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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, January 28, 2021

Portland Are You Listening?

Photo courtesy Katy Philp

Deke's Note: Okay, I'm back. Having grieved my classmate/brother's untimely death, I am filled with an incredible amount of creative energy. However, it is dulled with the aftermath of driving a bus 600+ miles this past week, and the two prior. Along with that, I have endured what thousands like me across the world deal with every day, each second we're behind the wheel of a 20-ton behemoth. Forgive my rant. My original intent when I began this endeavor 8.5 years ago, was to chronicle the life of a bus operator. Take it or whatever, this is it.

Having failed the past four years to achieve management's ridiculous requirements endowing me with its "Master Operator Program" awards, I'm once again at the bottom. Zeroed out, deemed ineligible for any Operator of the Month consideration. My brothers and sisters will not be given any opportunity the next year or so to elect me Operator of the Month, because not only do I document our perils "out here" but also because I have failed to attain the corporate maxim of 16 hours or less of "time loss". in a 12-month period. No matter my approximate 95% On Time Performance, superior Customer Service stats, or sixth-in-a-row National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Award.

Because our agency requires no more than two days accrued sick leave over 1,960 hours of safe service to attain points toward its vaunted "Master Operator" status, I have failed once again. Although transit insists we "stay home when you don't feel well", doing so disqualifies us from its most vaunted/prized distinction. Since I value my life over some bullshit award, I doubt I'll ever make "Master Operator". Although I would never ask you to, you'll never have the opportunity to vote for me. Not that anyone who works past evening hours ever has that opportunity, as the ballot box is shunted behind the Station Agent's desk and out of Late Night Eyes. I have constantly had to ask permission to vote for my brothers and sisters having arrived after midnight for five years now. 

That's okay. I want to live as long as my father did, honoring his values of self over corporate idealist bullshit. Awards don't mean much when you're under decades of wind-blown grass. I'll use my accrued sick leave because my family matters MUCH more than the heartless agency I work for. Yes, it's my last career other than writing. No, it's not God. Mine is much more forgiving.

Last night, I set the parking brake in the yard after gliding into a Neutral stop. I laid my head upon the wheel which had been my merciless master for 600+ miles and 53 hours over five days. I sighed with deep relief at having survived yet another battle zone in the pandemic battlefield upon which we are constantly attacked. Every inch of my body hurt. My head from the thousands of calculations and visual scans, my shoulders from "rocking and rolling" (without benefit of hearing Tom Petty or The Eagles), my upper/middle/lower back in agony from twisting every possible way in a poorly-designed bus seat, my thighs burning from five thousand variables of pressing the air brake pedal, my ankles down to my toes screaming in agony from the progressing arthritis which comes from nearly a decade of fine-tuning stops so passengers aren't jarred onto the floor as they prepare to step off my vocational choice. 

I could not rub CBD remedies into my agonized joints once I arrived safely home. Even though they don't usually contain enough THC to register in a random drug test, I dare not take the chance in fear I fail. People all around me take advantage of the lax marijuana laws, but federal regulations require I'm not allowed to smoke a bowl after a long shift of being told by the unregulated public to "JUST DRIVE, asshole" while ensuring their safe arrival to whatever may await them. Ah, the indignity we endure. Such is the life, I suppose. Oh well. I get paid regardless of their insults. And so I do, 'JUST FUCKING DRIVE'. Quite smoothly, I must brag, minus the slightest commendations phoned in via their constantly-attuned attentions.

In one week, I have provided an estimated 2,500 "safe" rides, in that I have afforded them  smooth/incident-free passage to their destination. This is about a third of what I provided Pre-COVID. Sometimes my bus has been empty, which is breathtakingly sublime. For a brief moment, I am unassailed by the masses who think riding a bus is a right, negating any sense of social responsibility via some uneducated protest against this invisible virus which assails humanity. Our overhead blares "MASKS REQUIRED" more often than the line number displays, yet each bus operator's hands are tied when the slightest attempt at enforcing this empty requirement (weak request?) puts us in a conference room with some puffed-up manager who assails us with the latest SIP ("Service Improvement Program"?!?) from a similarly-over-entitled complainant who argues against our insistence masks be properly worn versus being too-damned-beyond-giving-a-damn. 

