Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Writing a Book!

I'm going for it, folks. This past week I have been poring over my blog posts and choosing which of them will go into an upcoming From the Driver Side book.

Why not? I've already written enough posts to fill a thick 'un, so it's just a matter of organizing, editing and adding notes here and there. Advertising on the blog has netted me a whopping $5.50 in the past year, so I can't count on Google to help me retire. Many of you have been keeping up with me since the beginning and may ask "Why would I buy a book when the blog is free to read?" I don't know how to answer that question. Hopefully you've gotten your money's worth.

I've read over 100 of the posts, and it has become clear which ones deserve to live on. It's also been fun seeing how I've progressed from a wide-eyed newbie to a slightly jaded semi-veteran.

Even though there are over 52,000 hits on this blog now, I've always wanted to reach an even wider audience. It's been a dream of mine to be read all over the world. Last time I checked, people in Ireland are reading this regularly, and I've had readers from two dozen other countries as well. This is truly gratifying. Yet the writer is a greedy animal, and I want to reach more folks.

Many folks dismiss bus operators without truly understanding what we experience every day. As I've heard from fellow operators worldwide, we all experience many of the same trials. This blog has been my attempt to describe our job, to be a voice for people who perform a vital function of any local economy. Many of my own local brothers and sisters have told me many times how my posts describe exactly how they feel; this was one of my most important goals. A book can not only give us a louder voice, but also provide our fellow citizens with a better understanding of what we do, why we do it, and how to co-exist with us.

Any writer dreams of the wide audience. Will this book succeed? Hopefully so. It will take your help, a bit of Irish luck, and some elbow grease. So pardon the lack of FTDS posts lately. I've been busy. Which reminds me, I have more work to do. I'll be back soon though, with another foray into the streets of Portlandia.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hey Honored Retirees...

Hey local readers, I'd like to write a few articles about some notable retirees to outline their plight as contracts tighten their already taut purse strings. Any ideas or volunteers?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Jury is In

I've been busier than a one-toothed beaver in a lumberyard. Just last night I began deciding which FTDS posts might work best in the book I hope to publish, wondering what to name the collection, and asking your opinions on whether I should "come out" from under my pseudonym.

So far, my FaceBook friends have voted 3-1 in favor of me remaining under cover. Mrs. Blue is pissed! She thinks my dual personality is tiresome and silly. But she understands, as many of you do, that I don't want to lose my job if I write posts which stretch the limits of corporate decorum. That's actually what I work for: a corporation run by the government. I've been injured by corporate bullies before; in another job I held, a certain big-wig blatantly put his name on an article I wrote for the company. I was told to swallow my pride or lose my job. It was a tough chew, but I somehow got it down. It left a terribly rotten taste in my mouth. I wanted to punch the guy, but I've artfully avoided handcuffs so far and never enjoyed jewelry anyway. This old boy learned to take "freedom of speech" with a large chunk of sodium from that point on. So when I signed on to this gig and their information officer tiptoed around the "free speech, except..." concept, I just smiled and nodded. More corporate doublespeak.

When the first week of May arrives, this blog will have its third birthday. The "hit count" has risen nicely over the years, and I've had a lot of fun. It's been great practice for me as well as a wonderful steam kettle. As time on the job goes on, a lot of tension builds up. Wordplay as the Deacon has helped keep my blood pressure down.

As I read some of the earliest posts last night as I began work on The Book, I had to chuckle at myself. Even though I wasn't very young when I started driving bus, my words painted me in a naive light. A friend of mine, who started driving about the same time I did, said she has followed my progression from wide-eyed greenhorn to somewhat-jaded semi-veteran. There are some posts that are gems while a few leave me wondering "What the hell did I write THAT for?".

Shortly after I began driving, Big Ol' Daddy saw me shake my head as I listened to him and other more experienced drivers talking about their experiences. He told me, "Don't kid yourself Deke, you'll be just as jaded as we are in a few years". I disagreed, and he laughed. To a degree, his words were prophetic. However, when I do act out a bit too much, it still makes me feel uncomfortable. Some things I've done over the past year especially have made me re-evaluate myself, take a good dose of chill pills, and adjust my attitude. A double scotch on a Friday night does the trick as well.

Yeah, the jury is in. It's not a unanimous vote, but I have to agree anonymity is the best row to hoe. Less weeds, more product. No toxins or bugs to worry about either. So if you know me, please keep it close to the vest. I'll be singing this Steely Dan tune a while longer.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Cleansing Our Political Energy (COPE)

Abraham Lincoln as he appeared in 1858.
Not wanting to fully emerge into the union's political arena, I just want to say it's time we reverse the trend of dirty campaigning in our own house. We see it every day on the national political scene, and it is truly disgusting how many of them act.

