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Deacon Who?

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(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!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

My Thanksgiving



Deke's Note: I feel really happy when something good becomes of my being a city bus driver. Especially on a cold night, an hour before Thanksgiving, it was my pleasure to help someone who needed a lift and a moment of hope. It feels as if all the verbal spears chucked at me are all for naught. For some, the sharp points are always present...

We are a nation of plenty. While a greedy few control the vast majority of wealth, a majority of us work ourselves into early graves slaving for those who pull our puppet strings. Gone are the days of our grandparents, who mostly fended for themselves and pulled through the Great Depression. Now, we're dependent upon the captains of modern slavery just to pay them their due and have enough left over to afford whatever makes us "whole."

Still, we find ways to remain happy and feel as if our lives have meaning. We love, we laugh, we struggle, we enjoy our lives as much as providence allows. Then there are the few who have somehow slipped between the cracks. Perhaps their childhood was Oliver Twist-ish, or a few neurons stopped firing along the way. As a result, they roam our streets begging for handouts to either feed their Jones or simply find a tidbit of food or shelter.

Often, it's easy to ignore them, yet sometimes impossible. I remember a time when I was young and had moved a thousand miles from home to "find myself." What I "found" was that life can slap the innocent right upside the head when idealism doesn't reconcile with common sense. The youth believes that somehow, all will be made right if they just work hard; in some cases, they think everything should be magically provided for them without any effort. In my case, the effort was there, but the results were less than marginal. Regardless of my woeful earnings, I learned to eat what I could afford.

The proud owner of a 1976 Datsun Pickup with an insulated shell over its bed, a warm rest was achieved by snuggling into my sleeping bag curled up with my dog, parked on a remote mountain path near a meadow. A forest I called home; most times the wind my only friend. It was peaceful; if only I still had my journals composed during that time. What others thought I lacked in creature comforts, my life was enriched by what I did have: the love of my dog, plenty of food (and beer), and scenery that could have stolen the breath of God. Canned food could easily be heated over a campfire, and showers could be had at a health club near where I worked. As a 20-year-old, this life was ideal. As summer ended, my hard work rewarded me with a roof. Thank God, because that winter saw temperatures dip 20 degrees below zero. What had been that young man's dream could have quickly turned into a nightmare.

As I worked harder, earned more and could afford better lodging and food, those times became fond memories. Forty years later, that kind of existence is a nightmare. Driving a bus, I roll through and with those who have not a tenth what I do. Many are older than me; their skin is thinner and gaunt from spending so much time in the harsh winter elements. My hair is blissfully less-gray than theirs, my limbs more youthful, the spring in my step quite a bit more jaunty. The grateful recipient of a wonderful childhood gave me the foundation I needed to not only survive, but to excel. While I still reach higher for "something more," recently it has become apparent that I should be thankful for what great gifts I already have.

Last night, I reached out to someone in need. This elderly man is without a home. While I could not give him a warm hearth to call his own, perhaps my attempts of kindness made a difference. He was alone and scared; I felt guilty to be so damn lucky. We connected, and hopefully our meeting was good for him. My actions are not important enough to be chronicled here. To do so would simply be tooting my own horn, which has been out-of-tune for so long it would sound contrived somehow to coax that warbled tune out of it. Instead, please join me in sending prayers to this poor soul. He needs your love more than I do; I've reveled in your support for so long, it's time I ask to share it.

So I leave you here, on this Thanksgiving 2019. With a wife who loves me more than I deserve at times, three beautiful and incredibly-successful children, and a lifetime of memories some wish they had. It has been a wonderful life, one even Jimmy Stewart's "George" would agree is worth celebrating. I am content with what I have achieved, given my life's dubious beginning. While I still reach for greater heights than I have already achieved, I could die today and feel this life was rich and meaningful. Until then, my arms always point upward, for to look down is something I cannot do.

Please join me in praying for those who have so lost their way, or never found it, that they roam alone without a home. Peace be with you and yours this holiday season, and also with those who have trouble finding it.

With love and respect,
Deke N. Blue

Monday, November 25, 2019

Self-Inflated Middle Management Complainers




Deke's Note: I wanted to refrain from writing a post tonight, but the antics of middle-management in our transit system are becoming too brash and insulting to let pass.

As my brother had his lunch spread out upon the wheel well, where many of us enjoy a brief repast and hopefully silent refuge from an unforgiving public, he was assaulted by one of our (too) many middle-managers. Supposedly, by what I can ascertain from the information our brother presented.

Here he was, our time-crunched operator, trying to maintain a conversation with a loved one via cradled telephone as he multi-tasked eating his meal. We have limited time on our breaks, during which our agency mandates a ridiculous "open door policy." If we adhere to this, we're often confronted by people who ask us when some other bus line is scheduled to arrive, or when our bus is going to depart, or why some other operator may or may not have been "rude" to them.

I'm sorry, but when a bus operator is trying to use valuable "recovery time" to squeeze in a meal or head into a restroom on an urgent biological need, we're often confronted with an unnecessarily-needy and insistent public. Our supposed indifference is considered "rude," yet our time-vital need is much more important to US than their lazy inquiries are. Their questions can usually be answered by simply accessing apps on their "smart" phones. Until humans are rendered obsolete in transit operations, which is something management has made known as a future goal, we insist on a break at the end of a line from a consistently-impatient ridership.

It is often a constant: these demands we know everything we're not remotely capable of while working diligently to guide an unforgiving vehicle smoothly and safely through miles of dangers unrealized by those we serve. Once we safely reach the end of the line, we're able to relieve straining bladders, shove some nourishment into our bodies and stretch before climbing into a hellishly-unforgiving seat to roll the opposite direction from where we recently arrived. To be interrupted, often rudely, while we revel in a few moments of silence and communication with those who worry we'll even arrive safely home, is horribly upsetting. It's also an insult, one that should be reported as a violation of transit code if nothing else.

If you work in middle-management within any transit system, you should know better than to harass the people who make your worthless job possible. Of all people, we expect you to be respectful, courteous and supportive. When you falsely accuse of us of callousness when we're simply trying to eat or pee, it's YOU who are being horribly invasive and rude. If we snap at you, it's because you have interrupted a rare moment of serenity. Try doing OUR job, walk in OUR shoes, before you judge.

