Deacon Who?

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(Note: Ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily shared by the transit agency I work for. This is simply an expression of free speech while describing the work bus operators perform.) I have been (and called) many things in this life. Most of all, I'm a writer who happens to drive a bus. In May of '13 I thought it would be fun to write about my job. As a direct result of this blog, I published a book in November of 2017 called "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" that is available on Amazon. I write to provide insight as to what it's like on a bus... From The Driver Side. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, December 31, 2020


Deke's Note: Ugh. Another week finished. Last week was tough but ended with a blissful Christmas. I chose Thursday/Friday off so I could enjoy the holidays. This week, I finish this horrid '20 with a blistering blast and what could be.

 "The only good employee is a scared one," our HR head told ATU 757 Local President Shirley Block. 

"The only good management is one which thinks about those who work the wheels," is my reply.

It's time for a change, a drastic one. While some in leadership positions are earnest, hard-working and dedicated, I believe they have not a single positive clue. TriMet in Portland needs someone to shift transit's priorities toward better support mechanisms. Those who share the "bottom tier" are those who make the wheels roll. We now suffer a multi-layered management which has no oversight. It expects the impossible with no consequences for its own poor decisions, yet metes out punishment aplenty for those who struggle through miles of disrespect each day. It's a recipe for failure, and that's where 2020 left us. Floundering along darkened streets with nobody to lead or inspire us in our nightmarish existence. No wonder Dougie's leaving us... he's overwhelmed with American insolvency like the Canadian one he fled.

That's Corporata as it runs transit, folks. No imagination, no inspiration, no forward movement. Only reaction and negativity, where positive encouragement is most necessary. It is time for instant, drastic intervention by those who do the dirty work.

Instead of a flow chart, I propose we redefine the wheel. Operations Union employees are the most integral and important in any transit agency. Put us in the middle of the wheel. Each connecting spoke should be supportive departments, with their actions radiating inward towards the core.  As it stands now, we're at the bottom of a corporate hierarchy that supports the upper strata rather than those who need the life-sustaining air at the bottom. The higher you climb, the less oxygen.

Vital employees do not need coddling. Conversely, we are worthy of this (and any) agency's Herculean efforts to ensure the utmost respect. 

We are legally prohibited to strike in Oregon, rendered weaker with each contract negotiation. Why we allowed this to happen confuses us all. What it does illustrate is that management has gradually declined from a Safety First environment to a Discipline First one. Had we the right to strike, our bargaining position would be infinitely stronger. We do not have that powerful tool, so we are rendered insignificant. Instead of garnering respect, we are treated as abused children in a horribly dysfunctional family.

