Saturday, April 13, 2019

Flailing Flunky Fails

Thanks to Neal Berlin for creating this...
you never know what he'll come up with... TwoBells!

Deke's Note: This post is very troubling, considering what happened a few days later. The very day after I began writing this, our Sister Operator which is its subject, was punched in the face as she drove her route. I wonder if she was instructed to stop being so nice? I'm furious, upset for her and her family, and confused as ever about a management who studies a lot then fails every test. Let's return transit to the professionals who provide it! #DekeForGM

Another transit management geek chimed in this week with a frivolous and time-wasting complaint. Seems one of my sisters is "too cheerful" to be in the seat.

Because this self-important, entitled nobody decided an upbeat operator was too unprofessional, they called in a complaint after exiting the bus. It was insinuated that this dear, sweet lady had to be under the influence to exhibit such behavior.

"It (the complaint) went waaayyy up the chain of command," she recalled. As a result, her bus was held up while a supervisor was dispatched to the scene. Their task: to determine whether she was fit to continue in service. This resulted in an unnecessary and frivolous waste of time, an inconvenience to the passengers who enjoy her ride on a daily basis, while this ridiculous complaint was investigated. The operator was publicly embarrassed, but she was left to explain why they were held up. What's worse, is she was instructed to just run late. She was humiliated, angry and in no condition to drive. Evidently, that's of no concern to an out-of-touch management. Safety be damned, get back to work!

Now I understand there have been times when such an investigation is warranted. Although hesitant  to say, it's true a tiny percentage of operators have crossed the line. However, it's extremely rare. Sure, in an ideal world, it would never happen. That being said, we realize our jobs are vital and necessary to the local economy; we also know how reckless driving under the influence is. It happens with motorists around our vehicles every day, and we're trained to predict the worst possible outcomes in traffic.

This operator was simply being herself: a sweet, outwardly-friendly and positive lady. If that warrants suspicion, then why do people complain when we act like robots? There is no perfect "way" to be out there. We all have our own personalities; some are strictly professional, others friendly and outgoing. Most drivers are friendly and courteous, not overly so, but just right. Our main job is to drive safely, not to make friends with everyone who boards. It's an impossibly fine line we balance upon, not sure what exactly transit-ignorant management expects from us. They certainly allow many false or frivolous complaints to land in our personnel files, but they're not very supportive of our roles as professionals. When we believe our actions to be just and true for the situation, we're often given the impression the public is never wrong. Bullshit!

What are we? Evidently, nothing warranting commendation from the self-important slug in Sister's case. Maybe they were so mistreated in life they believe nobody driving a bus should dare to be in a good mood, sharing joy with those who duly pay a fare (or not, as happens quite regularly thanks to a please everybody except the operator environment).

Life is how you treat it. This operator who was brutally subject to an unnecessary interruption of her roll, is the recipient of hundreds of commendations for her being a caring and decent operator worthy of public praise. This time, she was called onto the carpet for being what many of us have a hard time doing in light of the abuse we constantly endure.

This complaint should be investigated, as well as to the source. Was the complainant in a bad mood that day, intent on causing pain on the first person having a good day they encountered? Whatever the case, they don't deserve any job in transit management they conned themselves into. Especially those employed by a transit agency entrusted with the safety of everyone on board, including operators. If an unsubstantiated complaint is logged by someone in management which is unsubstantiated, that employee should be called on the carpet just like we are.

There is no excuse for throwing one's weight around; we're disciplined for this even when we have every reason to do so. We're not only charged with driving safely, but also for the well-being of those within or outside our vehicles. Any other transit employee should be held accountable for their frivolous exploits into territory they do not understand unless they have actually done our job. Maybe then these malcontents would think twice before wielding their unchecked influence. If their actions affect us so adversely that we're unable to safely operate due to being distracted, they should be disciplined if their complaint is unfounded.

Many of us were shocked at our sister's treatment, because we know her path has not been easy, yet she has conquered adversity many (who ride our buses daily) could not. One of our most complimented operators with hundreds of commendations, Sister is someone I emulate when somebody comes aboard my bus. She's a diligent, sweet, hard-working and deeply-earnest soul. Our management should be filled with people of her ilk, but instead they hire bitter fools who would be better off fielding calls in customer service of a much-less-important industry. Perhaps that would be a better outlet for their passive-aggressive tendencies. It certainly is not conducive to safe transit to hire people who wouldn't pass the vetting process we do.

This operator works 10-12 hours every day serving her community, has a loving husband and children who depend on her hard-earned paycheck to keep them from a much-harsher life. They are both some of the sweetest people I've known in this job. In fact, they are just like hundreds of my fellow brothers and sisters, the same people who invite you over for a cookout on a fine Portland summer afternoon. Somehow, while on the job, we're not viewed as such but as targets for frivolous complaints.

We all have choices in the seat: be cheerful and helpful, grumpy and unresponsive, or simply robotic. She chooses to be upbeat and fun, and that has resulted in tons of positive feedback from fellow operators and the public. Yet one unhappy malcontent (likely with a non-vital role) feels entitled to cost the transit agency hundreds of dollars in wasted hours based upon their own twisted sense of how an operator "should" act? It seems the money would be better spent in hiring positive people from within. Those who have done our job are better-suited to managing us than some failed flunky from Corporata.

Good job, my dear sister. I wish I could be as happy as you project. I keep trying, and someday maybe I'll match your enthusiasm in spite of all the crap strewn our way. Keep up the good work. You make us proud, and you give me reason to keep trying to make a positive difference. No matter what Joe Nobody says, you're tops on my list of favorite operators.


  1. Probably the same jackass who lodged the false and frivolous complaint against our transit brother over holding a non-existent cell phone while behind the wheel.

  2. Some folks (the tattle-tale) aren't happy unless others are getting into trouble and miserable. My heart goes out to the driver. It's nice to have a pleasant driver. They are not inherently miserable, although they have every right to be, working with the fickle public. Roll on and keep on smiling...

  3. How anyone could think her upbeat attitude means shes intoxicated is beyond me! She's amazing (especially when shes hungry sitting on report, thanks for the pizza girl!) Our jobs are so demanding people just have no clue...

    1. I know on the rare occasion I get a bit tipsy, I get down right caustic, sarcastic and rude.

  4. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Some people have no life except to complain. Give her a big hug from her sister drivers.