Translate

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!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

ONCE MORE, LOUDER NOW!



Transit operators are being forced to expose themselves to the Coronavirus. Since few people know they have this killer until tested or begin to show symptoms, every time we sit in the operator's seat it's like playing Russian Roulette.

Work from home? Not unless you're in a non-union position which doesn't entail driving a rolling virus factory. Take doctors and nurses to work we do? I doubt many of them want to be anywhere near a bus or light rail vehicle these days.

SHUT IT DOWN! At least for two weeks. Let the infection curve begin turning downward quicker than predicted.

We have an unprecedented split Spring-2 Signup happening this week. Our transit agency has decided that with dwindling numbers of available operators it needs to cut service until at least the end of May. Problem is, we keep hearing about operators and other fellow employees being tested positive every day. Those infected are exploding in number, and most of us wonder not if, but when, it'll infest our own bodies. This may be all for naught; if a majority of US are infected, there may not be ANY available operators by June.

I have faced many challenges in my life. This is the first time I remember ever being scared out of my wits. My blood pressure is constantly climbing. Perhaps that's what killed my friend Dan last week... the stress of knowing our chances of being infected are magnified in the thousands every time we go to work.

Yeah, I'm actually frightened to go out, let alone drive a bus for 10 hours every day. My age and a few health factors put me at greater risk than some, less than others. Many of our brothers and sisters are at exponentially-higher risk than I am. It's difficult to fall asleep at night, knowing the next day I could come home and infect my wife and son, or even the passengers I'm ferrying around town.

The Governor wants us to stay at home, and has so decreed it. Millions across the world have lost their jobs and some have died. What's worse? Can public transit "survive"? That's not nearly as important as whether WE will.

Throughout this pandemic, our agency has reacted rather than taken major, proactive steps to protect us. Salem just shut down its Cherriotts bus system and it won't be long before other agencies take this drastic step. It will save lives, but will our own? Finances may be important under normal circumstances, but this has grown way beyond that.

Do the right thing, Management. Save our lives and SHUT IT DOWN!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Day's End: Return from Self-Quarantine


As I awaited my Saturday roll, Downtown Portland
was oddly silent. Thankfully, its residents largely
remained at home to combat this pestilent
beast COVID-19 as our beloved city
endured an eerily-quiet vigil.
May our collective power once again propel
our fellow citizens with a renewed spirit of strength
and renewal, through our powerfully-inclusive spirit.

Deke's Note: In any collective history, the most difficult challenge leads to an uplifting victory. For two weeks, I self-quarantined in fear my son would develop more symptoms after being exposed to a COVID-19 carrier. My youngest child has always, just like his two siblings, has always emerged victorious to any challenge. Still, he self-isolated in serious concern for his "aging" parents and anyone else with whom he could come in contact with.

As a quickly-aging "Boomer" I have at least three health factors which place me in a "higher risk" population to the world's most-invasive viral threats. The last three days stuck at home rattled me more than any other catastrophe I've faced since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Blood pressure soared as I contemplated what could happen. As a lack of symptoms, perhaps due to my son's devotion or simple ancestral luck over almost 300 years as Americans made it clear that our family's nucleus was past immediate danger,  I confronted returning to my job as a bus operator. Fear and consequences be damned, it was vital that I regain the seat. Besides New York,  the Northwest is one of the hardest-hit areas in our country and Canada. There is, literally "danger in the air out there", yet the work of transit knows no vacation from any of humanity's constant perils. Thus prefaced, I give you this operator's return to service after two weeks where my brothers and sisters have faced what I temporarily could not.

As I remained sequestered except for an occasional grocery jaunt, my subconscious treated it as a vacation. Knowing I would burn up the rest of my sick leave and May's signed vacation week, what else could I do but enjoy it? Spending time with Beloved, we also supported friends and other family members who have been severely-affected by this pandemic.

Finally, I found time to read again. Oh, how I missed caressing the pages of a paperback! To engross oneself in reading a work of fiction is pure bliss. For the past several years, I have toiled upon this blog while also writing short stories both fiction and non-, and until I moved into apartment hell, gardening. Returning to turning pages has brought me great comfort during this viral interference.

In the past decade, society has evolved into nonsensical-cellularism. Anything pre-cellphone is now considered quaint or antique. True, our internet dependence has allowed information to flow through our fingertips at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, too much of it is laced with nearly- or somewhat-factual nonsense. Most of it may be designed to inspire great fear. Paranoia. In the past few decades America has moved from honoring each others' differences to fearing and sadly at times, hating them.

Divide and conquer as I have often mentioned, makes us all slaves to the Masters' Plan to seize even the slightest of our collective dreams. As we battle this tiny bastard Covid-19, our fears allow THEIR control of US. We fight each other for life's supposed necessities, but our heartless masters fear little. They have little to lose, but we could be rendered completely helpless. We constantly fight each other while gaining nothing from it except further nightmares. Why? Because we are conditioned to do so.

From the beginning of humankind, as agriculture separated the dishonest from the working class,  those who have control others who have not. The latter has always envied what the former controls, and therein remains our constant struggle. Problem is, the former has never wanted to share what the latter produced. Each time the supposedly-weaker have risen in protest, the stronger have held the advantage through dishonesty, bribery, threats culminating in ultimate power. Humanity's rise has rewarded the misdeeds of a few whilst the masses doing their bidding suffer the most. 

I hear that four-letter word all too often now. Before hate, came compromise. However, the former has replaced the latter with growing intensity. Why? Because the weakest minority of humanity's soul has replaced the majority's ingrained goodness. Whenever we have worked together, greatness has been achieved. When we fight amongst each other, we lose in many ways. Our freedoms, resolve and ability to rise together can be rendered fait ridiculi with a singular stroke of some YouTube video appealing to the basest, least-Godly ideals occupying humanity's most-horrific depths. Unfortunately, America seems to be negativity's biggest fan. Our revered founders must surely be spinning in their hallowed graves at this point in our history. 

Fear-induced hoarding has left grocery shelves empty, as if the rest of humanity doesn't deserve its daily bread, let alone tomorrow's. I was always taught that God commanded us to love one another, no matter our differences. I don't see much of that right now. My own brother seems to consider me an enemy of the state, even though his earliest ideals of equality and justice buoyed my own political party switch in the 1980s.

The past month has evolved too quickly to keep pace with what "shoulda" been done yesterday if we "coulda" known what we "woulda" if only facts had been presented us. Now, many are left with little while others gloat through soaking the needy with their greedy excesses. It saddens the kind-hearted and maddens many others.

Whatever. I seem to have wandered again. It's a luxury I have claimed through luring you via this blog for so long. Hey, I'm trying not to hit too many keys in this journey but sometimes it just happens. You know me, or should, by now. Brevity only reduces my heart's desire to explore this soul's ethereal journey. A writer's prerogative, the poet's lament. Whichever I am, both inspire these words.

So I take you back to the original intent of this missive. My journey back into the bus operator's seat after two weeks of viral terrorism propelled me to write this post. Yeah, the lead-up was hell, but the return itself once again brought me peace.

I lost a friend this week, the second in a month. My brothers and sisters have gathered together to fight the beast which still seems to control US even though WE do their bidding. To gain that mystical seat I have fought so hard to be honored with was one comfort which perhaps I needed most.

Sellwood Bridge was mostly-empty for the first time
I have ever seen it as I returned to my seat
within
The Beast we all serve.

You see, there is more fear when we do nothing, than when we hide from what needs doing. I thought my self-quarantine shielded me and my beloveds from the dangers "out there," but it simply staved off the inevitable. When we do what we feel necessary through hysteria, consequences render past decisions ridiculous. Yet on occasion, we are glad to have acted in haste rather than agonizing later over not having done anything at all. Either way, it's a wash. Our survival depends upon that innate, DNA-driven desire to survive. While my immediate past self-quarantine may have saved me from COVID-19's initial infestation, it could also become my ultimate demise through the future's delicacy. Only time, as they say, will tell.

