Sunday, November 18, 2018

I Hit the Wall Again



Our 19th century architecture in Portland
graces us at every turn.

Deke's Note: I slid into this weekend like it was the World Series, Game 7 and down four runs in extra innings with a body aching like a 90-year-old with hemorrhoids. It was a rough week, lemme tell ya.

A few years ago, I hit the proverbial "wall" that most bus operators do at some (or several) points in our careers. Evidently, I've slammed into that bastard once again. I've hit it so hard my bus bounced back and found another angle to try from. Problem is this time, that wall isn't budging a milliliter. The reason is one I can't understand. Perhaps it's because my entire body is beginning to fell the effects of pressing the brake pedal thousands of times each week. My hips, left big toe, lower back and right knee complain solo or in symphonic agony. There are pains in my soul as well, as those who know me have heard my cries in the night.

No matter, these various ailments are something transit operators grit our teeth and endure. It's not something limited to transit; people in every stressful occupation fight through a myriad of issues every moment of each workday. We just tough it out and keep on rolling. What else can we do? Other than our brothers and sisters, nobody gives a damn. Management makes it crystal clear: be perfect, or else. Even if you are doing your job as trained, those "on high" can make your life miserable as easily as a politician lies for a living. That's why I write this blog... for all my brothers and sisters who feel they don't have a voice. I'll protest the hell out of our injustice for you. It might cost me my job someday, but I'll continue laying it all out for the world to read. To do anything less would go against everything I've been taught by the best parents, family and friends one could ever dream of having. If anything, I'm loyal to what's right in this working person's life. Even if I'm wrong sometimes, each life is composed of a series of individual beliefs and values. This blog is simply a conversation from one who does the job, right or wrong, mile after mile.

Enough jibber jabber. Time for some fun.

Rolled up to a downtown stop this week, about 30 minutes late. On board ambles a sometimes-regular grouch.

"That was a long wait," she growled upon boarding.

Downtown Portland at dusk
on an abnormally-clear autumn evening.
A sweet lass had accompanied me since she boarded, standing just behind the Yellow Line. We've become pals this signup. Nice girl, student, sweet and thoughtfully conscientious. Someone who could easily be my daughter-in-law someday, I adore her like one of my own. Alejandra is someone I look forward to driving, because she's not only fun to talk with but also sympathetic and kind. I could tell without seeing Alejandra's face she was shocked at how rude this aged professional complainer had been to me. Ale had stood there the entire time I was locked within a sea of motorists bound to park at the Rose Quarter for whatever syrupy event was on tap. Rush hour, on top of it all.

"I'm sorry," I replied in a sardonic tone to the snarl-faced bag, "but it's been heavy traffic."

"Whatever," Grumpy Gertie spat.

"I really didn't arrive late just to inconvenience you," I said, my Irish rising. "It's just been bumper-to-bumper through the Rose Quarter."

Not a peep of acknowledgement to the transit operator's plea for gridlock mercy, except her regular command, "Make sure you're close to the curb at my stop."

"I always do," I shot back. "Don't you remember me?" She rides my bus a few times each week.

"I can't remember all of you," she spat back. This rebuke stung like an angry wasp assaulting my nether regions.

Her particular stop is often cramped by cars parked just prior to the zone. Because I know the bus like the back of my hand by now, I'm able to angle my front door just above the curb, lowering it so she can just skip right off my ride without missing a beat. Evidently, it's expected rather than appreciated. Fuck me and my professionalism... by gawd, just do it. You're simply a stupid bus driver, do as I say and I won't call into your one-sided customer service line to complain. She could lie and tell them I was texting while driving, and management would believe her over me in an instant. Job gone, liar placated, another worthless driver bites the dust, no big deal.

As usual, I glided smoothly to her stop just as I do every time, and she exited without a word of thanks. It was my fault traffic was jacked up and she was late. The fact that her aged body easily exited the bus was of apparently no bonus.

Ale and I joked about her behavior. "Yeah, I knew she had been waiting all this time, so I just sat there and planned being late just to spite her, didn't I?"

My young amiga laughed at this, and we shared some transit humor at the crab's expense.

Later that night, I rolled up to a downtown stop and heard from a boarding passenger that nine shots had been fired around the corner just a few minutes prior. Cops were flying in from all directions. Dispatch called to make sure I was clearing the area okay. It was a tense moment, but we fled the scene as fast as that sluggish bus could roll.

Sure, but few recognize this.
Yeah, that transit wall I face now is thick and tall. If I were fired tomorrow, I might just feel relieved rather than upset. When you feel no support from management even after the previous GM has retired and the new one has promised a new world full of kittens and joy, the wall just becomes more daunting. Will I successfully come out on the other side, intact and full of renewed optimism? Doubtful. If I come through it at all, that will be a miracle.

At this point in time, we're up to 100 incidents of violence toward transit workers in Portland for 2018. There are still seven weeks left of this calendar, and management makes no moves toward insisting its glorified and pampered passengers treat us with respect. Local media remains typically ignorant, evidently obedient of the transit giant's will to remain so.

That wall keeps growing... I'm a bit too ancient to vault over it these days. Can I get an assist? My brothers and sisters will give me a boost, but management would rather I fall to my death. Please, reach out and give me a hand?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Tunnel Vision Fails to See the Truth

Luckily, the scenery is pleasing.
Life as a bus operator is often ugly.
In today's world, people feel boldly empowered to complain at will. Whether they're sufficiently educated on the subject they weigh in on is of no concern. With a few phone strokes, they can severely alter your public servant bus operators' careers, even if they lie while doing so. It's no matter to them, they're instantly onto a new thread to throw their worthless nine cents into, usually anonymously.

It's these flood waters operators must tread through today. We never know what they'll throw at us. Now add our own management into the mix, who feel emboldened now some have gone through bus operator training. Many have never driven in service, which is an entirely different animal than their pampered, watered-down version. Now they think they know every facet of our jobs, and are watching us with a half-assed eye for any possible infraction we might make, no matter how ill-informed or illogical their complaints may be. It's an infuriating show of disrespect for those who make the wheels roll while the overpaid suits sit in a protected ivory tower.

A young man I'm very fond of and respect highly, new to the job but very dedicated, was speaking of a complaint he received. Anonymously, of course is how it came to him, from someone in a position of power and presumably because of this above reproach. This complaint would be easily disproven in a court of law, but my brother wasn't allowed to defend himself. Any evidence he provided was received with a head-shaking and emphatic NO. It was emphatically illustrated that management believes its own, while operators are evidently lying without question.
"Given this case, it's evident our employer values dishonesty over integrity in its hiring practices."
We often see "millennials" who seem to have their phones surgically attached to their hands. Their eyes are automatically focused on the screen. It's a common myth that a young adult is constantly connected to it. However, bus operators have been intensely-trained and counseled, with hundreds or thousands hours of service under their belt. They are fully aware of the rules we all drive by. They know operators are suspended or even fired for having a cell phone in their hand while in the seat. This young man is truthful and sincere, so when he said that he never takes his phone out until he's on a break, I have no reason to doubt him. I'm a very astute judge of character, and this guy is golden in my opinion. Unfortunately, management believes its own rather than give this young man the benefit of his word. If it ever found anything in his history during the new hire "vetting" process, they would not have hired him. To believe he is dishonest only discredits their hiring processes, not him. In a court of law, this young man would win hands-down. Given this case, it's evident our employer values dishonesty over integrity in its hiring practices.

