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, August 25, 2020

I Love My Little Brother

Dan and me at Dad's funeral, the last time I saw my little bro.

Do you have a younger brother? I do. He's a Special Olympic Champion, born with Down Syndrome in 1963. When the very first Arizona Special Olympics were held at McClintock High School in Tempe that blazing hot day in May, 1968, Dan was just a year too young to participate in the first-ever event which would become a worldwide phenomenon in the ensuing decades.

He was so sad. Watching kids just like him participate in competitive games was an elixir for us all, but Dan was upset he couldn't (yet) be part of the fun.

Fifty-two years later, my brother has competed in these games for half a century. He has met Muhammad Ali, Jon Bon Jovi, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her daughter Maria, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the countless other celebrities who have donated their time to this incredibly-rewarding organization. Dan has been a participant in every Arizona Special Olympics State Spring Games since 1969, as well as at least one International Games event. His countless medals and ribbons once hung with pride in our childhood home in Florence. In his home, they adorned his bedroom, leaving little space for any other mementos of his life. In our hearts, he has always been a champ.

Our parents brought four boys into this world. Three of us faced health and developmental challenges as children. Dan has always been "special". Not only to his family, but to everyone he met. Dan has always been a magnet for wonderful souls, his own loving beacon drawing countless others to him by his smile and limitless charm, sharing our father's natural ability to draw folks close.

Growing up the third of four boys, with Dan just behind me, I was often teased by kids because they called Dan a "retard". They didn't yet understand a developmental disability does not mean that person is anything less than human. You know how mean kids can be to others. In my new hometown, my classmates had not been exposed to those born with Down Syndrome. Their natural inclination was to ridicule. As Dan's next oldest sibling, it was my duty to protect not only my little brother, but also his honor. I became angry, defensive and outwardly aggressive whenever anyone insulted my baby brother. It landed me in many a tight spot, given that I was not a strong lad. 

Over the years, my classmates came to realize Dan was truly special. Not because he participated in athletic events which became known internationally, but because he was simply a sweet kid. People came to understand his soul, and before long, the entire town became Dan's Protective Detail. He was only five-years-old when we moved there, and he had a habit of wandering off from our home. Luckily, our twin dogs Hobo and Bashful would always tag along when they were not preoccupied with stealing my classmates' lunches at the elementary school. They had an innate understanding Dan needed more protection than his brothers. Someone would often call our home and tell us Dan was a few blocks away because they first spotted the dogs and then Dan, gleefully walking down the street. I would head that direction and collect my beloved brother, then bring him back home.

High school cheerleaders adored Dan. They invited him to sit with them at football or basketball games, cuddling and kissing him. Oh, how jealous we were of their affections for Dan! But hey, I cuddled that cute little fella too, as did my brothers. We have always adored, protected and revered this special soul we have been graced with.

* * * * *

Dan has been quarantined in his group home since mid-March of this year, because of the high risk concerns facing him and his housemates. He has not seen his girlfriend Susan since then. No outings for Special Olympics practice, or junk food outings, no riding horses which he has enthusiastically enjoyed for several years. With Dad gone nearly two years now, he hasn't been able to attend church with our father as he did regularly. No social outings whatsoever. Dan has been a prisoner to COVID-19, and I have lived in constant fear that this utter disruption to his social life would have severe consequences to his mental and physical health.

My fears have been realized. As I write this, with tears drenching my cheeks, my dear sweet little brother is unconscious, intubated and alone in an Intensive Care Unit in Prescott, Arizona. I'm 1,500 miles away. Helpless, unable to talk to or console my baby brother. While it's not this dreaded virus which assails his body, I believe it's the sadness of isolation which has devastated his heart, mind and soul. His oxygen levels were at 60 when 9-1-1 was summoned. His blood sugar was 40. Dan was listless, and largely unconscious. He's slipping away from us, and I can't even talk to, reassure or affirm my lifelong love for him. He's utterly, completely, alone. Even my oldest brother, his legal guardian, cannot be at his bedside.