One person who enjoys a cushy, overpaid job they're apparently under-qualified to hold, once reported a young operator for holding a cell phone in his hand as he drove a route he never had before. This complaint resulted in our young brother's being suspended. What he actually held as he drove was a route description. While I would have counseled him to put it in the "cutter," a now-obsolete piece of transit history which held paper tickets we once distributed to fare payers, he held it in his hand as he manipulated the steering wheel with the other. Alternately scanning as he consulted the white, laminated turn-by-turn bus operator's bible, he rolled past some puffed-up newbie management wonk. Ruh roh, Raggy, some ignorant spy just mistakenly reported you for holding a cell phone in your hands, a big no-no you know is so. That's why your phone was stowed as per Standard Operating Procedures.

Unfortunately for you dear brother, Mr. So-and-So had this unfounded perception that we are constantly disobeying the rules which we are strictly governed by. Not so, Mr. Evil So-and-So. Even though our young brother loves his phone as you (and the rest of us) do, he knows through training and experience it is forbidden to hold the damn thing as we drive. What a ridiculously-ludicrous accusation you lobbed at this decent young man who I truly admire! I could say worse, but refrain from doing so, or even mentioning your name which I know, for fear of being fired for daring to expose truth to your ignorant fallacy. You all know my name, but I still maintain a policy of not outing you even when your crimes against us are obviously callous and disrespectful. Shame on you, Mr. Middle Management.

This guy swore he "saw" our young hero holding a cell phone, from across the street with parked autos obscuring his vision through the windshield of a bus. Bullshit, dude. Take your bloated sense of superiority and shove it. Happily, this suspension was overturned due to the fierce determination of a fiercely-protective ATU rep who helped set the record straight. Video evidence failed to prove the shady complainant's case. This pretentious public employee holds a seat of ridiculous power as we once again fight for a decent contract. I shake my head in utter disgust at this piece of persistently-demoralizing reality.

While you're impressed with your need to show superiority, we're probably dealing with a number of insulting incidences dealt us over the course of our last trip. Perhaps we've successfully dealt with a situation that could have resulted in our injury, or even death before you bursted on the scene in your supposed and unwanted boast of superiority. The last thing we need is your whiny complaint over something you know little, possibly nothing, about: the tough job we perform with grace and skill where you simply offer an uneducated opinion.

If you ride transit while also working in its management, it's imperative you show at least a minimum of respect for those of us who do the work which affords you your cushy job. Ours is MUCH more difficult, fraught with dangers you don't even understand, having never done our job. Just ask the family of Thomas Dunn, if you even recognize the name.

Yeah, I thought you wouldn't. You're welcome for the safe ride. It's something we provide thousands of on a daily basis, usually punctuated by the thanks of those who exit. In your case, you chose to further abuse, falsely accuse and humiliate your operator as you exited. Just go away... quietly. We'd truly appreciate that exit.

Hopefully, you look up from your handheld device we do not use while in service, which would have answered the question you so rudely put forth to my brother, in time to save yourself from a close encounter with some cellphone-stoned and not-so-diligent motorist (other than a bus, whose operator is predicting your every move) as you cross that street. You can rest assured we'll be watching out for you, no matter what position in life you hold at that given moment in time. We might even honk our horn to alert you of the danger you are blindly stumbling into. It's OUR transit reality, something you should look into from time to time, as you settle into your comfy office chair tomorrow.

Yeah, you're welcome, even if you failed to acknowledge our brother's diligence. It's just how we roll.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Fools Insult Me, Yet Insult Themselves


Deke's Note: You may have noticed my extended absences from writing here. It's not that I have little to say. If you've read this for a while, you know sometimes I just can't STOP. Once in a while, it's healthy to take a step back, think about your blog's direction versus where it meanders, and find ways to rein it back in. I've beat so many dead horses with my bitching, PITA is about to trample my keyboard. So here's a few shorts, and I thank you all for hanging in there with me.

"Please," I ask cyclists as they board, "remind me when you leave that you'll be grabbing your bike."

It's commonly understood I do this out of concern for the pedalists' safety. There's no need to describe the carnage possible if my request is not heeded. These folks get it; even the toughest-looking hombre or lass will at least acknowledge my request.

I recently had a cyclist take offense at this request. He told me, "I don't need to be told to do this," he huffed and puffed in indignus ridiculi. "I always tell the driver I'm going to get my bike as I get off. I'm tired of you guys saying this."

"Well, excuse the request, Mr. Huffledork, but it's put forth solely out of concern for your safety," I replied, a bit miffed at his tone and attitude. "I get about 100 or so bikes a week on my bus. How am I supposed to know you always tell us? Through osmosis? Gimme a break, willya? I'm just trying to keep you safe."

"Blah, blah, blah," he mocked, employing a gesture with his hands equalling his childish retort.

It was the last run of a 56-hour week, and I was tired. The vast majority of my riders know I'm friendly, polite and concerned for the safety of all in and around my Beast. A few passengers who weren't plugged in and tuned out sat up and paid attention to this exchange. It got a bit heated after that.

Instead of "sit down and shut up," I chose the high road.

"I will err on the side of your safety any day, sir." Perhaps I growled a bit, but it could have been worse. I was kinda pissed. Luckily, I realized it and stopped my roll. The Deke of old would have stopped the bus and thrown the mouthy prick off. Let him try his attitude with another driver some 30 minutes later. Today's N. Blue has been working hard on letting things slide. I laughed at him instead. It made me feel better, and made the jerk look like... you know.

About 20 minutes later, Jerkfish exited. I was engaged with another passenger, explaining whatever they wanted to know. Jerkfish did not alert me, as he bragged he always does. On purpose. Then out of the corner of my peripheral sight, I saw him walk directly in front of my bus, making the "blah blah" gesture. I set the parking brake, reflexively. You see, I was about to close the door and roll into the fresh green light. Good thing I scan 180 degrees before moving the bus, or Jerky would have become just that. Uncured, even.

I heartily laughed at him. Boy, he truly showed me! Not only did he feel the need to act the fool, he proved himself a liar. After all that, he purposefully failed to tell me he was getting his bike. As if he was teaching me a lesson. Wow. What a power play. Problem is, the true power lay within my careful hands, and it could have crushed him at 1-2mph.

"Fucking idiot!" I couldn't help myself. Even though my instinctive reflexes saved his life, he continued mocking me as he rode on the sidewalk, zipping into the BUS ONLY lanes down the transit mall. The "be vigilant, be calm, be safe" parts of The Mantra kept this miscreant from becoming pavement paint. And I was glad. He could call me anything (I've heard it all, thanks), flash me whatever temper tantrums in sign language his limited intellect could conjure, and he would still remain safe in and around my vehicle. Whatever loved ones he had, they once again had the chance to welcome him safely home.