I encourage every ATU 757 member to vote their conscience. The question is simple: which candidate has the best potential to do US the most good? We don't come to this conclusion by battering those we don't agree with. It is nobler, and more conducive to unity, to trumpet the good in our personal choice. To tear down another is gruesome, hurtful and painful to watch.

Each of the three running for president have their own wonderful qualities. However, I rarely hear about them. What seeps through is mostly negative. So and so did this to such and such long ago,  etcetera etc., ad nauseum. Many seem to have some sort of dirt on the other two, while elevating their preferred candidate to sainthood. It's akin to stating "Candidate A smells worse than B, so I'm voting for C". But you know, each individual has a unique sense of smell. Candidate C might smell better than the other two put together to me, but all three might positively reek to you. You can't judge a classic novel by its musty cover, any more than you can convince me that eggplant tastes anything but bitter. I will not begrudge you your fondness for eggplant, and you cannot convince me your coveted recipe will send my taste buds into orgasmic bliss.

One President of the United States whom a great majority of Americans will agree was the finest we've ever had, Abraham Lincoln, faced what many believed an insurmountable task in keeping the Union together. At the time he was elected, the United States was balanced on the precipice of failure. When he campaigned against Stephen Douglas for Illinois Senator in 1858, he opted to add a profound biblical reference to one of his most famous speeches. "A house divided against itself cannot stand," he stated. When asked why he would invoke one of Christ's most quoted statements (found in the gospels of Luke, Matthew and Mark), he said: "I wanted to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to arouse them to the peril of the times".

Our employer would love to see us render our own union useless. We do this without any help from them, by tearing ourselves apart, endlessly divided, fighting battles of little benefit to the whole. The peril we all face right now, is our employer's desire to chip away at our livelihood and benefits with each new contract negotiation. Retirees feel betrayed, as well as our newest members; so we're already seeing our unity ripped apart. Recently, some retirees wondered if they should form their own union. If we can't protect either group today, can we logically expect the newbies protect US in the years to come?

So ol' Abe's words ring true today, whether related to ATU 757 or our beloved United States of America. We're fighting amongst one another when our energy and commitment should be to unify, become ONE strong force, and push forward... together.

"A house divided cannot stand." I repeat this to stress a vital point. Once this election is over, are we going to continue arguing over who we think should have won, or put aside our political prejudice in order to facilitate a powerful good for ALL of our beloved brothers and sisters?

I've made my choice who to vote for. Once the election is over, I will add my own strength to the victor's to help build the power necessary to effect change. It is my fervent hope this becomes our collective battle cry from this point forward.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What Do YOU Think?

Well advertising isn't doing a brisk business here. Didn't expect it to, either. But I have an idea on a MUCH grander scale, and I'm asking you all to help me decide.

Some of you haven't read all my posts, but there are some dandies. I've been toying around with taking some of my best posts and producing a book.

 Since I value your collective opinion, do you think it's an idea that would sell? A buddy of mine has been published, and I'm jealous. We're competitive friends and I wanna whup his butt.

What say ye, my dear readers?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Forgot the Ball & Chain!

Deacon's Note: Since I was unable to use the camera feature on my phone today, for reasons you are about to learn, this piece is strangely produced without photographs. Sorry. While I can't promise it will never happen again, maybe I'll post some in the next blog post.

Humming along peacefully to Susan Tedeschi on the car stereo today on my way to work, I was enjoying having the car for a change. (Usually the Boss keeps it, but sometimes she lets me drive.) But as one song ended, I thought it would be a great time to call Dad, since I only had 10 minutes before arriving at the garage and he's usually amenable to talking just about that long. Nice new car, this Hyundai, which allows one to place a call via voice command and keep both hands on the wheel.

Ruh roh. Lady Tucson's immediate refusal to obey my command went something like this:

Me: Call Dad.

Tucson: To place a call via Bluetooth, a device must first be paired.


Tucson: Look dumbass, connect your damn phone and then we'll talk.

Hmm. Checked all my pockets, no cell phone. Double checked, no luck. I was more than halfway to a 10-hour shift with no cellphone. Ruh roh, indeed. Oh well, I decided, it was time to break the fixation.

I'll just text the wife... no big deal. Duh. Text my wife to tell her the phone I can't use to do so is sitting on the desk next to her, while she chuckled at my persistent absent-mindedness? Really? C'mon, Einstein. Geesh.

It soon became painfully apparent how attached I've become to that damn thing. Sit on the toilet, check the emails. Waiting for MAX, scope out arrival times on PDX Bus. Waiting for my bus to arrive, play on FaceBook, check the weather, look at FTDS blog stats. See something cool in and around StumpTown, take a photo for this blog. Missed the Trail Blazers game last night, check the highlights. Wow. I was jolted by the sharp slap of reality. No phone, no mindless play.