"So, I got a chance to sing, to find my voice on stage, and I TOOK it. And I still take it. Every single night, in front of every single audience. And I never, EVER take it for granted. When I leave this Earth I will look back with great love, because I got the chance to sing." 
-- Ann Wilson of "Heart" during the band's induction to the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame

As my two weeks of fear culminated the other evening, a soothing voice implored me to just be calm. There is no escape from the inevitable. We either embrace doom and dive right into it, perhaps to emerge even stronger on the other side, or hide from it and suffer anyway. We are not entitled to any protection no matter what precautions avail themselves to us. Each soul is given a finite time on Earth. My own is no more protected than yours. However, my whole life has implored me through faith and love to pray for your safety over my own. He bade me early in life to constantly pray for others, and through this action I might find my own salvation. Even though my faith has suffered years of hardship, I still find solace in One more powerful and holy than anything else I've found in these nearly-60 mortal years. This belief has empowered me to hold all others above myself: family, friends and everyone in between. Only through my deep love of others is the only way in which I have ever found peace.

When I returned home tonight from this viral hell transit workers constantly endure, my Beloved had me strip out of the uniform, place it into the washing machine, shower and don fresh bedclothes before I could even eat me dinner. Then, we snuggled together to watch the latest Outlander episode. This epic literary series propelled us to our wonderful Scotland/Ireland trip. It is our favorite foray into fiction.

Hopefully 30 years hence, when my heart beats its last, Beloved knows part of my ashes must be strewn within Arizona's Galiuro Wilderness and also along Isle of Skye's mystical beaches to join the Gulfstream winds of this world we now grace together.

We watched as Jamie and Claire's love sustained them through constant hellacious forays through future and past anguish. This is how we have always lived: together through many turbulent moments in collective time. My own has endured over a dozen years longer than hers, but Beloved's strength propelled me past intense pain and gave me hope for enduring happiness. Perhaps we have both time-traveled to always find each other. If this be simple fantasy, it is ours. Together. And as so, we shall always remain.

As my love for Beloved will forever endure, please remember I have love enough for you all. I wish you peace, safety and health through this hellish nightmare everyone now endures. If I remain when it passes, my prayers will hopefully aid those left behind. If I fail to defeat this tiny assassin, then it is my hope that these words will somehow sustain and propel you all to the greatness I know you are capable of, together. Within and among each other, you are strong. Divided, you will constantly fail. Pull together and STAND. As ONE. When you do, please remember my words imploring you to do so.

Meanwhile, you are sentenced to my transit soul's literate journal as one of many bus operators serving upon God's one Blue Marble. Peace, and all-encompassing safety, be blessed upon you all.

Always,
Deke




Friday, March 27, 2020

Just DRIVE, Deke


I've met some of the most amazing people in my life as a bus operator.
Here I am having a great time with two of my favorites!
I pray they both, ALL they love, and also those
with whom we proudly serve,
remain SAFE through this horrific pandemic.

Oh, and BTW, HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAM! Love you buddy!
Deke's Note: Today is my brother's birthday, and that of my dear friend Sam. In their honor, I'm taking a WTF approach this morning. WTF not? Dwindling readers demand brevity, but a shortened word count does not necessarily result in this operator's truth to transit. Thanks for reading, and safety/wellness remain with you and yours.

Yeah, my post last night was alarmingly-alarmist. However, it was meant to send a message to our management that WE are more important than ITS corporate "financial forecasts". Nobody dared discuss the "nuclear option" so I felt it necessary to do so in my last post. Still, I took great pains to discuss it to highlight the dangers we drive into while others "work from home". As so many of my brothers and sisters have proclaimed, "WE CANNOT DO SO".

Still, I must convey even the least bit of hope to those who have done the nuts-and-bolts work of transit since its inception over a century ago. WE ARE TRANSIT, not management. "It" exists only to propel US forward. Unless those who "lead" have held the controls of a bus or light-rail vehicle in their hands could they ever fathom the dangers we have bravely endured. Instead, they deal in numbers, corporate earnings forecasts, and dreams of all-metropolis-encompassing routes driven by faceless "valuable contributors" to THEIR visions.

A visit to this 18th century Scottish cathedral
led me to pray not only for my immediate
family, but also for those with whom I share
this great profession we serve.
I will once again slide into an operator's seat tomorrow after a two-week self-induced quarantine. It is with regret I have been absent while my fellows have recently endured novel-COVID-19 horrors. However, I am (like you) more concerned with my most-vital mission to safeguard the health of my most beloved. I cannot stress how our loved ones we leave behind each day remain our main concern while we dedicate ourselves to a profession that concurrently depends upon, demands of, and also denigrates, US.

We're merely badge numbers while our years of service are only awarded respect when we remain on the job no matter our health concerns. As long as we daily grasp the controls of transit vehicles, then we're "valued" and hollowly-rewarded with some strange "Master Operator" bullshit. I don't mean to denigrate the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those who attained this honor. Their dedication however was not properly-awarded in light of their sacrifices. If something happens which renders us unable to perform our job, we are simply replaced by a new body. "See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya," they seem to say in their indifference to our personal horror flicks. It tends to negate my desire to achieve such an award.

Still. There are no engraved memorials in either of our three Portland-area garages offering respect to our predecessors' sacrifices. I'd rather see such a long-deserved memorial than ever boast some managerial decoration. My love and respect is much better served in honor of those who gave the best years of their lives while failing to enjoy the just-rewards of their honorable devotion. Like Stewart, a longtime trainer who suffered his untimely demise just weeks before he and his beloved were to enjoy their retirement in Spain. Like lovely Freddi, who suffered a sudden onset of late-stage cancer without our even knowing it, passing away just a few months ago to our horrific grief, leaving my dear friend Henry missing forever the love of his life. There are countless other remembrances of those who passed while in service whose loving presence is greatly-missed most by those with whom they so valiantly served.

My dear friend Dan Wilson passed away yesterday after complaining the day prior about not feeling well as he drove his Line 70. Medical professionals could not save him. After years of suffering from abdominal maladies and countless FMLA leaves of absence, his heart failed. Dan was loved by not only US, but also by the thousands of passengers his smile and heartfelt messages of concern and fellowship bestowed upon them. We mourn him as we fear this horrible pandemic. Maybe Dan was lucky; he won't have to worry about catching it because he escaped its deadly wrath.

RIP, brother Dan Wilson. We're already missing your smiling face!
I knew Dan in some of his greatest pain. He told me one day as we visited in the Milwaukie break room that he didn't know how he could safely drive his bus. Lacking any more sick leave, he bravely held on for that next 20 minutes before being relieved at Center Garage on his final Friday run. He only envisioned that mystical, magical retirement promise we all hope gives us but a few more years with our loved ones before death strikes. I'm so very sorry Dan failed to see his due after nearly 30 years in service to Portland transit. He will forever live within my heart as one who encouraged me to see the light in every passenger who enters my bus. Even in horrible pain and discomfort, he had the strength to find joy in his profession.

RIP, Dan. I enjoyed every minute we shared together. You gave me more than I could ever repay. Your dedication reminds me how I so very much love my fellow operators, maintenance workers, supervisors, station agents, trainers, non-union workers, sanitation workers, fare inspectors, and everyone else who keep the wheels of transit rolling. WE are a team of invaluable proportions. I hope management finally recognizes today's pandemic may render their "financial projections" all for naught if they do not take the unprecedented (yet wholly-vital) step of shutting us down for the first time in history. It might save not only ourselves, but also a great number of our fellow Portlanders. It would also do justice to Dan and all those who have passed while providing such a vital service to our fellow citizens.