Did he think I would never say that to another cyclist because of his ridiculousness? No. The next week, I said it (as usual) every time a cyclist boarded, and several actually thanked me for asking them to remind me.

By the end of my shift, I was able to chuckle at his foolishness, but still, I shuddered. Although I was exhausted by the week's work, it is by sheer force of vigilance and experience he was kept safe, in spite of himself.

Trainer Mike Bishop's words of wisdom remain with me always: bad things can happen when you think ahead instead of in the present, whether it's the end of shift or the vacation that awaits afterward. I still remember the video Mr. Bishop played in Recertification Class after he said that, showing a bus driver failing to scan for pedestrians, then knocking one over in a crosswalk after she walked into his bus while studying her phone screen instead of where she was walking, as he pulled into a transit center where his relief operator waited. Thanks, Mr. Bishop. Your sharp, staccato delivery of "what ifs" and "don't be that guy" warnings are always on my mind. I'd love to sit and chat with you now, sir, after several years in the seat. I love his stories, because they always have a lesson attached. Hopefully, this blog post has the same flavor attached.

When I set the parking brake in the yard that night, I said a small prayer of thanksgiving, and that this man find peace amidst the anguish he must feel for picking a fight with someone who would rather die than see him mortally wounded. Amen.

* * * * *

Another brief moment this week begs a brief mention.

A young man, waiting at a bus stop, jumped aboard rudely in front of an elderly lady. He wanted to know when a different bus line traveling in the complete opposite direction of my own might arrive at the stop across the street.

At first, I shook my head. It was a ludicrous question, at the very least.

"I don't know," I said. "I don't drive that line."

This disheveled teenager, who appeared under the influence of some mind-numbing substance, just shook his head and stared at me.

"How could you not know?" he asked, an incredulous tone in his still-childlike voice.

"How could you not know?" I replied. In his hand was clutched the ever-present tool of those who are hopelessly-addicted to yet fail to use it to its potential: a cell phone. A few touches would have told him exactly when that bus would arrive. Instead, he chose a clumsy attempt to insult me. Once again, I had to laugh.

"Because, lad," I added as gently as my Be Patient mantra portion allowed, "it's impossible for me to know the schedules of every line and train, all 80-plus of them, at any point in the day."

He jumped off, cursing my evident stupidity while bumping past the elderly lady who raised her eyebrows at me and then sidelined her eyes his direction as she tapped her Hop card.

"Sorry for the younger generation," I told her, smiling.

"I hope I'm gone before his generation enters politics," she said with a nervous chuckle.

Indeed.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Do... the... Right... Thing


Deke's Note: I hate to pick on my fellow operators. We're constantly harangued by management, the public and the media whenever something goes terribly wrong. Every day, we're out there giving millions of safe rides, providing a valuable public service. However, we sometimes forget there is no "I" in "team." I've had my fill of those who fail to do as trained, making life even tougher for those who wear the same shoes. It's time for me to vent... but this is meant to teach rather than demean.

It doesn't matter how long you've been in the seat. I don't care if you're a newbie or have been here dozens of years. When you fail to do the right thing, others suffer. Often, we're tempted to be outright lazy and allow bad habits to rule our roll. This is simple complacency. We can allow bad habits to become constant. We all have been guilty of this at some, or many times during our careers. Perhaps we don't realize the effects these failures of duty have on those behind, alongside or ahead of us. Usually, we do, and the rigors of the road can render these actions unimportant in lieu of what we have just gone through. It's easy to say "I just don't give a fuck. I only want this day to end, and to hell with anyone else."

Well folks, I've had just about enough of whiny miscreants. To those of us who toil just as hard, I say I work even harder, to do the right thing.

After a few weeks into a signup, I know my route like my right foot feels the brake pedal. Where I'm bound to be early, late or right on time. We're all guilty of allowing a mental misstep like coming up to a time point too early, but if you truly care about your craft, it's easy to take steps along the route to ensure this doesn't happen.

On my current route, during rush hour we're spaced about 5-10 minutes apart. Run too early and you're kissing your leader's bumper. That's really hard on them, but if you work at it, you can help them along by running on time. Hand signals out your window as they pull from a stop just ahead of you can tell them to "skip stops" and boost them back onto schedule. Your bus may be nearly-empty while theirs is standing room only. This not only lessens the load on Dispatch, it keeps things as they should be: between us.

Perhaps it's your bus that's bursting at the seams, or as I tell my pax, "the Sardine Can Express," which amuses them as they stand shoulder-to-shoulder while you try your best to smooth curves and stops to not force them into any unwanted close encounter. Full buses seem to be full of jovial banter about how busy the ride is compared to earlier or yesterday. I tend to share their discomfort with a bit of banter on the microphone.

"Thanks for working together folks," I might say, "this is your friendly Sardine Can Express, brought to you by my leader who is apparently mostly empty and ahead of schedule."

My microphone is constantly accessible when I'm the "full bus." It gives us a chance to communicate and commiserate, making the uncomfortable crowded roll just a bit more palatable. Just the other day as traffic backed up, I softly sang "Traffic Jam" by James Taylor into the microphone, to the delightful glee of my listeners.

"Damn this traffic jam," I cooed into the keyed onboard mic, "how I hate to be late. It hurts my motor to go so slow, time I get home my supper be cold, DAMN this traffic jam... Well I left my job about five o'clock, about 15 minutes to go three blocks, just in time to stand in line, with the freeway looking like a parking lot, I say DAMN this traffic jam..."

Despite my warbling off-key voice, the response was electric. "What's that? Who sang that?" they asked. I explained my love for James Taylor, and refused to interrupt their excited after-work chatter with my uninvited solo.

Anyway, it's vital we operators recognize who's having the worst of the day's rush hour roll. When I'm working, I count on my leader and follower to "get it" and act accordingly.

One day last week, I passed my leader, who happened to be on their last run. I was treated to their "stink eye." My goal was to take the pressure off of the poor operator by passing by and picking up the next crowd of waiting passengers, allowing my leader to pass me by and skip a stop or two. This maneuver gives them a chance to get ahead of me if the stop I service is not requested by one of their own passengers. If not, the job requires them to dutifully fall in behind and let passengers off.

This time, the operator must have been truly inexperienced. They pulled around me, blocking my exit as I serviced the stop past the one I had rolled by. Their misplaced anger at me rolled through their open doors, as a few of their passengers exited and boarded my bus.

