Monday, January 9, 2017

You Rock, We Roll

Before the ice began to rain down.

Snow. Freezing rain. Ice. Wind and bitter cold. This has been the story of our lives in Portland the past month. Today began a slow thaw for some parts of the city, but other areas haven't been so lucky.

While many have the luxury of staying home during a storm, your bus and rail operators along with supervisors, mechanics and trainers do not. Lift drivers are also braving conditions to help those with mobility challenges get where they need to go. While icy weather is a challenge, it does not stop vital services from operating.

Transit is a vital part of any city, but there are many others who risk their own safety to ensure that of others. Police, firefighters, paramedics and ambulance drivers, electric power company linemen, freight train workers, snowplow and de-icing drivers, long-haul truck drivers, doctors and nurses, trash collectors, airport personnel and even people in the hospitality business brave storms to serve the community. We all are the worker bees who get the job done, no matter the risk involved. You'll find the least-paid are the ones who put in the demanding work to provide the most-needed services no matter what Mother Nature throws at us.

Passengers see their operators as the face of the transit agency, but there are many working behind the scenes supporting us in our jobs. Dispatchers and rail controllers are our first line of communication, and get bogged down with multiple calls for assistance. They have to coordinate many different functions simultaneously to ensure the operators get needed support in stressful situations. I could not do that job, and I commend each of them for a superb performance each day. Road supervisors often zip from a stuck bus to rail fatality and many other situations in the blink of an eye. Trainers work in shifts around the clock to help free stuck buses. I also saw a manager in the garage the other night with a worn expression and an obviously sleep-deprived slump in his shoulders.

All these people, along with those I probably haven't listed here, have to make it to work every day of their week. If not, we're given "time loss." We sacrifice our own safety for the common good. It's our job, one we're proud to do regardless if we're properly recognized by our community. Hey, our driveways and community streets are icy and treacherous too, but we still manage to make it into work.

Professional transit riders do recognize us, and are very grateful. They thank us profusely for stopping in an ice storm between bus stops, just because they look cold and tired. Residents bringing stuck operators coffee and offering the use of their warm home as a refuge while waiting for a responder are immensely appreciated. Then there are those of the ignorant variety, who berate us for being late, even though our wheels are chained and they've watched thousands of vehicles creep by them while they wait for the bus. Once they are on the warm bus, they sometimes see the error of their behavior thanks to other passengers they've annoyed with their rantings.

The signature of drop-down chains.
One day during an ice storm, I stopped for a guy who was in between bus stops, waving me down. He looked angry when I opened the door and immediately started in on me about how buses are always late and he had given up waiting on mine. Gently reminding him of the weather, he cut me off. "I'm tired of your excuses, just shut up and drive asshole." (This reminded me of a time when I invited every other passenger to exit, so I could just "drive asshole.")

As I began to steam and my Irish temper began to boil, another passenger stood up for me. "Sit down and shut up, or I'll personally throw your ass off this bus. That driver is a nice guy, and he saved your sorry ass from walking any more." I could have hugged him for that. I did, mentally. He made sure to stop as he was getting off, pat me on the shoulder and thank me for getting him home safely.

There's no other message in this post except to thank everyone who braved the recent weather to keep Portland moving and working. My hat is off to you all.


  1. Everyday heroes, our transit workers. Thank you, Deke, for covering for me whilst I take a much-needed vacation. I'll be back when it's warmer outside. ;-)

    1. Oh you tricky guy, getting your vacation in the midst of our icy bondage! Hey, enjoy a cold one for me, and bring some balmy weather back when you return. Safe travels, sir.

  2. You know what the ONE real issue is right?

    Transit managers are NOT HONEST about the situation. Instead of telling people they can be stranded (which is common) they keep telling the public that the service is running, just running late.

    So here's joe blow hearing the system is running only late so he goes outside to catch a bus or train. What he finds out is that the system is NOT ACTUALLY RUNNING its more or less a haphazard maze of buses and trains running randomly and most of the time all bunched up

    I lay the blame for angry riders right where it should be. TRANSIT MANAGEMENT who refuse to be honest about the system and its capabilities

    1. There are even more levels to explore, which I will in the next FTDS post.

  3. What's that white stuff in the street? You deserve a lot of credit for working in such conditions. Sending some warmth from South Florida.

    1. Thanks brother, we can use it! 5 days with a foot of snow and still freezing here. We need a Chinook here.