If I'm still alive when this pandemic disappears, I will gladly celebrate with you. It's my dream to speak to you in person, en masse at either the Union Summer Picnic at Oaks Park, or at the Labor Day gathering this September. If my untimely demise for whatever reason renders this impossible, I implore you to please remember my ONLY goal for writing this blog has always been to simply write my humble truth to transit: as I see it, From The Driver Side.

Bless you ALL in safety and health.
db
Oh yeah, I wrote a book. So what?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

SHUT IT DOWN!


Deke's Note: Historic. Unprecedented. Hysteric. Yeah, we keep hearing all these horrible words we cannot ignore. The entire world is in a state of chaotic emergency, but we are spinning rather than taking decisive steps to safeguard humanity.

The Oregonian's article, Transit Union: TriMet Not Doing Enough to Protect Union Employees...,  dated March 21, describes the debate between our union and transit management. In the article, ATU757 Vice President Hunt is quoted stating the agency isn't "doing everything I think we can do." VP Hunt suggests that more emphasis be put on sanitizing buses and re-assigning some union workers toward that effort.

Management states in the article that an emergency declaration could delay action because it "would need to get the union's support and agreement on some of its emergency responses". Transit's spokeswoman was then quoted by The Oregonian that working with our union "would decrease our ability to respond quickly and would likely have significant financial implications for the agency". This statement emphasizes management's long-standing habit of casting US as obstacles rather than finding constructive means of working together for the good of all. This debate is a needless power play, one that threatens rather than protects. Given this situation, I'd like to see every suggestion considered, not just those from those who think they know it all.

Both factions need to discard this acrimony and work together for our immediate safety. It's imperative management trusts us throughout this pandemic and learns to implement solutions from all angles. We do the vital work of transit and possess great intelligence within our masses. To move forward without our input is not only disrespectful and arrogant, but blatantly irresponsible.

Portland transit stepped up sanitizing procedures as the virus hit, but once someone touches a surface it is no longer sanitary. You cannot ride a transit vehicle without touching something within it. Grab bars, stanchions, stop request cords, door handles. They should be wiped down at the end of every trip, several times a bus is in service, not just at the end of the service day. Finding the manpower to do so is the trick. I've read where this happens in Broward County, Florida as a matter of course.

Another article in the Oregonian quotes our GM's concerns about "ridership declines" and Mr. Kelsey also said "I'm trying to take a six-month lens for planning purposes". Well sir, it's imperative that a short-term lens, like one which emphasizes the now should be your sole focus. Monetary issues won't matter if there's nobody left. Planning then becomes a moot point, right?

Our media spokesperson stated our agency "has the necessary tools to handle the pandemic without having to invoke any sort of declaration" of emergency. We do? What is this world event then, that  threatens the planet's population? Not as emergent as a snowstorm, perhaps? Or a flood, tornado or volcanic eruption? I'd say a pandemic is extremely-worthy of an emergent declaration.

We cannot implement a comprehensive "back-door entrance" policy here, as other agencies have because, well, our newest buses have electronic doors. Once the operator has flipped the release handle for the back door, passengers must stand close to it and break the downward-pointing laser-beam, which then opens the door. Many passengers are confused by the changes and slam into the back door, push on the handles or simply scream at US to open it for them. The older buses, before design was "improved", featured back doors that automatically opened with the operator's touch. Presto. Perhaps they became a maintenance headache over the years, but we're certainly missing the "old days" now. Is there any way to alter this laser device so the doors open without passenger interaction?

We could wipe things down at the end of a trip, as I did before my self-quarantine took me off the front lines. However, there's a great shortage of wipes, gloves, masks and many other antiseptic tools. Credit our agency for securing some "600 gallons" of hand sanitizer, but could quickly run out before they find another source.

Transit upper management seems too concerned about "future" budgetary issues, while frontline workers charge into this viral hell our world has become.

It's obvious, though nobody will say it. So I will.

Shut it all down.

Temporarily, at least until we've passed the curve of explosive contagion. It has become apparent (to me) this may be our only hope of survival. I'm sorry to be so harsh, but I cannot ignore the obvious. I'm scared, we all are. No matter what "job" we have, this is beyond anything we imagined possible.

Transit has been declared a "vital service" by the Department of Homeland Security. First responders, medical personnel, police, firefighters and other such professionals depend on transit for transportation. However, many of them have their own vehicles even though some may not. Perhaps I'm being selfish, but I believe such an action proactive. Many bus operators come into contact with thousands of people every day. By continuing transit, we're giving an invisible viral assassin a ride wherever it wants to go. We should deny it this ability to board.

What if we lose so much of the world population there won't be any need for transit in a few short months? There should be no discussions about "future financial projections" until we have killed this deadly, tiny beast. Dire circumstances call for extreme measures, unprecedented ones, to safeguard us ALL. Otherwise, all the world's advances will be for naught, because humanity could become extinct.

A friend of ours recently relocated to Tucson. Laura is a nurse. No kids. She decided to take over her hospital's wing treating COVID-infected patients, hoping her action saves someone who does have family. My heart goes out to her, my greatest respect. My niece-in-law is a nurse too, with two young sons and my nephew to think about.

There are people all over the world sacrificing themselves to help others. Their determination and dedication should be something we all embrace. Transit workers do it as a matter of everyday life. So do countless others. Some however, take it all for granted, do what they want no matter who might be affected (or infected).

Our leaders should shelve conventional "wisdom" and take every possible step to protect everyone. It's ironic that throughout history we lived through plagues, world wars, financial and natural disasters and faced nuclear annihilation, only to have our very existence threatened by a lack of protection.

It's time for the brass everywhere, not just in Oregon, to shine, not whine.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Day 7: Tommy Transit Lives Within Us All




Deke's Note: It's here I'm supposed to "lead in" to this post. All I have is my hope you read this all the way through, and find a way to join Tommy in the A.M., or with us BOTH in the evening. It's well-worth reading,  while also finding time to join my friend's mission in either of two ZOOM meetings designed to bring you UP from the depths of any despair you may feel.

Greetings, from the Great Horrified Wasteland. One of our own making, I'm afraid. We've become spoiled over the past several generations. Now we're paying for it. Our lack of preparedness has brought out the worst in society. It's shameful, and increasingly frightening. I'm sorry this isn't a statement you may want to read, and I truly wish I had the capacity to be less truthful, but it is what we all face.

Don't stop reading yet. There's what is best to come; not only here, but throughout today's version of humankind.

What we do going forward is, well, vital. For each of us. You're who looks into the mirror each day and sees what you are. No matter what others say about you, that telltale look into life's true vision of ourselves cannot be lied to. Perhaps it is on occasion, but our eyes show the inner wisdom of the soul staring back upon itself.

I saw fear in my orbs today. Not only for my own health and my family's, but for that of all humanity. For two weeks now that this "novel" bug has come to terrify all eight billion blue-marble inhabitants.  The pressure cooker of this lack of preparedness had finally taken its toll upon my own being. These eyes were fearful. They were tired, even though I had just slept half a day away. The knowledge of my own mortal frailty magnified by the horrific reality that one of my own could be swept into eternity and I would be left to cope. There is little I can do to protect us against it.

Inverness, Scotland. I musta fought for the doomed
Jacobites, once upon my historic travels.

Staring into the vision of my amber/green/brown irises, that fear became anger. Resolve. A centuries-old ancestral determination to persevere through whatever perils have assailed us over centuries. It all came down to my mirror stare-down. A sudden swell of courage replaced most of the fear, and my eyes cleansed themselves as a single tear of fiery determination fell from each. At that moment, I knew that as I have throughout my 59+ years, I would meet the challenge balls-to-the-wall. With courage, conviction and the belief of an optimist. I know we will become better, stronger, in its aftermath.