  • An Operator was recently suspended for defending himself too vigorously when attacked. What the fuck is "too vigorously" when Humanity's Fight or Flight Syndrome is in effect? Who the hell decided an Operator's well-being is less important than a passenger's felonious act? Some inept lawyer, I'll bet. An overpaid one, to be sure.
  • Numerous Operators have been suspended for not wearing their masks. Hey, we all have to blow our noses, take a drink, or be understood by someone who reads lips. Of the entire Portland Metropolitan area, save for medical or police or fire personnel, transit operators are "under mask" the entire time we're in uniform. The public has a penchant to complain about us without reservation, let alone common decency for what we go through on a daily basis without COVID hanging over us. To add insult to our many injuries, they have delighted in tattling on us any instant we can be seen without our masks. Conversely, we have not the same power as they when an un-masked passenger boards except for a lame statistical-based computer message "Mask Refusal". 
  • Earlier yesterday, Center Garage had to cancel over a dozen runs due to a lack of operators. Why? Because of unnecessary suspensions, disgusted resignations and retirements related to Mangement's mis-management of transit. We are fed up with their nonsensical support of a whiny public over an over-worked and ill-compensated workforce. Hence, the lack of Extra Board Operators. Additionally, I know I am one of hundreds called by Station Agents to work on our Regular Days Off who say "HELL NAH! FIVE DAYS IS ENOUGH, BRO!"
  • Suspension-Happy Management is screwing itself. With fewer operators to cover shifts they eliminate with their ridiculous edicts, the public suffers along with the maligned operators who have proven themselves many times over by rolling through this pandemic wasteland. Gee thanks for your support, management. 
  • Mindless Upper Management Wannabes ride transit for free and secretly call in complaints on Operators with reckless abandon. Given "leadership's" wanton recklessness in encouraging people to complain even when they haven't the slightest clue regarding decades-old transit customs which were once solidified as LAW. Many an Operator has fallen victim to these anonymous/dickless whiners who often lie or stretch their complaints in an all-too-often ugly light shining on the innocent as their guilt overpowers the most blinding glare.
  • Our Maintenance/Mechanical Workers are truly those who make the wheels roll before we take control of them. Their decades-old, proven Maintenance Apprenticeship Program is on the chopping block of yet another ignorant Corporata-structured management, with no solid evidence to back their downward swing of the axe. When you want things done right, you must train from the bottom up and with an emphasis on long-held traditions of excellence. Hiring from the outside brings in people with their own misguided ideas, without the benefit of transit-based traditions behind them. This is a simply-misguided union-busting plan of a bunch of corporate bobbleheads who rarely get greasy unless they change the oil on their own overpriced luxury cars. Given their bloated salaries, this is more rare than a beaver purchasing flood insurance during an Oregon winter.
These are only a few of our complaints about an increasingly destructive trend of Corporata's takeover of transit. It's not only in Portland, but has reared its grotesque head in most transit agencies worldwide, save for a few bright spots. Given our numbers, it shudders me to think we have yet to rise in our grotesqely-massive numbers to overtake these incompetent master baiters. They have grown too bold, too complacent in their misplaced power, to be checked. Checkmate, ya bastards. We ain't stupid. Hard workers aren't dumb, we're just held down. Time to move aside, suits. We know MORE than you and can do your job with more efficiency and plumb smarts than you could ever imagine no matter how many degrees you throw at us. We're hotter than all of them. Step aside, son, let us show you how it should be done.

Give ME a chance. I will turn it around the first few days after the TriMet Board of Directors does the first progressive thing it ever has by hiring ME as the new General Manager. I will not only shake their heads mad with my flurry of a first week, I will completely shatter the past few decades of destructiveness with hundreds of changes meant to support frontline workers. 

WE have done the work management takes credit for, even through its lame attempts to proclaim our dedication. WE are who management should work FOR, not a self-entitled and spoiled public. Thousands of people would like to ride transit, but whenever they test the waters they're met with those who disrupt the system yet are protected by ridiculous edicts which tie the hands of those who should control it. Thus, the declining numbers of passengers the past decade. People are not encouraged to ride transit when the worst are favored while the responsible are ignored. Fuck you whiners who say minorities are "unfairly treated" in fare inspections. Bullshit. EVERYONE is asked for valid fare, even ME.

Why would any responsible adult WANT to ride transit in Portland when only the trouble-makers are catered to? It confounds one to realize management favors the worst riders over those who fuel the local economy. It's also maddening that the self-righteous groups hoping to enable the least-productive have more power to shape transit policy than those who depend upon our services to move them safely to and from jobs which positively-effect our economy and collective well-being.

It's time for a major, PROGRESSIVE change in transit management. I WILL provide it, guaranteed. It will take pissing off the least productive to promote the most. Yeah, I've been homeless too. However, I busted my ass to earn that roof over my head and provide for those who depended upon me. Save for a few months of public assistance, I have always provided for my loved ones. Anyone with any degree of work ethic has, or would, do the same.

I would work for less than the Corporate Failures who have run our agency into the depths of disgust and despair. My next posts will outline my plan for success. If you read them as I write, I'll bet dollars to Doug's Donuts you'll have to agree. I only hope enough of you will spend the time to read my posts, absorb what I have to say, and climb aboard the Hope Train. Without your support, we're doomed to the same ol' same ol' and the worst of what follows.

The job description for GM will be full of Corporata Wants Minus Transit Necessities. Even so, I will apply with my lifetime of degrees from the College of FuckedOver BLUE Collar U. Along my travels, I have been the dogged employee of Small Business, Large CorporateAmerica and Public Transit. Each of these steps, I've been told to bend over and just take what they give. My butt is sore, and I'm tired of being used. Aren't you too?

It's time Working America took over. We have seen what happens when we allow otherwise. It only leaves us bent over with a sore asshole.