Any of us could die from COVID, but all the management would do is offer some half-assed public statement of regret while simultaneously raking another operator over the coals for attempting to enforce its' toothless policy "requiring" masks. No mention of the operator's faithful service over a year of service during a deadly pandemic while it worked from home. Not necessary, because the "Bored of Directors" silently nods at whatever line Management serves it. 

If we try to enforce the mask rule, someone will call in a complaint. If we fail to enforce it, another will call in a complaint that we failed to. We're screwed either way, and a third in that anyone who ChinMasks or totally ignores the toothless "mandate" could ultimately infect us with a virus that has devastated TWO MILLION-PLUS deaths worldwide. This isn't my sole take on the issue; it has been confirmed by a brother who has been called in to defend himself against both scenarios. It's another reason our current management needs a total shakedown to eliminate such consummate bullshit.

Yes, I'm still working on the Deke Manifesto, an all-encompassing rationale as to why the past 30 years of management has FAILED and needs a thorough restructuring.

We're evidently not considered "Frontline Workers" where the vaccine is considered. I understand: Teachers, healthcare workers, police, firefighters, FIRST. Yeah, they're our "heroes" and rightfully so. But transit workers are conveniently forgotten in the overall discussion, and we are rightfully PISSED OFF.

I have been wearing a mask since early February, 2020. We had no idea how massive this pandemic would totally isolate us from one another or completely destroy life as we knew it. However, my Beloved and I quickly realized the dangers a bus operator comes into direct contact with thousands of those who could be infected. Beloved instantly went to work on her sewing machine and fashioned me several versions of a mask until one worked. One of my sisters also provided me with one of her own creations. I wore them constantly on the job. A month or so later, my transit agency finally found a supplier and mandated its frontline workers "mask up". It lamely "requested" passengers mask up, without providing "teeth" to this requirement. Instead of insisting the public comply, it simply passed responsibility to the frontline worker without backing us up with meaningful consequences. This ultimately left us out in the cold of an unprecedented brutal Portland winter. Then, it responded with typical cold weather responses of suspensions for "rude behavior" amidst callous treatment by those for who we toil. 

It's heartless, folks. I cannot remain silent about it as a transit blogger. It is my fervent wish that these heartless managers whose relentless reign of terror be banished forever from Portland's transit history. If ONLY...

One night, after being brutally verbally accosted and called a "racist white motherfucker" for asking someone to wear a mask, I realized early the riding public didn't take COVID seriously. Some wore masks, others couldn't be bothered to protect their fellow Portlanders. At this point (March, 2020), I sat here and wrote a short story that poured forth from this tortured soul of a bus operator. It chronicled the relationship of an operator and passenger who didn't connect until a virus had claimed every nuance of normalcy either had known. It chills me still to know that if we don't pull together to defeat this tiny bastard, it could play out in horrifying reality.

My ears felt it first. Rubbed raw, they necessitated removing the mask for brief moments, risking being ratted out by a hyper-paranoid ridership. It was difficult to take a deep breath. Was I infected?!? Oh damn! I insisted on a COVID test once I began to feel symptoms. "Not detected" was the first result. Still, I remained horribly apprehensive, given my profession's direct contact with the public-at-large. At that time, given my symptoms, I was told to quarantine for two weeks, so I did. There went my accrued sick leave. The second time I felt synptomatic, I was covered by a federally-mandated leave of absence. It wasn't a "vacation" as some perceived. It was two weeks of constant self-checks, rest and flu-like symptoms I hoped wasn't "IT". Luckily, I survived another "Not Detected" screening. 

Did my transit agency INSIST on its' frontline being tested every week? NO. Just a lame corporate-response encouraging us to be diligent in washing our hands and constantly wearing a mask, even alone on deadheads with no passengers.