When you're new to the Extra Board, you can be thrust into driving a run you've never been on with as little as 10 minutes warning. Some have deviations, deadheads and other twists than you've previously learned. In order to know just where to turn, drivers depend on the run's paddle and route's detailed turn-by-turn description located in the pouch. They can be very confusing at first, because the descriptions vary according to what's on the paddle. "If you do A, then read B; if C comes first in an imperfect world, then read D, E or F," can flummox an accomplished PhD, let alone a new driver. You have to flip between several possibilities before finding the one that fits that particular run's paddle.

So imagine this young driver with this laminated (white) description in his hand trying to figure out where he'll end up while driving down the street. He's watching traffic, obstructions, pedestrians, bicycles, working hookers, scooters and street signs as he guides The Beast along. Just across the street lies in wait a management wonk, who looks up from his phone long enough to see our young brother's bus coming his way. Wonky notices the driver accelerates then pauses, accelerates again. To him, it's enough to automatically assume the driver is doing "something wrong." He gets excited, like a teenaged peeping Tom, a voyeur in the shadows, hoping he'll catch a glimpse of something he doesn't quite understand. Here comes the bus, and the driver is holding something in his hand! Oh my, it must be a cell phone! He has 20/2000 vision, by golly, and he's gonna report this young guy! He almost drops his phone, slippery because he's already drooled on it from the excitement. In a flash, he's decided that (white) thing in the driver's hand is a phone! Bingo! Gotcha, dude!

Since his phone is too slippery, Macho Manager fails to photograph the event. However, in his self-impressive style, he shoots off a text or email to report the driver, saying he was positive the driver had a cell phone in his hand. BAM! Guilty without a trial, no self defense allowed or to be believed above the revered management member. Perhaps the manager's hands were tied, and was ordered not to take the operator's word over his exalted own.

"... we're slandered with little to no recourse to defend our honor."

It's infuriating, this evident abuse of power. Our management has no oversight, can do or say whatever it wants while its puppet Board of Acquiescence just nods along while napping. Meanwhile, we're slandered with little to no recourse to defend our honor.

The local media jumps on any fabricated story about how terrible operators are, no matter how ill-informed the complainer or media are about the nature of our jobs. They're all slow to compliment or commend our actions that save lives worldwide every moment. We're true professionals in a sea of incompetent motorists intent on getting to the red light first with no regards to any other's well-being. If we honk, we're reported. If we're in a collision, one of the questions on our reports is whether we sounded our horn, and from how far away? If we swat at a fly, people call in and accuse us of road rage. Well if you think we were raging at you, then pray tell, what the hell did you do to deserve it? Something foolishly dangerous, no doubt.

"Motorist Slams Bus Mirror"
gets reported... NEVER.
It's criminal to slander someone, yet our management and the public are allowed to do so freely, where an operator is concerned, without any recrimination. Lie with impugnity, no problem. If an operator is even accused of any crime, we're automatically guilty. It's a nasty double standard, but nobody seems to care. Except US. Evidently, we don't count in the general scheme of things.

"This is the best job I've ever had," my friend told me years ago when I was new. "But it's the worst company, by far, that I've ever worked for." Bingo, brother you nailed it.

Any lawyer would have insisted Macho come forward and testify under oath that the operator indeed had held a cell phone in his hand, but that wasn't to be. Our brother tried to explain what he was doing, but his story evidently held no sway whatever. Result? He was suspended. Over a false complaint from someone who supposedly values us. From a faulty witness who "saw" an operator over other vehicles, as his bus rolled  at least 20mph, through a windshield that other operators can't see through well enough to identify who's waving back at us. Yeah, he saw what he reported: bullshit. The operator wasn't even allowed the knowledge of the identity of his accuser, someone who is charged with our protection. In a court of law, this "eyewitness" would be soundly discredited, if not jailed for perjury.

There are few occupations where you can be so recklessly held accountable for something you didn't do. We're assaulted daily, insulted constantly by the public, the media and our own management. Yet, we have no line to call in our own complaints. We dance a ballet through tight streets with practiced ease, safely transporting over 300,000 of our fellow citizens every day. When we're falsely accused, nobody listens, and our voices are drowned out by the supposed superiority of those charged with running the show. We're constantly performing transit miracles, on time nine out of 10 times, and rarely praised publicly for our skill and precision. It's expected of us, but not appreciated by our employers considering how we're treated in these situations.

I'm insulted at my brother's treatment. He was suspended for three days without pay, for something he insists is not true. We're "shepherds of the public safety," The Rampant Lion tells me. I drive with this in mind every moment I'm in the service of our community. It would be nice if my employer backed us with support, rather than into a corner without any reasonable means of self defense. Instead, we're served a hypocritical day once a year when we're told we're "appreciated." Some of us, anyway. Those outside of banker's hours are totally ignored.

My only satisfaction comes from the passenger who tells me on the way out the door, "Thanks for the smooth ride, I appreciate you." I'm glad somebody does. Perhaps management should take Perry Passenger's hint.



Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Selling My Book Ain't for Sissies


If anything, I'm a stubborn sumbitch. Hey I thought a few years ago, I'll write a book of blog posts! What a stroke of genius! The damn thing's already written, I just have to put it all together, and by jingo it'll be easy! Just get it published on Amazon and sell a few zillion copies and I won't have to drive a damn bus 55 hours a week any longer!

Riiiiiggggghhhhhhttttt. Fuhgedaboudit. It was a long, tedious and patience-testing project which was about as "easy" as pulling a rusty nail out of my foot. The editing itself nearly pushed me harder than braking an old bus going downhill. Eventually, the book was published and I had seen it through to completion. That in itself was an accomplishment from one who started building his eight-year-old daughter a dollhouse only to present it to her when she was 17. At least the book only required 18 months to produce, but it also was the catalyst of my first on-top grey hairs. Fuzz budgets.

The book's "success" has been about as lukewarm as the Oregon coast in December. While readers have generously written 30 five-star reviews, the revenue production rivals about 1/20th of minimum wage, or less. Oh well, not a terrible start to a literary career... there have been less glorious debuts.

Now I've produced the audio book version of JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane. In one month, there have been an unprecedented SIX copies sold! That's just enough for a bottle of middle-shelf Irish whiskey, but it may take about five of them to accomplish an ambitious marketing plan for this new version. I've hired Jess the Audiobookworm to sponsor a "tour" of the book on several reviewer blogs. This is supposed to generate interest in the book, but there's always the chance these full-time reviewers will not look upon my baby with the pride of its author. It's a risk, but I've never backed down from a challenge. If I fail, there's always the next book, and the one after that, followed by more... yadda yadda yadda. Like I said, stubborn is me modus operandi.

My "head shot." Glamorous, eh?
So here I sat for about 20 minutes tonight, reading through the things Jess needs to start the tour. One of these requirements is a photo of the author. Any volunteers? Y'all know Deke doesn't have one of them thar photograff(sicop: spelled incorrectly on purpose) thingees(ditto). A pseudonym requires anonymity, and plastering a photo of myself on the internets would spoil this disguise forever. I reckon I'll shoot her the head shot showing only my personalized cap.

Part of me wonders if I should just pull the damn book, count my losses and move on to the next book. After all, maybe a twelfth of my Portland brothers and sisters have purchased it, and a smattering of others across the States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. I'm not feeling sorry for myself about it. Rather, I'm a realist. People just don't like to read much these days, unless it's on a phone screen, especially if they do what I write about. The truth sucks, but it remains thus.

I'm no King, Twain or Vonnegut, just plain ol' bus driving Deke. I'll keep writing because that's who I am. This literary challenge to myself began later in life than it should have, but later is better than having never done it at all.

There. A post about writing instead of complaining about the road bozos we constantly endure. Hopefully, you'll keep your eyes crossed for me. Otherwise, I'll be driving until I leave the bus in a casket.