Share this post. Use the hashtag #Deke4GM. I would work for YOU. I AM you. No matter what city you roll your bus wheels through, I am truly the grease within your drive wheel's lug nuts. Just like Thomas Dunn was when his throat was slashed by a passenger. He died in the seat. I don't want to, and neither do you. 

Peace, through whichever deity you love. I wish you happiness whatever religion you praise, no matter who or how you love, or whatever political party you support. Drop everything, and we're all the same. I want to lift you up to the heights your efforts truly deserve. It's about damn time one of US did.

Happy 2021. Hope it beats the hell out of this horrific '20.

With love and respect, I am your

Deke N. Blue

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Marty MethHead Charges Me

Deke's Note: One thing I have accepted is that life is too fleeting to believe I'll automatically make it home unscathed after a shift. It has taken several counseling sessions over the years to curb the anger which surfaces when someone with mental illness pushes my First Marriage Buttons. Being an abused husband was once sneer-worthy, and 35 years later I still grapple with painful flashbacks. Tonight, I scored a victory only in that I did as trained and calmly so. Still, that moment of fear that I wouldn't be able to hold back, showed its horrid face once more. 

I thought he would punch me. Or, shove the handful of masks he grabbed after storming to the front of the bus. He stood just outside my barrier, un-masked. His eyes were glazed over, high most likely. 

It was GO TIME. If his hand had made toward my face, my body's biological defenses would have taken over. I most likely would have punched the lad. HARD. Fight or flight does not give you an option. When you're trapped in an operator's seat, there IS no flight.

Luckily for me, his eyes showed no malice or intent to harm. He was crazed, confused, befuddled. I met his gaze calmly, and did not wince or cringe.

"Do you need a mask?" he asked.

Taking a deep breath, I replied quietly. "No." I pointed at my own mask, playfully pulling and allowing it to snap back in place. "But you do. Please put one on. And leave it there. Thank you."

Calm, authoritative, non-aggressive. Even though I was poised to defend myself, on full alert, my hackles were raised. I didn't know what to expect, hoping for the best but ready for the worst. 

This lad had boarded earlier in the afternoon, full of an addict's boasts that he was high. F-this and everything or everybody else, he was gonna quit! Everything at once. Heroin, crack, meth, booze, and even cigarettes. Anyone who has suffered an addiction know this is unlikely. He made an elderly lady nervous, but she still treated him kindly. As he exited, he kept bounding back aboard and asking me the locations of businesses I was unable to provide. He finally asked me where to buy smokes, and I pointed to the store directly in sight a block away.

Finally, he walked away from the bus and I could shut the door. Marty started walking toward the store then abruptly crossed the street in the opposite direction. The lady he had spoken to was going to exit, but wanted to put some distance between them so she opted for the next stop instead.

* * * * *

When he boarded again some seven hours later, the change in his demeanor was highlighted by agitation. Even though he politely declined to pay fare, by saying "Thank you Operator" as he boarded, he refused to grab a free mask. Several times, I had to ask him to wear one. To stop closing windows. To remain seated, not speak so loudly or profanely. Each time, he complied, only to forget what he had just done and reverse every action. It was plain he could not behave with any normalcy.

I alerted Dispatch after he stormed the front, because he had appeared aggressive. I didn't know if he would explode, but experience told me it was certainly possible. It became a challenge to maintain order on my ride so I could concentrate. I'm a stickler for providing a smooth ride, my stops even more so. That last run to the mall serves a wild mix of passengers. It's a constant game of outwitting nitwits while providing my patented brand of fun interaction and heartfelt goodwill.

When Marty MethHead exited, he charged up front, again. Marty had something in his hand and I tensed once more as I watched the passenger mirror. Gaining the entryway, he thrust a ragged and worn DVD case at me. "Here, this is me, for you."

I didn't want to touch it. His fifth mask of the night hung by a single earlobe, hands were grubby and the case was encased in what appeared to be years of grime. Recognizing it was a peace offering of sorts, I told him "Thank you, just please lay it there." I pointed at the farebox, since 50% of the passengers hadn't paid yet and I didn't expect any more that late in the trip.

After he left, and I safely cruised on, I was surprised at the calm that enveloped me. Our interaction had ended peacefully. My breathing was normal. I could see the few remaining passengers were relieved. So in my normal fashion, I keyed up the PA mic.