It's difficult to fathom, the reality of a brother with the mind of a seven-year-old, lying in an Intensive Care Unit without his brothers at his side. Hold on, here come those tears again.

I don't know whether to pray for his recovery, or ask God to take him out of sheer mercy for the utter hell he's endured during this utterly-avoidable nightmare of a pandemic. One brother is sympathetic to the totally-inept administration which could have prevented our Quarantine State, while Dan's guardian and the patriarch of our family understands only his love of God and acceptance of whatever happens. Here I sit in Oregon, while my Arizona family (including my beloved daughter and grandson) collectively prays with me to do what's best for Daniel. It's pure torture, and I ask your support as I once again regain the wheel of a city bus just two days after being assailed and attacked by a passenger.

Can I pull it together enough to drive today? Will Dan die before I begin my shift, during it or afterward? I don't know what will happen, but part of me thinks the best thing may be that he join Mom and Dad in the spiritual afterlife we're all headed toward. Given Dan's suffering the past several months as his life was turned upside down, I wonder if this is God's mercy and love at His supreme best. Dan has suffered too much, not understanding what a pandemic is, let alone why he has been a prisoner in his own home. It tears me apart wondering what it has been like to be Daniel since March. Part of me feels guilty thinking Dan's death would be the most merciful outcome, while also praying that he recover and eventually have his happiness restored. There is no way to measure my grief in either direction. All I want is the best for my little brother.

One of my closest union brothers had a brother just like my Daniel, even with the same name. His brother died last year, and I felt Tom's anguish as he poured out his grief to me. Then, I fearfully realized  it would eventually happen to my own Daniel. I hoped and prayed it would not be so soon in happening.

Somehow, sadly, Tom and I have become estranged, even given our similar brothers and our love for one another. I need him now more than ever. He edited my book, has always been supportive and close to me. I need him to support me now, given our shared love of our younger siblings. I'm not even sure he reads Deke any longer. Even so, I felt so sad when he lost his own Daniel. Now I fear I'm losing mine, and I need my brother's strength right now. 

See me, touch me, feel me, heal me...

Today, I have my Beloved, my daughter and two sons, along with my two older brothers, my inlaws and two elderly aunts and one uncle, cousins, nephews and grandson to hopefully help one another through this trying time. In addition, I ask YOU who have read this post through, to pray for whatever He deems best for Daniel. 

Thank you, and I wish peace, safety and health to you and yours.


Love, Deke N. Blue



Monday, August 24, 2020

Just Breathe, Deke

 My buddy Silas, a few years ago, looking out across the street upon the house I'm about to move into. Ahh, peace and quiet in Happy Rock once again.

Deke's Note: It's very hard to express oneself when dealing with real-world issues of historic proportions. Twice over the past three weeks, I have attempted to write blog posts, but there was too much to write. It was overpowering. The emotions, feelings, thoughts... too much to express. Had I published what these fingers and this mind produced over the past month it would have been a jumble rather than any semblance of coherent thought. I could not finish these posts. There was no logical end. My thoughts kept coming like a locomotive zipping over trestles at 90 mph. I needed time to just... drive... breathe... contemplate. So I did. Each time I felt like writing to you, my Beloved Readers, I resisted. Instead, I rested my mind and soul. Even though I still need time, there are some things this blogger requires of himself. This post is a long time coming. I'll try to keep it brief. But hey, I'm Deke, and brevity has never been my strong suit. But you knew that, and still here you are. Thanks, as always.

* * * * *

Hey, I "only drive a bus" for a living. I'm not publicly-considered skilled labor. But, hey again. Yes it is skilled labor. Not only are we tasked with guiding a 20-ton bus along city streets originally designed to accommodate horse-and-buggy, but also to babysit an increasingly-pampered passenger load while dealing with a motoring/bicyling/pedestrian public which seems to have obtained its safety skills from parents teaching them to ride tricycles. They have ignored everything since then. 

