Deacon Who?

My photo
(Note: Ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily shared by the transit agency I work for. This is simply an expression of free speech while describing the work bus operators perform.) I have been (and called) many things in this life. Most of all, I'm a writer who happens to drive a bus. In May of '13 I thought it would be fun to write about my job. As a direct result of this blog, I published a book in November of 2017 called "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" that is available on Amazon. I write to provide insight as to what it's like on a bus... From The Driver Side. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Just Ride, Man

Deke's eerie selfie on a blissful break. I'm with you wherever you operate,
along the lonely miles of backbreaking routes we roll every day,
"sacrificing daily for the common good."

Deke's Note: It's been a while, my friends. In the past few weeks, I've undergone many unseen changes. You see me, but you might not notice what has happened. This blog recently reached 300,000 hits after six years we have shared together. Worldwide. It's bigger than I ever imagined when I began this simple writing exercise in the life of a simple transit operator. We celebrate this milestone together what has emanated from this abused keyboard. I truly appreciate every time you have read this blog. Sometimes it has been mundane, others perhaps somewhat interesting, amusing or noteworthy. Either way, it's me communicating with you on some level. We're connected, the two of us, writer and reader. It's all I ever dreamed of, and now we are as one. Thank you.

My wife wants me to come to bed... early on my Friday night. I struggle with this, the pull of domestic bliss versus the desire to write to my faithful readers what I have just accomplished in the week of a transit operator. There is much to do as a family man when work no longer beckons. However, the life of a blogger tends to stretch me between the two. Hence, my rest during days off is shortened by my desire to please both. 

Life tends to happen quickly, leaving some chores undone and others neglected. Despair not; you are always gentle on my mind. However, the life of this transit blogger seems to happen in bits and spurts. Life happens, family comes first and happily mingles with the evolving life of this humble bus operator. I cherish these moments now more than I do writing. I'm growing older quickly, requiring me to choose between things I love and those which have grown habitual. When they compete, I choose that which feels best at the moment. Therefore, I have neglected you while tending to those closest to my heart. Hopefully you'll forgive my frequent absences with the knowledge that you remain important, regardless. Here's my latest... and hopefully it's still relevant.

End of another long shift serving our fellow citizens.
Yes, I'm a bus operator. Rather than it being a simple occupation, it has grown into a lifestyle. Everything I do seems to revolve around the job. Does our management feel this way? Highly doubtful. They can, as I once did as a corporate slave, leave their jobs at the end of a day and with it, have the workday slip away into some conscious back door left open. The house cat will slip out along with the resultant trash. As a transit operator, some loudmouth puss may escape, but the day's work tends to stick around like the smell of a drunk's fart as he exits the front door of your bus.

Lately as I drive my weekly routes, I'm reminded of mere snippets of what happens and it's but a blur upon my conscience. From management's nagging to come see them over some ignorant motorist's false complaint to arguments with passengers that might end up as "come see me" notes from liars and miscreants who call in and whine about how I was "rude" to them for insisting they abide by basic human decency while on my bus. The music in my soul erases the negatives, and remembers most the kindness of those with whom I have personally connected. It all balances out in this Libra's balanced life.

Rudeness slides off my uniform collar like nothing more than the failed attempts of an errant blood-sucking mosquito. I simply... don't... give... a fuck. Leave me alone and let me drive, man. Sit down and shut up; I got this. Drive a bus. Give people a ride, fare be damned. Leave nobody standing, welcome them to my peaceful and forgiving ride. As long as I don't leave any scratches other than tree scars on the bus, I'm good. The rest of it? I don't give a damn.

Just Drive, man. It's the title of my book, and it works. Anything else is useless fluff. I get you there safely. Just say "Thanks, man" as you exit, and we're good. I did what I was hired to do: I delivered you where you wanted to be, usually on time. What more is there? A bit later than expected? Sorry, but if you had looked up from your phone, you might have seen all the obstacles I avoided along the way. See that kid I avoided killing when he rode his bike directly in front of my bus while we  were rolling at 35mph? Yeah, I didn't kill him and simultaneously didn't spill you out of your seat. You didn't even notice. His parents will see him walking into their home safe and sound because I was scanning 180-230 degrees around my bus and predicted his dart into traffic off the sidewalk directly into my path. You're very welcome.