Then, I read a few emails from a new and inspiring friend, Tommy Transit of Vancouver, British Columbia (watch this incredible video). He is the inspiration behind my recent reading of positive notes from the famous. I had been searching for a way to dig into those who refuse to acknowledge my hearty greetings as they stumble upon my bus. He has always used personal greetings and compliments to welcome passengers, and they responded enthusiastically. Somehow, he stumbled onto my blog and reached out. It was a magical moment, because he was just what I needed at that time. I wanted so badly to find a way to breach the divide between myself and those I serve. In Tommy's bright personality and methods of the Art of Acknowledgement, he made hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people feel better just by saying a few kind words about their appearance or smile. He found friends in those we might think are best left alone.

As I investigated the phenomenon he represents, I became inspired. After all, one of the biggest reasons I became a bus operator was my love for people. When people stopped responding to me, I began to look inward. What I found was I had allowed the job to dictate how I treat others, rather than reaching from within to spread love to others. That's how I've always approached people: inspire, amuse, and love them. This approach has always helped not only me, but brought me closer to scores of wonderful folks. Tommy reminded me I still had this ability... I had just abandoned it, morphing into a moldy and disillusioned operator in the depths of depression transit work often infects us with. Connecting with Tommy and Michelle was the breath of oxygen my operator's soul took in deeply.

My friend Tommy Transit and his wonderful lass/partner Michelle will launch a phenomenal new venture April 1, called BusDriversOnAMission. Its sole design: to give US hope as we perform what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has deemed a "vital service" to our communities and country, and by extension, the world-at-large. Through their guidance and inspiring tales of human connection on transit, perhaps we can find a path together. One which connects US with those we serve. Maybe through our common plight, our jobs will be elevated to the importance they deserve.

In the best of times, transit workers are exposed to not only novel-Corona Virus, but many other dangers. Some are intensely more personal and immediate threats to our lives. We are beaten, held at knife- and/or gunpoint, sexually assaulted, spit upon or otherwise threatened. Transit work leaves more of us depressed than most of the world's professions. Yet, we still move people safely, efficiently and often with charm and style. We inspire greatness in those we transport and work with.

We save more than we injure, in great numbers the media ignores. Mostly, because we are largely kind. We care about our neighbors enough to step up where passers-by are too-glued to today's hand-held cop-out. No longer do we memorize phone numbers... they are stored in some "virtual cloud" only technology can access. Once this cloud has forever passed? Without this  connection, we're lost to those we love most. What if only sun existed, erasing every cloud our modern lives depend upon? Some "virtual drought"? Humanity would surely devolve into madness, such as now during this viral hysteria we have become prisoners of.

Over the past two decades, our very heartbeats have become obsolete to the world clock's ticking doom upon humanity. Technology has replaced humanity, from cellphone hell to productivity and actual reality. We have allowed the idols of Moses to be replaced by technological madness, forgetting our pledges to God or whatever humanity we acknowledge, to do right by others. Instead of helping the aged across a street, many instead are glued to their technological gods. We have forgotten the lessons our parents and ancestors deemed vital to our self-respect. Life is now deemed obsolete due to what JoeBadass.com posted today. Pedestrians are ignorant of another's fatal hit-and-run while glued to a tiny phone screen. Their call to 911 is ignored, rendered unimportant by an intense desire to "like" someone's cat video. We lose more to technology than benefits our common good.

Still, there is your transit operator. On time or not, that bus or light rail vehicle is there to transport you safely through time, even as you remain glued to virtual reality. Meanwhile, the truth zips past with amazing clarity. It's horrifyingly-sad that you scrolled past a warning that novel-Corona virus was claiming lives in China two months ago, while our government actively-ignored it. Now, you're glued to the screen watching the warnings you idly ignored for two months whilst technology doomed our very existence. WAKE THE FUCK UP, DIPSHIDIOTS!

Please stop hoarding toilet paper in time to wake up to REALITY. We're doomed if you fail. The shit your phone-stoned hypnosis wipes with but two paper squares pales in comparison to the losses we face. LOOK UP! Not only does Mt. Hood stand in rare late-winter sunshine, but so does the fact your blank stare has already doomed millions of your fellow-citizens to an early grave.

A few weeks ago, as this all came to the forefront, I was confronted with a terrifying short story I could not ignore, so I wrote it (Life Renewed Again On a Bus). It may still become reality, but many of you will not brave yourself to read it. So many can't be bothered with anything more than a two-minute notice of some meaningless meme. Meanwhile, life happens in words wrenched from the soul of a writer. Hopefully, I will not pass before its relevance strikes you between your cell-addicted eyes. My own children likely won't even bother read it, until I become a passing memory. Even so, hopefully the phone-stoned will realize the fate its own humanity faces through this damned pandemic.

I'm tired. Throughout writing this, I've fielded five instant-messaging folks who have been constantly-supportive throughout my blogging life. Deke will turn seven this year, if I survive this stupid bug. Until my last breath, if that's how this blog ends, I promise to bring MY truth in transit to YOU, my beloved readers. Most of all, I pray for YOUR safety and health, along with those you love.

When I regain the seat this Saturday after a two-week forced vacation, I will bring Tommy's "hope" with me. Once again, I'll pluck that wonderful slip of paper from my mystical Oban Distillery hat I bought in Scotland last September, upon which lies another message of hope to share with my passengers. No matter the fears forced unto humanity's forgotten strength, I will endeavor to bring Tommy's positive messages of hope, his Acts of Acknowledgement, and our shared belief that love for one another defies negativity.

ROCK ON, Tommy Transit, and all who prove that our vocation is worthy of respect, in their daily toil to provide an inexpensive ride through the Hell we all endure. May your ride be full of hope for what can be, rather than what the news expects of it.

Peace and safe travels to you all.

With love and blessed hopes for your safe and healthy tomorrow, I am YOURS,
Deke N. Blue
Transit Blogger
Portland, Oregon, USA

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Day Six: What if We RISE?

Will we allow the magnificent gardens of this Earth
 remain devoid of humanity's will to survive? Can we RISE once more
to defeat yet another challenge to our collective power?
I believe we CAN, and ultimately WILL.
Deke's Note: Damnit! All day I avoided writing this post. I'm monitoring my symptomatic son, keeping our home as clean as possible during our collective self-quarantine, trying to keep occupied during this dangerous time. It's impossible to accurately describe my feelings. Hell, I don't even know what news reports to believe. I certainly can't believe our president, who seems more concerned that people think he's doing a "terrific job", like some four-year-old pleading with Mommy to give him praise when he just peed his pants again. It's like something out of an old Twilight Zone episode. None if it seems real

Last night, I was amazed by my family's response to my blood brother who spouted some nonsense in a group text including 19 of those of us so-closely connected. Sons, daughter, brothers, cousins, lifelong friends... all subject to bro's nonsense. Even though I respect my brother's great intelligence, this time he (unintentionally, I'm sure... he does truly love us) insulted us with a quasi-political/religious assault. I won't go into detail; my love for my brother is sacrosanct and I could never publicly-insult him. Still, I worry about him, and anyone else who believes as he does.

All I care about is our collective health. Dad died in October of 2018, but instilled upon each of us the importance that we value blood above all. We have always been a strong unit. Sure, we have our disagreements, collective and painful histories, but we have always risen above it all to ultimately support one another. What we have seen the past two weeks overshadows even the fears our country faced during the Great Depression. It has been incredibly unnecessary. How many times have we collectively, successfully, risen above any challenge we have faced? Countless times, my friends. Countless times. Until now, we have risen as ONE. Now? We're fragmented by the most-lethal political divide to ever slice and dice our collective will.

I don't care what political differences we have. We are all united through blood or collective sacrifice. Our parents, grandparents and those before had the ability to bind themselves to fight anything that has ever threatened us. They may have disagreed politically, religiously or racially but they found a will to rise together in order to defeat any outside enemies who threatened US.

Today, we're encouraged to fight amongst each other, although humanity depends upon our collective strength to find a common thread uniting us.