We are constantly disrespected on the road by motorists who flaunt the law, treating us as obstacles to their destinations even though we are trained to observe safety protocols they have never understood. Our vehicles carry a human payload, each passenger's safety entrusted to our skills no matter their social strata or background. To do so, we must maneuver our vehicles so that we avoid the most ridiculously-dangerous antics presented us. It takes immense skill to do this job, yet we are treated with the utmost disrespect. Still, we do our jobs with pride.

Try arguing with an airline pilot over face masks, and you'll find him likely to turn the plane around, land and have authorities waiting to arrest you for failing to follow air transit law. Try that with a bus operator, then phone in a complaint against the "nasty bad man who told me what to do" and the difference is staggering in its disrespect and consequences. Our management would rather discipline us for insisting passengers follow transit code than standing up for us and doing what's right for transit in general. If people knew there were dire consequences for their misdeeds, perhaps our jobs would be easier because there would actually be incentives to behave. But hey, I'm just a bus driver... what do I know?

What I know is that if I were General Manager of this mess now known as Portland Transit, changes would be immediate and drastic. Gone would be this horribly-flawed management-first/Union employees blamed hypocrisy which has infected this agency the past 15 years. Passengers would be expected to conform to transit code or be excluded. Anyone who threatens or assaults a transit worker would face serious consequences, up to and including exclusion, rather than the onus being upon those providing this service upon which Portland's economy depends upon. In short, no more bullshit. Service would improve and morale would soar within both those who ride and those who provide the ride. Management would be cut by at least half, and those who refused to agree that the Worker comes first would be replaced by someone with an Employee First attitude. It's a sad pipe dream not to come true, but a dream nonetheless.

* * * * *

Last night, I was physically assaulted for the second time in nearly eight years of service. Yes, count me again. Damnit! Why? Because I insisted a passenger follow basic transit code, specifically that mandated by the federal government's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding Service Animals. Her mutt was certainly not trained to do the job, even though it was non-aggressive. Most pitbulls are sweet and affable if treated with love. This miscreant's dog was simply a pet. We're not allowed to refuse service to someone with a pet they falsely claim to be a service animal unless it is overly aggressive. So, I allowed this fare evader to board with her pet. 
    As I rolled past our Downtown Transit Mall, I noted the dog was standing, therefore unstable. I informed the passenger her dog needed to be lying down, out of the aisle. This is a rule designed to keep the animal safe as I roll. If I were forced to brake hard, the forward momentum could force the dog forward and possibly cause it injury. Anyone whose dog is professionally-trained to be a certified Service Animal does not need to be instructed on proper transit behavior. 

    I love dogs, being a pet owner myself. So I informed the passenger her dog was required to lie down. She  seemed to have her pet lie down, but she failed to comply. A few moments later, the dog was still standing. Once again, I asked her to have the dog lie down. Her comments were inaudible, but the tone was unmistakably non-compliant. Two minutes later, I glanced back to see the dog in the seat next to her, legs and head in the passenger's lap. Not cool, so I called her on it. Then, shit got real. Fast.

    Having previously pulled the stop cord only to wave it off after I stopped and opened the doors, she had then committed five transit code violations. Still, I let it roll off my shoulders, as I'm trained to do. I even slowed at the next stop, wondering if that was her intended destination. She ignored me, even though I had told her by then to make Fido lie down. At this point, I became vocal. I told her to either adhere to transit code or her ride was done. She decided it was so, and blamed me for her constant misbehavior. I didn't care. She was either off the bus voluntarily or by God, the cops would forcefully remove her. She decided to exit. However, she assailed me with a barrage of insults and baseless accusations. I simply encouraged her to leave my hitherto-peaceful ride, and waved bye-bye to her, DameTime style. Was it a passive-aggressive action? In hindsight, yes it was. However, I was beyond giving the least of fucks.

    After lugging her two bags off my bus, all the while telling me she was pregnant and asking how I felt about kicking her off in her supposed condition. She called me an inconsiderate asshole "on a power trip", and flung a mostly-full bottle of "Smart Water" over her shoulder. It hit my mostly-useless "barrier" and bounced off my head before falling into the space between my seat and the lefthand control panel. 