The 77-year-old future Deke will hobble out to his bus and tell a newbie, "Just help me into the seat sonny, I'll take 'er from there!"



Sunday, November 4, 2018

Scoot Your Ass Over!

How scooter-fools appear to the vigilant bus operator:
not quite "there."
Deke's Note: Is this blog still relevant? Is it read beyond the stubborn few, or sliding into irrelevance? I've been thinking hard on these questions this past week. Reading seems to be a lost art, as three-minute videos, limited-word Tweets and YouTubers take over the minds of millions. Regardless, as long as I have something to write about, I'll continue. Ideas keep coming, so I reckon this blog ain't done yet.

Our society seems hell-bent on destroying itself. It seems to have begun with the advent of everyone having a cell phone. We're more disconnected now, although the "Cellular Revolution" was supposed to give us collective knowledge. People are more in tune with a small screen than with their immediate surroundings. When I began this blog, cellulism was becoming a phenomenon; now it's pandemic. Within all the competing connections there's a frightening lack of personal responsibility. I fight this curse as well, walking down the street checking my business email or catching up with FaceBook. It seems sometimes an annoyance to have to simultaneously remain aware of what's happening in real life. Five years ago, I scoffed at this behavior, but I'm often "one of them."

A bit small, but pointing in the right direction!
Bus operators all know how dangerous the streets have become the past few years, but it's not obvious to anyone else. Not only are other motorists intent on selfish ignorance, but there are more dangers than ever. The advent of the for-rent scooters has become an epidemic of foolishness. Several times each day, I see scooter-renters shoot through lights that have turned red seconds before they even reach the intersection.

On the transit mall, I'm even more vigilant in scanning side streets as I see my light turn green. Scooterfools don't look in either direction, their headphones bleating outside noise away as if it matters naught. These contraptions have given me, albeit grudgingly, a greater appreciation for skateboarders. At least the latter seem to be more cognizant of what's going on around their artistic multi-wheeled gymnastics. They tend to realize that their tricks gone awry could land them directly in the path of my 20-ton behemoth, and communicate with each other when we're around. I appreciate that, and give them a wave in thanks for their vigilance.

On my route yesterday, I had the honor of rolling with Bobby, an artist with a firm grasp of what it means to be "artistic." He reminded me that art accepts many forms, and cannot be easily defined. My drawing is atrocious, and I can't even produce a decent stick-man, but I am at home with this keyboard. A guitarist plays the same chords as a pianist, but the sounds are deliciously different. We discussed how art encompasses varying canvasses, and it was a wonderful departure from the banal "Hi, how are you" to engage an entertaining and intelligent passenger in conversation.

Bobby also understands how people interact with transit operators. He uses a wheelchair for locomotion, and agrees that life is more dangerous today. I'm trying to steer clear of people who don't watch out for themselves, while he maneuvers through those who don't see him. Bobby's safer on a bus than he is on his own, and I fear for his safety.

We're all responsible for our own safe passage through this world. Some take life for granted and believe it's up to others to watch out for them. It's a shared responsibility though. While the Art of Self-Preservation is merely stalling the inevitable, people need to accept their mortality is real. Birth, life and death happen to us all. We eventually pass beyond this life, but I shouldn't have to witness anybody's final act of foolishness. Plus, I hate blood on my bus.

My fellow bus operators everywhere are constantly watching out for you ill-attentive individuals. Please look up from your cell phone long enough to avoid our watching you die. It's a serious concern to someone behind the wheel of a bus or light rail vehicle. Shouldn't it be yours as well?




Sunday, October 28, 2018

Slap the Hand Away that Hushes Us



Hello again. It's been a gnarly three weeks since I wrote to y'all. I've taken a vacation, dealt with tremendous personal crises, re-connected with old friends and walked a few trails of my youth. The tears of an aging troubadour have fallen in three states. My soul was unable to relate as it has here, so I just stopped. Through an intensely painful event, I found how many people truly love me and are always there. My gratitude is eternal, and the healing has begun. To describe what I've been through would unnecessarily reveal my true identity. However, I'm not ready to "come out" yet. Let me explain why.

This blog's main purpose has been to describe this operator's life "in the seat." Sometimes, my thoughts and actions run afoul of what our management might consider appropriate for their model of what we "should" be. I've never been one to conform to pre-determined notions dictated by anybody. "I yam what I yam," Popeye the Sailor Man famously said. That's me, Deke says now. To reveal my identity would shred any sense of freedom I have to write my life as a public servant. Only a few besides my fellow transit workers actually read this blog anyway, because the local media refuses to give it any mention. We're just lowly transit operators after all, not worthy of public notice.

There are few voices of the true blue-collar workers today. It's my duty to honestly describe what happens "out there." Readers worldwide have written that my words often accurately portray what they feel as they cruise along their own city streets in a bus operator seat. Others say this blog opened their eyes to the dedication of purpose their own bus operators display. Occasionally, people will take issue with certain topics and challenge my innate stubbornness. Whatever the case, FromTheDriverSide has become a living conduit between whoever you are, and whatever I've become in the evolution of a rolling civil troubadour.

Management naps while we suffer.
This struggle of an anonymity hidden behind a thinly-veiled, manufactured dual personality is a burden I deal with intensely every day. I want to reveal myself, but reality dictates a different path. There's a lot of work to do as a transit blogger. That series on bus maintenance will happen someday. Each shift gives me bloggish ideas, but they appear briefly then vanish as the most important topics take precedence. An ongoing pandemic of aggression toward transit workers consumes much of my literary efforts here; I feel there's not enough public awareness of our plight. We're at 97 incidents of violence against us now; our management blurs its own statistics so it can brag how "crime is down on the system," but we feel the truth. We've been shot at several times this year, beaten, threatened, harassed and falsely-accused of many things beyond normal comprehension. Still, we continue to provide this community with top-notch public transit. We're safe, steady and smooth, unlike our management or local politicians.

A local news station recently ran a story about a passenger filing a lawsuit against our employer alleging a bus operator refused them service because of their skin color. We're calling bullshit. This happens every day, in that people falsely accuse us of "racism" when they don't get their pampered way. Transit is simple: be at the bus stop, on time, with fare ready. Otherwise, take a walk. We don't have time to pander to the unprepared. The reporter failed to offer our side. This tends to convict the operator via one-sided vilification. It's dirty laundry at its ugliest, and I wonder why our union didn't step up and demand more responsible journalism.

We're often portrayed as the "bad guy" in local media, when we actually save lives and commit countless acts of kindness each day. Take our brother Jeff a few summers ago, who was back-stabbed in the media by a passenger who accused Jeff of many things, conveniently omitting his own faults. Once Jeff's story came out, the media disappeared. There was no vindication for an operator who had served 18 years on the job. He was left to hang on the ropes; he retired rather than fight another futile battle with management. Once in a while our spineless local media throw in a "feel good" tale about a bus operator, but in reality these stories could fill an hour-long newscast each day. I sincerely doubt the recent accuser of racism told the "full story" of his encounter. People complain all the time via lies and slander, are often racists themselves, and we're left victims to this one-sided fool's game. The media eats every morsel fed to it without the slightest remorse or professional responsibility.

Just last night, a dear friend of mine sat "in the seat" as police leveled their weapons at a heavily-armed passenger and removed him from her bus. It's a line I've driven before, and I shivered at the reality this could have happened to me. She was likely left with the haunting thought... what if he had used one of those weapons on me?

