaps I growled a bit, but it could have been worse. I was kinda pissed. Luckily, I realized it and stopped my roll. The Deke of old would have stopped the bus and thrown the mouthy prick off. Let him try his attitude with another driver some 30 minutes later. Today's N. Blue has been working hard on letting things slide. I laughed at him instead. It made me feel better, and made the jerk look like... you know.

About 20 minutes later, Jerkfish exited. I was engaged with another passenger, explaining whatever they wanted to know. Jerkfish did not alert me, as he bragged he always does. On purpose. Then out of the corner of my peripheral sight, I saw him walk directly in front of my bus, making the "blah blah" gesture. I set the parking brake, reflexively. You see, I was about to close the door and roll into the fresh green light. Good thing I scan 180 degrees before moving the bus, or Jerky would have become just that. Uncured, even.

I heartily laughed at him. Boy, he truly showed me! Not only did he feel the need to act the fool, he proved himself a liar. After all that, he purposefully failed to tell me he was getting his bike. As if he was teaching me a lesson. Wow. What a power play. Problem is, the true power lay within my careful hands, and it could have crushed him at 1-2mph.

"Fucking idiot!" I couldn't help myself. Even though my instinctive reflexes saved his life, he continued mocking me as he rode on the sidewalk, zipping into the BUS ONLY lanes down the transit mall. The "be vigilant, be calm, be safe" parts of The Mantra kept this miscreant from becoming pavement paint. And I was glad. He could call me anything (I've heard it all, thanks), flash me whatever temper tantrums in sign language his limited intellect could conjure, and he would still remain safe in and around my vehicle. Whatever loved ones he had, they once again had the chance to welcome him safely home.

Did he think I would never say that to another cyclist because of his ridiculousness? No. The next week, I said it (as usual) every time a cyclist boarded, and several actually thanked me for asking them to remind me.

By the end of my shift, I was able to chuckle at his foolishness, but still, I shuddered. Although I was exhausted by the week's work, it is by sheer force of vigilance and experience he was kept safe, in spite of himself.

Trainer Mike Bishop's words of wisdom remain with me always: bad things can happen when you think ahead instead of in the present, whether it's the end of shift or the vacation that awaits afterward. I still remember the video Mr. Bishop played in Recertification Class after he said that, showing a bus driver failing to scan for pedestrians, then knocking one over in a crosswalk after she walked into his bus while studying her phone screen instead of where she was walking, as he pulled into a transit center where his relief operator waited. Thanks, Mr. Bishop. Your sharp, staccato delivery of "what ifs" and "don't be that guy" warnings are always on my mind. I'd love to sit and chat with you now, sir, after several years in the seat. I love his stories, because they always have a lesson attached. Hopefully, this blog post has the same flavor attached.

When I set the parking brake in the yard that night, I said a small prayer of thanksgiving, and that this man find peace amidst the anguish he must feel for picking a fight with someone who would rather die than see him mortally wounded. Amen.

* * * * *

Another brief moment this week begs a brief mention.

A young man, waiting at a bus stop, jumped aboard rudely in front of an elderly lady. He wanted to know when a different bus line traveling in the complete opposite direction of my own might arrive at the stop across the street.

At first, I shook my head. It was a ludicrous question, at the very least.

"I don't know," I said. "I don't drive that line."

This disheveled teenager, who appeared under the influence of some mind-numbing substance, just shook his head and stared at me.

"How could you not know?" he asked, an incredulous tone in his still-childlike voice.

"How could you not know?" I replied. In his hand was clutched the ever-present tool of those who are hopelessly-addicted to yet fail to use it to its potential: a cell phone. A few touches would have told him exactly when that bus would arrive. Instead, he chose a clumsy attempt to insult me. Once again, I had to laugh.

"Because, lad," I added as gently as my Be Patient mantra portion allowed, "it's impossible for me to know the schedules of every line and train, all 80-plus of them, at any point in the day."

He jumped off, cursing my evident stupidity while bumping past the elderly lady who raised her eyebrows at me and then sidelined her eyes his direction as she tapped her Hop card.

"Sorry for the younger generation," I told her, smiling.

"I hope I'm gone before his generation enters politics," she said with a nervous chuckle.


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Do... the... Right... Thing

Deke's Note: I hate to pick on my fellow operators. We're constantly harangued by management, the public and the media whenever something goes terribly wrong. Every day, we're out there giving millions of safe rides, providing a valuable public service. However, we sometimes forget there is no "I" in "team." I've had my fill of those who fail to do as trained, making life even tougher for those who wear the same shoes. It's time for me to vent... but this is meant to teach rather than demean.

