Sunday, February 19, 2017

The End of the Line

This job is dangerous. We lost a brother transit operator in Winnipeg this past week. He was stabbed while on the job, and died from his wounds. I'm sure my words echo the feelings of bus operators worldwide. Our deepest condolences and truly heartfelt prayers go out to his family and fellow operators. When one of us is killed in the line of duty, we all feel it.

We deal with every kind of human there is. Sometimes we are faced with such danger we're unable to think rationally, to do the right thing. When threatened, our bodies automatically prepare for fight or flight. There's no luxury of sitting in a comfy chair with a video of what's about to happen. There's no pause button so we can deliberate the best response while sitting at a table with a group of fellow professionals.

It's a purely biological question, not mental. In fact, when presented with a life-threatening situation, only those who are trained to deal with this actually know how to respond. People in the military are far more equipped to repel attackers than bus operators. When they're attacked, they're expected to employ deadly force. If a bus operator were to use force in self defense, the Monday Morning Quarterback team of lawsuit repellant managers would frantically search for anything we did wrong in the heat of the moment. The attacker isn't their problem, it's ours. Problem is, they don't bother to train us to properly deal with threatening situations. They simply insist we "stay in the seat." Just sit there and be beaten to death, then we won't be fired.

Imagine we were given self-defense courses which prepare us for being attacked in our extremely-vulnerable position: in the driver seat of a bus. If we used force that resulted in our attacker being seriously injured or killed, would they defend our actions? Of course not. I've heard of operators being suspended because the Hindsight Committee deemed their defensive movements to be "aggressive." If someone comes at you like they mean you harm, are you supposed to kiss them on the cheek and read them a cute story? No. Human biology dictates that your body will prepare itself to fight back. We're supposed to have the supreme ability to overcome millions of evolutionary years? This would require a complete reversal of our physiological makeup, yet we're portrayed as simpletons performing a job someone once said "a monkey could do." I don't know anybody who could take a punch, a stab or a slap without at least putting a hand up to prevent further abuse. Yet we face discipline for doing so. I'm shaking my head so damned violently at this I'm dizzy.

Which leads me to Mr. Irvine Fraser of Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. It's reported that he was stabbed when the last passenger refused to exit his bus, and an argument ensued. I don't know Winnipeg Transit's procedure, but if someone here refuses to leave the bus, we call for help. Sometimes it arrives quickly, but there are times when resources are thin. We're left to deal with situations until the cavalry comes charging in. Those few minutes can be deadly. Sadly for Mr. Fraser, it didn't come quickly enough.

This could happen in Portland. After 55 assaults on transit workers here last year and seven so far in 2017, we're all nervous. If it did happen to one of us, would management blame the corpse? The way we're treated when assaulted makes us wary of their soft and fuzzy yet toothless "safety" messages. They say we're a "family," but it sure feels like a dysfunctional one.

If it does happen, I think we should take an old bus and paint it black. Put black lace curtains on the windows. It should serve as a hearse. The funeral procession should have a full police and transit escort. We're public servants, and there's no guarantee we'll make it home safe each day. Our jobs put us in touch with violent criminals. Many people ride the bus who are armed with guns, knives or both. It's a crap-shoot, our safety is. I pray we never have to mourn a Portland bus operator lost to a violent "customer" as Winnipeg did this week.

RIP Irvine Fraser. We're all deeply saddened at your untimely death while simply doing your job. Rest in peace, it's the end of the line.


  1. Thank you from a fellow brother from local 1505 Winnipeg

    1. Thanks brother, so very saddened by your loss. With you all in spirit, now and always.

  2. But driving is very dangerous profession nowadays. Professionals must be very careful in how they deal with the public.

    My policy was to never get in an argument with anybody over anything if I could avoid it.

    And I never once had fare dispute. I knew better then to get involved in that mess

    1. Goddamn phone always ends up making spelling errors that I don't catch

      I think it has to do with the teeny tiny print


  3. At 2 AM there has typically been no one there to help. Standard practice has been to attempt to wake the sleeper so that they exit the bus, and usually get them back to somewhere as close to where they are going as possible along the route back to the barn. If they remain sleeping the bus is parked in front of the office with doors open so that they might leave on their own when they wake before the police show up to wake them. I think that now standard practice will be to leave them sleeping after notifying the control centre and let someone else deal with them.

    In training many, many years ago we were taught never to wake someone sleeping on the bus. Unless it's a regular passenger I will never do so again.