There was no public support for those who risked our lives taking Portlanders to work through last summer's intense public protests and violent demonstrations which demolished our beloved downtown and crushed, along with the pandemic, our vital downtown business district. We have been on the forefront of the past year's news segments, but the buses and light rail vehicles have passed through without little more than a mention. The news media ignored us while New York City's transit workers suffered over 150 deaths (and climbing) from COVID-related illness. Still, we're fighting for our very lives in another extremely contentious, bitter contract battle with those entrusted with our safekeeping.

THEY have failed; WE have persevered. 

The past year has seen a bitterly-contested national election, yet transit workers for all our collective political divide, have persevered as brothers and sisters to do what we have always known: to safely transport our fellow citizens through fire, violent outbursts between citizens and police, and a pandemic that shows us that human decency MUST prevail above division.

I'm still here. I still want to be GM, if only to show Portland there is a better, more forward-thinking way to lead our transit into the 21st century and beyond. You KNOW what I go through each night I take the wheel of a city bus; those who "manage" us have no idea what they're in charge of. It's time for a change, and I offer it. To those who believe we have no voice, it's time to discard the "norms" our board stubbornly in favor of. The corporate way has failed, miserably so. 

Frontline workers do the work of transit every day, across the globe. We're held back by those who occupy the top tiers of transit, who have failed their Operations slaves and the public at large. It's time for a change, and I am one of many who could achieve it. If only "they" thought the same way.

Meanwhile, I drive a bus while a passenger offers a "huff off my can of Dust Off, man." Will I suffer a complaint if I rudely refuse with a "Why the fuck would I, ever?!?" 

Reliably, some possibly power-infused manager would take offense to my response. With strong, persevering dedication, we are constantly attacked. From the outside, but even more so, from within. Still, our riders gain more respect in today's political climate than those who do the work vital to every community. Sorry, but that's just not right, in my humble blue-collar opinion.

Who then, deserves, the mantle of leadership? Hmm... only the brightest will "get it." Unfortunately, the most assailed are the least-heard. Therefore, you'll see once again, a doltish corporate head appointed to continue the assaults upon frontline transit workers. New face, same game.

That's how it goes. Still, WE roll wheels on pavement and tracks. Until someone with blue-collar common sense steps up, so it shall remain.

I'm still here... are YOU?


With respect, I am YOUR

Deke N. Blue

Friday, January 8, 2021

RIP, Brother/Classmate Jeff Ward

Jeff, right; his husband Danny, left. 
RIP dear brother, and condolences to his husband and to
the classmates he left in loving remembrance.

Deke's Note: A break in time, the blink of a millisecond which forever binds us all together as humans: the death of a fellow operator. My day began with the devastating news that Jeff had passed away. Luckily, it was my day off, or like our fellow Sam, I would have driven a bus through a veil of tears. This post is dedicated to Jeff Ward, TriMet Merlo Bus Operator, Portland Oregon ATU757 brother.

My dear lad, we were so close in age yet separated in distance by the garages we gravitated to after becoming full time operators. You were so kind, quiet in demeanor and not nearly as boisterous or engaged with the group as a whole. You kept to yourself, even when we tried to draw you out. Only a few of us classmates had a precious closeness to you. Guarded in your privacy, yet kind to all, not realizing how many revered you.

Throughout the great outpouring of grief, shared love of Jeff and support toward his beloved Danny, I cannot help but shudder at the stark emptiness he must be feeling. It will continue for some time, with the laundering of Jeff's clothes, or a casual touch that only partners in love understand over years being together. The welcoming hug after a long day of work. There's an emptiness coming none of us can fathom, until it happens to us. And it will, at some point; each hoping the other doesn't have to feel it first. The fear of death's harsh reality fuels an even deeper well of sadness for what Jeff's beloved will endure. Long after the many condolences and well of sympathy offered, a widowed spouse is left with the stark reality of sudden aloneness. 