Of those 97 assaults, mine was one; a dear friend of mine has suffered two of them. The 94 others were suffered by fellow public servants simply doing their jobs. We shouldn't have to worry about our safety, but few others do. Our management says the right words, but doesn't stand behind us. We're left wondering what is acceptable, when decency dictates we shouldn't have to second-guess our own self-defense. Try that shit with a cop, and you could be shot dead. Punch a bus operator, no problem... you'll likely see the court system offer a plea agreement equaling a tap on the bum and a "be nice, now" utterance on their way out the door.

Our management is complicit in the negative perception of today's transit worker. We're plagued by double-standards regarding the very policies we're supposed to uphold. Passengers flaunt this corporate weakness, refusing to follow the most basic rules because they're supported by our management while we are not. Confronted by a touchy situation on the road, any decision we make is often torn to shreds by corporate nerds desperate to be everything to all passengers. We are professionals who make decisions on-the-spot. We're left to the wolves. If we defend ourselves, we're subject to severe discipline on the fluttering winds of whoever's opinion is the flavor of the day in our wishy-washy management. We're a confused workforce, not sure how we're supposed to operate.

Yeah, I'm still pretty upset as a transit blogger. There are thousands of voices crying to be heard, while management plugs its ears and issues meaningless, contradictory edicts. "Stay in the seat and accept your beating or you'll be suspended or terminated" is what we're hearing. Judging by what has happened to many operators, this seems to be the status quo. I'd dearly love to hear our bumbling talking heads get on some news station and have a Donald Duck temper tantrum over the number of assaults we've endured over the past five years. But all we hear is... silence. The media won't cover the story, even though I've begged them to take notice. Guess how that makes us feel? Yeah, exactly. Ignored, and left to die. Literally. One of us will have to go to our grave before these boneheads realize we're "playing for keeps out there." It's kind of hard to realize our collective reality when you're protected, not working on the front lines of a violent society.

Maybe this post will turn some of the babbling heads. It will likely piss them off, but too bad. We're beyond pissing, spitting or hitting. Licking our wounds, we feel isolated by all who take a salary without lifting a weak hand in our defense. An expensive cage might make the numbers drop a corporately-acceptable percentage, but we have to leave the seat sometimes. When that happens, rest assured I'll not lie down and take a stabbing or shooting peaceably. I'm gonna fight tooth and nail, as any human's biological "fight or flight" response would require in "reasonable self-defense." If I damage the assailant, I'll be surely fired by a lawsuit-fearful management while my assailant is glorified by the corporately-eviscerated media. But at least I'll be alive, fuck you very much. Failure to protect myself means you can "out the Deke" because I'll be angry enough to mercilessly haunt you all if you don't parade my corpse in an organized riot. Display me like the martyr I would become, and haul me throughout Portland streets to my rest in a bus painted black, for all to see what they did to me.

Like anyone can actually read fine print;
but hey, at least it's a mention of "the law"
on our buses.
We're cowering to management when we should all be shouting LOUD. I've asked operators to come forward to describe their assaults and how they have dealt with them, but haven't heard a peep. They're afraid of retribution. Yet it only takes one anonymous shake to start an avalanche of opinion. Be brave, fellow operators. There are hundreds of you out there. It only takes one voice to take the stand we need to rally behind; the voice of the pain I feel for you, the pain I've felt with you. Staying quiet only plays into the hand management hushes us with. Slap that hand away and force them to take a stand for once.

So hear ye, hear ye. Deke hears ya, alright. If management figures out who I am, my job is toast. It's a chance I'm willing to take, because my parents taught me to stand up for what's good and right. My "coming out" party will have to wait, because there's just too much work to do, for you my dear brothers and sisters. Somebody must say it; might's well be me.

Let's hope we don't hit 100 by November 1. Stay safe, and remember I'm thinking of you each time you see me wave. We only have each other, and I'm here for you.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Smoothly Rolling Into A Brief Absence

Man, I truly love my Friday work. It's not really  Friday, but it's mine. This route is a blissful respite from the weekly toil. After roughly 6,500 depressions of the brake pedal, my roll is easy on the sooty foot and soul.

Portland is truly a majestic city. Its rolling hills and meandering rivers, heart-stopping vistas and fascinating residents have mesmerized me for nearly two decades. Whenever I slip into a bad mood, one of you make me smile or laugh. If one motorist pisses me off, another amazes me with kindness. There's a balance here that makes life roll off my shoulders into my soul.

After years of dealing with management blunders, I've learned to forget them when I'm "out there" rolling my big ol' wheels. It's just me and the hum of the road, passengers quietly reading their screens, and a big picture window to view.

Music roars silently in my mind, the steering wheel slides from my touch into a smoothly-rolled turn. Suddenly there's something new to marvel upon not there three hours prior. I'm beating a rhythm with my feet and hands as I accelerate into the fall colors which give way to green grass and cloudy panoramas. It's like a wakeful dream. Passengers board and I greet them without seeing their pain. My smile sends peace, my soul ignores the rude. It's just a job, but one I love.

Music to the soul: a wheelchair-using passenger gave me a cherished compliment the other day. "You are one of the smoothest drivers I've had the pleasure of riding with," he said before rolling off the ramp. His sincerity astounded me, and it felt oh so good.

Stunned, I offered a belated reply: "Thank you! My boss would LOVE to hear you say that. I certainly did! Thanks for riding, sir."

An ADA commendation would be nice, since I always work hard to give folks a ride as smooth as my first girlfriend. Unfortunately, I haven't ever had one. That's okay though. His cherished words made up for the thousands of smooth rolls I provide each week without verbal kudos.

I'm taking leave of this blog for a few weeks now. At risk of betraying my identity, I embark upon a blissful week of vacation. Since this literary exercise deals with transit, it only makes sense I leave it behind with the grind. Time to relax with friends, look back and into the future while resting the joints made sore by unforgiving bus operator seats. Sip a bit o'whiskey, leave my Portland behind and stride forward into my past. I'll be back, perhaps with a few surprises in my literary knapsack.

Meanwhile, please visit Amazon and buy JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane if you haven't already. I put my heart and soul into that book, and everyone who has read it insists a great read awaits you. If not, thanks; at least you read this.

Safe travels wherever you meander, my dear readers. Until these fingers return my words to you, have a nice week or else I'll record a bus fart for my next post.

Later, ya lug nuts.



Friday, October 5, 2018

We Can't Please 'Em All the Time

"Our policy is that when someone approaches your bus at an intersection, you're supposed to board them," the voice told me. Not my voice, but one of authority. In order not to publicly bash my union fellows, I won't say who or what department. They were simply stating local policy.

In my mind, I was thinking "Bullshit I'm gonna let that dumbass on my bus." Checking myself, I told the other voice in a controlled one of my own, "I'm aware of policy. In this instance, I determined it wasn't safe."

While the blubbering heads of transit spout more "gotta please everyone all the time" bullshit every day, operators are finding it harder to balance common sense with the insanity we face on the road. Especially when we're on the transit mall, certain operator rules of the road must be followed just to keep the flow rolling. When I'm in the first position, I'm watching the cross-street pedestrian timer. Once it hits three seconds, I close my doors. This means I'm no longer accepting passengers, no matter how frantic they appear. During rush hour, there could be up to five buses behind me waiting to roll up, and I won't delay them. If you're not on my bus when the doors close, you're too late Sorry, but that's the culture management has sown, and they need to back us on it or roll the wheels back a few decades. This "let them on" mentality is in direct conflict with its on-time bullshit. If that's what they want, okay then. Just cancel the customer servicey crap because it just doesn't jive with being on time. It certainly doesn't encourage safe driving practices, but evidently that no longer matters because the "Safety First" signs disappeared from our inner sanctum last year. You can have schedule, but not also safety and customer service all packaged together. It just doesn't work.