I'm a father as well you see, and the thought of losing one of my own makes me even more vigilant in my scanning. The mere thought of accidentally killing someone's child while giving you a ride is a nightmare I hope never to have.

See where I'm going with this? I'm driving a bus, on duty, at least 10 hours a day... from light to dusk to tomorrow's dawn. Whatever time of day it is, I'm watchful, wary and prepared. I want everyone in, and around, my bus... safe. Some errant motorist might take the life of your precious loved one, but I'll be damned if they will die at my hands. I'm vigilant every moment I'm in service. I love my fellow Portlanders, and I hope it shows in how I roll. My driving is not only attentive to those around it, but  smooth and courteous to those within it.

You're welcome. I love you too. Just be safe when you exit my bus. Your loved ones depend upon you to return to them safe and sound. I've done my job... it is then time to do yours. Look up from that phone in your hand and pay attention. Once you have left my bus, your safety is in your own hands. Don't disappoint those who adore you. Just get there... safely. Please.

Good night and God bless.

May all your dreams include this blissful scene.
Peace and love, my beloved readers.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Just Shut Up and Ride

I am so tired.

The driving? I love it. Soaring through the wonders that make Portland such a beautiful place to live. But at what cost? I had no idea when I began this career that I would worry each day if I would return home whole, in this human body.

Now, it's a crap shoot. I ask a woman to kill the audio on her cell. She responds with a half-assed soliloquy on how I should just drive and keep my mouth shut. Her meager fare gives her the right to order me around. As if I'm a robot. Fuck her, I'm giving her a smooth and safe ride to her destination. Isn't that worthy of a slight modicum of respect? Why should I explain my reasons for asking her to respect my polite request?

Most people ride 20 minutes on my bus. In this time, I roll through the beauty that is our collective home. Its beauty alone demands a quiet, subdued ride. Instead, I'm offended by the inane and trailer-trash disgust of their collective (and loud) soliloquies of their squalid existence. No amount of money could adequately compensate for bearing witness to such vocal squalor.

Still, I find a way to let the insulting filth roll off my shoulders and into the trash heap that has become the overwhelming norm of today's society. They brag about their time in lockup, rather than slinking silently to a seat in shame for their misdeeds. These puke piles of society would rather share their exploits with a bus-full of those who give not one damn. It's disgusting, to say the least. We don't care what cell block is the worst of the lot, no matter how slight your crime. You are riding transit for free, only doing so because fare inspectors are already asleep or nearly so. Just shut the fuck up. Please.

I'm rolling my final trip of a 10-hour shift. Get on the bus and be kind to those who boarded before you. It's simple: turn the audio off your electronic devices which render you brain dead. Put on the headphones and drone everyone out. I want to JUST DRIVE. Your life story is of no consequence to my daily toil. I've likely heard it before, in many different keys in the sound of I don't give a fuck. According to my management, my main objective is to keep the line on time. Any deviation of this is to become my fault, no matter the amount of dumbfuckery you offer. So please, get on board, pay when you can or not; it makes no damn difference to me. As long as the wheels roll again within seconds of your hopping on board, your stories of losing a ticket or having no money are of no consequence to the all-ignorant mass of transit.

Oh how I wish I could just fly away...
and still get paid.
Our management has castrated any expectation of our respect. So just get on, shut up and have a seat. If you pay, say hello to your operator and behave yourself for 20 minutes or less, transit is your champion. If not, it's the operator who will likley pay the toll.

You're welcome.

Monday, July 15, 2019

I Am Receding, and So Are We All

We're human, after all. Wouldn't you rather I drive you than some remote-controlled robot? That's what's coming after all, if you allow it to happen. Humans are too needy. We demand things, especially respect. Robots need nothing, not sustenance, love or understanding. They cannot be disrespected, spit upon, beaten to the point of utter terror. We're on our way to obsolescence.

"There is no pain... you are receding... a distant smoke on the horizon... you are only coming through in waves... your lips move, but I cannot hear what you are saying..."