Each class of bus operator trainees forms a tightly-knit bond that lasts our entire career. Training partners often form closer bonds over others, but we all evolve as a team. That bond brings us closer together, even as our years of service begin to separate us. Some move on to the rail division, others remain part-time, full-timers move to different garages. Until COVID struck a wedge between most human interactions, we joyously reunited every time we picked runs. It's a time-honored tradition in transit garages across the globe, and each class believes their own affinity for classmates seems greater than others.

Jeff would stand back from the closely-knit group of us who congregated and jovially greeted one another each signup (pre-COVID). He had to be persuaded to join our conversational group-hug each time, but he seemed to enjoy our including him. Perhaps he was leery of our boisterous and loud reunions, but he was no different in our minds than any other. We knew he was shy, but we refused to allow him to believe he was less beloved than any of us who reveled in having that wonderful reunion every three months. He was US, and WE were HIM. 

Bus operator training is a grueling process. It's designed so to weed out those too weak to withstand the necessary pressures which mold us into transit workers. We were, as every class of newbies is, grilled constantly, put through extreme challenges from Day 1 and even before being hired. I remember my first day of training, as many are, looking at those who shared my 10/29/2012 hire date. Strangers thrust together in a shared reality few outside transit have experienced. It must be somewhat similar to military recruits sizing up their fellows at boot camp. None of us truly stood out. We were equally nervous yet determined to pass every test. As days rolled into weeks, training partners and trainers formed working relationships. Still, we came together in the classroom and began the process of bonding which we soon realized would keep us close throughout our careers. It has been so since long before any of us were born; as long as humans hold a steering wheel or guide Light Rail Vehicles along tracks, it will remain thus.

Today began with heavy sadness as I learned Jeff had died as I slept. I knew however, I had a duty to fulfill as ATU757 brother/classmate. I held my emotions in check after the initial shock. It's much easier accepting bad news not having to work. Then about four hours later, I broke down. I wept uncontrollably, remembering how Jeff honored me by asking I witness his Last Will and Testament just one month ago. He had just told me he had just months to live. As often happens, I didn't realize his time on Earth would be much more brief. 

Jeff was so much more than a bus operator. We will always remember his wit, his ever-present laughter and humble manner. We loved him more than he realized, and we will miss him forever.

One of my last texts with Jeff, since talking on the phone was difficult for him, he sent me a poem by Char Gidner.  Although a school bus operator, Char's poem is an ode to all who roll wheels in service to others. It is a fitting tribute from one who lived the truth it so aptly describes.

Thank you Jeff. RIP, dear brother. Bless you Danny, and know our transit family is here for you. To all reading this who have suffered so devastating a loss, I share your grief and offer my supportive shoulder to cry upon. Bless you all, and know my love is real and everlasting.


Bus Drivers Creed

We will start our day while you're still sleeping

We will make our priority your safekeeping

We will Pre-trip our buses inside and out

Before we ever begin our route

We will greet each one of your morning faces

We will drop you off at all of the right places

During our trips to school and to home

We will keep you clear of the danger zone

We will Aim High in Steering, We'll look way ahead

We will Get The Big Picture

Like Mr. Smith said

 We will Keep Our Eyes Moving, leave ourselves an out

Because Safety is what it's all about

We will Make Sure They See Us,

We'll make eye contact too

Whatever it takes for the safety of YOU

We will lead by example and teach you the rules

To be be a good rider, you'll need the right tools

At the end of our route, not a child we'll find

At Durham School Services, no child's left behind.



Friday, January 1, 2021

Deke4GM, Part One: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I know which job I want next. One which supports YOU!


HAPPY '21, EVERYONE!

Deke's Note: (January 5 -- This post has been edited, with some tidbits saved for the next installment. I have also removed some explosively-derisive language not in keeping with the spirit of this endeavor.)

For weeks now I've had a lot of ideas bouncing around inside this mind of mine. They are all centered around the wheel. It's time to reinvent it, where transit is concerned. It is not likely to happen. Even so, my ideas need to be aired. Here's how I believe Portland Transit needs to change. Immediately, if not sooner.