"And you too can be bus operators!" I exclaimed. Not a peep.

No cops, no injuries, no "what ifs" or Managerial Monday Morning QBs. This incident needed no reports or medical care. For either of us. There was a moment there where I was poised to vigorously defend myself. I'm happy it didn't come to that.

So it goes on the late night Dirty3. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas 2020

Bus operators see the devastation of this pandemic. Every shift is a "reality show" that we'd rather not watch. Good people have lost jobs. Wages that are barely enough to sustain even the poorest accommodations have vanished. Those who once labored with honor for the pennies thrown their way now rummage through waste barrels in search of a $0.10 can or bottle to add to their bag of wishes.

I am thankful for many things, least of which is a decent job I have had throughout this horrid and diseased year. Despite it all, my life has actually improved. It's something I am very grateful for. However, it leaves me feeling guilty. As I drive a bus, I serve many whose lives are nowhere as comfortable as mine.

So this Christmas, instead of a post full of complaints toward those who manage my job, I offer thanks for what I have. I'm also most thankful for not only a family who loves and accepts this less-than-perfect-by-miles old cranky bastard, but also for those with whom I share this occupation, and those I serve.

I'm thankful for my fellow operators who likely roll much tougher routes than I do. I appreciate my Road Supervisors, Dispatchers, Service Workers/Cleaners, Station Agents and Maintenance/Mechanics. We are a team, one that sees little true appreciation for all it takes to transport a quietly-appreciative public through all kinds of trauma. Even though I disagree with a great deal management/leadership does, I feel for them too, for they at least say they appreciate what we do "out there". It's not entirely their fault they don't fully understand what we do; many have never done it themselves. Perhaps they do feel sympathetic even though it seems improbable they feel empathy toward us. 

This is Christmas Day, I extend my heartfelt love to the homeless, whose numbers have risen exponentially. I pray you find a way to rise above whatever challenges confront you. To those just barely surviving, may your efforts sustain you in the worst of times and reward you afterward. If you are doing okay right now, my heart is with you because like you, I'm one paycheck away from a tent.

Yes, I have much to be grateful for today. Mostly, for a wife with whom I have shared nearly half my life with, and still marvel in her wisdom and beauty. Also for children who love me more than I deserve. I'm eternally grateful for those who created me, and miss their presence every day. To those with whom I share this profession, I honor and respect each.

It has been a horribly-rough year, but there have been bright stars shining throughout. We all need to  keep an eye out for them. Hold each tender moment dear, and fear not the future; it could likely be the best time of our lives. Hope is a worthy aspiration, and my heartiest goal.

Merry Christmas folks. And may peace reign forever with you and yours.


Deke N. Blue

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

My Dental Agony for Christmas

Transit agencies worldwide are now a game of chess.
Will the worker reign supreme over King Corporata?

Deke's Note: It's doubtful many of you know what makes me tick. Some, not all, of you have read my words before. You probably have an inkling of the writer who keeps luring you back to this blog. Here, I hope to give you a glimpse of the man behind the keyboard, the one who hopes to change transit in a positive and rewarding way.

The past few days, a recurring theme has played in my mouth: decades of tobacco use doing irreparable damage to tissue, bone, nerves and my equilibrium. Yesterday, I drove my bus in a haze of the worst pain (besides childbirth, which I have been told doubles this type) imaginable: dental infection. Arriving home, I was famished, hungry beyond belief. All I could chew was thankfully what awaited me: soft chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli. On the left side of my mouth, only. After eating, I spent 40 minutes watching television before my body broadcast BEDTIME, loudly and with intensity.

My alarm was set for nine hours after collapsing. I awoke, took note of my pain level. Not good, about 7/10. Used the toilet and turned my attention to the infection lurking deep within my remaining upper back molar. Brushed. Flossed. Water-picked to find a stinky plethora of infection-based yuck run out of my biological assailant. Rinsed with prescription-strength mouthwash, swallowed my first 800mg tablet of Ibuprofen of the day. Yeah, this is what 50 years of smoking cigarettes did to my once-pristine mouth full of teeth: rampant decay and pain. (While finally in the past, this smoking of cigarettes, it haunts me still.) Thus self-treated, I retreated. To bed. For 12 hours, minus 10 minutes to mark off "sick" and make the bladder gladder. At my age, seven hours of rest is usually sufficient. This time, my body informed me it needed extra time to fight the infection raging within. Contrary to current transit "wisdom", I decided my health was more important than planting this suffering body in the seat. My next call was to the Station Agent, reluctantly marking off work. I'll likely do so again today, as the dentist will have little option other than pulling yet another tooth from my decimated ranks of munchers.