It doesn't matter how long you've been in the seat. I don't care if you're a newbie or have been here dozens of years. When you fail to do the right thing, others suffer. Often, we're tempted to be outright lazy and allow bad habits to rule our roll. This is simple complacency. We can allow bad habits to become constant. We all have been guilty of this at some, or many times during our careers. Perhaps we don't realize the effects these failures of duty have on those behind, alongside or ahead of us. Usually, we do, and the rigors of the road can render these actions unimportant in lieu of what we have just gone through. It's easy to say "I just don't give a fuck. I only want this day to end, and to hell with anyone else."

Well folks, I've had just about enough of whiny miscreants. To those of us who toil just as hard, I say I work even harder, to do the right thing.

After a few weeks into a signup, I know my route like my right foot feels the brake pedal. Where I'm bound to be early, late or right on time. We're all guilty of allowing a mental misstep like coming up to a time point too early, but if you truly care about your craft, it's easy to take steps along the route to ensure this doesn't happen.

On my current route, during rush hour we're spaced about 5-10 minutes apart. Run too early and you're kissing your leader's bumper. That's really hard on them, but if you work at it, you can help them along by running on time. Hand signals out your window as they pull from a stop just ahead of you can tell them to "skip stops" and boost them back onto schedule. Your bus may be nearly-empty while theirs is standing room only. This not only lessens the load on Dispatch, it keeps things as they should be: between us.

Perhaps it's your bus that's bursting at the seams, or as I tell my pax, "the Sardine Can Express," which amuses them as they stand shoulder-to-shoulder while you try your best to smooth curves and stops to not force them into any unwanted close encounter. Full buses seem to be full of jovial banter about how busy the ride is compared to earlier or yesterday. I tend to share their discomfort with a bit of banter on the microphone.

"Thanks for working together folks," I might say, "this is your friendly Sardine Can Express, brought to you by my leader who is apparently mostly empty and ahead of schedule."

My microphone is constantly accessible when I'm the "full bus." It gives us a chance to communicate and commiserate, making the uncomfortable crowded roll just a bit more palatable. Just the other day as traffic backed up, I softly sang "Traffic Jam" by James Taylor into the microphone, to the delightful glee of my listeners.

"Damn this traffic jam," I cooed into the keyed onboard mic, "how I hate to be late. It hurts my motor to go so slow, time I get home my supper be cold, DAMN this traffic jam... Well I left my job about five o'clock, about 15 minutes to go three blocks, just in time to stand in line, with the freeway looking like a parking lot, I say DAMN this traffic jam..."

Despite my warbling off-key voice, the response was electric. "What's that? Who sang that?" they asked. I explained my love for James Taylor, and refused to interrupt their excited after-work chatter with my uninvited solo.

Anyway, it's vital we operators recognize who's having the worst of the day's rush hour roll. When I'm working, I count on my leader and follower to "get it" and act accordingly.

One day last week, I passed my leader, who happened to be on their last run. I was treated to their "stink eye." My goal was to take the pressure off of the poor operator by passing by and picking up the next crowd of waiting passengers, allowing my leader to pass me by and skip a stop or two. This maneuver gives them a chance to get ahead of me if the stop I service is not requested by one of their own passengers. If not, the job requires them to dutifully fall in behind and let passengers off.

This time, the operator must have been truly inexperienced. They pulled around me, blocking my exit as I serviced the stop past the one I had rolled by. Their misplaced anger at me rolled through their open doors, as a few of their passengers exited and boarded my bus.

"I had to get out of there," one lady told me. "That bus was too crowded and the driver was pissed because you passed us by. So was I! Why did you do that?"

Since the lady stood nearby, I gave her the explanation. "It's called 'skip-stopping,' " I told her. "When the bus ahead of us is full, we pass them by and pick up the passengers waiting for their bus, allowing them to not have to board any more people than they have already."

"Oh!" she said, pausing to take it in. "That makes sense. Why didn't he know that? He was so angry I heard him cuss you out when you went by."

"Perhaps he's new and doesn't know the ropes," I said as gently as possible. Hiding my anger at a newbie's rude maneuver, I still felt solidarity and wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. This passenger seemed to "get it." Unfortunately, my clueless leader likely steamed in his pissy brew all the way back to the garage as I dropped off countless of his would-be passengers he would have had to transport had I not passed him by.

My constant banter with passengers not only educates, but soothes them. Many, having ridden transit most of their lives, don't need the explanation as they've lived it for years. They know more than the rookie drivers who get pissed at me when I exhibit what years of experience require me to. They know that when two buses on the same line roll into the same stop simultaneously, intending passengers should board the second one. It takes a while before newbies settle into the realities of what we do.

Back to those who know what to do, but choose to do what they want.