"I had to get out of there," one lady told me. "That bus was too crowded and the driver was pissed because you passed us by. So was I! Why did you do that?"

Since the lady stood nearby, I gave her the explanation. "It's called 'skip-stopping,' " I told her. "When the bus ahead of us is full, we pass them by and pick up the passengers waiting for their bus, allowing them to not have to board any more people than they have already."

"Oh!" she said, pausing to take it in. "That makes sense. Why didn't he know that? He was so angry I heard him cuss you out when you went by."

"Perhaps he's new and doesn't know the ropes," I said as gently as possible. Hiding my anger at a newbie's rude maneuver, I still felt solidarity and wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. This passenger seemed to "get it." Unfortunately, my clueless leader likely steamed in his pissy brew all the way back to the garage as I dropped off countless of his would-be passengers he would have had to transport had I not passed him by.

My constant banter with passengers not only educates, but soothes them. Many, having ridden transit most of their lives, don't need the explanation as they've lived it for years. They know more than the rookie drivers who get pissed at me when I exhibit what years of experience require me to. They know that when two buses on the same line roll into the same stop simultaneously, intending passengers should board the second one. It takes a while before newbies settle into the realities of what we do.

Back to those who know what to do, but choose to do what they want.

We're trained from the beginning never to roll into our downtown transit mall early. Some schedules allow for this, adding time upon arriving there. This gives a late bus the chance to make up late time. If you're on time when you get to the mall, chances are great that once you arrive at the downtown time point, you'll be early. Some lines find themselves up to three minutes early. If this happens, our Standard Operating Procedures dictate that a bus fall into the LAST position at a downtown stop to burn, or "dwell for time." This allows on-time buses which service the same stop the opportunity to take the first position and leave when the traffic signal turns green. Doing so allows us to roll harmonically. While one bus line might arrive just on time or a bit late, a bus which sits back allows another that services that stop to roll in and perhaps make up the time they arrived late. This type of cooperation is timeless, something experienced operators have done for a century in honor of our solidarity and willingness to work together.

If a bus arrives early at a downtown time point and fails to take the last position to dwell, hogging the first position for two or three light cycles, the unfortunate driver who pulls in behind them is treated to an agonizingly-unnecessary wait.

In my case, it further elevates my frustration. Since I work very hard not to be early when I arrive downtown to find another operator who is too early in the first position, it makes me extremely late leaving the transit mall. Such a selfish action truly pisses me off, especially because I work very hard not to "be that guy." It affects my On-Time Performance, which has overtaken Safety in management's unrealistic transit eyes.

"I'm only burning 20-30 seconds," one operator told me when I secured my bus in the second position after he sat through an entire green light. Having this happen every night, I left my bus to question his actions. I was worried something was awry on his bus, and would have helped had that been the case. It was not.

"You've been here ever since I left 5/Pine!" I declared. "You're not even supposed to arrive here until two minutes after I leave! Do the right thing, and burn time at the Burnside Bridge stop, and this wouldn't happen. Please! Burn your time, if you must, in the last position. You're making me two-to-three minutes late every night!"

The operator waved me off with a dismissive gesture. It's bad enough when you ask a passenger to follow transit code and they blow you off. But when a fellow operator, who has been driving long enough to know the rules does this, it is a terrible bummer.

So, if you're a rookie on a mini-run or as an extra board operator, remember your brothers and sisters have done this route day-in and out for possibly years. You're still learning. Take a lesson and think about what you're doing. If you're doing a run you have been rolling all the sign-up, you know better than to run early and burn time at the expense of those behind you. Take a moment. Think about how your actions are affecting others. If you're not the most important person in the world, maybe you'll realize there are real-time repercussions to others for your misdeeds. We want to roll on time too. Perhaps our bladders are bursting past managerial expectations, and your selfish actions are pushing us beyond our body's limits. Ever sat in a urine-stench operator seat? Your inexperience might have caused it.

We all learn as we go, or we don't learn at all. Some are only concerned with their own schedule, others "just deal with it." As the years roll by, a "good" operator thinks not only of themselves, but for those with whom they share the job. Any time we can work together is time Dispatch could spend dealing with more vital issues than our petty inabilities to remember what we're trained to do.

If you're new to the job or a route, take a moment to listen to what other operators are trying to teach you. Don't wave us off with the dismissive and flippant gesture of unearned arrogance. In no circumstance, flip us off or curse us when your actions are blocking us from rolling smooth. If you need to be told, listen for crying out loud. Do not ever take actions that would certainly land you in trouble if a supervisor saw it.

Do the right thing. It's what we're taught in training, and takes on an even more vital importance when you're rolling in unison with others who have probably done this job years more than you. It's called "teamwork."

Please do NOT call in and ask to be put into "Drop Off Only" mode if you're on your last run of the shift. Concurrently, learn by watching what it means to "skip stop" on a busy route. It will likely help rather than hinder you. We've all done this, and it's time for you to breathe and watch a pro roll.

Please do NOT dwell for early time in the first position of ANY shared stop. You're early? Good for you. The bus behind you is likely right on time, and your laziness is making them late. Get a grip, and watch how a professional rolls. This is a good time to learn, rather than sit there and look like a rookie.

If you're new to the extra board, which I know many of you are, way too early than you should be, realize there are unwritten rules of the road you may not be wise to yet. Watch and learn. We all had veterans teach us, let us teach you. Be respectful, courteous and patient. That's the ONLY way you'll excel at this job. It's rough, yeah. But if you take the time and think about what happens, you'll get it like we did. Soon, you'll be teaching those who follow you to learn the rules you have learned by sweat, fear, and finally... acceptance of the transit reality we have all come to know.

One other sound bit of advice: when you actually realize another has taught you a valuable lesson, acknowledge and thank them for it. Remember it. Exercise these lessons with every roll. If we fail to work together out there, it becomes infinitely more difficult and frustrating than it needs to be. You will learn the ways we work by, or you'll die by them. Don't piss us off... you're following in our footsteps. Accept, acknowledge, and learn good habits. That's what keeps us rolling smoothly as a team.

As winter blows into the Great Northwest, it's even more important you stop and think about what your brothers and sisters are telling you. Every moment is a vital learning step in your transit education. Study every one of them.

Word, dude. Deke loves you. Share it. Accept it. Deal with it. Don't ever forget it. Most of all, don't take your veterans for granted... you can always learn from us. There might also be moments when we learn from you.






Thursday, November 14, 2019

WHO ARE YOU ALL?