(Before I go any further, thank you Roger Waters and David Gilmour... your words and music have moved me in ways many of us unthinkably fathom with every heartbeat. This post is a tribute to both your music and lyrics, but also to those of us who have swayed and lived your prophetic magic.)

I have become, comfortably numb. After nearly seven years in this gig, I can see the my ship sailing. The management has made it quite clear, we are just a little pin prick, and I feel a little sick. I can't stand up, because it's working too good. It keeps me going through the show, but the pain is receding. It's inevitable. I can see that ship's smoke on the horizon. I'm moving my lips, but they won't hear what I'm saying. When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eyes, now I turn to look and it's nearly gone. I cannot put my finger on it now... my inner child has grown and the dream is almost gone. I am, simply, comfortably numb.

If this ship continues to sail on its current course, we're all doomed. Everyone who works their bones to a mind-numbing sadness understands. Big Money has its sights set on our ultimate slavery. We'll eventually do as we're told, or we will die. All of us. They will have all they need, and we will no longer be necessary. Everything they need will be covered by the automation we're allowing to take over.

Whenever you allow yourself to use automated checkouts at the grocery, automatic bill-pay through online banking, or any number of today's "convenience" chores, you're adding to the ultimatum which says the working man and woman have become quite simply... obsolete. Vote for the "wrong" party, and you're ultimately signing our collective death warrant. I'll leave it to you all to decide which I speak of.

Those who have, no longer will need those who do not. Their needs will be met via computer. I saw it when my career as a typographer came to a screeching halt as the personal computer made its debut in the 1990s. All the advances of the human mind and the creativeness of our souls was captured upon bytes which have no conscience. They need no money to survive... only electricity. Those who paid for its development knew what their ultimate goal was, and we will soon be unnecessary to their greedy means.

Be warned, transit riding public: when your buses no longer have a human in the seat, your number is next. If the complex task of transporting humans becomes automated, whose job is next on the chopping block? If you have no more reason to your employment, what is the logical path to your existence? Annihilation...

Are we simply spinning our wheels toward oblivion? We already know our voices aren't important. Given transit management's knack of downplaying collective concerns of our basic heartbeats, it makes one woncder if this pulse even registers in the hollowness of their empty souls. Don't they realize they're part of the diabolical scheme which dictates their own demise?

We have allowed a faceless collective to determine our own demise. We fight amongst ourselves over which hand will deliver the final blow to our simple existence, and the powers who control the puppet strings laugh in glee at our impending and final battle cry, which will ring hollow in the volume of their collective and evil laughter.

A friend of mine, fellow Operator who happened to "steal" my favorite run for me for Fall 2019, told me this: "Someday operators will be reduced to controlling drones who watch over our automated buses. It's coming, and we'd best be ready." Wow, I fear he's right. Less operators means fewer complaints management has to deal with. Fewer people doing the work we should always do anyway. It struck a chord of fear in my soul.

Republican, Democrat, Independent, Whoever... I love you all because we're all doomed. Together. Our death is tolling now, and we're allowing it to happen through the divisiveness which is perpetrated and encouraged by those who pull our collective strings. "Our religion is superior to yours, because God reigns supreme." Bullshit. Your gods won't earn a paycheck, or keep your child from overdosing on the drugs Big Pharma makes easily-available without giving a damn what the consequences are of the additive properties attached to them, while holding the antidote at bay to most who cannot afford them. We're doomed, unless we learn to stand as ONE, and shout to the heavens that we refuse to bow down to Big Money.

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, fought for and paid for by the blood of the last great American President, my revered and beloved Abraham Lincoln, states that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Yet, we have all become slaves to those who control our collective fortunes. Lincoln fought his entire political career against slavery, yet we find ourselves once again victim of this scourge against all humanity. Had President Lincoln survived, perhaps he would have seen the ultimate fallacy which he gave his life to prevent. Maybe he would have foreseen the divisiveness which would arise from the disharmony he so fervently hoped to prevent. Alas, the hatred of the South prevented a peaceful and loving Reconstruction that might have kept us from the horrific racial strife which led to the Rev. Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968. Maybe Lincoln envisioned a future in which we learned to love one another and move forward as ONE. But it was not to be. Now, we are poised with knives at each other's throats, pawns in the end-game that dictates our ultimate demise.