I did not want to risk taking time off this close to a holiday. Doing so involves paperwork, documented proof that I'm not just skating into a four-day Christmas weekend. I fully intended to complete my shifts prior to Christmas Eve. However, the pain and infection dictated that I not put myself, or the safety of my passengers, in danger

When operating a 20-ton bus, I need every ounce of energy and concentration to safely guide The Beast through the 10-hour shift I signed. Driving a bus becomes "automatic" after a few years. The finer points however, demand every ounce of energy and finesse this body can conjure. Dealing with everyday dangers becomes much more difficult when my body is fighting an infection and its resulting pain. (Sorry ladies, I confess dental work does not compare with pain endured during childbirth.) Common body aches are part of the job; anything on top of that involves an inner strength not easily found. Any mid-management dupe with my current malady would not think twice about calling in; a union bus operator has to consider several consequences when doing so. 

Our transit agency espouses a perplexing policy discouraging frontline workers from claiming accumulated sick leave. In order to safely transport hundreds of people each shift, I am expected to be studiously-attuned to the thousands of possible obstacles confronting me. It takes great concentration to see, plan for, and react to each dangerous circumstance. Most are predictable, which is a skill that is second-hat to most veterans. Newbies have yet to acquire those years of experience to not only see at a glance, but to predict in a split second what while likely happen while also knowing how to react appropriately. When an operator is in pain, the mind tends to focus on the personal rather than the professional. This intensifies the possibility of a costly mistake, one I'm not willing to gamble upon.

As my brother Henry reminds us, any such situation puts us in a "diminished capacity". My pain suggested operating a transit vehicle was not a good idea. However, I had no other alternative, except for pushing that "Operator Ill" button on my CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch). 

"Just take some Tylenol and ride it out, " I told myself. The Station Agent informed me he had no available TDA's (Turn Down Assignments) available that point in my shift. As anyone who has operated a transit vehicle can recall, it came down to whether I had "the balls" to continue. Thinking of those waiting in a horrendous rainstorm for my bus, I committed to them. Even though they would not know my pain or even care; all they wanted to see was my bus rumbling to their rescue.

Rather than being rewarded for being attuned to our own health, we are collectively punished for missing work. Miss more than two sick days in 1,960 hours and you are robbed of that coveted "Master Operator Program" award, which should coincide with that much safe driving rather than ignoring your health. Thousands of us have died dedicated to such a ridiculous notion rewarding risk over self. Our loved ones think nothing of a certificate while mourning over our corpse.

How many transit worker survivors have uttered these words: "If only he/she had thought of his/her health instead of that damn job!"

Instead of recognizing our dedication to professionalism, we are subjected to discipline for preserving our own health, and therefore the safety of those who ride our vehicles. It's a horrific culture begging reversal. Corporata, however, prefers discipline over support. They think we're abusing the Sick Leave system. Any of us who have done the job realize our limitations, and therefore our basic mortality. We understand the vitality of self-care far outweighs Corporata's insistence that we gain that seat no matter what assails us. It's insane, insidious and insipid to expect a person to place their own health second to a career. Yet, here we languish.

2020 has seen too much death due to what too many dismiss as "the flu". We know better, as it has murdered many more than any flu bug since 1918. Most of us have known victims of COVID-19, or have relatives and friends who know those who have succumbed to this invisible mass murderer. We have gained the seat full of fear. Through any type of weather, 100-year firestorms, or the anger a populace has developed while having its "freedoms" curtailed. We have dealt with a year of questions, debates and arguments over whether a mask is effective. Throughout, your transit operator has been there. Without any sort of hazard pay, little or no assurance that our loved ones would be supported if our service to community results in suffering and death. No support, except for empty words which one might expect from, you guessed it, Corporata.

