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!

2 comments:

  1. Spot on, traffic & passengers. Sometimes the tech zombies give me the willies. Thanks for the laugh.

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad there was something in there which tickled your funny bone. I'm trying to return to Deke's infancy. Perhaps a bit of Benjamin Button has crept into this blogger's evolution? Either way, thanks for reading!

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