I choose love over hate, each moment of every day. I love those who differ from my beliefs. I celebrate the rights of those whose lives differ from mine, and offer my strengths to their cause. Why?  Because we're all Americans, and we work hard every day in hopes that we will leave a better tomorrow for all our toils today. It's what President Lincoln would respect, and encourage us all to do. It's what my father fought World War II for... the idea that America is where dreams can come true.

Don't agree with my political views? That's okay. We're brothers and sisters no matter our differences. I'm on your level. Fight with me, rather than against me. Otherwise, we're doomed to the same fate at the hands of those who care naught for us. I reach out my hand to you all... you simply need to grasp it to understand our collective plight.

God Bless you, and may He bless yours with the same goodness I know as mine. Peace be always with you.

Deke N. Blue
Transit Operator

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Joe, We Hardly Knew Ye

Joe the Dynamo
Deke's Note: One of my former hobbies was coaching youth basketball on the recreational level. My sons both loved "to hoop," and it's the one and only sport I have truly enjoyed. Driving my bus line has brought me back in touch with a few of my former players, and it's delightful to see them now as adults. This is a tale of an encounter with one of those young men I will never forget.

It had been a few years since I had seen him, so at first I didn't recognize the slight young man who stood in the bus entry.

Joseph said hello, and I looked up. Sometimes, I forget to greet people. It's disheartening nowadays with the Hop Pass passengers who believe this new fare system is their ticket to completely ignore us. So sometimes I just ignore back. This time, it was I who made this social faux pas.

"Hello," I said looking up. My face must have been a study in confusion.

"It's me," he said quietly, "Joseph!"

I studied the handsome young face before me, and a moment later it all came back. Then I was embarrassed, because this lad was not only one of my favorite basketball players as a coach, but his stepfather and I have been close friends for a decade.

"Oh my God!" I exclaimed. "Joe! Wow, it's great to see you!"

We shook hands, and his face lit up with that wry grin he'd had since he was a wee lad.

"Sorry," I continued, "but it's been years, and now you're all grown up. Look at you!"

"Yeah," he replied, "it's been a while, Coach."

Joe boarded my bus at the beginning of the line. For the next hour and a quarter, he stood up front, talking to me. He was both excited about his new job and melancholy about losing his girlfriend. It was obvious she was still very much on his mind. His sadness, as it always had, shone in his piercing eyes. We exchanged family news, his describing the current lives of his brothers and my catching him up on my sons.

For quite a while, we relived our team's ups and downs. He laughed at how we used to butt heads, since we're both very stubborn.

"You were a very tough nut to crack," I said, smiling. "But I don't think you ever did."

On the basketball court, Joe was one of the smallest but he had the heart of a lion. He was ferocious on defense, often letting his hands get him into foul trouble. Watching him handle a basketball was like seeing a live symphony orchestra. He was fluid, natural and intense. Nobody scared him, not even the teams I considered "semi pro," whose only reason for being in a league was to whip everybody. Joe would not cower in the face of the mightiest foe. A natural in any sport, he challenged anyone to best him, and usually won the battle.

I have always loved small point guards because of their speed and determination. Joe had plenty of both. A lefty, he confounded players who tried to guard him, because he could go either way and flash by them with ease, his jaw firmly clenched and usually scoring at will. Flashing past defenders, he would find his brother Ian with a quicker-than-a-blink pass for an easy inside basket, or fake his defender out of his shoes for an uncontested layup. Even Damian Lillard would have been impressed by this fearless dynamo.

Some players need coaching; this 13-year-old simply needed encouragement. I marveled at his skills, and sometimes had to remind him of the other players on the court. While not a ball hog, he could easily have taken on any team one-on-five, and bested them two out of three.

Joe never bragged, yet I could tell he was not afraid to trash talk a bit on the court. If a bigger kid challenged him, he stepped right in and would not back down. His temper was fiery, but his respect for good players was genuine.

