Sunday, July 1, 2018

Just Workin' that Transit Roll

It's been a long, strange week. Well, that's a weak adjective to use. Perhaps it's better described as an intriguing exercise in weathering the temptation to explode. Since this is my therapy, I'll vent a bit, but it's mild, I promise.

Given my frustration with the Supreme Court's decision on the Janus case, which I will respond to in my next post, it was no surprise that I'd be on-edge this week. A lot of things swirl about my mind as I drive. It's mostly a way to keep focused, even though one might suppose otherwise. Yes, my focus is centered upon handling the beast. Yet that now occupies a mere 30% of my consciousness while rolling now. Rather than dwelling on the mundane, I tend to blog as I drive. The Janus case post has occupied me since it was announced, but if a play-by-play announcer was calling my route, it would resemble Bill Walton trying to stay on task during a basketball game. Following is an example of several days driving condensed into a few minutes.

Damn, that bicyclist is playing with a Zippo on a case of nitro. Came six inches within my back bumper when I stopped to avoid pulverizing that old dude who stepped out in front of the bus. (Will we lose union members because of the Janus decision?) Go ahead and run that red light, Bozo. Good thing you missed Fido as he stopped to sniff the dead nutria in the left lane as the pedestrian timer slipped to green. (What shenanigans await us as management rubs its hands in glee over this case?) Wait, is that light ahead stale red? Maybe I'll catch it this time... no, guess not. There's Freewheelin' Fernando zipping up to the stop in his mobility device flagging me down. Ramp it and stamp it, now it's stale green. Better wait, now we be late. (Should we stab a scab, or be cool with the fool?) Sweet, a freight train is inching along, I'm gonna get a transit green. Makin' up that time spent behind a newbie and zip into the long part of my route in the green for once. (Sure was fun talkin' with that radio fella in Canada; where's Deke gonna pop off next?)

Long ago and far away, on the board.
Uh oh, early afternoon and traffic is backed up worse than my colon on junk food... gonna be a few minutes down by the next time point if this keeps up. Oh well, my On-Time Performance stats ain't a gonna improve on a day like this. (Book sales need a boost, where's the marketing magic marker?) Wait, what's this message on my CAD? Turn off the HVAC and close the windows, there's another classic Portland protest a brewin'. (Maybe the Transit Spirit will blow the teargas straight over to DC and shove their heads up their asses... oh wait, I'm actually hoping for the opposite.) Left mirror shows Betty Beemer stepping on the gas in the left lane, about five car-lengths between my front bumper and the rear of Harry's Hummer on the left... she's gonna shoot the gap and switch lanes sure as shit, buzz in between us and slam on the braks just before eating Dusty's newfangled Duster. Yep, called that one, stopped smoothly before it happened, and you're welcome. Dumbass. (Amazing how many times I call people that in one shift... yeah they deserve it.) Saved another few lives today, especially the "Baby on Board" in the back seat. Bet that doesn't make it on the news tonight... another fool stepped in front of a MAX train earlier. Dirty laundry, Don Henley sang. Oh yeah.

Downtown behind, eastward bound and time to grind. DING! Service the stop, but with doors open and nobody departing, I get a sheepish "I meant the next one, sorry." (Your mama said that when asked if you were "perfection.") "That's an extra five bucks," I say instead with a smile, a few chuckles reward the joke. I roll to the next stop not a hundred yards hence. (Lazy bastard... how's about exiting HERE in penance for your pulling the cord too damn early? Try walking that distance and maybe you'll burn off that Whopper you slammed down before you exited.) Only running six down after the downtown shuffle, but I got a standing load. Easy on that brake, Goofus. Keep 'em standing. (Quiet as a bus full of convicts on their way to the slammer. People so plugged in and tuned out, it's getting worse by the day.) "Okay folks, I don't mind if you eat on board, but we have provided for your convenience not ONE, but TWO trashcans. Remember, the clean bus you're traveling in is the result of my gift to you, spending minutes of my break to clean up after ungrateful sloths. I'm not a maid, and I'm too ugly to be yo mama."

Sure would love trying to lumber across this beauty in a bus.
Sun in my eyes, last round trip. Clouds on the horizon dancing to Grateful Dead tunes in pink and purple leotards. (Wait, I don't drop acid, man. I'm a bus driver! Okay, yeah. I didn't. Honest.) Light bounces off a stop... is that a passenger or just a bum slumming in the shelter? He doesn't look up, I breeze by, he jumps up with his arms extended in a "Hey man!" gesture. Sorry dude, you weren't paying attention. Now maybe you'll be ready for the next bus. (Damn my shoulder aches. Is it bursitis or a quickly-passing stab of guilt for passing that guy up? Give me a sign, dumbass, if you actually want a ride or prefer to stare blindly into space looking for passing aliens.)

Last break of the night. Downtown has settled down into a more peaceful homeless shelter. Sleepers on the sidewalk no longer bum me for a smoke. I'm vaping, but that doesn't matter to the nicotine addict. "Can I toke your vape?" Hell to the fucking nah, dude. Keep your nasty lips on that hooker over there. (Wait, she's a he. Sorry; Lou Reed's song "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" still sticks here.) Still, no, you can't draw my vape

Rolling into the TC to drop off the lone guy snoring in that back seat. Legs splayed across the aisle onto the opposite seat. Remembering Operator Irving Levine (RIP) of Winnipeg, I hesitate before waking him in fear he'll stab me to death. Fuck it, I wanna go home. I rap on a stanchion with my wedding ring, and say gently: "Hey buddy, last stop. You need to wake up now, come on." He opens one squinty eye and focuses on me, just a few feet away. No danger in this guy with a hard hat in his lap. "Shit! I wanted to get off at..." We passed that stop half an hour ago. You work too hard, brother. Next bus is a few minutes out. "Thanks dude, sorry I worked 14 hours today, 15 yesterday. I'm beat. Rent, child support, you know the drill." I get it. Gotta work three times harder these days just to pay the man for a place to sleep a few hours before going back in to earn enough just to cover the taxes The Man won't be paying due to his one percent suckup deductions. Watch your head, bud, that's it. I'm sorry... if I knew where you wanted to be, I'd have come back and woke you up myself. Next time I'll remember. Working stiffs gotta stick together, brother. You're welcome, sleep well, see you tomorrow, eh?
Deke visits a remote Arizona canyon.
Mr. HardHat and I get out and smoke. Nice guy, smart and friendly after he wakes up a bit. Hangs drywall in another new apartment building no working stiff can afford to live in. I offer him a ride back to his stop, miles down the road. No need for him to wait another 10 minutes; my deadhead is back the way I came  anyway, so what the hell. He smiles, wearily grateful, and accepts with an offered handshake. Another friend made on the battlefield of transit. He falls asleep quickly, reclining in the Priority Seating area. He  thanks me five times after I stop and wake him at his destination. (It's truly my pleasure.)

We help each other "out there." Wish management had MY back like I had this guy's. All in a day's work. Amen.


  1. Wow, can I relate to all that you have presented!

    1. Jim, thanks for reading. It's not really surprising that no matter where you work, we all tend to experience much of the same and think in similar ways as transit operators. Please share the blog, and hopefully buy the book! Peace and safe travels sir.