As promised, I am working on a series of posts dealing with how I believe transit should be managed, and by whom. It encompasses a wide range of subjects, but the focus is centered upon those who work so hard to ensure this vital public service is accomplished. The current system has proven itself a miserable failure. It's time for a major reversal if transit is to recover and prosper post-pandemic. Unfortunately, those entrusted with this service are deaf to radical change. Preferring their self-imposed status quo, they have successfully convinced the powers-who-be that transit management is best run by the very scoundrels who have ruined it. 

Stay tuned. It's a major task to write such an unprecedented series. Many have already discouraged my goal of becoming General Manager, given my lack of "credentials". Consider how those currently considered "qualified" have so dramatically failed us and our communities. How could such a radical change be any worse? I think my years behind the wheel have given me a perspective severely lacking in those currently running (ruining) it for all involved. I would turn the tree upside down, chop it into firewood for a later bonfire. I would replace it with a Circle of Commitment with those currently at the bottom of this dead tree moved to the center. So it should be, and so it would, under responsible and respectful leadership.

Grave circumstances demand drastic change. Even though I may not attain the lofty goal I seek, remember that my reaching for it is solely meant to lift YOU all to the lofty heights your efforts so mightily deserve.

Meanwhile, may you and yours enjoy a COVID-free and Merriest of Christmases our collective circumstances allow. I offer blessings of health and prosperity as we boot 2020 out of existence. May all your ups-and-downs be in bed. Peace and love to you all.

With that, I remain
Your Transit Blogger
Deke N. Blue

Friday, December 18, 2020

Refreshing Transit Management: Prologue

For years I have written what we experience.
Now, I want to put that to work. For you.

Ha! Dougie-Poo is retiring early next year. It's time the Bored(sicop) of Directors make drastic changes regarding the management of Tri-Mess. 

I am currently working on what is probably my last series of blog posts. Y'all don't read in massive numbers these days, so it seems this ship has sailed. It's all good. I have written just over a million words about this now eight-year career, and I thank you. There are better writers braving the storm of managerial oversight, and my artistic muse is pulling me toward more creative endeavors. Part of me feels bad for leaving this behind, but the practical side of me dictates it be so.

It is time for me to consider a major career change within this agency. Given the disastrous lack of supportive transit leadership, it is time for an Operator to take control of the helm. I have given this much thought, as you will see as my upcoming series explaining my views of transit management is published. A new hashtag began popping into my head earlier this year, and it's far from a nirvana-inspired psychosis. It is my true belief that I have the ability to be General Manager of Portland's transit agency. It's about damn time WE take it back from the failed corporatists who have made a grand mess of things. Get ready. I'm fucking serious, folks.

Knowing FTDS posts have lost luster due to my habitual lack of brevity, I beg you tune in for each coming installment. They will be precise and detailed. My plan is to outline not the failures of the past per se, but more to explain my reasons for reaching so high.

I am not a narcissist, nor am I delusional. My detractors will allude to this and many other reasons why I should not become a major city's transit General Manager. Utmost will be the fact I have never done it before, but that has become a moot point given the horrific failure of the past several who held the position. It is actually why I should be hired to lead.

Having driven a bus for 32 signups, many issues have crossed this writer's mind as the big wheels rolled. Talking with fellow operators, one thing is obvious: we are the least respected and most maligned employees of Portland's transit agency. That's the main problem, because WE are the "lug nuts of transit," as the murdered Operator Thomas Dunn of Florida, MY transit hero, told his local Board of Directors the year before he died in the seat. Like Mr. Dunn, our ranks are composed of a seriously-talented group. Many of us have come from other careers, which are so diverse as to make us a Melting Pot of American Ingenuity and How Things Get Done. 

Millionaires don't do the work, they simply rack in the profits of those who do their bidding. They don't pay taxes, but WE do to the point where we simply won't put up with it any longer.

Join me in my quest to have a no-nonsense, Operations-First blue collar worker at the helm of this metropolitan transit agency. All I ask is two years. If we're not on the rise toward regaining our No. 1 status, I will step down. Given my ability to work with people over 40 years of serving people, it's time to end my career helping the strongest, most-dedicated group of professionals I have ever had the honor of working with, and beside.

Share this, and my next posts, widely. Be sure to add the hashtag #DEKE4GM, and let us move forward into a future which rewards our dedication. Otherwise, sit back and take what we all know is coming. 

