Monday, May 7, 2018

Five Years In, Looking Forward

Deke's Note: It's been fun celebrating my fifth birthday. Again. Yep, Deke N. Blue began this blog odyssey five years ago en Cinco de Mayo. I've spent over a month contemplating my writing future. Even though it might be best if I left this endeavour behind, it's evident I cannot be true to myself if I don't continue describing what it's like, From the Driver Side of a bus. There is no blueprint here, I'm just going to continue "winging it." Hopefully I can keep you entertained and informed. However this plays out, thank YOU for being here, reading and rewarding me with your support. Once there is no more YOU, then it's time to stop. Until then, here's another look into the mind of this bus operator.

* * * * *

It's been a strange six weeks or so since I picked up the keyboard for a serious run at this gig. Between binge-watching TV shows and giving my mind a rest, I've had a hard time resisting the urge to write, even in my journal. It's always been my go-to when life throws curve balls. It soothes me to explain what I'm feeling; resisting the urge took a lot of self-control and introspection. All through my life, as you can surely understand, extreme challenges command my full attention. Reaching out to family and friends, I found that whatever fears and feelings of self-doubt were mostly unnecessary. Your support and patience helped me find sources of inner strength I had forgotten exists.

As I approach 60 (I was born that year...), certain truths are revealed:

1) My employer surely knows my pen name's true identity. Nobody could be so stupid and simultaneously exist. It's a given. If GM Doug were to come up to me and say, "Hey Deke," I'd say "Hey Dougie-poo, how's it hangin'?" However, I don't want the general public to know this. Why? Because it's distracting, and my job comes FIRST, above blogging, book sales, etc. Our job is seriously dangerous, and ferrying passengers safely is my main goal every day. While my ego enjoys an occasional massage, I don't want it to happen at anybody's expense. Driving a bus might have become instinctual to me over the past five years, but it still involves intense concentration, planning and execution. Whenever my mind is distracted thinking about being Deke, bad shit happens. I've had some people who know the truth give me wonderful compliments, but while in the seat, their safety is of paramount importance, not my ego. So please, let's keep Deke somewhat a mystery. Management, if you're reading this, I hope you realize that my goal here is to chronicle, not to insult. We make the wheels roll, you count the change we rake in. It's just like that. Don't let it go to your heads, and I'll do the same.

2) My favorite musicians are growing old, and dying. While this may not seem anything other than a persistent truth, it's very hard on me as an artist. I'm dying, we're all dying. Nobody gets out of this gig alive. Tom Petty's passing was extremely hard on me, and I'm still trying to "get over it." Listening to him as I write this. Why is it so hard? I didn't know him personally, but his music has always struck a vibrant chord within me. Saw him in Portland a decade ago, my only chance to experience him live. He was a rebel, someone I admired. Perhaps I aspire to Tom's brand of bullshit repellent, because simple acceptance has never done anyone good.

Playing fireplace footsie
with the one I adore most.
3) It doesn't matter what bus line I drive, people are generally the same. There are a lot of great people in my city, and I enjoy being their time-travel conductor. Others are not so fun to be around, but they eventually leave. In my new "don't give a damn" direction about the pseudonym, I'll give you a hint for my next signup: if you jump on the 9, you'll maybe get to ride my glide. Hopefully I'll treat you to a smooth one. Bring my book on board, I'll sign it. But only on a break; otherwise it's a distraction, and I don't do that. If you're discreet about it, signing one of my books is about the biggest compliment I'm given, so thank you. Make a big deal out of it, I'm sure to send you packing in a fit of disgust. (Looking forward to seeing you again, my Line 9 regs: Darius, Wendy, John and others.)

4) Portland's media SUCKS. With few exceptions, I'm disgusted with the putrid state of our local information highway. We have a national epidemic of apathy regarding the middle class' state of life, yet all they care about is pot and whether the homeless and illegals have "rights." I'm certainly an advocate for those who have the least in life, but I'm mostly concerned about my fellow middle-class earners and taxpayers. We work for a living, and refuse to bow out of this life. It seems we matter less, and the only time we're profiled is if we're perceived as doing something "wrong." Boneheads! Thanks to Oregon Public Broadcasting's "Think Out Loud" radio program for giving me 21 minutes in January to talk about my humble book, Northwest Labor Press for a nice interview, and to Portland Tribune for giving me a nod. The rest of you? You're corporate butt-kissers. Get real, quit pandering and get back to the business of journalism. Ever heard of it? I'm starting to think: NOT. You pretend to remember, but I was one of you long ago. I'm not seeing any balls out there. Grow some, will ya? Except for the lady journalists, who are tougher than male writers these days. Muns? No thanks, I wear my hair DOWN.

5) Running for office in our ATU757 elections this year? Take note: I won't take sides. It's part of that "journalism thing." Feel free to email me with your platforms, as long as they don't include cutting or demeaning your fellow brothers and sisters who want our vote. Keep it clean, folks. You may not agree with how things have gone and perhaps you can do better, but unless you can run a clean campaign, unlike the last one, I'm not impressed. Too many low blows two years ago, and it disgusted me and many others. Stick to the issues, debate honestly and with pure intentions, and we'll take notice. Avoid ad hominem attacks. Otherwise, you're not going to win.