Not too long ago, Portland's transit was ranked Numero Uno by the National Transit Safety Board, but now languishes around 20th. We're no longer the passenger-friendly system, but don't blame the operator. We're controlled by a group of neo-corporate bumblers who have never driven a transit vehicle in service. They have no idea what damage their edicts have done. They took driver training and think they know it all, but we have the inside track. If you want a good system, fire management and hire from within. We'll right the wrongs and the ship will sail to the front once again.

Until then, be at the stop on time, or you're simply early for the next bus. We have a schedule to keep, and it's an unforgiving one. Whine to the CS Line all you want, but we can't please you and management at the same time. Get used to it, chums.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sign of the Times

A hand-lettered, one-word sign hung from the seat of a bicycle on my rack one evening. It evoked a deep meditation within, as my eyes scanned its passing surroundings for 30 minutes.

We see a plethora of bumper stickers and random messages on sidewalks, cars and even billboards. Some are too verbose, using many words where just one can do the job. This societal art provoked contemplation as I meandered along a dark yet charming Portland neighborhood.

How versatile, this word. It works as a noun, adjective, verb, pronoun, adverb, exclamation, inquiry, descriptor, insult, compliment, historical reference and several other forms. It's disconcerting how this now has become an overused bit of everyday speech. Throughout my childhood, I never heard my parents say it. None of my brothers or I would have dared utter such in their presence.

As the bike's owner exited, I asked "Is your sign a statement, simple expletive, or the current state of humanity?"

A lass of about 20, she stopped to ponder before exiting. Her eyes, solemn yet playful, rose to meet mine. "I haven't quite decided yet," she said with a smile.

She then pedaled into the abyss, sign swaying in the breeze. Surely, you've guessed by now. The word was...

Monday, September 24, 2018

I Don't Get Mad, Just Even

Deke's Note: Daddy Blue says, "Have fun every day." I try, Dad, really I do. Mama always used to say, "Don't get mad, get even." There's a way to achieve both, Ma & Pa.

Every day of transit operation, it takes great patience and self-control to remain cool behind the wheel. With a growing number of motorists annoyed at our mere presence on the road, we're constantly avoiding collisions due to actions of the feeble-minded. Over half of those licensed today should have their driving privileges revoked and forced to take driving lessons. Their antics cause accidents all over the world, and it's a testament to transit worker professionalism that most don't end up flopping lifelessly between our duals.

Since we're never thanked for saving lives, which we do many times a day, it can create bad feelings toward those who flip us their Driving IQ score. Therefore, I've developed a fun way of getting even.

ROPE A DOPE: Conceived by the great fighting champ Muhammad Ali in the 1970s. He would tease his opponent, making them angry with trash talk and constantly covering-up. He'd lay on the ropes, while Joe Frazier or George Foreman pummeled him. They put a lot of energy into trying to hurt The Great One. Every so often, Ali would land a solid jab, just enough to daze his tormentor. Then later, as time and expended energy took their toll on his opponent, Ali would suddenly "wake up." Having saved his strength laying on the ropes, he'd go to town on his weary opposite. A barrage of blows would eventually become too much, and the victory would be Ali's.

Often on my way home, some witless dipstick will relentlessly ride my tail. My car's speedometer rarely registers more than five miles per hour over the limit. Driving is what keeps a positive balance in my checkbook, so I'm careful to (literally) remain under the radar. Over the years I've realized that exceeding the limit by 5-20mph doesn't necessarily mean I'll arrive sooner at my destination. It's the "patience" part of maturity that keeps my license free of demerit points. When Sammy Speedboat rides my tail, I'm not sure if he thinks this tactic will make me go faster, but it tends only to piss me off. There are a few speed traps on my route home, and I can usually tell when they're active. So I speed up just a little to keep Sammy back there. Just as I'm about to round the turn where Cory Cop lies in wait, I slow down again. This time I clock five below the limit. Right where Cory's radar gun trap is, Sammy usually zips across the double-yellow line and blasts past me. I make sure to regain the speed limit as he makes his move, so he has to be going at least 5-20mph faster than I am. Unfortunately for him, Cory already has him zeroed in.

WOOP WOOP! BUSTED, SAMMY! THANKS ALI!

I laugh as I go by. Yeah, it's childish and petty, but it's great payback. Sammy's cohorts zip around our YIELD lights all day while cops ignore, or even join them. Payback and instant karma, you betcha.


THE BLOCK: Dolly Doper loves to zip in and out of lanes, including turn lanes, just to gain no apparent advantage whatsoever. When my route has a median, I love to chug up alongside another car and match their speed. This blocks Dolly from "shooting the gap" between us just to slam on her brakes as the light ahead turns red. With glee, I observe her from my left mirror as we're stopped. She's often slamming fists on her abused steering wheel, cursing and obscenely gesturing with her other. As we wait, I glance at the guy next to me, who also has been the victim of the horn-honking tailgater behind him. We exchange glances, he give me the index-finger-around-the-ear "crazy lady" sign, and I smile and give him the "ok" sign. He knows what's up. When the light goes green again, I once again enjoy my place in the right lane alongside my co-conspirator. Dolly is even more angry, now honking with fury as we slowly gain speed.

Once again, there's a few motorcycle cops parked on the far side of a particular intersection. We leisurely glide through the green-turning-yellow light as Dolly pushes the envelope and enters on yellow-going-red.

WOOP WOOP! BUSTED, DOLLY! THANKS FELLOW MOTORIST!

I chuckle and give the cops a thumbs-up as I roll by. My fellow motorist laughs, and I give him the go-ahead as our lanes merge into one. Mission accomplished. Another few hundred bucks for the municipality's coffers.

THE HONKIE: You know the type. It's obvious to most what we do out there. We drive, stop and pick people up or drop them off, then we drive again. Pretty simple, right? Not evidently so, to Horatio Honkie. He has some ill-conceived notion that this maneuver takes longer than it should. He doesn't take into account how long it takes to raise the bus from a kneel, or that most passengers stare at their phones prior to my arrival instead of getting their fare ready, taking a good 30 seconds to pay. Since we're not supposed to move the bus until they scoot past the yellow standee line, most of us do not. The slowest boardings can take up to 90 seconds, especially if Aunt Hazel in her walker takes time to get seated. Horatio sits behind us, laying on his incredibly-annoying beep-beeper which sounds like an adolescent whine on helium.

One day I experienced Horatio's horrible behavior as I serviced a stop at the near-side of an intersection. Watching the pedestrian timer tick down, I timed my door-close precisely to the point where I could scoot across the narrow intersection before the light switched to red. Unfortunately for Horatio, he was so close behind me, the height of my bus obscured his sight of the light. It had turned yellow as he entered the intersection, and then red before he hit the far crosswalk. Guess who was waiting for him? Nope, Perry Patrolman was somewhere else. The camera atop the traffic light popped off, I noticed in my mirror, as Horatio once again jumped up my bus butt.

WOOPITY WOOP! BUSTED HORATIO! THANKS, UNCONSTITUTIONAL CAMERA!

I detest these cameras, because I believe they result in unreasonable searches, just like drunk driver stings have been declared in Oregon. But this time, I truly appreciated it.

So there you have it. Deke can be an asshole sometimes. I prefer to think of it as poetic justice. It's  perhaps a passive-aggressive move on occasion, but Ma & Pa were right. It is downright fun, Dad. And Ma, it's a safe way to get even.




Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Reasons for #BANDTOGETHER

#BANDTOGETHER participants in Portland show their resolve.