As a 17-year-old college freshman, I walked into my local community college's Journalism Department in hopes of landing a spot on the newspaper staff. It was a fortuitous time to do so. Central Arizona College had lost many of its CACtus staffers the previous spring to graduation. Every spot on the staff was open, and The Man asked me which position I wanted. It took all of a few seconds for my response.

"Given the choice," I said, "I'd like to be Editor."

Two years later, The CACtus became the most-awarded newspaper staff in CAC's history, and the Journalism Department was awarded the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Press Association's most prestigious honor: The President's Award.

Therefore, I shall apply for the GM position. I can do this job, but only with YOUR help. It is my solemn vow that every action I take as your GM would be dedicated to those who actually do the work of transit. There will be no empty words, only action on behalf of those who make management's job possible. The soul of Operator Dunn, and the thousands of you and your brothers and sisters who have suffered abuse at the controls of a transit vehicle, demand it.

A lifetime of work as a blue-collar worker has prepared me for a final major hurrah. Each challenge I have not only met, but exceeded expectations. It is a confidence hardened, sharpened, and honed by life's toughest experience: simply earning enough to keep my family fed and housed. Nothing more, no frills or extreme luxuries. Just life as WE know it, man. A life few at the top of transit today can probably remember.

Yeah, I'm reaching for the stars. But y'all, those pinpoints of light are YOU.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Main Street Malfunction

Pioneer Courthouse Square is festive yet
quiet on a Sunday afternoon.

Deke's Note: Every three months, Portland transit operators have the option of changing both their runs and days off. Knowing my runs kept me out later than necessary to sign the Time Off book for Christmas and New Year's Eve, I opted for Thursday/Friday as my Regular Days Off for the Winter Signup. The Winter Signup began on what would have been my RDO (Sunday/Monday for the past five years or so), meaning my "weekend" changed and I would work nine days in a row until my new Friday... Wednesday. This blog post deals with the toil such a long week has on this 60-year-old body and soul.

I don't usually work nine days in a row. But when I do, it ends with a series of stiff drinks from a bottle of  12-year-old Glenfiddich. Sheer exhaustion flows with the juices I now consume.

Long ago in this blog, I outlined some Operator Math. Each 10-hour shift, a bus operator will press the air-brake pedal of a bus an average of 800 times. It's a repetitive motion which requires several times more pressure than doing so in a personal vehicle. Worker's Comp often insists our pain stems from "past injury" to management's fiscal delight. To our collective plight, it's pain built up from about 175,000  constant presses of the right foot. A human part that sees more work than any joint of a mouse-pusher's body who oversees our work.

"They find a lot of mistakes in the manual they have never experienced behind the wheel," an operator said to me this week. "Their idea of a 'mistake' is something we see as a necessary tool, to offset the reality that could happen if we don't do it."

The biggest problem in Portland transit, and that of many other municipalities worldwide these days, is that "management" has no working knowledge of what happens on the streets. Their version of transit contrasts drastically with ours. They see our world as they believe it should be. Most have never driven a transit vehicle with the possibly-infected virus carriers breathing down their necks. Some passengers are self-entitled supervisors, telling the driver how to drive a route because they have "ridden transit for 30 years", and know better than the professional behind the wheel. 

* * * * *

My route these days was recently changed. There was no basis in fact for the rationale management described. Even the newest Line 33 operator would agree this route deviation is a horrible idea. It involves a dangerous turn where the former was not; added 30 seconds or more, rather than reducing run time; and negatively-affected an already devastated downtown business community.

Instead of rolling down a back street and avoiding a busy Main Street in Oregon City, the 33 now assaults it. Rather than having a stop sign and two-way intersection at Railroad and 7th, management decided we should be stopped for a ridiculously-long traffic signal. If a large vehicle needs to turn at that intersection while our bus is waiting for the light, it offers a logistical problem for both drivers.

The bus stop was placed at the corner where a struggling restaurant has placed outdoor seating.

Bus Passenger waiting at stop: "I'm sorry lady, that 7-11 burrito I ate for lunch is killing me. I'll try to keep my butt pointed away from your table. My apologies as well for stepping on your feet, but I really gotta catch this bus."

Saddest thing of all is, all management had to do was query bus operators if changing the route was a good idea. They would have heard a resounding NO. But hey, what do we know?

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...