Friday, February 14, 2020

My Treasured Transit Valentine Gift

Deke's Note: Today, I feel ill. Is my body just tired, or is some bug which slithered aboard without my knowlege ailing me? Given the puke I was presented with when I relieved my line today, it's always a crap shoot. Either way, I pissed off my Station Agent by calling in sick today. Sorry, Brother. There are times when we have to weigh our body's limitations with the work load ahead. I tried to go to sleep on time... could not, due to a churning stomach and overworked mind... fall to sleep. If I try to operate a bus on less than six hours of rest, it's not SAFE.

Not wanting to disturb my Beloved with prolonged wakeful sighs, I arose to write this post. My belly isn't happy whether I'm sitting or lying down, so I might as well write to you, my Awesome Readers. Thanks as always, for being there. I promise to rest today and prepare for the Memorial of our Dear Sister Freddi Evans (RIP). Emotions prevent me from writing a memorial, because I tend to sob when eulogizing those I have adored, and she deserves a much-better light than anything I could ever shine upon her wondrous memory. Plus, I'm sure her family and even-closer friends already have it covered. I will simply be there out of extreme respect for Freddi and her incredibly-devoted husband, my dear friend and admired brother, Henry. 

It is with all this in mind that I offer this humble reflection of your humble bus driver, Deke N. Blue.

This morning, I write from a position of... cannot sleep. Feel horrible. Total physical, mental and soulful exhaustion. Can you relate? I'm sure many of you have been here. We figuratively "hit a wall" sometimes. This comes from the stress of management pecking away at our decades of blood and toil, while the public wages a not-so-silent war with us while also refusing to acknowledge our mere presence.

(Forgive me for "bitching", but this time I'll try to reward you at its conclusion.)

Bus is the vessel we know every inch of. Front to back, inside and outside. Every inch I scour at the end of the line, for trash or left-behind items someone may be fretting over. Wallets, phones, keys, umbrellas/caps/gloves... we dutifully log them in at the end of our shifts. Why? Who in their sanity would sacrifice a great job (albeit with quickly-dwindling benefits) for someone else's hard-earned valuables? Not this operator, nor the vast number of decent individuals with whom I toil. Whenever we find something left behind, it could be more valuable to the owner than we could imagine. Maybe Grandma bequeathed it to whoever left it behind, and she had just passed away. Perhaps those keys are the only copies available, and their owner had to spend the night at a friend's house as they frantically retraced each step in their previous day trying to determine where they had left them. Our phones are equally valuable today as is our wallet. I have lost two phones to transit, so I'm always on the lookout for such. Almost every item I find is tagged and bagged, in hopes it finds its owner. The rest is trashed, as that is its only logical destination. Bag of pot, lighter, crack pipe, smashed Bic pen... these end up in the trash because to do anything more with them is a waste of valuable transit workers' time.

Once, I came across a wallet of a later-frantic passenger which contained their monthly transit pass, a few hundred bucks, credit cards, ID and other valuables. Noting its contents, I turned it into the Station Agent with a Lost & Found card at the end of my shift. He counted the cash and made note of it, as I had not wanted to do so on the bus, even though I made sure the cameras followed my every move from discovery to placing it in the trip pouch. (I'm perhaps more paranoid than others regarding ca$h and other valuables because I was once closely-attached to a chronic thief). A few days later, I was uplifted to find a commendation in the mail from the lady who thanked me for recovering it.

Not only do I clean up every scrap left behind at the end of each trip, but I take great pains to sop up spilled drinks and wipe the seats of mud/possible animal excrement that might lurk upon a future passenger's alighting there. I take great pride in providing not only a smooth and safe ride for my passengers, but also as clean an environment as possible. It's a source of pride for me. My bus is my office in this profession. If it's presented as a clean environment, hopefully my passengers will treat it likewise. Mostly, this is what happens. Only the most slovenly treat it like their own personal trash pit. For the majority, I'm truly thankful.

On last night's cruise, several passengers boarded with obvious gifts for their Valentines. On occasion, I often jest with those who board.

"Oh what lovely flowers!" I said to a few in jest. "Thank you so much, I truly appreciate..." and sighed dramatically as they walked past me to find their seats.

Once I simply said "Well, somebody is truly loved! I cannot wait to see what my Beloved has in store for me when I arrive home!" It was met with exclamations of support, while others exclaimed "how sweet!" and other acknowledgements for she who reigns supreme in my heart.

One lady boarded with a plethora of gifts. I smiled at her "hearty" display. She grinned in return, one of few who do so each day I drive this busy Line 9. It was a caring, truly loving smile which warmed me on a cold, rainy Portland winter's eve. It warmed this soul's thermostat enough to turn off my driver side heater. It also made me anticipate seeing my personal Valentine, the gal who has Twitterpated me for 26 years now, and always will.

To my grand surprise, this dear lady stopped as she exited the bus, presenting me with a small stuffed bear.

"Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours," she said, beaming. I was stunned, and broke into a wide grin.

"Wow, really?" I stammered.

"Yes, really," she replied. "Thank you for what you do. And Happy Valentine's Day!"

I sat there, one hand on the wheel, the other clutching this tiny, soft gift from the heart of someone who may (or not) have ridden my roll before.

"Thank you, so very much," I said as she turned to exit the bus. And even if it may not have been heard so, I truly meant it.

I turned this soft little gift in my hands, smiling at the thought of being given such a cute lil' beastie. Propping him into the transfer-cutter-of-old to stare up at me as I drove the rest of my route, my eyes would drop down to him at each red light. Glancing down at Bear-with-no-Name-as-of-Then, I could only smile at this random act of kindness by one in tens of thousands who have acknowledged me with a physical gift.

In this blog, I have sometimes been harshly-judgmental of the riding public at times. Still, I try to illustrate random acts of kindness bestowed upon me. This moment was truly special, and stood out because it wasn't given by one I've seen every day. In fact, she may have ridden once or twice this signup, but if so, didn't make an impression. Until today.

So for this particular Valentine's/Oregon and Arizona Statehood Day, I will rest this body and rejuvenate. To operate a 20-ton vehicle takes the strength of one I cannot possibly duplicate today. My route will be taken by a (hopefully) fresher, younger Extra Board Operator. This will better serve our riding public, and so it shall be.

Thank you, dear Red-Haired Beautiful Fellow Human. Your loving gesture will reside within my Forever Transit Experience. I hereby name him Braugh Laddie, in respect for the human kindness constantly granted us while we enjoyed two weeks in Scotland last year.

Bless you, Portland. You're why I still do this job. Thanks for saying thanks as you exit... it means the world to us!


  1. I love this post. I understand the unable to sleep with work time getting closer and closer ratcheting up the stress. Sometimes I went in, sometimes I laid off. I ran trains for a living, 4000 to 12,ooo ton trains. Does management really want an unrested person running a bus full of humans or a train rolling though a metropolitan area?

  2. That was an awesome gift!
    I hope you're feeling better soon! I totally understand the feeling, especially when it comes to not getting enough sleep. And it's worse for me running freight trains, and being on call for work... at least with a regular schedule, one can plan better, and only be knocked down by the unexpected.