Deke's Note: From September 16-22, operators from every corner of the globe have participated in an event designed to raise awareness of transit worker assaults. When this week began, we had 72 attacks here. As I wrote this, the tally had increased by five to 77.

Our second #BANDTOGETHER event is nearly finished, and it has been fascinating to watch operators (and supes) in Canada and the USA join together. We have opened dialogues with the riding public, many of whom had no idea of the pandemic of violence toward transit workers.

Upon boarding my busy route the first few days this week, most passengers greeted me, their eyes bouncing from the numbered bandage back to my eyes with a quizzical expression in their own. Preferring not to remain subtle, I made no mention of the obvious. This initially led to a few gentle inquiries as to why I was wearing our collective statement on my right cheek.

"I didn't know they were numbering drivers now," one elderly lady quipped.

"Cut yourself shaving?" a stately gentleman teased.

"You don't look 72," another said.

Knowing these people are regulars on my route, I kept my replies simple. "It's just a statement regarding transit worker assaults," was all I said that first day.

Mr. Henry Beasley
ATU 757 - Portland, OR
"I've seen other drivers wearing the bandage," a young man said on the second day, "and I'm wondering what it's about?" By then, the number of attacks directed at Portland transit workers had jumped to 73 for the year.

I paused at a stoplight, and turned to look at him. With a (hopefully) grim look, I told him what the number signified.

"Wow," was all he could muster in reply.

We rolled through downtown, discussing what an "attack" means. It could be spitting, screaming insults for crimes passengers insist us guilty of, cruel insults and threatening behavior, sexual assault, punches, kicks, and having liquids of all kinds tossed on us.

"People actually do those things to you guys?" my young new friend asked, incredulous.

"It happens every day," I told him with a sigh. "Some, or many, are never reported. I guess many of us have just learned to accept it as an occupational hazard."

If you're female, the public tends to be more brazen with their abusive behavior. Perhaps it's telling of today's society to treat women as if they're only half-human, evidenced by our propensity toward treating sexual assault as if it's acceptable. If women report it, even years later, their credibility is questioned. The male's behavior is written off in a "boys will be boys" brush-off, and women are bullied into keeping quiet or facing shame for "their part in it."

In NO situation is assault, against women or men, acceptable to minimize. As a victim of assault in my profession and long ago in my personal life, I can personally attest to the guilt feelings of a victim prohibiting the proper healing process from taking its natural course. When I was assaulted earlier this year, I self-analyzed to find how I could have prevented it. Then anger took hold, and I had to forcibly tell myself... it wasn't my fault. While doing my job as a transit worker, my actions were morally just; my assailant broke the law of common decency and legislative edicts. She kicked me as I was simply trying to ensure her safety. Afterward, I never heard a peep out of management wondering if I was "okay." As long as I'm not transported to the hospital, they evidently feel no need to express concern.

Mr. Billy Alsheimer, III
Rhode Island Public
Transit Authority
If you're a passenger on an airline, you're subject to Federal Aviation Agency rules. If you ride a train, enjoy a sea cruise or roll upon the rail, there are rules you must obey or risk arrest and serious consequences. Why people think they're immune to the same when riding our vehicles defies logic.

People who ride public transit are passengers, subject to rules; they are not "customers." When you purchase a ticket to ride my bus, you enter into a contract with the transit agency which prohibits certain behaviors. Most people understand and accept this basic agreement. Unfortunately, some refuse. This small percentage of scofflaws are catered to by our wanna-please-everybody management. They fail to support frontline transit workers, and make sure we know who comes first: everyone except us. It's oddly-inconceivable, but true. And that, my dear readers, is why I continue to write this blog.

Fifty years ago, the middle class worker was respected as a valuable contributor to not only the workforce, but also to society. Although there were disagreements over how our government should guide this nation, our parents worked together to give us and our children's children a better future. Now, those who toil along with us have been trained to bash each other. We argue over the most petty or serious topics rather than listening to each other to attain reasonable compromise. It's divide and conquer at its ugliest, and its only effectiveness is to further empower those who make the money which keeps them enriched. We do their dirty work when we fight amongst ourselves, so why should they care when the lowest common denominator joins in bashing us? As long as we keep the wheels rolling, our collectively-damaged soul seemingly means little to those "at the top."

Mr. Dwayne Russell, Sr.
ATU 1197 - Jacksonville, FL
Creator of
#BANDTOGETHER
Transit management chases its tail and bites anyone who tries to stop this folly. When they finally acknowledge we're being assaulted, their knee-jerk reaction is to cage the operator behind a barrier. It's a pitiful attempt to apply a bandage to a gaping wound. It cuts us off from those I truly enjoy serving. It also avoids the subject, which management has artfully kept from the media: operators, supervisors, maintenance workers are being brutally-attacked every day just for doing our jobs. If we dare defend ourselves, we're subject to illogically-extreme discipline up to termination. If one of us were to threaten anyone in management with even the slightest slight we're treated to on a daily basis, we'd surely be fired on the spot. There are benefits to ruling from an isolated ivory tower, but I don't know them down here upon the harsh streets of reality.

I'm fired up, but even beavers know when to stop gnawing on a tree that won't give easily. It comes back the next day to eventually fell the branches to an ever-evolving dam which gives its family shelter. My teeth are wearing down, but I'll continue chewing upon the subject of our personal safety until and after I've had to obtain dentures. Until then, I hope #BANDTOGETHER grows each third week of September until the mindless violence against us begins to dwindle. If we don't fight together, we'll keep fighting each other and remain magnets to the ungrateful minority who love to hate us.

Peace, and be well.

Love,
Deke

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Just Shut Up and Drive



Deke's Note: I've been reading "All Aboard" by William F. Alsheimer III, written by a bus operator from Rhode Island. Billy began his transit odyssey in the '80s when operators had much more leeway in dealing with passengers. Then, people were expected to obey the rules or face the operator's wrath. He was usually backed-up by his management. Now they're too concerned with pacifying the public to show respect for those who actually roll the transit vehicles. As I read my own book preparing the audio version, I realized how our job has evolved over the years. It now caters to a public that feels entitled to complain whenever an operator exerts any measure of authority. This post describes how today's operators sacrifice their pride to avoid argument or even an assault.   

It's interesting how as the years roll by my windshield, my attitude changes. As driving a bus has become second nature and the passenger-types have been noted and catalogued, I've learned not to take myself so seriously as I once did.

Once upon a newbie time, I felt like a big-shot, Captain of the Ship, MR. Bus Operator, and often challenged even the slightest infraction on my bus. Now most of the time I just shake my head. If nobody complains and the rule-breaking is minor, I usually just roll the wheels and concentrate on scanning for anomalies in my path.

Why the change in operating philosophy? Because my management doesn't respect me, my authority as a transit operator, or even my personal safety. Why risk my well-being arguing with someone who could assault me, when my employer will take the passenger's side rather than backing me up? Like a passenger who once told me to "just shut up and drive," that's what I normally do. Today, that's just the way it is, and I have to accept it if I want to keep this job. Reality sucks, but so does homelessness.

Of course, there are some things I just can't let pass. Take the baby out of the stroller, please. Remind me you'll be stepping in front of my bus when you exit to remove your bike from the rack, turn your phone audio off, move from the Priority Seating Area when the elderly or disabled board, and don't drink or smoke on the bus. Keep your conversations at PG level. Those who harass others are also warned only once that their choices are: be nice or walk; they also have the choice of exiting peacefully or in a loaner pair of shiny wrist bracelets courtesy of law enforcement.

