Deke's Note: Time for some annoyances displayed for those who ride our noble rolls. Since our transit management is remiss in its duties to instruct our public on what to expect from its most valuable employees, it falls upon your faithful transit blogger to do so. I truly disliked writing this post, but it must be done for lack of anyone else daring to state these potent points.
How I wish I could speak my mind with passengers! Instead of being able to Shower My People with love, I'm often forced to lay down the law. For being such a transit-dependent metropolis, Portland's passengers are spoiled, largely-ignorant and sometimes horribly-rude to their operators. I must say though, the bad apples are easier to ignore when most people are decent to us. Here are some of our most common gripes about those we transport safely and with constant attention to their safety.
First, I must heartily protest our union making a backroom deal with management regarding cameras focused on operators. You did NOT consult US about this. If you had, then it would have been voted down unanimously. Given management's constant disdain for its frontline workers, you should have known this is a recipe for disaster. Had you asked, we would have insisted video of our actions be activated only when necessary, not as a constant spy camera surely to be used as any excuse to discipline us for not being perfect. We're humans, as opposed to the robots management hopes to someday replace us with. When something bad happens, management's pampered passengers will surely capture it on video. If operator cameras were automatically activated when we hit the Panic Button, you would have all the evidence necessary to convict our assailants. Instead, management will use Big Brother surveillance to discipline us for any number of mistakes we fallible humans might make while rolling wheels. Why do I feel so against it? Because of the many false and misleading complaints filed against us which should never see the light of day but end up in our file.
Management fails to properly train us in verbal judo, or allow us basic self defense, yet expect perfection anyway. Thanks union leaders, for caving in to management's constant harassment of us, now with our imperfections captured forever on tape. No wonder some within our ranks are choosing not to pay union dues; you failed to ask our permission for your backroom deals. Forgive me for venturing to say this, but a panel of a few operators does not constitute a quorum; we deserve a say in this matter and our leadership has failed us here.
Next, I heard a rumor which tells me our names and badge numbers will soon displayed on our vehicles. This is a horrible breach of operator safety. Piss someone off and they can instantly Google our address and anything else the worldwide web has on us. While we are "public servants," our names should not EVER be available unless we feel comfortable providing this information. Otherwise, our identity should always be "Mr./Ms./Mrs. Bus Operator." Period.
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"No, I can't sell you a monthly pass," is another mundane reply I say to people who board every day. "You can buy one at any major grocery or the local transit store on the Square." Well, color me an asshole, why don't ya? I only drive the bus you're begging to get on as seconds click past on my time clock. I'm nothing but an annoyance to you, even though I've slaved through hordes of idiots on the road to get to your stop safely and on time. I sell 2.5 hour and day passes ONLY. Where have you been the past five decades, since Jackie Gleason provided change?
Having a smoke 'n toke break, I'm often approached by those unfortunate to afford their own nicotine habit. "No," I tell them with varying degrees of patience, "I cannot give you a cigarette while in uniform, it's against transit policy. And NO you can't have a drag off my vape. Ugh!" Hey folks, if you can't afford a pack of smokes, perhaps it's time you quit. Don't ask an operator on break for anything. Having dealt with any number of people the past one-to-two hours, your problems are of no concern to us. Our management may believe we're beholden to anyone we encounter, but our breaks are sacrosanct, thank you very much. Give us the few minutes of break we're entitled to. It gives us the peace required to get back in the seat and provide you a safe ride.
"What time does Line XX arrive at Point S?" I don't know. I don't drive that line. No, I haven't memorized the thousands of schedules associated with our transit agency. If I had, I'd be too fucking smart to work here. Maybe I'd be another billionaire who takes advantage of the undereducated masses. Perhaps that "smart" phone in your hand could tell you, if you knew how to download the local transit app. If not, you're free to stick it straight up your ass. Maybe if you could read you would have seen the requested info from the schedule posted at the stop you're standing next to.
"You can't tell me what to do! If I wanna drink booze on your bus, it's my business!" No, Einstein, it's my job to roll as the common sense and/or whichever governments dictate. Alcohol, tobacco, heroin, marijuana and any number of other intoxicants are not to be used on our vehicles. Plus, your behavior while on them is seriously affecting the cool flow of my ride. Get off my bus.
Oh wait, management doesn't back me up. This is my ride as long as I'm logged in, so get off anyway. You don't want to? Okay, I'll call for police backup and you can stew the night in lockup. Get it? I don't fuck around with fuck ups, management be damned. They don't know how to do my job so they have little understanding in how I conduct business on the road. Perhaps they believe so, but I'm the one charged with the safety of all on my bus, and you're seriously affecting the smoothness of my roll. If I'm pissed off because of your childish behavior, nobody else is safe. (Something our management fails to understand in its quest to please everyone but those who make transit wheels roll.) Try walking, where you can be your own boss. Good luck not getting run over by some phone-stoned dumbass driving their lethal weapon. In here, I'm the man, and I seriously adhere to transit code and am entirely focused on giving you a safe ride. Once you have boarded, you have agreed to abide by the rules set forth by Almighty Transit. Don't like it? There's a nice rain storm awaiting you outside.
"This is my companion animal." Yeah, right. All pets are companions. So is my cat. I wouldn't bring Silas aboard a bus unless he was secured in a carrier. Why do you lie? If it's not a properly-trained "Service Animal," your mutt belongs at home. Quit lying to us. It's extremely obvious what you're doing. Why do you get away with it? Because our management wants to please you. If they had even the balls of an infant, they would require anyone who needs to ride with their pet to register and prove Fido is indeed a properly-trained service animal. But no, that might offend someone! It's a slap in the face for those who travel with bona fide, highly-trained professional service animals. And yes, I am allowed to ask you what service Fido is trained to provide you. Ever heard of the ADA? Bet you can't even define this acronym, but I've been trained. Please quit lying to us and leave your stupid mutt at home.
"Can I just ride at my own risk?" Sure, but the fare is still $2.50. It's the best deal in town. You want to risk going back to the jail you were just released from? Go right ahead and have a seat. I'll laugh when Fare Inspectors pull you off in handcuffs. And no, you can't have a "free" ticket. Oh, the cops at the jail said we'd give you one? I'm not aware of any such policy. Nothing is free, Bubba. Take all the chance you need, but when they catch you don't blame me. Everyone else on my bus paid their fare, why should I give you a ticket? Not gonna happen. That's considered to be theft of a public service, and I'm not a criminal. If I ever had been, I wouldn't be driving this bus.
"BACK DOOR!" Yeah it's unlocked and has been since this bus stopped. All you need to do is follow the simple instructions on the door to have it open. Magically. Place your grimy hands where instructed, instead of struggling only to have it slam back on you once you cross the threshold. Duh. You wouldn't do so well on "Smarter Than a Third Grader" would ya? Shall I secure the bus, get out of my seat and walk back there just to instruct you on these elementary procedures? Geesh, people. And you say I'm "just a bus driver." What does that make you?
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We see the best and the worst of all humanity has to offer. We're often disrespected, ignored or abused physically and verbally. Expected to be robotic in the face of each inhumane insult hurled (or spat) our way, we're disciplined when we defend ourselves, as if we're not worthy of the simplest respect. It doesn't matter. We're still "shepherds of the public safety, sacrificing for the public good (thanks @Tom Horton)" who endure whatever society labels us. It's a job, but an honorable one.
My hat is off, my whisky glass raised, my bow offered to all who share my seat. It also is given freely to those who actually thank us for the safe ride we provide. It is for them I still am dedicated to this profession.