Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Blowing Off Steam, and Bestowing Fleas

Back to the fun gig, described as "Write Drunk, Edit Sober" tonight. It's my Friday, and it's been one helluva week, so thanks to my designated driver Lady Blue (she HATES that name), I'm home safe after driving about 650 miles in a bus in five days. Got off my bus, changed out of my uniform, and went straight to our hometown bar for some scotch, rock, and pool to unwind.

Everything hurts, down to my soul. Today, we all heard that an off-duty cop was involved in a motorcycle collision with a bus. We're all concerned not only for the motorcyclist who was Life Flighted from the scene, but also the bus operator. It's not known, or important at this time, who was at fault. All I know is that our thoughts, prayers and love go out to those involved. Motorcyclists can be so hard to see sometimes, we all shudder with the realization that it could be any of us who could make a split-second decision that ends disastrously. Perhaps it wasn't the operator's mistake. The media doesn't usually key in on that particular point, because the money-maker headline is usually "Bus Hits Motorcycle" which condemns us from the get-go. But like I said, who's at fault isn't the point; we're all hoping the motorcyclist fully recovers. We also send the operator our love and support, because he or she must be having a terrible nightmare of a time right now.

When you consider how many thousands of passengers we safely deliver to destinations every hour of every day, our collision rate is minuscule in comparison. It would be nice once in a while for the transit agency to tout our safety record as one of the best in the world, which I'm sure it is. We're expected to drive perfectly, yet the public only hears or complains if we dare to show a flaw of the tiniest proportions.

Today, for example, I had one customer who complained about something that was totally out of my control. He made a point to write my bus number down on his grimy, sweaty palm in front of the bus. I felt like he was a whiny child pantomiming "I'm telling Mommy on you! Mean old bus driver jerk! WAAAAHHHH!" It mattered little to me. He could piss up a rope for all I cared. I was polite, mindful of the myriad of Big Brother spy cameras and microphones on the bus. Plus, being my Friday, I wasn't going to let some pond scum ruin the day. I smiled, told him "I hope you have a nice day", and waited for the door to close before commenting to my buddy the operator window: "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your weeks-old underwear, you ungrateful schmuck."

The full moon approaching, my riders were some surly rotten eggs today. Many of them, anyway. Some were downright rude, yet a few were refreshingly supportive and kind. But the schmucks did their best to shake my resolve to the bone, lemme tell ya. I politely asked a 20-something bicyclist to have his fare ready when boarding, instead of fumbling with the bike rack, then coming on board and rummaging through his designer-ripped jeans for the correct change. You'd think I had farted loudly for 10 seconds on an elevator upon which he was the only other passenger, the face he made at my politely-worded comment. "I'm working on it! Geesh! You can go anytime you know." After an interminably-long 90 seconds, he finally put the fare in the box and snatched his ticket while giving me an animated stink-eye. The fact that he could actually count to 250 amazed me. I waited until he was past the priority seating area, as usual, before moving the bus. Once again, I silently invoked the fleas, begging them to freely mate in his nether regions.

Later, coming up to a busy stop with a full bike rack, another 20-something stood forlornly with her two-wheeler after the last passenger had boarded. "Can I bring my bike on board?" she whined. "No Miss, I'm sorry, but you'll have to wait for the next bus because transit code says you can't bring a bike on board with you." She looked like she was going to wail, but a primitive moan came instead. "But that's not for another 20 minutes!" (Lie... my bus is frequent service, meaning the next one was about eight minutes away, seeing as I was seven minutes late by then.) "Have a nice evening," I said with a smile, as the door slammed in her face. Cry me a river lady.

We do "favors" for people all the time. The only good it does us is the satisfaction of being kind. The general public doesn't give a tinker's damn, nor do they realize half the time, the nice things we do for them. They'll call in a complaint, or Tweet a misunderstood faux pas, quicker than a politician takes a bribe. But telling the world what a fine job we do in the worst circumstances? Fuhgeddaboudit. 

I recently had the great pleasure of spending time with one of our road supes while waiting for a mechanic to diagnose a mechanical issue on my bus. We discussed the current situation of the mess Portland calls its Transit Mall. His words were music to my ears. "It's a testament to the professionalism of our bus and rail operators that so few people are injured or killed. It's a miracle, really." Thanks to our brother, we got the kudos we work so hard to hear but rarely do. I was speechless for a minute. "Thank you brother, it's nice to hear that. We sure try to keep people safe." His reply was equally heartwarming. "I'm sorry you don't hear it enough."

To all of you who work on the road and rail, I know it's hard a tough row to hoe. We're under-appreciated by the public and our management. When one of us suffers, we all do. We're a brotherhood, and we understand what we all go through. What I've described tonight is nothing new. Many of you probably nodded when you read this rambling, having surely gone through something similar many a time yourselves. So thank YOU... for doing what we do, and for doing a damn good job of it.


    News Release from Oregon State Police
    Posted on FlashAlert: August 17th, 2016 12:11 AM

    Downloadable file: 100_1070.JPG
    Downloadable file: 100_1134.JPG

    On August 16, 2016 at about 5:30PM, OSP Troopers and emergency personnel responded to the report of a crash on Highway 213 at SE Monterey Avenue (near Clackamas Town Center).

    Preliminary investigation reveals a 2015 TriMet Bus was traveling southbound on Highway 213 (SE 82nd Ave) when it began a left turn onto SE Monterey Avenue. The bus turned into the path of a northbound 2016 Yamaha which collided with the right rear area (of the bus).

    The motorcyclist, Justin M BERRY, age 40, of Oregon City, suffered serious injuries and was taken by air ambulance to an area hospital. The driver of the bus, Daniel G OTTO, age 58, of Portland was not injured. There were 5 passengers on the bus at the time of the crash; none were injured.

    The northbound lanes of Highway 213 were closed for about 30 minutes before one lane was opened. The scene was cleared after about an hour.

    More information will be released when it becomes available as this is an ongoing investigation

  2. There is a reason that bus driving has become such a disrespected profession.

    Over the last 10-15 years as neoliberal policies have invaded the public sector the technocrats (who are the 'owners' of American public transportation agencies) decided that they could steal for themselves higher salaries and pensions by stealing these things from their union employees. People like Mcfarlane started making comments about "richest benefits in the country" which the neoliberal media spouted over and over. This in turn made the public think that bus drivers were 'overpaid, underworked, etc etc. This is one of the major reasons this job has now become hazardous is because the public 'resents' us.

    Add to that the never ending rules regarding politically correct behavior (also neoliberal policy) and all the rules and regulations that drivers must follow, it's a recipe for disaster for the bus drivers.

    I had my first transit job in the 70's. I remember how things were so totally different. Nobody ever got spit on! And bus drivers were kings of the road. Now bus drivers are seen as the goat on the road.

    As you say, the only thing to do now is block everything out and keep your mouth shut.

    I did the 67 route for years. I had this one lady that got on EVERY DAY and every day she would get on then start looking for her fare. It boiled my blood but I never said a word. That's the job

    1. Thanks Al. Yeah this "can't insult the public" crap has to go. If we're truly Captains of the Ship, then why does it feel like we're really deck scrubbers? I don't ask the world of my passengers (note the lack of the incorrect "customers"), except that they pay attention, be polite and follow the rules. It's not too much to ask of any rational person, but you know how many irrational people ride the bus.

      Thanks for your comment as always Al. Hope all is good in your world.

  3. Thank YOU also, kind sir, for doing an outstanding job out there!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. You are the best damn bus driver Deacon Blue, and courteous too!