Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Deacon's People

"Deke," a reader told me the other day, "you're getting crabby. Why don't you write something about your good passengers?"

"Well," I stammered, "I reckon I could write about you and a few other folks. Y'all're always nice to me, and it makes my day to give you a ride."

So yeah, okay. I have been a bit more ornery than usual lately. After helping one operator write a speech he delivered to the transit agency board of directors and hearing about an epidemic of assaults on operators, I have been a bit cranky. Downright angry, even. But I don't like to be. It's agin' my nature to be a snarling beast. Yet even Lady Blue has noticed I've been particularly cranky the past few months. Sorry my Beloved, and sorry to everyone else too. Guess I've been a bit tired and stressed.

One of my favorites I'll call Lady D. I've been driving her home for almost five months now, most afternoons during the work week. She gets on downtown and I give her a courtesy stop way out near the end of the line. Lady D and I have had some fun conversations as we've gotten to know each other. She reads this blog and we talk about the things operators face on daily basis. Most people who ride just show me their pass and have a seat, but Lady D is a bright star shiner, and I'm bummed when she doesn't ride. Some people are just so sweet and fun to talk with, they're the type an operator strains his eyesight to see if she's running a bit late to the stop and even burn time to make sure she doesn't miss the bus. Of course, I hate to leave people behind and have been known to run late to make sure that runner gets aboard safely. People who make an extra effort to catch my bus usually find I'm one of the operators who will wait for them. If they're mean when they board though, they won't be lucky enough to ride my bus again.

As I've written before, some people have certain shine in their eyes when we first make contact. I've always been a people person, usually able to ascertain whether I like someone within seconds of meeting them. The exact opposite is true too. If somebody throws off a weird vibe, it's hello, sit down and shut up. But once I've decided someone is "cool", we're usually friends for years afterward. Just ask my best buddy Henry; he hasn't been able to shake loose of me since the first day of high school. And that was a long, long time ago.

It seems the nice weather is helping improve people's moods lately. Folks are smiling more now. Teenagers are actually smiling back and thanking me when they leave, rather than simply snarling. They put seats up in the Priority area when people using mobility devices are ready to board and put them down again when they exit. They're more light-hearted and easier to joke around with. Even motorists have been letting me merge back into traffic with fewer road rage incidents. I get a kick out of people who zip around me, open their windows and throw me the bird. I tell folks on my bus these bird-flippers are actually telling us their driving test or IQ scores.

The other day I had the great pleasure of seeing a favorite passenger I haven't seen in months. Featured a few posts earlier, Johnny Stingray made a surprise appearance on my bus and it made my day. Really nice young fella, someone you'd introduce your own kids to. He said his shift had changed so he usually catches the bus right after mine so that's why I haven't seen him. We had a good chat before we split ways again, and I was so glad to hear he's doing even better than the last time we met.

This past week, a little fella got on my bus as usual with his grandpa. Every other day for the past few months, he'd walk right past me without a word and sit silently until they got off the bus. But this time, he burst on the bus and jumped right in the doorway, proclaiming "Today's my birthday!"

"Wow buddy," I said, "that's cool! How old are you now, 10?" I always add a few years on to how old I think kids are because it makes them feel special for others to think they're older than they truly are.

"No silly," he laughed, "I'm SIX!" His grandpa, just a bit less stiff than usual, ambled on board and they sat in their usual seat.

"Okay everyone," I announced on the PA system. "We have a special rider today, and it's his SIXTH birthday! So please folks, join me in wishing him a VERY happy birthday!"

To my delight, and the lad's, the bus cheered and what had been a rather quiet, subdued group wished this beaming child a happy day. The rest of the trip was filled with friendly banter and laughter. Throw in beautiful Portland spring weather and the day became a grand masterpiece.

Pretty soon, the summer signup will begin. My routes and days off will change. New faces will appear, and I look forward to finding the star shine in others. But I'll miss the folks I've been driving for two signups now. It's the part of the job I truly enjoy the most, meeting fascinating and fun people. It's hard to leave them behind.

So there you have it. A nice post. Happy and full of nice things. Aw hell, I was almost as sappy as Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood this time. So now I'm going back to writing my book again. It's where I've been lately. I hope you all buy a copy when it comes out. Then you can say "I knew the Deacon before he was rich and famous". If I'm lucky, you'll slap me upside the head if'n I get too big for my britches.

Safe travels, my friends.


  1. Your love for people is easy to see. It's hard to be positive at times, especially witnessing honest people struggle as often as they are now.

    That being said, sometimes a little anger is necessary. It calls our attention to issues that truly matter, and questions authorities who've lost their drive.

    Those shining stars are out there, fighting for the happy just the same as us. I imagine you lifted many hearts by singing that kiddo a birthday wish. I'm not gonna lie, I'll probably steal that.

    Ps. Asking if they're a few years older is adorable and I can't wait to try that out ;-) nice piece!

  2. Might be nice to see these character's faces, if you can somehow get a snapshot. Don't have to expose their real names, but they also might get a kick out of seeing their own mugs in the news. Who knows, could be fun?