Every time a passenger boards, I look them in the eye and greet them. If they even throw an eye in my direction, that is. Those with the HopPass tend to ignore me as if this type of fare is a direct invitation to disregard the operator. Or, perhaps they think the bus drives itself and we're only there to serve them refreshments and swat flies away. To them, I add an exaggerated "How ya doin' today?" Sometimes it diverts their attention from their phone long enough to offer some mumbled greeting as they amble past.

I don't expect everyone to be jovial and kind. Humans are prone to grumpiness, and everyone has a bad day on occasion. It's also wise to avoid over-amiability, as some take it as being too-forward for "a simple bus driver." Good for them. As long as they arrive safely to their destination, I'm doing my job. They're also the types who fail to thank me for doing just that, but oh well. I don't require acknowledgement to continue providing the smoothest ride possible. It's my nature to do so regardless whether people notice.

Once upon ages ago, my journalism instructor smacked me upside the head with a newspaper and told me "quit worrying about things you can't change." It's a lesson I had a hard time with for a while. It's especially important to remember this in my profession. People will be who they decide to be, and little I say or do can change what I have no control over. JUST DRIVE, asshole.

And that's all I have to say about my supposed "author-i-tah..."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

LET US ALL BAND TOGETHER THIS WEEK



Mr. Dwayne Russell, Sr.
ATU 1197
Jacksonville, FL

Deke's Note: Mr. Dwayne Russell, Sr. of ATU 1197 in Jacksonville, Florida started a movement called BAND TOGETHER in 2017 to highlight violence upon transit workers. Operators here in Portland joined in as ATU 757 brother Henry Beasley requested, wearing BandAids on our door-side cheeks with the number of local incidents written upon them. This week of September 16-22, operators worldwide will join with Mr. Russell in solidarity.

Many transit workers have been assaulted and lived to tell the tale. Sadly, others are no longer with us. It's a growing epidemic, yet little has been done by transit agencies to say ENOUGH!

Imagine driving a busy route late at night. An intending passenger stands yards away from the stop, wearing all black, next to a tree, head down staring at his phone. Even though you missed him the first time you looked at the stop, your next scan catches a glimpse and you stop your bus just short jog away. It's pouring down rain, and Billy BadAss jumps on board dripping wet. He's furious because you "missed the stop," but doesn't thank you for stopping. You gently apologize for not initially seeing him, but mention his posture and clothing choice made him virtually invisible in the best of circumstances.

The next instant, your head explodes as Billy's punches find their marks. Breaking your nose, skull, cheekbones and jaw, only instinct guides you now. Your agency's recommended lame "cover and block" tactic is useless against the brutal barrage of punches thrown by someone half your age. A swift kick to his knee bends him over, but your body wants to ensure a swift end to its unwanted injuries so you follow through with a well-placed heel to his forehead. Billy goes down in a heap, unmoving. Attack over, you try to figure out what just happened. Your mind however, is injured and you are, for want of a better term, "freaking out."

After your hospital stay, management declares you partly to blame because you dared "lecture" Billy about his responsibility to be seen and present at the bus stop. Then it suspends you for your aggressive response to the attack. Not only are you forever scarred and afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but unable to work for weeks or months, your financial situation is threatened once your sick leave is exhausted. Instead of rallying to your cause, your employer pressures you to return to work or face termination. Sound crazy? It definitely is, but it's also an alarming trend for transit agencies more afraid of lawsuits than brave enough to stand up and protect one of the most vulnerable public employees in this violent world. It's infuriating for us, and also frightening because it can happen to any of us when we're on duty. It has happened to many operators on more than one occasion, adding to their already-present PTSD. Many operate in diminished capacity without even realizing it.

We argue what constitutes "assault" in our profession, but in my opinion it's pretty simple: Any time a transit worker is threatened while doing our job. It could be anything from verbal or sexual abuse to spitting, punching or slapping, weapons shown or usage implied, objects thrown (or bullets shot) at our vehicles, or any number of other violent acts. Whenever a transit worker experiences any of these actions, we are usually thrust into the biological "fight or flight syndrome." When a human body is threatened, several things happen simultaneously to prepare us for imminent attack. After the event has passed, even if we haven't suffered injury, our body (and soul) has endured a shock that requires time to recover.

If allowed to continue operating, the driver's mind is constantly replaying the incident. Scans are missed because our eyes are in tunnel-vision mode. Rather than being entirely focused on the road, we dissect what just happened. Anger, frustration, sadness and other emotions override the calm and focus required to safely operate a transit vehicle. Entrusted with tons of dangerous steel and glass, we become a danger to everybody in and around us. This is called "diminished capacity," a condition transit agencies have ignored for decades, often requiring afflicted operators to continue in-service rather than insisting they take the necessary time to recover. It's incredibly foolish and dangerous for any transit agency to ignore their valuable employees' well-being in favor of a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet. We've become an afterthought rather than the victim.

Gone are the days when transit agencies fervently supported frontline employees, insisting the riding public show respect and follow the rules. Now, management often blames the operator first, even when brutally attacked. It's as ridiculous as insisting a woman deserves to be raped because of her wardrobe. If we're physically assaulted, our bodies are primed for defense. Biologically. Pride has nothing to do with our physiological response to a threat. When we actively and physically fight back, we're treated as if we're criminals. Suspended, even fired, for simply being human.

It's a theme I've visited many times because personal safety remains our biggest concern. Couple that with the right to self-defense, and yeah I'll keep screaming until more concrete steps have been taken to stem the tide. We're on the front lines of an insane world, and given nothing to protect ourselves or our livelihood.

To be fair, our management agreed to some measures allowing us recovery time in our last contract. However, much more could be done to ensure not only our safety, but that of everyone in and around our vehicles. We transport many of those who make economies work, and are some of the safest drivers in the world. Yet we're viewed with scorn by many who ride, and seemingly with disdain by those entrusted with our safety. It's ludicrous how we're treated by the rogue and unaccountable government corporations which rule transit. We have work to be done regarding safety, but I'm confident that common sense and decency will eventually replace the disgraceful status quo.

This week, I will join my brothers Henry and Dwayne, along with those in Nova Scotia, Rhode Island, Virginia, Florida, Texas and hopefully all across the globe by wearing a bandage on my right cheek with the number of aggressive incidents against Portland transit workers.

You see, I too have been assaulted, spit at, threatened, abused and stalked. Those who ask me about my bandage will learn why I'm wearing it... and my explanation will be given with a prayer for all who roll the wheels not knowing if, or when, it could happen to them.

"Shepherds of public safety, sacrificing daily for the common good," is how my friend and brother Tom Horton describes us.

Peace be with you my brave brothers and sisters. I'm rolling with hope that everyone's will always be a safe ride.

Monday, September 10, 2018

My Employer Won't, So I Will


Deke's Note: It's amazing that in this "information age," where you can find numerous answers for nearly every question that pops up at any time, that my transit agency fails to inform those who use our service, how to use it. Somebody's gotta do it... so I will here.

HOW TO RIDE THE BUS

We use our phones almost constantly these days. When I first began this blog, I sported a "flip phone" that was plenty adequate for most any purpose. Today, even this stubborn old fool uses a "smart phone," although I don't see how it's measurably improved my intelligence. Our attachment to technology has also had a negative effect, because it has removed common sense from the collective consciousness. We've lost the ability to use common sense in the most basic functions of daily life. While most who ride the bus don't read this blog, it still requires somebody to attempt educating people on how to do so. While our transit agency believes silly little signs with antiseptic messages are adequate, today's rider sometimes needs a subtle yet informational slap upside the head so the lesson takes hold in their isolated minds. So, here goes.