Somehow, we have arrived in 2020, locked in Orwell's 36-year-too-late scenario controlled by fear-mongers who only serve to further-divide us. Why? Because Divide And Conquer has always served those who pull our puppet strings. The more we fight each other, the stronger those strings become, until they are the thickest of ropes that eventually break our necks.

Throughout my life, I have always been able to disagree with many while also respecting their views. Now, we are torn asunder by powers which have aligned mightily against US. They need not fear, as long as we continue tearing each other apart. WE are the only ones who fear. Unions which built this great country's infrastructure are now considered a threat rather than a collective power.

We are constantly encouraged to align against those with whom we have worked beside, building what was once considered the mightiest nation on Earth. Families vehemently disagree for no good reason, our common sense no longer reigns... only our fears divide us. Why? Because they say we should fight one another instead of those who control our futures.

At this point, I'm compelled to ask you all: who is most important? You, your loved ones, or some pre-determined and all-money-empowered edicts fueled by fraudulent, quasi-religious bullshit? You know what God has always implored: that we love one another, above all. There can be nothing else more important other than we love our neighbors. That we treat others as we would have them treat ourselves. So why, I ask, are we constantly at each others' throats, especially in a time of dire circumstances? It's foolish, ill-advised and horribly at odds with humanity's ultimate survival.

If Jesus Christ were to return right now, do you think He would align Himself with $10,000-plate diners at some political fund raiser? Nah. I believe He would sink down with those who reside under bridges, their funds so depleted they can't even afford a roof over the heads of their children. Sure, some of the homeless choose to live so, but many simply do not have a choice.

Is 150+ rolls of toilet tissue going to help you get through this pandemic? No. What happens when Grandma Jones, rendered totally-isolated by the deaths of her family and finds herself in a grocery isle devoid of ALL paper goods? Tissues which could help her wipe the tears of sadness from having lost everyone in her family. She shops alone, trying to find any semblance of normalcy in a world gone unnecessarily-insane.

What of Daddy Smith, who struggles to provide for his family even though his job as a waiter, his wife working horrible hours of overtime as a nurse, has been negated by an economic emergency that could have been avoided by simply taking early and obvious precautions to avoid such panic?

We need to dig deep this election year. Billions will be spent while millions suffer in an economic void where that money could do so much good. It disgusts me to my deepest core.

I'm not going to espouse, to publicly support, either of the choices we face in November as we exercise the United States of America's right as a people to choose who represents US. However, I implore you to find the strength within your fears to vote for what you KNOW is right. Dig into that deep well of common sense our rich history has bestowed upon us, forged over two centuries of collective struggle. Support the richest of the rich who delight in our common struggle paid for throughout decades of blood and toil for those we love most, or continually uphold those who have disrespected our honor and sacrifice? Must we continually fight one another to do a minority's bidding? While they enjoy servants and idle luxury at our expense, we're beating each other in some WalMart hell over the last remaining rolls of fucking toilet paper.

Both sides of the political spectrum have exploited the working populace. I understand, through deep-reading of our history, the arguments of both sides. However, there still remains the lesser of two evils. The former continues to serve, while the latter flippantly-ignores the blood we constantly spill amongst each other. If you STOP, listen to your inner reason, and contemplate what you and your family are experiencing right now, the nagging answer becomes not obvious, but implied. We could all RISE as one and defeat those who have collectively-conspired against the masses, imploring us to fight each other, or we could just let them win again. And again, until our voice is rendered obsolete.

Next Saturday, I'll be forced to take the operator's seat again. My son, whose exposure to one confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, has not worsened. If my wife and I remain healthy, even though this bug's infection can hide anywhere between five and 14 days of infection, I must protect my job and regain the seat as a city bus operator. I have no choice. This October I will turn 60. While still on the fringes of the age group most-likely endangered by this new threat to humanity, I'm expected to do my job as long as it's there to be done. To refuse could render me unemployed. Such a decision to protect my family's health would have disastrous circumstances. Who hires one at this age who lacks a college diploma? I'd likely be disposed to scrapping for anything, let alone another career paying anywhere near what I do now.

I guess all I can say here is to keep on keeping on, my brothers and sisters. It's what we do, and all we can. Those younger than I in the same situation I am might hope for the chance of something new. I'm stuck here. Yeah, I'm a writer above all. Big fucking deal. I can't feed my family writing what I feel. Nobody truly gives a damn about what I think, not enough to afford me a career doing it.

So there you have it. A blog post from nowhere, promising only my hopes for a better future for those who follow. It offers no hope or belief these words have any affect whatsoever on what you do henceforth. Still, it's all I can do. Sitting here in fear of something I cannot control, knowing it could take me away and the world would keep orbiting the sun. You may not depend upon me, but I do you.

Hey, it's just me writing what I think. Take it for what you want. I'm content with these words, and if they follow me as the wind scatters my ashes this summer, okay. That's life. I only hope those who are left have the strength to fight. Together. If so, my simple remains will gain the atmospheric winds from Bonita, Arizona to follow your future struggles. With that, I remain your humble bus operator and transit blogger. And yes, I DO love you all.

Keep all six on the road, willya? Meanwhile, remain strong because that's all we have.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pandemic Realty: What Matters Most?

FAMILY: this is what matters most to me.
Our GM Doug Kelsey replied to me. Given the enormous task he has running our transit agency during a worldwide pandemic, I hope you'll be generous toward him in spite of his contract-negotiating team tearing at our union members' throats.

We need to push aside our collective anger to come together in this most dangerous of times. Our city, in fact our world, is in danger of fully-collapsing due to the pandemic we all face. I for one have left behind my prejudices in order to find some collective path along our journey to simply... survive.

Hey, my own son might have this bastard virus, and I live in self-quarantine in the same 800-square-foot domicile as he, along with my Beloved. We all have dire circumstances due to this pandemic... mine is only one of billions. Even though we have been constantly at odds with our respective transit agencies, now is not the time to argue with their efforts. From what I've seen, those in management of transit agencies across the globe have been struggling with how to keep everyone safe.

For everyone's benefit, I plead with you to acknowledge our collective plight to find a forward path which safeguards those who both provide and access transit. This is a dilemma modern times has never seen. Its collective implications are unprecedented. It's time we all sit back and find a way forward... together. Contract negotiations notwithstanding, today confronts us with not only our own safety,, but also that of the fellow humans we serve.

I urged our GM to keep "the nuclear option" of temporarily-suspending all transit operations a possibility. He responded cautiously, but did not negate it. We don't know how this will end. All we care about is those we hold closest: family. Surely, those who run transit in any locale understand and ultimately-accept this reality as it applies to everyone.

This is not the time to be at each others' throats. If we can somehow find an acceptable path through the perilous journey, maybe tomorrow's relations will improve between management and union membership.

Hell, I don't know anything for sure, but I do have abundant hope. We're all human beings, and perhaps this crisis carries the promise of a future collectivism.

For now, do what is best for YOU and your loved ones. Transit can wait. Hey, if we all die because we're committed to a job that holds no promises, then why bother with "duty"? Take care of yourselves and your loved ones first. Whatever follows is gravy, brothers and sisters, for those who survive. Meanwhile, make sure you're there when it's all said and done.

Love you all,
Deke N. Blue

Billy's Dream Is YOURS Too!

My friend. Son of a bus operator, former bus operator,
YOUR fellow transit worker in Rhode Island. 

BROTHER. WRITER. My own, and yours.

A dear friend of mine needs your help. He has a dream I've had myself. But this one is his, and I only want to help rather than take it for my own. A former bus operator who is now a station agent in Rhode Island, he comes from a father who also drove a bus for a living. He's one of US, and his vision is one WE could all benefit from.