One of his finest moments on the court nearly freaked me out. His stepfather was the Head Coach of that team and I was his Assistant. The season prior to that, our roles were reversed. Tom and I learned a lot from each other that way. While we were often prone to coaching mistakes, we were both committed to the boys who fought hard every game. We spent an hour every week planning practices and tailoring offensive sets for this talented bunch of rec players. Our lifetime friendship was forged on the backs of our young and determined teams.

Just before advancing to the league championship game, Tom suffered a heart attack and stroke. It was up to me to lead the team in the most important challenge of the season. With a prayer for my close friend, I took a deep breath before bringing our team together. I reminded them that their coach was with us in heart and spirit, and to play for him but most of all, as Tom would want, for themselves. They were to have fun and play hard, and accept the final outcome as a victory, no matter the score. We were intensely proud of them, and I think they knew.

Up seven late in the second quarter, our team had the ball. There were 10 seconds left on the clock when Joe took the inbound pass. The defense had sprinted down court, expecting us to rush in for a layup. Joe had other ideas. With me standing there open-mouthed, Joe calmly walked the ball to half-court. I had told him we needed a strong finish to the half, hopefully with a three-pointer or an and-one.

"Joe," I said from the sideline, "what are you doing? Let's go!"

He glanced at me sideways with his trademark smirk, but continued his slow dribble. He was watching the clock tick down. As it showed a scant few seconds, he launched a shot... from the half court line. We watched in awe as the ball slow-motioned through the air. Everyone else on the court, the crowd and the referees, stood dumbfounded. SWISH! Right as time expired and the horn sounded. Suddenly, we had a 10 point lead in the championship game.

Joe's teammates erupted, as did the crowd. I stood there with hands on hips, smiling broadly and shaking my head at this dynamo point guard. He had a magnificent grin as he looked at me and nodded. He seemed to be saying "See Coach? No worries."

We both laughed at each other's perspectives of "The Shot."

"You were pissed at me, huh?" he said, chuckling as he recalled my facial contortions.

"Well," I stammered, "not really, but I was wondering what the hell you were up to, ya scoundrel. Good for you it went in though!"

We laughed some more, and I was happy to be spending some fun time with Joseph. I told him I was proud of him for working through his problems, and suggested he "hit up" my sons, who really thought he was cool. He said he would, but I don't know if he did. Joe always seemed a bit of a loner.

After that night, he rode a few more times. Each time he seemed even more sad, withdrawn. I would try to engage him, and he would talk a moment or two before walking back to take a seat. Perhaps I was just another "old guy" to him, and he didn't have much to say. Either way, I tried to be encouraging and earnestly told him it was good to catch up.

Just yesterday, I learned Joe had died at the age of 23. His mother and Tom are understandably heartbroken. This news was shattering to me not only because I loved this young man, but also his parents. His four brothers are truly grief-stricken, their worlds torn apart by this devastating loss. No words could console them; they each know a grief we as parents consider a nightmare none of us want to imagine.

Today on my run, I couldn't look at people. My eyes were almost constantly filled with tears, as they remain. I remembered Joe not only as a kid, but also the gentle man he had grown into. Thinking of what this has done to his family was the most painful, because Joseph has moved on into peace. I wept for his parents and brothers, as much as for how much I'll miss him too.

The last person I lost was Daddy Blue, my only hero. I knew and revered him like no other. It was very hard to lose him, but he was at peace with dying because he had lived a long and happy life.

Joe was young, a new man with decades before him. There was no justifying his death... just a deep, echoing hollow with these words ringing in my soul: "Joseph, we hardly knew ye, and not nearly long enough."

Rest in peace, young prince. You shot a hole into your defenders, and left a stinging hollow in those of us who remain here in your lively wake. We will never forget you.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Plexiglas Did Not Protect Me

Deke's Note: I'm very happy to present the second in a series of Guest Posts. This time, it's written by a brother from the East Coast who has followed this blog for many years and has been supremely supportive of this blog. In keeping with the "Deke Mystique," our brother has chosen his own pseudonym, which I proudly honor with his contribution to this week's edition of FromTheDriverSide.

