An hour later, you look up to see an angry customer in your office doorway. He appears to be holding a weapon under his jacket. Threatening you over something you have no control of, he will not (or cannot) listen to logic. Your calm demeanor begins to crumble, as your body tenses in preparation to defend itself. Before you can pick up the phone and call security, he reaches across your desk and punches you. Hard. Breaks your nose, glasses and self-composure.
Seconds become hours. Your assailant moves around the desk, hovering over you with that still-present threat of a possible knife/gun under his jacket, screaming obscenities and craziness in your ear. The time to act if self-defense is imminent. However, your company has already frozen you into that chair. Rising up or punching back is not an option.
Your management, in a "please everybody" policy, has dictated that you should remain in your seat, calm in the presence of life-threatening danger, rather than defend yourself. Your body says "FIGHT OR DIE!" The placard on the wall in the break room reads "BE CALM, BE RATIONAL, STAY SEATED. HELP WILL COME." Eventually. Sometimes not at all.
Suddenly, the man unleashes several punches to your face, neck and chest. Then he brings out the knife he had hiding in his coat and holds it to your throat. "Say one thing to anybody about this, and I'll be back, but next time you won't live through it."
In a flash, he escapes. Help arrives a few minutes later, and you're transported to the hospital with a cut on your neck millimeters away from your carotid artery, three broken ribs, a broken nose and cheekbone, and multiple bruises along with a swelling black eye. After a few days in the hospital, you spend recuperative time at home. A week or two later, you're back in your office. Pretending to be "okay," the slightest noise or movement startles you. Concentration is impossible, and your work suffers as a result. Fear and anger have replaced that cool and calm demeanor you've always been known for. Needing more time, you take several days off.
Management meanwhile, has noticed your decline in meeting schedules, your being irritable with co-workers, and of course, the "time loss" building up. Video of the attack suggests you "aggressively" threw up your arms in self-defense, moves which management considers aggressive, possibly infuriating your attacker even more. Counseled about the performance issues, you're still recovering from the assault. Although you attempt to return to normal, it has become impossible. A few months later, you're suspended, then fired.
Months and even years afterward, nightmares and flashbacks haunt you. Depression replaces confidence. Paranoia and fear engulf a life that was once sunny and positive. Guilt convinces you it was your fault. It's a tossup as to whether you'll ever recover.
Now imagine this: last year alone, Portland transit employees were assaulted in various forms, ninety-one (91) times. In 2016, there were 55 assaults. Already this year, there have been 13 incidents in which our operators have been threatened or assaulted. At this rate, the end of 2018 will be another record-breaking year, with assaults in the triple digits.
Our media is worthless here. It will pounce on any story, falsified or not, and inflame it to the point where the operator is blamed. Our agency primps for the camera, saying "We do not condone this behavior from our operators, and are investigating the incident." The operator has already been convicted, with no chance for a fair trial. Yet there have been no stories about the rising number of assaults, unless the transit agency's watered-down statistics are quoted.
Some of us are doing what we can to raise awareness, but the media remains silent. I thought the Portland Tribune would give it some consideration, but no. The Oregonian? Crickets. TV news stations? Only interested if it sheds negative light on operators and sensationally amplifies false and/or unsubstantiated accounts of allegedly-maligned passengers. Nary a peep out of the Willamette Week or the Mercury; seems they're too concerned about alternate lifestyles to even mention my book, let alone this alarming increase in violence against us.
There's a lot of talk these days about "fake news." Some of it is such, and that's sad. Things happen that don't qualify, aren't lucrative enough subjects, for the mainstream media. The truth is out there, but journalists either lack the courage, ability or permission to seek it.
Meanwhile, we're strapped to our seats. Sitting ducks. If we are unable to defy our biology and defend ourselves, we're easy targets. Transit's only defense: caging us in. What a defeatist, lazy, and unreasonable response.
We deserve better. Only problem is one of us could die at the hands of a madman, but other than a few weeks of weak corporate rhetoric, life would return to silent disregard.
I'm anything but "normal." I'm fucking pissed off, and so are the majority of us. Our friends and co-workers are being pummeled, and nobody seems to care. The latest contract added small concessions to victims, but not nearly enough. If an operator ran this agency, heads would roll, microphones would be ruined and our voices gone hoarse from roaring our righteous indignation.
The fact that our only "finalist" to replace the outgoing GM acts like he has no idea of the increase in violence, is a perfect example of transit controlling the message. Passengers cry wolf, they get attention. Operators get attacked, no big deal. Thanks, you weak bastards in the media. I guess the few of us who do care and can do something about it, will. My blog is but one voice, and it's time we rise as ONE to block some punches and inflict some verbal violence in our own defense.
Somebody's got to do it.