Our General Manager has announced his retirement. I want the job. I have zero "experience" as a transit administrator. That's the best qualification I can point to. Look at the past decade. Those with this supposed qualification have dragged our once-vaunted, celebrated transit system into the muck. They have had their chance, and floundered, squandered and blundered throughout it all. Meanwhile, the "Bored" of Directors begins anew an expensive search for the same type of dolts who got us where we find ourselves  now. Pure insanity. It hasn't worked yet, folks. 

I apologize for such harsh language, but my mother taught me to speak plainly. To do otherwise is dishonest. Thanks, Ma. After 60 years, I see your wisdom. The problem is getting local and state power to see the massive failures it has participated in the past 20+ years. Here's a hopefully eye-opening view of the mess we face today. I can fix it.

THE WORKERS 

Morale among our frontline workers is dismal. I only use that word in want of something more devastatingly descriptive. Those tasked with negotiating a new labor contract demand so many takeaways there is no chance in hell we would agree. Especially after the past three contracts, which have seen us give away most of what was promised when we were the premier transit agency in the world. Management bets on talks going to a state-appointed arbitrator, which they bet will take its side over ours. And what are we asking? Simple respect and a return to honoring those who do the gritty work of rolling wheels. All the while, management has become more suspension-happy than any institution in Portland's history. 

Transit operators in general are the safest drivers on the roads at any given time. We have to be. It's not just that our lives depend upon it, but human lives most of all.

"The only good employee is a scared one," Laird Cusack told our ATU757 Local President Shirley Block. He's the guy in contract negotiations with our union. 

We are the most highly-scrutinized public employees, besides police. Not only are we expected to roll safely and adhere to strict Standard Operating Procedures, we must also deal with an increasingly-abusive  public. Complaints pour in whether we're patient or lose our expected cool. Perfection is mandatory, yet we remain human until Artificial Intelligence (Management's Master Plan) is implemented.

Today's average motorist is in a perpetual rush. In a hurry to get to their own funeral. They are rude, pushy, ignorant, entitled and downright dangerous. I'll get to how I would approach them as GM in more detail later.

One milli-second's misperception goes against us in the review committee overseeing each "incident". Not only does our agency take each seriously, as it should, but word is that a new group of local do-gooders will be impaneled to "investigate" transit mishaps. Thanks to a lazy and bloodthirsty media, the public doesn't believe its actions are at fault. Adding an unnecessary level of scrutiny is another insult to our professionalism. It's bass-ackwards, and terribly insulting.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T

They wear suits, we wear a different uniform. They can accessorize, dress down on occasion, and dress down those whose massive efforts make their jobs possible. Yes, they have spent a lifetime racking up corporate resumes, but they nowhere near as tough as the Average Joe and Jane who saddle up in any kind of weather. WE cannot work from home. The "suits" who actually do make it into the office during inclement weather likely ride our buses and trains, because it is safer. 

Empty words and corporate catch-phrases are their imagined strengths, but these fall on deaf ears. There is no oversight for them, too much on US. The Board of Directors simply nods every time "leadership" assails them with agency business. Artificial Intelligence is their obvious goal. Rid themselves of pesky union workers and their post becomes more secure.

Has anyone in management or on the Board had to endure this level (click here to watch) of fear and intimidation in their positions? Not bloody likely. Numerous Operators, Union Leadership and others have impressed upon the Board and the Oregon State Legislature the vital need for protecting Portland's frontline transit workers. To date, legislation to make attacks on transit workers a felony remains buried in committee. We are still maligned and attacked by our own management if we defend ourselves "too vigorously". This absurd shift of blame from the perpetrator to the victim is shameful.

What Would I Do as General Manager? FIRST, my team's Core Value Would Be: Support Frontline Workers

It's time to re-focus management's purpose while establishing people-oriented priorities. The GM's job is largely encouraging others to accomplish goals. Mine would be to re-focus management's role as a primarily supportive one. There is so much distrust in management today that any mention of "family" results in a snort of disgust from the front line worker. In a highly-vaunted annual event, management bestows praise and baubles during Transit Worker Appreciation Day. While the effort might seem praiseworthy on the surface, it is considered by most to be only for show and tell. I purposefully avoid these events, which are nowhere to be found once the night shift takes over, because I'm afraid to say something unkind. They may think their efforts this one day make a difference, but we feel little support the rest of the year.