We're trained from the beginning never to roll into our downtown transit mall early. Some schedules allow for this, adding time upon arriving there. This gives a late bus the chance to make up late time. If you're on time when you get to the mall, chances are great that once you arrive at the downtown time point, you'll be early. Some lines find themselves up to three minutes early. If this happens, our Standard Operating Procedures dictate that a bus fall into the LAST position at a downtown stop to burn, or "dwell for time." This allows on-time buses which service the same stop the opportunity to take the first position and leave when the traffic signal turns green. Doing so allows us to roll harmonically. While one bus line might arrive just on time or a bit late, a bus which sits back allows another that services that stop to roll in and perhaps make up the time they arrived late. This type of cooperation is timeless, something experienced operators have done for a century in honor of our solidarity and willingness to work together.

If a bus arrives early at a downtown time point and fails to take the last position to dwell, hogging the first position for two or three light cycles, the unfortunate driver who pulls in behind them is treated to an agonizingly-unnecessary wait.

In my case, it further elevates my frustration. Since I work very hard not to be early when I arrive downtown to find another operator who is too early in the first position, it makes me extremely late leaving the transit mall. Such a selfish action truly pisses me off, especially because I work very hard not to "be that guy." It affects my On-Time Performance, which has overtaken Safety in management's unrealistic transit eyes.

"I'm only burning 20-30 seconds," one operator told me when I secured my bus in the second position after he sat through an entire green light. Having this happen every night, I left my bus to question his actions. I was worried something was awry on his bus, and would have helped had that been the case. It was not.

"You've been here ever since I left 5/Pine!" I declared. "You're not even supposed to arrive here until two minutes after I leave! Do the right thing, and burn time at the Burnside Bridge stop, and this wouldn't happen. Please! Burn your time, if you must, in the last position. You're making me two-to-three minutes late every night!"

The operator waved me off with a dismissive gesture. It's bad enough when you ask a passenger to follow transit code and they blow you off. But when a fellow operator, who has been driving long enough to know the rules does this, it is a terrible bummer.

So, if you're a rookie on a mini-run or as an extra board operator, remember your brothers and sisters have done this route day-in and out for possibly years. You're still learning. Take a lesson and think about what you're doing. If you're doing a run you have been rolling all the sign-up, you know better than to run early and burn time at the expense of those behind you. Take a moment. Think about how your actions are affecting others. If you're not the most important person in the world, maybe you'll realize there are real-time repercussions to others for your misdeeds. We want to roll on time too. Perhaps our bladders are bursting past managerial expectations, and your selfish actions are pushing us beyond our body's limits. Ever sat in a urine-stench operator seat? Your inexperience might have caused it.

We all learn as we go, or we don't learn at all. Some are only concerned with their own schedule, others "just deal with it." As the years roll by, a "good" operator thinks not only of themselves, but for those with whom they share the job. Any time we can work together is time Dispatch could spend dealing with more vital issues than our petty inabilities to remember what we're trained to do.

If you're new to the job or a route, take a moment to listen to what other operators are trying to teach you. Don't wave us off with the dismissive and flippant gesture of unearned arrogance. In no circumstance, flip us off or curse us when your actions are blocking us from rolling smooth. If you need to be told, listen for crying out loud. Do not ever take actions that would certainly land you in trouble if a supervisor saw it.

Do the right thing. It's what we're taught in training, and takes on an even more vital importance when you're rolling in unison with others who have probably done this job years more than you. It's called "teamwork."

Please do NOT call in and ask to be put into "Drop Off Only" mode if you're on your last run of the shift. Concurrently, learn by watching what it means to "skip stop" on a busy route. It will likely help rather than hinder you. We've all done this, and it's time for you to breathe and watch a pro roll.

Please do NOT dwell for early time in the first position of ANY shared stop. You're early? Good for you. The bus behind you is likely right on time, and your laziness is making them late. Get a grip, and watch how a professional rolls. This is a good time to learn, rather than sit there and look like a rookie.

If you're new to the extra board, which I know many of you are, way too early than you should be, realize there are unwritten rules of the road you may not be wise to yet. Watch and learn. We all had veterans teach us, let us teach you. Be respectful, courteous and patient. That's the ONLY way you'll excel at this job. It's rough, yeah. But if you take the time and think about what happens, you'll get it like we did. Soon, you'll be teaching those who follow you to learn the rules you have learned by sweat, fear, and finally... acceptance of the transit reality we have all come to know.

One other sound bit of advice: when you actually realize another has taught you a valuable lesson, acknowledge and thank them for it. Remember it. Exercise these lessons with every roll. If we fail to work together out there, it becomes infinitely more difficult and frustrating than it needs to be. You will learn the ways we work by, or you'll die by them. Don't piss us off... you're following in our footsteps. Accept, acknowledge, and learn good habits. That's what keeps us rolling smoothly as a team.

As winter blows into the Great Northwest, it's even more important you stop and think about what your brothers and sisters are telling you. Every moment is a vital learning step in your transit education. Study every one of them.

Word, dude. Deke loves you. Share it. Accept it. Deal with it. Don't ever forget it. Most of all, don't take your veterans for granted... you can always learn from us. There might also be moments when we learn from you.