6) Bus operators are human, no matter what the public expects. We're late sometimes due to many possible factors. Live with it, and don't give us a hard time. You waited a long time for my bus, and I'm sorry that happened. Regardless, I'm the one giving you a ride. I don't know why my leader didn't pick you up. Contrary to public belief, we don't have communications with our fellow operators. Shit happens in transit. Maybe you missed him by seconds. Perhaps he broke down and didn't make his last trip. It's not my business to know how or why it happened. I'm driving the one you're on, and you should be grateful we're rolling. Sit down and shut up, instead of berating me for something I have no control over. If you're late for wherever you're going, I'm on time and you didn't plan accordingly. Accept reality, take responsibility, and learn something from the experience. I'm not to blame.

Trips to the beach are soothing.
 7) Our transit system offers over 80 bus routes. There is no possible way I can tell you when another bus is scheduled to arrive at any given point. I don't drive that one. All I can do is work very hard to ensure this one gets you where you need to go, safely.

8) Buses and light rail vehicles are disgustingly dirty. I don't blame you for wearing masks when you ride, but they likely won't save you from the trillions of pathogens found on our district vehicles. Management doesn't care about giving us clean working environments. They hire operators by the hundreds every year. We get sick or die, there's always a body to replace us. We're dispensable. Our buses are interior-cleaned, on average, about four times a year. They don't put an emphasis on how clean the inside of a vehicle is, only the exterior gets cleaned weekly. Any college students want to replicate the study conducted a decade ago about how much active bacteria lives in transit? Go for it. The squeaky wheel gets the grease; the horribly-dirty bus languishes in silence. The cold virus I'm battling right now is testament to that fact.

9) I'm all for the legal consumption of marijuana. It has many healthy benefits. It's very important that you realize however, that its smell can be offensive to others. You have a right to consume it, but others have the right to not be assailed by your rights. I cannot partake in its many benefits, because I'm bound by archaic federal statutes that require me not to. Although my body aches from the effects of repetitive-motion actions endured in the seat, I am only allowed to enjoy alcohol. Rest assured that I don't imbibe within 12 hours of taking control of the ride you're on. I use it sparingly during my work week, yet I tend to enjoy it more on weekends; I'm not responsible for your safety then. My job requirements are very stringent, and I respect them. The paycheck keeps the bills paid, and I have always met my personal obligations. I just wish the feds would get off their high horse and admit that legislators enjoy the benefits of cannabis and that it's not as dangerous as the pharmaceuticals that claim millions of lives every year. It's a rigged game, folks, yet while it's illegal, I have to obey the edicts the hypocrites hand down. Sure, I'd love to take a few tokes off a joint to ease the pains that constant depressions of an air brake pedal cause, but I cannot. So, I will not. Still, it amuses me how many people don't understand their bus operators' inability to accept their offered gift of primo bud. I had a young man this week appear hurt and insulted at my refusal to accept his wonderfully-fragrant and generous offering. Once I explained my dilemma, he simply gave it to a fellow rider who requested it. I was very amused at this, and touched. It's rare we're treated to a tip, and I really wish I could have accepted this one. That was some dank bud, folks. Just realize we're not allowed to have it on us while on transit property. And if you accidentally leave your tantalizing pot on our ride, it will be tossed unceremoniously into the trash upon our return to the garage. It's still against federal transportation law, and that's what we're bound to obey, at this point in time.

(I'm curious to know tales from other operators given this offering. How do you feel about the use of cannabis among bus drivers? I think it might chill us out a bit, but it could also render us directionally-challenged. How would someone feel if their operator said "Hey man, was I supposed to turn back there? Faaar-out, man.")

10) I just woke my wife singing out loud as I listen to "New Kid in Town." Sorry, honey. Dr. Jameson made me feel better. Great cold medicine, but hard on those who actually sleep in the middle of the night.

Hope you enjoyed this post. It was fun to write. Excuse my rambling, but having a month off tends to make a writer ramble like a politician hunting money. I'll attend to whatever errors I made... later. In the meantime, thanks for reading.

I love to grow roses. Their beauty and scent
beat the hell out of what I see (and smell) as a bus operator.

1 comment:

  1. As a rider, I have to say I admire your outlook and humor and your writing skills are quite good as well. Most of the time, I enjoy riding the bus. Mostly, I enjoy it because of drivers like you seem to be. I can be somewhat "directionally challenged" as you called it, not for the reasons you stated but because I am partially disabled. Frequently my brain will go on vacation and, well, there is still much to do so I venture forth and have to ask that the drivers in the buses bear with me and help me get to my destination. MOST of the time, you are more than helpful and I so much appreciate it. Thank you for your service and thank you for this delightful read. Keep it up. Who knows, maybe it will make a difference. ~ S.E.