This blog has always been written to describe the feelings during the life of ONE bus operator. If you read it, please post a comment. Whether HERE or on FaceBook, reader responses are what a writer lives for. Like it? Disagree? Your feedback is valuable.

Lately, the stats have been all over the globe. I'm not sure if they're from Virtual Private Networks, or whatever. However, the sheer numbers of "clicks" would warrant an equally-commensurate amount of reader comments. As they have not occurred as the stats predict, I worry that many of the clicks do not adequately-portray an accurate reflection of readers. If you read this blog, please "follow" it. Please respond in some way, whether via email (deaconinblue@gmail.com) or on FaceBook. I will personally reply to as many of you as I can.

What I'm trying to say is that I want to believe the volume of readers is accurate. However, in today's cyber-world, given the vast possibilities the internet has to offer, I worry the statistics are but a writer's dream unfounded in reality. Are YOU real? If so, please let me know. If the numbers are false reflections of a technological anomaly, a lack of response confirms this suspicion. If your name is Doug Kelsey, or Patrick Preusser or anyone else in my agency's management, your response is a welcome one. Converse with me. Argue. Dissent. Express an opinion. SAY something, rather than hide behind some flunky's "hit" on my musings.

Every writer's dream is to be read. My goal here is to open a dialogue with anyone who deals with transit. Operator, passenger, maintenance worker, road supervisor, station agent, trainer, middle or upper management... your comments are invaluable to me. But to write to relative silence is torture. I'm not here just to satisfy my desire to write. My goal is to inspire dialogue that improves the transit experience for us all.

Don't be a chicken. Tell me what you feel, even if anonymously. Otherwise, don't bother to "click" on my blog. It's annoying as hell.

Thanks,
Deke N. Blue
Transit Blogger

P.S. This is my 500th post as a transit blogger. Can you dig it?!?

Sunday, November 10, 2019

I Saw Mom, Plus One Who Needed Her


Once upon a faraway time, I became what I was to become.

I saw Mom while I drove today. She's been gone nearly 14 years now, and was the one person to whom I owe my everything. Mom and Dad were determined that I succeed. Hopefully, I have at least met their minimum expectations, but I'm constantly striving to not only meet their lofty standards, but to propel my achievements much higher than they ever hoped.

Mom appeared in my vision as I lapsed into semi-consciousness as a bus operator. Dangerous, you say? Nah. Once you have learned the "ropes," your mind wanders constantly while the body is in auto-pilot. Perhaps that's one thing I shouldn't divulge, given management's desire to replace us with automation, but I have to be true here. You expect that from me. It's our momentary fear, but I speak truth to our fears. We can only win if we stick together. Otherwise, we're doomed.

Anyway, I saw Mom floating in my mind's eye. She was dressed in her wollen wrap, her hair done in that 60s "do," her hair free of the silver she left us with. And... that... smile. I felt so warm when I saw her. It was the smile she gave me when she was pleased with me. It was her "I'm proud of you" grin. Full, loving and warm. Given that she was an ornery and fiery individual, it was truly comforting to see her so happy. My soul was comforted.

She appeared as I thought of the direction this blog is turning back toward. I'm feeling the pull once again of what led me to write this in the first place: to describe what it feels to be ME, guiding The Beast through Portland's gentle forested rolls, with all its good and bad, the sweet and sour. My new book was also coursing through the veins and arteries of my main control center. It's happening as we live here, underneath our many bridges and throughout the adjacent forested lands which hold us in their hypnotic sway.

A recent vacation and some deep soul-searching have given birth to epiphanies I was blind to while under the spell of a grinding push toward freedom. This blog has actually become an obstacle to new projects. I'm addicted to it. Many of you have told me directly and through back channels that you value these words.

It's like a drug, folks. If I give in to it too much, I lose sight of the bigger picture. My ultimate goal is to retire as a "novelist who once drove a bus for a living." This has been incredible practice, allowing my soul to preach the words which resonate within. However, it also holds me back from a goal I set for myself long ago, when Mom lived and urged me to write. I didn't know how to listen then. Stubborn as she was, she was possessive of a knowledge granted through a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams; she was insistent that I pursue and achieve my one true love: communicating with you via the words which stream from my conscious soul. She somehow knew I had a gift whose value was but a tickle of an inkling. Now, it roars through me like a storm surge on the shores of Netarts Bay. The gulls scream to me, the wind roars "WRITE" and it echoes all the way to Portland. The resulting waves spread outward toward wherever you read this. Hopefully, we'll continue to have this connection as long as my hands grip the wheel of a city bus.

So here I sit writing to YOU again, beloved readers, instead of where I should be exploring new paths as a writer. Now, I'm off to continue on a tangent that pulls me away from this blog, even though I feel guilty for doing so. As if I betray you to stray into the realms of fantastical fiction. My posts here MUST return toward the goals of my original offerings.

I drive a bus for a municipal corporation that seems to value stats over the humanity of its most valuable employees. While my words have often strayed from my promises, it's only because I feel a great love for those with whom I share this work. For over 100 years, we have given millions of safe rides to our fellow Portlanders, rarely celebrated yet betrayed whenever something goes tragically awry.

You all have endured my rants while living them. If I don't say what I feel, perhaps you are betrayed by FTDS. It's my solemn vow not to leave you behind. My butt cheeks roll in the seat with every sway, and my feet beat a rhythm between accelerator and brake while the other clicks signals to tell those ahead and behind me what my next move will be. This blog is more a part of me than you could ever know. Your kind words, comments and book purchases warm my heart to a point where it feels it will burst with reciprocated love for you.

So I must leave you with one final transit tidbit. As my run ended tonight and I scanned the bus for left-behind items and/or the rare trash I find on this route, my eyes were surprised to find a sleeping young lady in the back of my bus. She was so peaceful, yet frightened even as she dozed. Her hands grasped a bar rising from the seat in front of her as if she held onto some left behind comfort. A flimsy jacket, her only hope against the cool November drizzle chill, had fallen off her shoulders on my warm vehicle. Although clean, she appeared a bit disheveled, like home was a far-away dream or something that may never have been. I paused upon finding her, cuddled into the far corner my passenger mirror failed to reflect. Tenderly, I gave her warning this was the end of the line, my last run of the night.

"Time to wake up, dear lass," I said as gently as possible. I hate to startle sleepers. They are, after all, a compliment. If my driving lulls someone to sleep, the "be smooth" part of The Mantra has been steadily adhered to. She awoke slowly, as if I was part of her dream.