BOARDING

We've all seen the type. They're sitting on a wall 20 yards from the stop, staring down at their phone. Others are standing at the stop: a blue pole with a bus route number upon it. Not at the shelter, but at the actual stop. The professional rider is prepared, money or ticket or phone in hand, queued and ready to board. Donnie Dolt absently looks up as the last prepared passenger boards, and shouts at the operator who has already begun closing the door. Donnie casually strolls to just outside the entrance, staring intently at his Samsung appendage. He stops just short of the door as the operator re-opens it. Deke sighs impatiently. Donnie holds up a hand, dismissively disregarding my impatience. He could have already boarded, regardless of his ill-preparedness, but he somehow believes it's illegal to board until his fare appears on screen. Once it finally does, 30 seconds after Deke has prepared to leave the stop, Donnie enters without a word. He purposefully looks askance while holding his phone pass a foot from Deke's face. Nary a greeting, especially no apology for his inability to be prepared to board, as those ahead of him have.

BIG NO-NO, folks. Be ready to board. We're rolling on the agency's tight schedule, not yours. Everyone else on the bus was ready to board, but you weren't. Their being on time is a signal they need to arrive at their destination on time, and are usually very annoyed with your narcissistic attitude. Next time you're sitting there unprepared, I'll close the doors and leave your inattentive ass behind, no matter your insolent crybaby call to our customer service line complaining that I passed you up. That way, maybe you'll be ready for the next bus.

Also, please don't hold us up while you ask a question. Many times, people ask me when a different bus line will arrive at a shared stop. I don't know because I don't drive that one, folks. It's impossible for me to know the schedule of any of the 80-plus routes in our system. If you're downtown, look at the reader board placed there for your convenience which lists arrival times of any bus that services the stop at which you're waiting. If you make me miss a green light on our transit mall, my two or three brothers and sisters just behind me are truly annoyed that I haven't taken advantage of it. Chances are one of them are driving the route you want to ride.

RESPECT THE RIDE

Although our transit agency is hell-bent on being everything to everybody no matter the consequences to its frontline employees, there are (and have been for a century) basic rules people need to obey when using transit. Please take note, because professional riders already know them.

1) Operators are not your servants. Yes, we are public servants, but we're professionals who deserve the respect of someone who has spent considerable time learning how to safely conduct you around town. We don't take orders from you, no matter who you think pays our salary. You do not have the "right" to berate us for being late. We have to concentrate on a thousand things every trip. That's our job. Yours is to sit tight, minding your own business. You're expected to be considerate of your fellow passengers and the operator.

2) If we make a request, it's usually to ensure the smooth and orderly operation of our vehicle. Yes, it's policy to take small children out of strollers and take steps to keep it out of the aisle. This way, passengers can walk to and from the doors when the bus stops. It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like. The same is expected of everyone who boards, and we don't have time to debate transit policy with you. Please do the right thing.

3) Turn your sounds OFF on your electronic device. Music, videos or whatever are of your own interest, not mine or that of people around you. Your tastes likely don't jive with others. To the operator, it's a distraction. We're listening to the sounds of the bus engine, traffic noises, possible emergency vehicle sirens, or passenger distress signals. It takes concentration to guide a bus through narrow streets among impatient motorists. Normal conversation is "white noise" which blends in with normal operation. If I allow one person to jam their tunes, then another plays theirs just a tad louder, another joins in and suddenly there's a concert of distraction assaulting my ears. Please use earphones.

4) Priority seating is reserved for seniors and those who live with disabilities. This should be obvious, but we often have to remind people to surrender these seats for those who need them.

BE THOUGHTFUL AND CONSIDERATE

The bus you normally ride is just minutes away and I'm late to that stop. You're two blocks away, running frantically to catch a bus you normally wouldn't see if I was on time. If I roll away before you reach the stop, take a breath. You arrived early, your bus is likely right on time because I've picked up most of my follower's passengers. Chillax, dude. Throwing us your one-fingered IQ score won't get you anywhere but looking foolish.

If we're stopped with our engine off and doors closed, don't take it as an invitation to bang on our doors and demand we let you in. It's called a "break" for good reason. We use the time at the end of the line to eat, call the wife or husband, and enjoy a few minutes of silence. The stop just ahead is where you should wait. Oh it's raining, you say? Yeah, it does that here. Rain gear is preferable if we're at a "Drop Off Only" layover stop and you're early. Umbrellas are handy as well, and woe to you if you left it on the bus earlier. Not my bad, sorry.

LANGUAGE

America is multi-lingual, a safe haven for people of all cultures. While English is the main language spoken in this country, it's not the only one. We enjoy freedom of speech, which means you can speak however you choose. Unless, of course, your speech is offensive, threatening or divisive. You are not free to berate another because the language they speak is different from your native tongue. People who know several languages are usually highly-intelligent individuals, most assuredly smarter than those who haven't even mastered their own. Your freedom doesn't allow you the privilege of interrupting others having a discussion in a "foreign" language. Remember, many civilizations have been around centuries longer than our own. America is a melting pot made up of people from all over the world. If you berate another on my bus because they speak a different language than yours, I will definitely call you on it. In other words, don't be an asshole... I don't like it, and chances are most agree with me.

Additionally, freedom of speech doesn't allow you to curse at will. When your speech is liberally-peppered with common curse words, it's offensive to the majority of people who speak intelligently. Buy a thesaurus, learn new ways of expressing yourself. Hey, as you can see I'm no stranger to coarse language. However, a bus isn't your living room... it's everyone's.

Don't use racial slurs, no matter how narrow your world view. It's offensive to speak of others in a disparaging manner. I will refuse service to anyone who disrespects another passenger because of race, religion or nationality. Just be nice, or be quiet. If you can't obey this simple societal norm, try walking. That way you can talk to yourself all you want.

Avoid politics. Today's political discourse is too divisive to think a bus full of people is going to agree with your opinions. Try FaceBook or Twitter to air your views. I like a smooth roll on my wheels, and political discussions can make it bumpy.

TRASH!

As I tell folks, I'm not your maid and I'm too ugly to be your mama. Please use the trash cans conveniently placed near the front door. It's simple common decency to clean up after yourself. Pretend the bus is your granny's living room.

ASSAULTS

Have a problem with an operator or fellow passenger? Remember you are constantly under surveillance while riding public transportation, and assault is a serious offense. If you hit me while my bus is rolling, you will be charged with a felony. Your actions are on film and will be used against you. If you strike us from behind as you're exiting, you're a sorry piece of chickenshit. As I write this, there have been 70 instances this year where operators have been spit upon, punched, slapped, threatened or menaced while doing their job. Be thankful for your operator. It's not easy to do this job. We have loved ones awaiting our safe return home just as you do. No disagreement or misunderstanding is worth a trip to jail.


BE SAFE

Safety is a two-way street. Put the phone down as necessary to ensure your safe passage wherever you're going. Be alert and mindful of signals and your surroundings. We do our best at scanning, but if you're wearing all black, even the best eyesight can't spot you. Also, remember we're humans, and fallible. We cannot be perfect all the time. It's ultimately up to you to safeguard yourself. Be visible, vigilant and very careful.

* * * *

There you have it. Of course, there are points not listed here. However, that's where common sense comes in. Take a few moments and think about what you're doing in public. Be cognizant of how your actions reflect on your public behavior, especially where your own safety is concerned. Don't be afraid to tell us if something "isn't right." We're there for you, Johnny Public. Work with us, and life will be just fine. One can only hope, anyway. There are no guarantees, but we do have your best interests in mind when we're behind the wheel.

Peace be with you all, and thanks for riding and reading.