Monday, December 17, 2018

A Deacon of Light

Deke's Note: It's been a few years since I wrote a Christmas message. My last post was a rough condemnation; this post explores the softer side of transit.

This blog approaches its sixth birthday next May. Since it began, I've learned, ached, fumed and wandered through a literary exercise never meant to go further than simply describing what it's like to drive a city bus. Each turn of the wheel offers a different perspective from what these eyes encountered when I first began this rolling odyssey. It's difficult to explain now vs. then, but hopefully you have grown with me through the years. If not, my book (JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane) describes what you may have missed along my evolving roll.

This blog has been more to me than I would ever have dreamed upon its inception. It has served as a psychological release valve, a fuming steam kettle through which I release my pent-up frustrations visited upon many a public servant. For to whom do we have a channel to complain about the many slights and epithets spat upon us at any given moment? Our management cares not about the humans who make their jobs possible; they simply want what is often impossible to provide. We roll through situations they can't even fathom, with the hopes that our skills and accumulated transit wisdom allow our safe passage through any possible mishaps we encounter.

Hit a low-hanging branch with your mirror? Get out, look to see if it has been damaged. If not, no need to expose yourself to unnecessary and ridiculous managerial Monday-Morning Quarterbacking and the Preventable Accident (PA) judgmental nightmare. It's just not worth it. There are a lot of trees in Portland, and the wind often knocks some branches awry. If you hit one and nothing breaks, no need to bother an over-burdened Dispatcher and Supervisor. They have bigger frogs to hop, and well, shit happens. Scratches are as commonplace as a bus fart. You just train the brain to refrain from doing it again. Just roll, man. A wise and dear friend who once line trained me in my transit youth advised me: "Don't honest yourself out of a job." It's very valuable advice. He also told me "floor it going up that hill or you'll be sorry." I didn't believe him at first on either, and both times I've lived to regret it. (Thanks, Dan.)

We all go through passing phases out here. When you're responsible for those on and around your bus, the rest of the world is but a blip. It's a real-time job which demands your full attention. Sure, our minds wander as our bus does, but auto pilot is quickly flipped off as conditions rapidly change.

Years behind the wheel of a city bus train you to be prepared for any eventuality, no matter how severe or mundane. The same is true of passenger interactions. Some days, I'm not very open to anything but a simple greeting and acknowledgement of a "thank you" as people exit my bus. Others, I engage whoever lingers within earshot. Meeting fellow Portlanders has blessed me with fascinating interactions with people I would not have known in another profession.

As another holiday season approaches, I'm reminded of many of the same I've asked from you this time of year:
  • Wear something bright, for fuck's sake! Do you really want a ride? Glance upward from that electronic ball and chain you constantly make visual love to, and pay attention. If I can't see you, don't call in a complaint when you're passed up. Accept your own transit responsibility and actively flag down that bus you're waiting for.
  • Be safe, because people who love you expect a repeat performance.
  • Treat your fellow humans with love and respect; hatred and contempt are bad for your health. Those who have less than we are equally worthy of our love and kindness.
Merry Christmas, or happy whatever holiday you choose to celebrate as we enter this winter solstice. I wish you all peace, love and happiness. Otherwise, what good am I?

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