"Where are we?" she asked sleepily, not opening her eyes. She appeared not much over 18, a victim of some nightmare I would not want to be privy to.

"We're at the end of the line," I said as gently as possible. Once upon a time, I might have been more authoritative, insistent and perhaps even a bit rude. Not now. I've seen too much of the horrific bottom rungs of society's ladder to remain the asshole my once-arrogant soul I once was. "It's time to get off the bus, dear."

She moaned. "It's so warm on this bus."

I gazed at her, as if she was my daughter. I knew she was somebody's child. As a father, it's very difficult to leave someone you consider "a little girl" out in the drizzly chill that awaited.

"Where do you need to go?" I asked, checking the seats near but not next to her. I did not want her to feel threatened by my presence, but be warmed by it instead.

"Downtown," she replied.

"Okay," I said. "I'll give you a ride to the MAX, and it will get you there. In the meantime, please move forward, and try not to fall asleep again, okay? I don't want you to get hurt if I have to stop suddenly."

She did not reply. I moved back to the front of the bus and hit "Restroom Delay" on the CAD, my usual ending of this run. Nicotine beckoned, and a good stretch of the 56-hour-week toll on this aging body. I told her to sit tight, and I'd be back in a few minutes. She mumbled some gurgling of appreciation, and I stepped into a drizzly chill which I love and she probably dreads. After a few pulls on my vape machine which cost more than she may have seen in a month, I hopped back into the seat. She dozed in a front-facing Honored seat, and I greeted her once again as I tapped "Ready for Service" into the computer.

"Okay," I said a bit louder than I might to a wakeful human. "Here we go. Make sure you stay awake because it'll only take about five minutes to get to the MAX. You good?"

"Yeah," she mumbled. Then I heard (or perhaps imagined), a soft "thank you."

We rode along in silence. I kept glancing into the mirror to make sure she was okay. Her eyes were open, yet transfixed upon a reality I wasn't sure was one we needed to explore. Sometimes, it's best to leave people to their highs or lows. Unless they offer, it's best not to open the floodgates. She would have shared if the need arose. Meanwhile, I chose to continue as trained: JUST DRIVE, mufugga.

As she exited, I asked if she had fare. She didn't; I gave her a day pass. Fuck it. If that was the best she received for the day, I was glad to give it. And that, my friends, is the human element of transit which automation cannot match. A robotic bus would have kicked her into the cold and cruel elements of those who wander alone with whatever reality they know. A human feels a common connection where a computer knows only what the rules are. Fuck that; this girl needed somewhere safe and warm to simply be. With my ride, she only had to walk 100 yards or less and wait a few minutes for the next warm respite from the nightmare she lived. In lieu of that $5, I refused to time slip the 10 minutes I arrived late. Fair is fare, eh? I'm sure Mom's smile extended to that tiny contribution to humanity.

As promised, I must leave for now. But hey, I'm hooked. I'm an addict. To you. To what we do for those who ride. To our respective unions and all who depend upon them to fight for what is and what needs to be. If you tell me to shut the fuck up, then I must. Until then...

Forever in your collective debt, I am
Deke N. Blue

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A Drug Test and Traffic Nightmare


Portland's Tilikum Crossing, a truly-astounding
bridge that exists only for
transit, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Deke's Note: Damn. Wanted to write on my book tonight, but all went haywire. First, my keyboard batteries went dead, then the thing wigged out after I reconnected it via purple teeth or whatever they call it. Opened the file, and Word forced an update down my enraged 0-1-0-1 gullet. Then the mouse died. Evidently, the writing gods have spoken. So here I am again, in a rare midweek offering. Hopefully, the muse will be brief; I'm exhausted.

Recently pulled off my bus for a random drug/alcohol screening. I loved it! A 90-minute respite from what was a grueling day on the route was just what Deke's recipe called for. Given this week has already been a whopper, I truly enjoyed peeing for a stranger and blowing for all my nicotine-blasted lungs could offer.

At that point in my shift halfway through the two-thirds point, I could have filled a gallon, but she only asked for a shot glass. I could hear the tech's immaculately-painted nails tapping on her desk as I peed. Then it slowed, and started again with gusto. That urination fart must have tickled her funny bone because surely I heard her snort. Of course, that stopped the stream, and with a groan I got it going again. Hey, my kidneys are working well for an aging hippie.

After a few minutes, I returned the sample to her. It took me so long not only because of the extensive flow time, but also out of sympathy... leaving the abdominal stench in the bathroom was my goal. I hope the ghost vapors didn't follow me outward. They would have made the 1960s summertime Phoenix stockyards resemble a rose garden.

Yeah, I can be crude. Sorry.

* * * * *

On Tuesday, just as rush hour struck, the power went out in downtown Portland. Yeah, the traffic lights went DARK. Very disconcerting to a bus operator sitting behind three other buses at an intensely-crowded intersection preceding a freeway on ramp.

I know what you're thinking: such a situation calls for all motorists to adhere to Basic Driving 101. When traffic lights are not functioning, a motorist is to treat each intersection as a four-way stop. Yeah, right. What happens is that everyone thinks it's time to race through as if the light was still green. Yee haw!

The bus in front of us three was a mini run route. It's usually staffed by a newbie, and this was evident by their reluctance to show a veteran's nerve. Finally, a gentle beep by Operator #2 coaxed #1 into the intersection.

"That's it," I cooed with encouragement, "ease that beast out there, that's the way you do it, your money for nothing and your tricks for free!" Then it stopped, just short of the flow of traffic. Hmm, I thought, that's okay. He's just giving them a hint. It moved again, and this time the nose of the bus was encroaching on the cross-traffic's far right lane.

"Nice. Keep inching out there," I murmured. All the while, my mind was shouting to him, "MOVE THAT BEAST AND GROW A PAIR!"

It must have been a telepathic connection made, because in the next short break of steadily-oozing traffic, #1 busted loose.

"YEAH BABY, THAT'S IT!" I don't know who #1 was, but they immediately earned a patch of Deke pubes for that maneuver. (Not that they would want, or accept such a prize.)

Then our transit muscle burst forth with explosive gusto. #2 followed #1 closely, and #3 hugged his rear with me rolling at a safe bus-length distance. Aw HELL NAH, I wasn't stopping either! My mirror revealed yet a fifth bus busting ass behind me to follow us through, so I slowed my roll a bit to block for him and he made it just in time.