Not since Jackie Gleason has there been a television show about transit workers. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was one now? So many of our issues are not reported by the media, our pleas not heard by the masses we serve. It's about damned time we are heard. Well, my friend Billy, who wrote and published a book (buy it, it's a FUN read!) long before mine was even a dream, has come up with a wonderful concept for a series dealing with all we do within the scope of our jobs. It's about time somebody did, and Billy has.

How many of you are down with supporting him? Would hundreds of you pledge $100 each to see his dream come true? Hey, I just told him I will (and so I promise) give him at least that much. Please join me... it's an endeavor we will all benefit from, given our collective struggles not given enough of a damn by the majority we serve.

Imagine a television series, interspersed with humor and goodwill, which elevates the transit worker (and consequently other union fellows' positions) from today's dredges of society to the TOP where WE all belong? The time is now, given the sludge we scroll past in search of something worthy of watching today. It's my dream as well, only because he has diligently pushed hard to see his dream come true, and I promise to help write the episodes we all live every day we serve our collective communities. If, of course, he wants me to.

"You are never given a wish, without also being given the power to make it come true." -- Richard Bach

This is my brother's dream. OUR brother's dream. And it's meant to elevate YOU, us. As one. If you share the need to elevate transit from the doldrums of Corporata's desire to push us down, then I urge you to follow me in my quest to help our brother help us RISE. It could be funny, inspiring and insightful. All he needs is a tiny push... funding to get the pilot in the face of the corporate fucks who drive today's viewing pleasure.

Can you dig it? I do. If you agree, please pledge your support. If we fail through apathy, then we fail our whole. This television show could empower US, rather than its absence keep us following in the footsteps of the forgotten, like Oliver Twist in Charles Dickens' novel "Oliver Twist", where the wee lad asked for "some more" gruel in his imprisoned orphanage.

Given our collective plight to insist upon a larger slice of the pie while the cost of living surges up as our wages fail to even gain the first step upon the ladder of upward mobility, we're due any hand up we can find. Billy is offering us the respect we deserve.

If those of you who read this can, I beg you to pledge your $100 support to a worthy cause. It will likely result in not only the realization of Billy's dream, but also society's insistence that we ALL be respected by the transit agencies we work for. It's a win-win. Are you with me in my support of our brother's dream? Please join me.

Kick some ASS, Billy Alsheimer! I will join you.

With respect, I am
Deke N. Blue
YOUR transit blogger




Day 5: Emotional Encompassing


Deke's Note: Yeah, I took a day off from blogging. While I may have cabin fever, my mind is with those who are still working. Transit, medical, fire, police, postal, grocery store, gas station, caregiver, sanitation, many others... they're still out there working while I sit here in isolation. My older son was laid off from the restaurant where he serves. We all share stories of sacrifice and horror. My hat is off to YOUR devotion and fear during this collective moment of hysteria.

Here I sit under self-quarantine, watching my COVID-19-exposed son for further signs of infection. He still has a headache, cough and luckily no further symptoms other than early-spring allergies. We cannot be less vigilant though. I've felt guilty staying at home whilst my union brothers and sisters have weathered this storm without me in the seat amongst them. I feel guilty. I'm not there, but YOU are. What gives me the right to sit tight at home while you brave the worst? Nothing I know of. It feels cowardly to sit here, safe at my keyboard knowing you have been, and will be tomorrow, exposed to the deadliest threat of our lifetime. I'm truly sorry to not be weathering this storm with you, and please know you have my greatest respect that you do.

My Beloved's dear, sweet mother (and father too)
 is one of many
I pray for safe delivery from the
COVID-19 scare we all face.
Today was cathartic for me. Last night, I could not sleep. The novel I've read in spurts captured my attention for a full 160-pages, but it did not offer any solace. I could not drop off to sleep after my eyes became weary from those words. Throughout my reading, I could not focus upon anything other than what I felt for those who operated transit vehicles in my absence. The guilt was heavy. However, I also realized that if I had been driving as usual, my presence would have presented me with an equally-strange guilt.

What if, in my desire to endure regardless of COVID-19 dangers, I had been actively-exposed to someone other than my son while in service? This exposure to anyone who may have coughed whilst entering my ride, my skin coming into contact with their unknown exposure, might have had horrific implications. Operating an already-infected vehicle would have been of no value to those I love most. Excited once again to return to my Beloved's embrace, all the while infecting her immune-weakened body with an unwanted and possibly-deadly virus, I could now be faced with her impending departure from a promise that is supposed to last another few decades at the least. Either way I choose, my decisions could have disastrous effects.

So here I sit, at home and presumably safe from outside infection while also praying my son is not COVID-19 positive. A stranger, more dangerous dilemma I have never faced before.

I recently lost my great friend Wayne Kyle (right).
Here, he and my dear pal Dan discuss
that which once divided them.
Now, I pray their connection serves
to bring us ALL together.

Still, this unprecedented crisis has had its positive, incredibly uplifting side effects. My nephew, with whom I have been estranged for many years, accepted my phone call tonight. We forgave each other our mutual trespasses, and worked through the fears we all face through this health crisis. Politically, we may be separated. However, our family ties are thankfully much stronger. I pray for the health of him, his lovely wife and two beautiful young sons. THEY are the future of our family line, along with mine and another brother's. No matter what has come between us in years past, what remains strongest is our mutual love of family. And that, my friends, is so incredibly vital to us ALL during this moment in time.

We're all in danger, whether we are brave enough to admit it. If I fail to make it through this pandemic, I pray that of all, my family knows they matter most to me. All my life, I have been blessed by the strongest support mechanism known to all of us throughout all time: blood. Tonight, I had the most wonderful of all opportunities: I was loved by my wife, COVID-19 exposed son, daughter, another son, brothers and a long-estranged nephew. If I were to die as a result of this worldwide plague, I would do so with the happiness that now, they ALL know how much I love them.

Dad, on his 90th birthday
with two who loved him dearly.
He knew that love overpowers all
that might otherwise
separate us.
With this, I wish everyone safe passage through the most difficult passage we may ever have to face. It takes courage, diligence and faith to come out the surviving side. With any luck, I'll have the grand opportunity to hug many of you who also find the light on the other side of this sick tunnel.

Meanwhile, please accept the fact that I'm not "out there" for the simple reason that if infected, I refuse to expose you to it. In a week, I'll be back operating a bus... unless I become yet another statistic.

I'll be waiting there to see you, only if we're both blessed to find that wondrous light together. Once we do, please remember I've been praying for you this whole time. Thank you for persevering, praying for me as I do you. Bless you all.

Be strong, and I promise to remain YOUR
Deke N. Blue

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Day 3: Love from Many Directions


Deke's Note: Okay, I'm waxing horribly poetic tonight. Why? Because no matter who you are or what you believe, I'm pulling for you. ALL of y'all. This is bigger than we ever thought it would be. Most of the world is SHUT DOWN right now, and it is truly scary. I'm relatively safe in my self-induced quarantine. I feel guilty because thousands of my brothers and sisters worldwide are "out there" doing the work I refuse to due to my honor-bound duty to safeguard my family above all else. In my opinion, ALL transit should be shut down for at least two weeks. Maybe that will eventually happen. Until then, all I have to offer are my humble words as one transit operator, self-imprisoned in my home, with only a keyboard to soothe me. Hopefully, my words are of some comfort or at least encouraging at the very least.

Here I sit, having just spoken to both my sons and a dear new friend. Tommy Transit is stuck in Mexico right now, not knowing how he'll get home to British Columbia. I promised him that if he
makes it here to Portland, I'll drive him to the Canadian border. And that is a promise I will keep.