Plexiglas Shield Did Not Protect Me

by Bob Muldoon

The Plexiglas shield on my bus didn't protect me, but it did preserve my job.

On Sunday morning, a bicyclist rode up to my bus as I was leaving the transfer station. When I stopped at the sign, he started putting his bike in my bike rack. I honked my horn to tell him to stop, but he ignored my warnings.

He then banged on the door trying to board and I said, "I'm sorry, I can't open the door. It's not safe."

He returned to the front of my bus to retrieve his bike, but instead he sat down on my bike rack and started eating a sandwich.

I called my dispatcher and told him that the guy was preventing all of the buses from leaving the transfer station. A supervisor never responded, but a security guard arrived after a few minutes. He spoke with the man lounging on my bike rack until a police officer arrived. Then the man slowly removed his bike and left. Finally, I departed 12 minutes late, followed by the buses behind mine.

The hour-long outbound trip was uneventful, as was the first half of the return. Five men were waiting at the bus stop. Each one swiped his pass and sat down, except the last one. He began hocking up phlegm, and I only had a second to stop him before spat at me. I instinctively raised my arm to block him but was impeded by the Plexiglas sneeze guard. The slimy projectile hit my side window.

As he was preparing to spit again, I tried to kick him away but again was blocked by the sneeze guard. This time he hit my glasses, and his third assault landed in my hair. None of it hit the sneeze guard as intended. He ran off as quickly as it had happened.

Fortunately, the tape didn't show me trying to block the attack; I just sat there and took it. If I had appeared to hit the attacker or say anything that could offend him, I could have been fired for retaliation or the catch-all "unprofessional behavior." It would be up to the supervisors at the disciplinary hearing to decide my fate.

I knew that my passengers had to connect with buses downtown. But I also knew I had to report the attack, so I hit my red emergency button and waited for the dispatcher to respond. I gave him the details, and five minutes later a police car arrived. Ten minutes after that, a supervisor arrived to take my statement and pull the tape from the bus's surveillance camera.

Half an hour after I was scheduled to depart, a replacement driver arrived with another bus. The supervisor told me to drive my bus back to the garage and park it in front of the shop. He also said not to disturb the DNA evidence that was running down the window.

The next day, I reported to our Safety/Security Office, but he said that he didn't have enough evidence to prosecute the attacker because the video was not good enough quality to use in court. He also told me nobody gave him any DNA evidence to file.

He said that I could go to the Magistrate's office on my lunch break the following day to press charges. He gave me the Magistrate’s card and said, "Don't worry, if the Magistrate has any questions, just have him call me." 

That’s when I realized that the Safety/Security Department and Human Resources Department work for the Company, not for us. Their job is to protect the company from the employees. Only the Union and OSHA protect transit employees.

The receptionist at the Magistrate’s office gave me a form to fill out, and the first question: Name, Address and Date of Birth of the Defendant. I left it blank. Before the Magistrate said anything, he swore me in, then looked over the form. He noticed that I left the Defendant's information blank and said, we need to know who to serve the warrant to. I told him to call our Security Officer, but he just returned my form and told me to come back after I had completely filled out the form. Another lunch break wasted. 

Two weeks later, this assailant boarded my bus again. I didn't recognize him at first, but when he got off the bus and retrieved his bike, I got a good look at him. I used my phone to take a picture of him and his bike, then showed it to our Security Officer. (I should mention that there were no black employees in the Safety/Security Department at that time.) He said that I should have called the police. I told him I didn't recognize the attacker until after he exited my bus.

"Even if you just suspect him of assaulting you,” he replied, “you should call the police, send him to jail, and let the judge decide if he's guilty."

This guilty until proven innocent shit, along with seeing one of my regular passengers get stop-and-frisked while waiting at a bus stop, makes me understand how some people consider police their enemy.

I saw my attacker for the third time the following week. I have never said anything to him, but in my heart, I have forgiven the man who spat on me. However, I can never forgive the Company's callous indifference toward my assault or the attacks of my brother and sister drivers.

ATU STRONG... and proud of it.

The Sun Sets

Patrick's Note: It has been nearly a week since Deke N. Blue passed from his bloggery life. It has taken that long to come to terms with...