We were treated to a chorus of honks. How dare we interrupt their law-breaking rudeness?!? The nerve of it all! I believe we all laughed at this impatient cacophony of enraged entitlement as we halted their illegal stream. I waved at them all from a considerable perch as I sailed past.

Here we are, buses full of people who choose to ride zero-emission transit rather than join the exhaust-laden single passenger hordes, obeying the laws until our collective patience says "ENOUGH OF YOUR BULLSHIT!" Then we roll as a pack, like huge wolves on a mission. Dare to step into our path and invite 20-tons of wrath to wreak havoc upon your perhaps 1.5-2 ton SUV or oversized urban 4x4. The Beasts Won the Battle of the Lug Nuts.

If we aren't (as my now-retired Line Trainer Dan Martin once told me) "politely aggressive," we would wait at that intersection and take a forced interval until the power came back on. That would mean we'd miss a break at the end of the line, which happens enough to many of us at this time of day. Screw that. Our breaks are of infinite value, the precious few moments we can leave the seat during a 10-hour shift. Try sitting in a non-ergonomic torture chamber for half a day and ask whether you'd be as patient as we are. All these other motorists arrive home roughly at their usual time and enjoy the warmth of their families, while we continue dealing with the remnants of the herds of unchecked imbeciles who are somehow allowed to become licensed drivers.

Like many municipalities, our police force is pushed to the breaking point. Our cops don't have time to patrol our streets to issue citations for law-breaking motorists. They're busy dealing with drug addict antics and responding to collisions involving these impatient, fire-breathing maniacs we maneuver around for a living.

Hey man, I just love this job. On occasion, I viscerally hate it. But Bus Operator is what I have become. It drives me. My clock ticks around the lifestyle which sustains me for my Herculean efforts. It is so pervasive as to dictate how my entire life is structured. Non-union employees who have never driven a bus cannot understand how our lives work. They leave the office at the end of a workday and leave it all behind. Not us. Once we leave the garage, we're programmed to safely drive home (remember, we have to protect that valuable Commercial Driver License), (h)eat dinner, have a little free time but not over-indulge in the after-work cocktails because we're subject to the test I described. I could have another urination show tomorrow or next week or next month or next year. That's why it's called "random."

So I had a drink after dinner. It's all I'm allowed during the work week. I wonder how many non-union employees said "Aw what the hell, I'll get blasted after dinner. After all, I can ride transit free to work tomorrow." I'm pretty sure that pushing a mouse around is incredibly-less stressful than handling the controls of a bus or light rail vehicle, fixing stranded buses in all types of weather, or investigating a dozen-odd incidents as a road supe. Certainly not nearly as hectic or heroic as monitoring it all from a dispatcher's seat. But I digress...

My brothers and sisters will be there to collect their hungover butts and drop them off at Harrison, Center or wherever else they put their nine hours in. Then, my shift will drop them back at their home bus stop and continue on long after our masters turn in for the night. We'll suffer the downturned gazes as the hordes "Hop" on, giving them permission to ignore our polite greetings as they board. It's an acceptable norm for transit riders today to bypass the operator unless they use the old-fashioned cash method of paying fare. Even then, it's an awkward glance or forced smile while showing a soon-to-become-antiquated printed pass. It's as if people forget there are actual human beings at the wheel of the vehicle they're riding, a sad commentary on the social disconnect invading our culture.

That's us, the abused robots of transit. We're here for you, and you're welcome. See ya next time you ride, even when you refuse to look at me. I'll get you there safely. Bet on it while you remain hypnotized by that gadget in your hands. Just make sure you look up from it before crossing in front of my bus. I'll see you anyway. Traffic coming around me or from the opposite direction might not.

Good night, and safe travels.

Love,
Deke

Deke's guillotined body shadow
waves hello waiting for his bus to arrive
after his random drug
screening. Howdy!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Greetings, and You're Welcome!


Deke's Note: It's been a while since I noticed that there are "followers" to this blog. Well howdy! Thank you for caring enough about what is written here to request notification when something more is added. This one, dear 9, is for you.

Every once upon a time, I'm reminded why I love this gig. Portlanders are, generally so, appreciative of those who operate the transit vehicles they ride upon. While this "Hop" fare phenomenon tends to allow the introverted to board without acknowledging their operator, even the most docile tend to thank us as they exit. It's much appreciated, even when we don't have a chance to grant you a reciprocal farewell.

Sometimes, I'm treated to a few words with my passengers. This is a welcome respite to the overwhelming silence that has pervaded transit vehicles the past decade as cell phones have replaced the art of verbal communication. I'm also impressed when I look back and find a newspaper-reading passenger. When I first began writing this blog, the cell phone was becoming an entrenched wedge between humans. It has allowed people to disconnect from each other, even as they interact electronically. My bus is almost always as silent as a funeral home. People have lost the art of conversation along the way this past decade.

Social media has given everyone the opportunity to interact with only those whose interests align with their own. Whenever there is discussion between opposing viewpoints, it has become insulting and insidious, without the benefit of shared interests blending with viewpoints. We have become an insulting, seething mass of fury, where we once understood the differences of another were a possible venue to new understanding and acceptance. Now we seem to retreat to corners in which we feel comfortable. We don't have to come together with those we disagree; it's easier to side with those whose beliefs coincide with our own.

My own political philosophy has evolved considerably since I was under the influence of my parents' teachings. While I loved and respected them, my own life's experiences found me drifting away from what they believed. Still, we could discuss the issues upon which we disagreed. We learned from each others' experiences, and found we could still respect one another without any sense of anger or distrust. We were simply beings who came from different backgrounds, and our social understanding was borne of evolving patterns of the human experience. My own children offer differ from what I know to be true, because they are living in a different time as I did, far removed from my own parents' world. It's all relative, as they say. The times change, but the human experience remains similar even as we evolve over the centuries.

Given that, I love people for who they are; I love you because you are kind and fun, regardless of what you believe politically, spiritually or otherwise. We're so alike, even when we fail to understand how our differences aren't as polarizing as is generally perceived. Most of us love those around us very deeply, and want the best the future has to offer. We simply have developed our own value systems along the way. Sometimes they converge with others of different backgrounds and ideas, and that's where humans have a distinct advantage over lower life forms: we can agree to disagree while still remaining true to one another. When we forget this is possible, that's when wars begin, where we forget to treat others with the respect the Golden Rule dictates.

So, my "9," and whoever else reads this, just know that you're not "other" to me if we disagree. You're as part of me as those who do agree, and I can learn from you. Maybe along the way, I'll write something you'll find inspiring or thought-provoking that leads to a higher-understanding, something different than you've ever considered possible before.

