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.