So what did that leave me to do? Think, for one thing. Walk and think, actually. What a concept! Walking is my favorite exercise anyway.

I've blathered on before about people and their cell phones, scoffing at how addicted they are to the fool things. Yet here I was without mine, wondering how to live without it. It's funny how quickly we become addicted to the cell drug. Not quite a year ago, I clung to my flip-phone in my middle-age stubbornness, not wanting to become one of "them citified smart phone fellers". Besides, I thought then, what good is a phone except to text or call people? Who needs all that fancy stuff anyway?

Turns out, I do. Well some of it anyway. I don't play games or read books on it (except my novel-in-progress), and the apps I have are either practical or stuffed away in a folder I labelled "Bullshit". It seems I've become addicted like everyone else.

As I drove the bus today, I found myself getting cranky much earlier than usual. Was I having withdrawal symptoms? Nah. We're strictly forbidden to have them out while driving anyway. At the end of the line, I decided it was time for a quick attitude adjustment, so I took a walk. My legs and butt thanked me. Instead of the head-down slow amble, I actually stretched out me limbs and zipped around the block. In the pouring rain. For the first time in 10 months, I felt truly liberated. I didn't care about all those doodads on that dad burned contraption! I also read my nearly-finished copy of a Mark Twain book. Yeah, the thing made of paper pages, with words on them.

The only thing I truly missed was the banter with my beloved truly better half. We're sickening. If you ever saw our text strings, the amount of cute little whatever-you-call-ems (hearts, smoochy-faces, etc. ad nauseous) you might just gag. It is nice however, to make sure she's okay, find out how horribly the dog farted or what came in the mail. Once an evening, I give her a call just to chat about our day. That part I was able to remedy, because I still remember how to use an old-fashioned contraption that's wired to the wall in our break rooms. It had push button numbers, but even if they were on a rotary, I could aptly use it.

After our usual three-minute conversation, we ended it like this:

Lady Blue: "Purple, pink, blue and red hearts, smoochy face."

Me: "Nerdy glasses, hearts and roses, Cupid arrow in heart, smoochy face too."

Good grief. I hope nobody else heard me.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Nice People Ride My Bus (Too)!

Sometimes people get on my bus who truly intrigue me. It's usually their eyes which shine with the intelligence I'm drawn to. Hey, you brothers and sisters of the road know the type we usually deal with, the ones who don't even look at us and use derogatory language at every turn. When I board a person who is friendly, greets me warmly and thanks me when they leave, it feels like I've won the Bus Operator Lotto.

Lately I've had two gentlemen regulars to whom I've had the distinct pleasure of giving rides. One of them rides home after a long day of work in a warehouse. He stands patiently and insists others board before he does, showing the manners not always visible in the bus riding public. He's a big fella, perhaps in his mid- to late-30s. The first time I saw him, "Mr. D" looked at me and his eyes shone with kindness. His mouth followed in a wonderful smile which accentuated the smile lines in his face. These eyes also betray some sadness, but we can all attest to the fact of life's bumpy roads. Nevertheless, I've wanted to tell him that I look forward to his boarding my bus. Whenever somebody can brighten my day, it's my wish to let them know about it, without being too forward or making them feel uncomfortable. Spread a little kindness to me, and I immediately want to repay it. So Mr. D, if you're reading this, thank you for being genuine. I'm sure you're a great friend to many and harbor a gentle, wise and kind soul.

Then we have young Johnny Stingray, as I like to think of him. A cool, funny, kind and decent young man in his 20s. He too has the eyes of a much older soul, and a smile that lights up an otherwise dark bus at the end of my night. He spent his youth caring for family members with health challenges, and now he works at a care facility. I've always admired people who do this type of work. It takes the patience of a gentle soul, one who understands the hardships of others and makes great effort to ease their discomfort. Every night we have great discussions, and even though a generation gap exists between us, he's intelligent enough to more than hold up his end of the conversation. Plus, he's blessed with a sharp sense of humor and is a true gentleman.

Decent people realize the job we do is full of stress. Everything that happens in and around the vehicle is constantly being seen and analyzed for degrees of danger. Our eyes see so much more than the average driver, and sometimes we see more than we care to. My heart and soul ache for the bus driver on the west side of town earlier this week who witnessed a man crossing several lanes of a busy road get struck by a car, all because he wanted to catch that bus. So when kind people board, say even just a few friendly words and thank us for doing our job, these simple gestures can make even the hardest days considerably better.

So thanks, D and Johnny, for making my last run of the night an elixir for what usually is a rough day.  I look forward to seeing you, and I miss having you on board when our schedules don't mesh. I wish more of my riders would be more like you guys.