Yeah, I'm "just a bus driver." But hey, I've been many other things as well. I've driven an 80,000-lb. tractor trailer from LA to Boston and everywhere in between, safely and efficiently. I have also been a radio news director, typographer, computer technician, customer service rep, editor, friend, husband, father, son, brother, uncle, grandfather, nephew and neighbor. I've dug ditches and had fire ants attack my nether regions under a blazing 117-degree summer sun. Picked fruit under the same conditions, delivered printing to corporations who wouldn't even let me use their dirty restrooms. I have been attacked, insulted, ignored and complained about when I didn't deserve such treatment. Yeah, I've felt the barbs of thousands, yet still smiled in the face of it all and did my best to serve with kindness and understanding.

So here I am, humble bus operator. Through all my life, my one goal has always been to excel at whatever I do. Right now, my main goal is to deliver humans safely to their destinations. With a smile, a kind word and hopefully a bright moment to perhaps a dark existence.

You may not know it when you board, but Deke N. Blue is there for you, with you and hopeful for all the best life has to offer, always hoping the best finds you. All I ask in return is people and their "service animals" respect the rules of transit, treat your operator and fellow passengers with respect and do the right thing. If you achieve all this and fail to thank me on the way out, it's all good.

Peace be always with you and yours. Oh, and you're welcome.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

My Technological Transgression


I remember lecturing my children, as my own father did me, about how important it is to be consistent in their habits. "You can use that tool," Dad would tell me, "but only if you put it back exactly where you found it." Hmm... my kids will laugh at this, because I'm sure they have heard it many times spoken by their own dear ol' Papa. Now I'm embarrassed because I lost my phone. Or, my subconscious wants to believe, someone stole it.

Something else I learned early in the computer era: back up your data. Once upon a long ago time, I worked for a software company which produces and supports accounting software. Many of my calls would involve an enraged customer blaming us for not being able to access their data after a computer crash.

"When was your most recent back up?" I would ask, wincing at the expected reply.

"Whaddya mean," they would holler, "I thought you guys did that automatically from some secret location! I don't know shinola about no back up, except my back side is fired if I can't get this report out in 10 minutes!"

Then I would have to patiently explain that if there was nothing backed up, there was no accessing the information. It was gone... POOF! Into a cloud that did not yet exist, into the server of infinite nevermore. My ears would burn for hours after some calls, and my fellow reps would gather at our smoke break to exchange nightmare stories. People whose entire business financial records were entered into our software, never backed up, becoming part of history. I cannot even begin to imagine recovering from such a nightmare. Perhaps this software does automatically back up data for its customers. I'm sure the idea was conceived after they played back many of those early support calls.

Fast forward 22 years, with all the clouds and terabyte storage available... on a telephone. Back then, a megabyte was impressive. Now it's an amusing anecdote to a simpler time. So is my memory. In addition to my senior moments, I have always had the tendency to procrastinate. This time, it cost me dearly. All the photos taken from my iPhone of a wonderful vacation... gone.

My last version of "the iPhone" (or what I now refer to as "the iPhuckedUp") was either misplaced as I left my last break one night, or was stolen out of the overhead bin on my bus. Foolish me, I am a trusting soul who tends to rely on basic decency and a sense of honor from my less-than-adorable customer base. Who would steal from the guy who works so hard to give his passengers a smooth and safe ride every day? Anybody desperate enough to do so with several cameras watching, evidently.

The only other scenario, as I said, is that I didn't put it in the overhead bin behind the operator's seat. Perhaps I left it on the wheel well (again), and a passenger just picked it up, muttering "finders keepers" while I concentrated on the road ahead. Either way, I have been phoneless for three days. As I write, my new device is being restored from a backup dated September 2, 2019. It's enough to make me sick, but I'm out of leave thanks to that bout of flu I suffered through last month.

Early in this blog's life, I would rant and rave about people and their phones. Sometimes, I still do. That's a bit hypocritical of me, since I've grown just as attached to mine as anyone else is today. What once hung on the wall (still does, in the smarter households who refuse to be assimilated into today's Borg culture), which could be ignored when it rang and our favorite TV show or the radio blared, or instead maybe an intriguing book was just getting to the good part. Today, virtually every aspect of our lives is stored on a handheld device more powerful than the computers which sent the first men to the moon in the 1960s. The mega-thick James Michener or Charles Dickens novels I once devoured can now claim only the tiniest slice of space on today's electronic readers. To me, turning pages is much more rewarding than depending on a gadget. I prefer the feel of murdered trees in my hands. (Apologies to our leafy victims.)

The good part about this, as a balanced scale is vital to this Libra, is that I finally began reading a book I picked up while on vacation. A slim volume, it describes the life of a farm boy in the early part of the last century. Since it's not far removed from my late father's similar childhood, I'm finding it fascinating to discover what life was like prior to today's modern "improvements in cellular technology." Sounds positively biological. However, I refuse to treat my device as a living being even as it scolds me for attention like a scorned lover any time I have a free moment.

Now that I have successfully existed three full days without it, I may restructure my breaks to involve more reading of... books. Yeah, those antiquities made of paper, which give the most wonderful whispery sound as its pages turn. Reading about a young farm boy's exploits is fascinating compared to catching up on the latest political rants, or who is "trending" on YouTube, or what FaceBook considers "inappropriate for community standards."

My book has an aroma that can only be described as enticing as standing in a nonagenarian's musty library. Heavenly. Its worn, plain green cover gives no hint of the treasures which lay within. But now I know, upon holding it reverently in my steering wheel- and cell-abused hands, that a mystical world of yesteryear awaits whenever I thumb to the bookmark beckoning from its vellum pages.

If I'm lucky, some lad in a similar working-class job 80 years from now may hold my book in his or her hands, a relic found in some antique store. The gas station where I buy my lotto tickets and the fast-food joints near my layover will likely be long-gone. Hopefully, the trees will remain, with perhaps several more to keep the old fellas company. I have a strong affinity for naturally-growing beings. If humans aren't replaced by this technological explosion we constantly endure today, a writer's main hope is to have their words outlast their mortal remains.

Meanwhile, I propose to keep a tighter leash on my electronic tether. SOPs be damned. It's been hell getting the new device to mesh with my 60-day-old backup. Sometimes I wish I had been born 100 years earlier.



Sadness BusBits

Deke's Note: After the fright, stress and flashbacks of the violent incident on my bus just over a week ago, I have ached to reach back ...