The world is embroiled in a frenzy of fear and distrust. This horrific pandemic has people hoarding toilet paper, of all things. For crying out fucking loud, people. Didn't your parents teach you any manners? Holding doors open for others, driving courteously while others refuse to, honoring your elders and mothers is something many of us hold dear. Lately, we have lost our way as media reports of this worldwide COVID-19 bug scare us shitless. Truly and ridiculously. How many rolls of TP do you actually need to ride this out? Will those countless gallons of soap and hand sanitizer properly safeguard you against what the rest of us might endure because of your selfish hoarding? Enough to last your family an entire year while others are rendered wipe-less Really?!? Shame on you.

Whatever happened to "pulling together when times are tough"? In the USA, we're no longer Democrats or Republicans or Independents or Disinterested. Now, we're rendered simply selfish. This should be one of many times we have historically risen above fear. However, we're so fragmented it has become one versus the "other". All for one, instead of one for all. Shame on us, America. We're supposed to be world leaders, not the most panicked or least-prepared. What happened to our proud leadership in this world? Where is our once-revered optimism in face of catastrophe? Our collective behavior is foolish in this embarrassing panic we're embroiled within, instead of this miniscule virus most of us could normally kick aside like a beer can in the gutter.

I'm disgusted by what has happened. Instead of taking the lead, our economy is in shambles. Many are rendered unemployed for some undetermined interval, scared and dependent upon a government that takes its cues from the richest of the rich instead of the masses who make the world economy turn. How has this happened? Because many have been conned by those who hold the puppet strings we're all enslaved by, rather than the collective strength our struggles should have propelled us to take control of the weakest segment controlling us now. Strength in numbers is sufficient enough to reward us victory, but we always seem to bow down to the minority which controls us.

Before this pandemic struck the "great" USA, we watched our government ignore Flint, Michigan's water crisis while simultaneously allowing our manufacturing prowess be overtaken by China. Nearly everything we buy is now manufactured by a foreign country whose dominance constantly threatens our own. We're so engrossed by the latest technological advance we have neglected our past  innovation and determination. We have been rendered weak by the very enemies of progress our parents and grandparents so bravely fought. We are wimps in comparison to our ancestors, not worthy of preventing the collective spinning within their graves. America conquered British domination, then slavery, two world wars, a Great Depression and numerous political upheavals and assassinations to arrive a point where our national discussion could have been positive and uplifting. Instead, it has devolved into the ridiculous mess we're mired within. I'm ashamed for those who so bravely fought for our "freedom" because our masses have been rendered once again as the slaves we so fervently fought to free.

I AM FURIOUS I MUST BOW DOWN TO A FUCKING VIRUS! Aren't you?

Just a week ago, I shouted to Portland a Japanese proverb: "Fall down seven times, but stand up EIGHT!" It seemed to fall upon the deafened ears of our collective defeat. What happened to our country's resolve to rise above the Great Depression and World War II? The Cold War? The recession of the 70s and Watergate's implication of the highest levels of our government's corruption? Evidently, today's generation just doesn't give a fuck about governmental incompetence. And that, my friends, has the most frightening implications of all, even that we face now from COVID-19.

It is time we RISE, loud and proud, as the wheels of progress we all ride and provide. Without US, the upper reaches of "success" could never enjoy their hoarded riches. WE gave it to them through our hard work and dreams. They have constantly taken advantage of our collective struggles, and our silence has emboldened them to take advantage of us all each time we rise to demand our fair share, as Charles Dickens' character Oliver Twist did when he meekly asked his cruel orphanage master, "Please sir, I want some more."

Over the next few months, there will be likely billions who echo Oliver's pleading line. Some governments, ruled by those who have learned the many lessons of the past, will rise to fill Oliver's request. It is up to US that his request be honored and fulfilled. Why? Because this virus has rendered us all orphans to the greed which has dominated the world economy since Dickens left us this literary masterpiece. We are all orphans now, slaving away while those we expect to protect us are too busy finding more for themselves of what we cannot have.


I just submitted a form to my transit agency which may (or may not) grant me clemency for taking time off to ensure my family's safety during a pandemic that could have possibly been avoided. Had those we elected had been duly-diligent in safeguarding the many of us Olivers who constantly do their bidding, perhaps this would all be a simple joke. What we're faced with today and for however-many tomorrows it dogs this world is anything but a joke.

I wish ALL my fellow transit workers safe passage through this horrid moment in history. Especially Tommy Transit of Vancouver, British Columbia. He and Michelle embarked upon a Mexico vacation long before the pandemic went worldwide. Now, they are rendered captive in a Third World country, their flight home cancelled. Then there's my new friend Bruce Whalley, who arrived home in Australia just hours after his father passed away. I am one of few who have been there to usher their beloved fathers unto the Heaven of their just delivery... while Bruce could not. My tears flow freely for him because I got to my own father's bedside shortly before he died.

There are millions of other such stories being played out as I write this. My "liberal" heart reaches out to all, no matter whether they agree with me politically. Right now, all that matters to me is that families draw closer together as their friends pull together to help them through this heartbreaking tear in the fabric of our time.

I beg you all to shed all political differences to come together. Wherever you are, we're all connected by this DNA we share as humans. There's only ONE race at the moment: the HUMAN one. Help each other rather than consider your fellows "opponents". We're bigger than that.

All this I pray for you and yours. With great love and respect, I remain
Deke N. Blue

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Day 2.5: Frustration

May God bless our world as we all strive to live past
the demons which threaten to overtake our
collective vision of a better future.

Deke's Note: I'm so glad I didn't let go of this blog somewhere along the past few years when doubt replaced my hopes. Now, the stakes have quintupled for us all, and I feel a renewed passion to write truth to the transit I know. As an operator yes, but mostly as a family man who also cares deeply for those with whom I toil during this world-health crisis. My current series will hopefully become a joke for the future. For now, it is salient and imperative to write what I feel. 

The ambiguity of health professionals and our government has me  very frustrated. Why hasn't my son been tested? He just told me he feels "the same" as he did 24 hours ago. Sore throat, etc. Having been close to someone who tested positive, how do I know he isn't infected?

Sure, this virus isn't as deadly as it has been hyped up to be. Good grief... groceries ransacked by hoarders and terrorized by fist fights over God knows what, restaurants and bars shut down leaving thousands unemployed in Portland. What's next? Civil unrest leads to riots and disorder of who knows what. The next month or two here, and everywhere in the USA could get ugly. Really fast.

Our transit management remains incapable of taking action to ensure its front-line workers are safe. Some of my fellow union members have privately called for a "blue flu", but that's a suggestion punishable by suspension or even termination. To my comfort, I have seen posts that call for the "Priority Seating" areas being taped off to be ONLY seated by those using mobility devices. As it should be. This gives operators some breathing room in a bus that still allows every bug to slither through the front door.

My main complaint is that our "leaders" have failed us. Months ago, they should have taken extreme precautions to fight, contain and kill this COVID/COVFEFE-TeenyBopper. But they did not, and now our economy is fighting for its own life, we're scared and disoriented, life is in disarray. What the hell? The United States is supposed to be the LEADER of the free world, not the most at-risk country! No matter the politics which engulf our national divide, I expect better from our leaders. My eldest son is currently without a job in the restaurant industry because we allowed a simple virus to overtake our borders. He, and millions like him across our country, is scrambling to find a way to keep his bills paid. It's a dismal failure of leadership that we are under lockdown. Well, except for transit anyway.
A better spring awaits us; we just need to believe it.

Which leads me to the anger I feel for our "leadership" in management. Where is it? They have been eerily-quiet for nearly a week. It counseled its own staff to work from home wherever possible. WE cannot do that. The post I saw regarding the isolation in the Priority Seating area came from a fellow union member.

Thankfully, I just now read an email from Mr. Kelsey as I busily-keyed this post. He finally covered many of my concerns regarding our plight, which is greatly appreciated. His description of efforts to ensure our safety as well as our passengers is welcome after a nearly-six day silence is somewhat-soothing. He has secured a shipment of hand sanitizer to be distributed among us. (Does that include road-relief ops?) THANK YOU! The buses are being sanitized with greater scrutiny as they return from 20-hours-plus in service. A new "bus fogging device" is set to arrive later this week, whatever that is. Thanks, Mr. GM... we were beginning to wonder what the talking heads of transit were planning to help keep us safe. Maybe now I won't feel scared to return to my job.

