It's an honor that you consider our interaction that which reminds you of "reaching out to a celebrity," yet I'm anything but. I've written my entire life, but the blog and book are more a habit than an endeavor worthy of such lofty aims. Still, thank you. It does mean a lot to me that you wrote it.
As for the automation, it was reportedly insinuated by management during the first contract negotiation session that our agency would be moving in that direction. I don't know who said it; I was not there. However, it seems odd to move that way, especially if an operator is still in the seat. Machines cannot think as humans. There is little ambiguity, no visceral feeling, in a robot. Why go to the cost of implementing human obsolescence? If we automate, humans lose jobs. If we can't work at something, especially at a job so inherently human, we lose self-worth. If we don't earn a living, what happens to the economy? The very thought of it boggles the mind of someone who has worked blue-collar jobs for a lifetime. Given the astronomically-rising cost of higher education, it's unrealistic to think most could rise toward new careers. In fact, it's not a reachable goal for many working class people. I'm still paying on a decade-old student loan series which did me no good. If we automate too much, at what devastating cost to humankind is "achieved"?
A little background on my soul: writing is not what I do. It is what I am. Since I was a wee lad, the art of putting words together has intrigued me. At times, I'm able to touch the personal depths of readers. Other times my words are excessive and boorish. I tend to explore the depths of human existence to the limits of my knowledge. Occasionally I strike a chord, and that's golden. Sometimes, I stray beyond excess because I'm a volatile personality. Love means much to my soul, and I even express it toward those with whom I vehemently disagree. Afterward, my olive branches are hopefully accepted. One of my favorite personal sayings is: "I'm not always right, and you're not always wrong." Learning from others has been a lifetime goal, and has proven to be infinitely worthwhile.
Another troubling thought is the number of attacks on transit workers. Did you hear about BANDTOGETHER this year? We wore bandages on our door-side cheeks with the number of attacks on our local transit workers for the year. We did it to inform the public of this ever-increasing trend of violence toward those simply doing a vital job to any local economy. If you're on an airliner, would you challenge the authority of the pilot? Or a captain of a ship? Conductor of a train? Of course not. As operators, people do not respect us even as we guide them through constant dangers and provide them a safe ride to their destination. I've been assaulted, spit at, cursed, threatened... all because I insisted passengers abide by transit code.
Many Operators, Supes, Trainers and Station Agents support my blog and also for my stubborn insistence on writing a commonly-understood thread among us: we do an honorable job, and feel disrespected by those entrusted with management of our transit system. I believe management should be entirely supportive of the "lug nuts" of transit. This should be its most vital mission, rather than its focus on capital projects to expand on a system groaning with neglect.
Our brother Thomas Dunn of Florida implored his local board to make his job safer; less than a year later, his throat was cut by a passenger. To Mr. Dunn's credit, he was able to stop and secure his bus, keeping his passengers safe, just before he bled out and died in the seat.
While I'm honored by your words, I'm still wary. We hear the words of "support" from upper management, but cannot believe it's an honest expression. Given we're a 24-hour per day, 365-days per year service to the community, this "Transit Worker Appreciation Day" (or whatever it's called) once a year in March fails to make us feel appreciated. If you work past the "normal" working day of non-union employees, you're treated to wilted leftovers and remnants of signs, perhaps some lame local news segment showing management hopping on day buses to give a false narrative of how management "appreciates" us. When contract negotiations begin, we're starkly-reminded that we're considered "greedy" nuisances rather than valued and vital reasons for the very existence of those charged with overseeing the day-to-day operations of local transit.
Thank you for reading. Perhaps someday we'll meet. You may not realize it when you ride, nor may I. Either way, I hope you feel safe and appreciated on my bus, and that the feeling is mutual.
Peace be with you,