    I was furious. It's impossible to describe how it feels to be assaulted. After giving an obviously-needy young woman a free ride (I simply pressed "Fare Evasion" on the screen and said nothing about it), enduring her countless transgressions against my late-night peaceful roll, she chose to assail and assault me. If she had simply done as I politely asked, she could have ridden peacefully to the end of my line. Instead, she chose to be a jerk. In reply, I had to insist she exit, stage right.

    Another operator might have handled it differently, given their experience and personal operating philosophy. Some may have just let her behavior slide, not wanting to risk a confrontation. Another may have given her grief over not paying fare even though this is frowned upon by our please-everyone-but-those-we-call-heroes management. Me? I can only take so much bullshit before I call it. Then, I become Mr. Bus Operator, and it is time to obey or I'll call upon every bit of support Dispatch can get there in the span of a few minutes. Period. Cops, transit or local or county. Supervisors. The fire fucking department if need be. Whatever. You are now getting OFF my bus.

    "FINE!" I yelled, "now you're about to be under arrest for assaulting a transit worker."

    "I didn't assault you!" She screamed back, although her bravery fell into the ditch from which she had slithered.

    "Let's see what the cops say," I retorted, "because they're on their way." I lied, because I had not pressed the "panic button" at my disposal. Why? Because I just wanted this sleaze-encrusted bottom feeder gone

    I was amused to see her struggling to restrain her "service animal" while juggling her bags into position as she brazenly walked in front of my bus without looking to see if cars were impatiently passing the implausibly-stopped bus in their path. I wished at that point a thousand fleas would soon infest her under garments as the cops chased her down. Still, I hoped she remain safe in spite of herself. Now that my doors were closed and she had departed, the safety/integrity of my ride was once again assured.

    After Brother Dispatch calmed me down, I assured my disinterested/cellphone-dazed remaining three passengers I would still roll to their intended destination. They sadly remained silent and utterly disinterested. This saddened me. None of them stepped up. Too engrossed in their cellphone-induced trance to even offer words of encouragement for the ordeal I had endured. Already late on the clock after adhering to transit code on the downtown stretch, I didn't feel guilty sitting there to collect myself. Henry is shaking his head reading this, wondering why after all these years I didn't "call it" and refuse to roll due to my shock at having been assaulted. All I could think of was getting to the end of the line, and that the remaining passengers had likely had a similar COVID-19 era experience and only wanted to get home. I'm very empathetic in that regard. After driving a city bus for most of a decade, my thoughts automatically are with those who ride my bus with quiet respect. How could I let them down? After all, it was only a flippantly-tossed water bottle. No injury, except to my perhaps over-inflated pride. My assailant gone, all I could do was roll, man. It's my job to get the good folks to their stops. Damn any torpedoes fired my way, full speed onward, lad.

    It took a few minutes of distracted driving before I finally regained my composure. Had I suffered an injury, I would have called it a day and asked for medical assistance. However, it was only my pride that had suffered. Giving myself a moment to collect the remnants of wit remaining after another grueling week, I had just enough to finish the run. So I did.

    The rest of the trip was punctuated by an even more-determined smooth roll. As I rolled into my line's terminus at Oregon City Transit Center, I took a rare "Restroom Delay" to scour the bus for trash and close the windows. Then, I stepped off to collect my thoughts. Had it been a mid-week run I might have taken the two days off sometimes afforded an assaulted operator. But it was my Friday. I was done, and only needed to guide The Beast back to the garage. I took several deep puffs of vaporous nicotine, shook off the residual anger, and regained the seat. "Ready for Service" on my end was immediately responded to with "Thank you, and a more peaceful night ahead" from my caring Dispatch lifeline. They would have immediately filled my run with an Extra Service Operator had I even hinted that I could no longer drive safely, but I bit the bullet and forged onward. Safely deliberate, I did so.

    Settling back into the seat, I wiped one angry tear and took one more deep breath. Interior lights OFF. Released the parking brake, threw the tranny into Drive and rolled back to Center Garage. 