My main concern is why our buses are not subject to intense cleaning practices as a general rule, every day after and during service. Given that we provide transit to over 300,000 riders each day via rail and bus, it should be a constant practice. I have been grossed out many a time when I relieve a bus and find the operator area in particular to be filthy. Each control we touch should be daily-sanitized, but they are not under normal circumstances. Hopefully, our Maintenance brothers and sisters have been instructed to take special precautions to ensure our biological safety. I know they are diligent about the mechanical health of our vehicles, but management should allow more time, and surely continue our Maintenance Apprenticeship Program to hire a steady flow of hard-working folks who dream of working their way up from the muck.

Constantly monitoring social media, I've seen our entire world turned upside down the past month. We're scared, angry and worried. About our loved ones, mostly. My son is young and strong, and will likely kick COVID's ass. But what about me and my Beloved?  I worry also for my fellow union members. Many of us are aging rapidly. Those of us addicted to nicotine are at risk, along with others who have cardio, auto-immune or respiratory challenges, along with family members they could possibly infect without knowing it.

We should all be more diligent about our life's choices, but hey... we deal with stress every day. Many of us choose the only-legal paths we know to soothe ourselves. We're not "bad", just addicted. Not like those who shoot-up on our rides and necessitate interaction upon their behalf.

We can't use THC or CBD to alleviate the pains our jobs assault us with. Still, we show up for work. We take Portland to a multitude of life's necessary travels. No matter the obstacles, we persevere. We are cursed, assaulted from within and publicly, our prescient needs ignored by the local media. Here for Portland, we simply wish our fellow citizens would be more vocal on our behalf. Many are, and we truly appreciate their support. But it's a tiny majority of those we transport.

Somehow, we'll forge a clean path through this disastrous moment in time. It will ultimately bring us together as we realize a common plight amongst us. Transit workers have seen many a political cabal pass through our collective time together, and our solidarity has led us through. This time, it's especially imperative we remember our commonality. Today, we're not Republican or Democrat or Independent or Other. We are PORTLAND, we are OREGON, we are AMERICANS. Collectively, solidified by our togetherness upon a constantly-forward path together. It's imperative to cast aside petty arguments and find connections which help each other. It's all we have to survive. I love you all, no matter whether we agree politically. It is up to US to lead here, given a lack of it within our local, state or national governments. WE are America, not the big money interests we kneel to upon the altar of that elusive, almighty dollar. When shit goes down, we'll help each other up no matter which political beliefs divide us.

Yeah, I'll probably mark off again today. I'm not feeling good. No telltale symptoms abide here. I'm simply worried about my wonderful wife and sons. I cannot operate safely under such fear. One son is under our roof and will always be fed and cared for. Another has been on his own over five years now but has been rendered jobless. We'll feed and love him as we always have. It's what we do as a family, without reservation. Hopefully, I'll remain healthy enough to guarantee this reality for several more years.

Be safe, my fellows. If you have a constant headache, sore throat or dry cough, mark off your shift and rely upon your union-won health benefits. Take care of yourselves first and foremost, for that ensures the health of your loved ones as well as those we faithfully serve. Transit is important to our community, but it cannot exist without US. WE are Portland transit, incredibly-vital to everyone who rides.

Thank you for your service, and remember Deke is in your corner. Do not hesitate to contact me, for I will always respond. It may take a while, but your words are holy to me. I am YOURS, and you are my constant strength. I could not do this job without your support.

Roll safe and keep all six on the road.

With respect, I am
Deke N. Blue

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Day 2: Self-Quarantine

A co-worker asked today if the "rumor" I have Corona virus is true. It is not. I am at risk because my son is mildly-symptomatic after being in close proximity to a co-worker (possibly more than one) with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

In a grey area here: I'm not symptomatic, but the incubation phase for this virus is 5-14 days. My son's clinical team last night advised him to "self-isolate" while Beloved and I "self-quarantine". The difference between the two: those who are symptomatic and have had close contact with somebody who tests positive for the virus must isolate themselves to safeguard others. Those who live with a possibly-infected person could already be carrying the virus. They are often encouraged to limit their interaction with the general public. Given the lengthy incubation phase of one to two weeks, it's a virtual toss of the coin.

As for me? I feel fine, but worried about my son plus the possibility my wife or I could already be infected. We're unsure of our own status, so I did what I thought prudent: I marked off today while I tried to get some answers.

Hey Doc, here's the facts. Should I self-quarantine? His answers were ambiguous. He spent a good hour on the phone with me as we discussed my situation. At first, he seemed to agree with self-quarantine. Then he consulted his Infectious Disease team and called me back. Doc said that since I don't have any symptoms that perhaps I should just keep working? That threw me for a loop. If I had worked today, possibly exposed to the virus (and I could have been already considering my vocation) and giving several hundred people a ride on my bus, could I be putting passengers and co-workers at risk if I do develop symptoms over the next week?

Doc didn't know how to respond, but was patient and diligent trying to find the best solution for my dilemma. After all, I told him, imagine how it would feel if I unwittingly passed the virus along to someone, and they died? Would it be my fault given this probably-not-so-unique set of facts? While I'm obviously concerned for myself and our family, secondarily I must also think about the general public I serve. My co-workers are also vitally-important to me. I'm a very concerned, loving person. This situation has vast implications from many directions. It's hard to gather them all together to find the right solution, because then dozens of other concerns whiz past, clouding the deliberation process.
On the brighter side of this, at least I'll likely be spared
from having to see thousands of naked people
riding their bikes later this year.

We will all likely be exposed at some point. It's a worldwide pandemic after all. It is also a ticking time bomb. Some of us will get sick while others won't. On top of anxiety/PTSD issues many of us experience daily, this virus is the most serious threat we've faced as a worldwide community. Ultimately, Doc gave me a two-day home stay to monitor my son, and to make sure that I don't suddenly develop symptoms. Basically, healthcare professionals want us to stay healthy and make intelligent choices. But for now, the wheels of life still spin. We cannot shrink in fear of "what might be". He recommended I return to work in a few days as long as I remained symptom-free.

My wife read an article today which stated that for every confirmed case of COVID-19, there are likely 50 other unconfirmed cases. A staggering statistic, if true. We have seen schools, restaurants, bars and other businesses shut their doors to wait this bug out. Millions have lost their jobs. Too bad we haven't developed some all-powerful extermination technique the bug guy could just squirt down and annihilate the tiny bastards. Without a widely-available vaccine, we have to just ride it out. Evidently, I have to ride it out on a 20-ton bacteria-mobile.

I had a comforting chat with my friend Sam. He listened to my situation, not knowing whether to self-isolate, quarantine or bust out a gallon of whisky and temporarily tune it all out. Well, the latter is not an advisable plan. He also reminded me that if I choose to self-quarantine and use up two weeks of sick/vacation hours and remain symptom-free, what if I then went back to work and got sick anyway? My sick leave bank is woefully low. Sam has loads of hours he generously offered to donate to me if needed. He's a very kind man, and I was touched by his gesture. Unfortunately, I don't think our transit agency allows us to transfer sick hours to the employee of our choice. As I understand it, donated hours go into a pool anyone can draw out of if needed. Equal opportunity, I guess. Still, he had a good point.

Basically, it's back to being a coin toss, a crap shoot, a difficult choice to make. Either way I go, there are pros and cons. We'll see how I feel tomorrow (today or Wednesday to most of you reading this). For now, it's time to enjoy a green beer (is that penicillin floating at the top?) and finally celebrate St. Patrick's Day. It is after all, my favorite day of spring!




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 ...