    Along my deadhead back to the garage, I let loose a 20-minute barrage of verbal fury about what had happened a half-hour earlier. Microphones recording my every utterance, I unleashed my assaulted soul. It was liberating, and it helped me deal with what had happened. Instead of ruining my weekend, I wanted this incident to roll off my uniform into the floorboard and press downward into the roadway so that it could be crushed by my 20-tons of rolling mass. It worked.

    Walking into the garage, I slammed the water bottle Bitchy Boobface had chucked at my head on a table in the bullpen, then gave my report to the calming presence of the Supervisor who awaited me. I burst into the restroom and washed the stench of my assailant off my body and soul. Only at that point could I answer my Beloved's worried texts asking why I hadn't responded my usual "5/5 check, whisky time".

    * * * * *

    I have many reasons to feel blessed this week. I'm moving back to my favorite neighborhood, where Beloved and I raised our sons, directly across the street from that home we loved within for 13 years. It is hopefully the last move of my mortal being, and it's into a home designed and built by a longtime fixture of that 'hood. I'm finally happy once again, excited to be amongst my dear friends and neighbors. Our kids are grown now, but I'm anticipating a long (and hopefully final) residence there.

    It's a house where I plan to finish my first novel, and complete another story I began writing as my youngest son was an infant. I'll look across the street and remember the basketball hoop where my sons and their friends battled fiercely as Beloved and I shouted out the kitchen window "DINNER TIME!" 15 minutes before plating the food. It's where my cat Silas, featured in the first photo of this post, joined our family as a kitten. All is well.

    That insane one who assaulted me? I simply wonder who lit the fuse on her tampon, but I'm okay. It's she who needs prayers of healing. I'm once again at peace, yet I'll never let her fuming fuse back onboard my ride. Once you shit on me, I'll wipe you off and keep going.

    And that, folks, is how we roll. As long as we return to those who love us, what happened during a shift is but an obnoxious bus fart long forgotten.


    Tuesday, August 4, 2020

    France?

    Weird that France firmly holds First Place in my reader stats, yet has not posted a comment. Once again, I smell a bot. If you actually read my blog in France, please let me know. Otherwise, I believe it's just weird bounces off some anonymous server.

    Yeah, I like "hits", but only honest ones.

    My Daily Portland 2020 Struggle

    Taking a breather on a warm summer's eve.

    Deke's Note: It's August already? Hmm... where did May go? Did it slip past my Yield light? It must be jumbled up with the countless other nightmares 2020 has conjured. Like you, I anxiously await the end of this most miserable year. Still, I must allow the writer to describe this bus operator's existence. For what it's worth...

    Calling Common Sense and Basic Decency... are you there? I'm waiting for you to answer, then put me on hold. It seems you have left us for some other planet. Meanwhile, Earth is still spinning hopelessly lost around its star in search of some cohesive reality. And us, down upon gravity's merciless hold? We're trying to go about life in some weird sense of semi-normalcy.

    Last week I was met by a newbie operator at the point where I begin my work, and she handed me an envelope with my name on it along with the keys to a company car. Random urinalysis break! Woo hoo! I was dreading taking control of The Beast that warm afternoon. I dutifully took a test I didn't even study for, and passed! I hope.

    Just kidding, of course I did! I'm a professional transit operator for the past eight years now. The very thought of failing is ludicrous to fathom. Even though I stretch the bounds of Corporata's death-grip on the Freedom of Speech in this blog, I regularly conform to our Standard Operating Procedures because to do otherwise would put this nearly-60-year-old mug on the streets looking for new employment. And that, as we all know, could be disastrous. So thank you, Transit Corporatus Ridiculousi, for putting up with my rants. At least I try to stop short of outright insubordination or pouring salsa caliente into the wounds I strike. The truth may hurt, but it need not be torturous. After all, they have US to endure the torture they refuse to experience. All I ask is to have these words read, and this humble viewpoint acknowledged.

    Given the worldwide news has focused on this city for all the protests and "wanton violence and destruction", it's actually rather peaceful here. The protesters are not the troublemakers here, but the rioters who deface and destroy property are getting on the nerves of the peaceful voices who need to be heard. The most destruction has been of our economy, like every other city across the globe. If people cannot work because of a worldwide pandemic, their angst boils over into anger and frustrated attempts to change what's wrong.

    Then you have the anti-protesters, who seem to think everything's some trillion-dollar hoax of a conspiracy, who argue against the protesters. It's all a mess, and who's paying for it? US, the middle class, as usual. Whichever "side" you agree with, we're ALL paying for our collective pent-up fury. Meanwhile, we fight amongst ourselves while the ultimate instigators of the whole mess laugh with glee at our misery. In the long run, the cleanup, the economic "bailouts" and everything else is  ultimately paid for by OUR tax dollars. Legislators will work their con-artist magic on how to find the funds, but dollars to donuts it will come right out of the Collective Taxpayer Anus. That's Divide and Conquer at its most efficient peak.

    It's vital to find beauty as I walk
    to my relief point.
    No serious action on "Essential Worker Bonuses" that I can see. Hell, my employer passed insurance premium hikes on to US last December, given our contract's expiration. My "share" of medical payments TRIPLED, but the media hasn't caught on to my employer's dirty trick. Not that it cares. It is so commonplace today it doesn't even garner attention. All that matters is the wheels keep rolling. Operators are at high-risk for catching the increasingly-lethal virus, but we're still chugging away on wages which are now behind what we fought for five years ago. We're told there's a mandated "mask rule" but we're not allowed to enforce it. It's a shame that we toil away while our media-darling management "hides at home" and safely giggles at our misfortune. Meanwhile, it plots to hammer us with numerous "takeaways" in contract negotiations while using the pandemic's economic sledgehammer to pound us into submission.

    Meanwhile, my fellow union workers and I make the daily trudge to our appointed posts. No matter the dangers increased a hundred-fold. We cannot hide at home, working "remotely". We ARE transit, folks. We're the face you see daily, safely guiding our vehicles through throngs of protesters or angry motorists in a hurry to get to their own funerals.

    WE TAKE PORTLAND TO WORK, AND HOME AGAIN.

    So do hundreds of thousands of others, just like us, across Earth's vast continents dependent upon transit to transport millions who toil just to pay the necessities of life. When someone boards my bus without fare, I just wave them inside and ask them to wear a mask. My transit agency doesn't care enough to enforce any rules, so other than keeping my ride peaceful and trouble-free, why should I? I have learned to "live and let live" rather than risk argument. And arguments aplenty I have presided over and indulged in. It hasn't helped me any, so I refuse to engage any longer unless absolutely necessary to keep the peace.

    I crave peace and quiet. It helps me navigate a battlefield also known as urban traffic. My main goal each shift is to safely glide into Track 24 at Center Garage without having to write a report at end of shift. This event is usually greeted with a wondrous sigh of relief.

    As I pee and wash up at the garage, I'll text my Beloved. "3/5 check" on a Wednesday, I tell her. This gives her peace of mind; her husband has survived another brutal shift. "Hooray!" she might reply, or something similar.

    Then while I walk out the door and head to my car, the sigh is even more pronounced. I know I'll be back within 12 hours to do it all over again. For the moment however, I revel in the miracle of surviving another shift through the Hell of 2020. It doesn't matter what the morrow brings; I'm celebrating the now. The future will be battled later.

    Ahh... the bus is empty. If only for a brief moment.


    Sunday, August 2, 2020

    STOP THE BOTS!

    If you're actually reading my words, post a comment. If you're running a hit-bot, please STOP!

    My blog is meant for those who are interested in a bus operator's view of "life from the seat".

    I'm not in favor of inflated stats over true readership. PLEASE STOP!!!

    Thanks,
    db

    The Sun Sets

    Patrick's Note: It has been nearly a week since Deke N. Blue passed from his bloggery life. It has taken that long to come to terms with...