I must say however, in management's defense, that I was pleasantly surprised by the Fred Meyer's holiday gift card. It was accompanied by a gracious and kindly-worded letter of thanks for our efforts last year. It took me by surprise, and I truly appreciated it. Yeah, Deke was actually touched by a managerial action. Thank you Doug and team, it was a nice gesture. Why? Because it was a hands-on token of appreciation. That's something we don't often see.

* * * * *

One thing I have learned from a lifetime in service-oriented jobs is there is a drastic lack of respect for those who do the work others profit from. As a frontline worker, I'm expected to kiss everyone's ass no matter how stinky it is; nobody however, kisses mine. I'm simply exhausted from puckering up for those who don't deserve it and never have. 

Riding transit vehicles is NOT a right; it is a privilege. Rights are inherent; privileges can be revoked. Because management has taken such a laissez-faire approach to violators from fare evasion to dangerous behavior, the troublemaking segment of ridership believes (and has been largely supported by a discipline-heavy hand) it is in control of our vehicles. Instead, it has been historically (until recently) the frontline worker's responsibility to maintain order on our vehicles, and to expect backup from those higher up the chain of command. Today, it's anybody's guess what to do in a tense situation.

As GM, I would insist everyone up the chain not only support any frontline worker's request for backup, but demand it. Management's job should first be to act as support of those who do the tough jobs in the field, not micro-manage it to the point nobody feels comfortable making split-second decisions which ensure the safety of those who depend upon our judgement.

Given Portland's recent decision to reduce its contribution to our security, I would spearhead a restructuring of the Transit Police Division. Its main focus should be a supporting role. Transit workers depend on cops to restore order on our vehicles when situations deteriorate. Portland's caving in to protests will severely cut its support of Transit Police in 2021 and beyond. This decision will have a grave impact upon already-vulnerable frontline workers, leaving us open to more violent attacks. As GM, I would consider it my duty to ensure my family be protected, just as we all do at home. 

Current Facilities are Woefully Inadequate

Not only have our frontline workers seen a severe lack of support and respect from management the past few decades, our facilities "out there" are simply atrocious in many areas. Many are woefully outdated and inadequate. Many bus routes end at a porta potty or nothing at all (Line 8 for example), with nowhere for a health-conscious operator or supervisor to heat up a plate of leftovers. Junk food is often our only alternative if exhaustion finds us running later than normal. Management has made a commendable effort to rebuild our garages. Still, they keep the best furniture upstairs while the bullpen endures yesterday's Goodwill discards. The mindset is totally topsy-turvy. To any casual observer, we appear to rate no better than Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist; any request for improvement seems to be met with derisive scorn.

As GM, I would insist the Agency halt any further Capital Projects. Post-COVID economy will find ridership lacking anyway, so the new focus should be to improve what we have and entice new ridership. New light rail project needs to be shelved until the economy has recovered. This could take years. Businesses have been shattered by the pandemic; many have permanently closed. Unemployment numbers have skyrocketed, and it is naive to believe everyone will magically just go back to work when society has regained a new normal health plateau. Instead of costly extensions, I would institute an agency-wide drive to improve Operations-In-The-Field Facilities. Anyone who rolls wheels on either side of transit knows frontline facilities are inadequate at best. Layover time is a valuable resource that should be enhanced and valued.

* * * * *

"A happy, healthy and secure employee is one who will more willingly contribute in a more positive way," your new GM will say.

* * * * *

Bus and rail stops need extreme updates to shelter passengers from the elements. Shared bus stops should be better-equipped to inform Operators of passenger intent. I would install lighted signs passengers could signal their intent to board a certain line at shared stops. We waste a lot of effort slowing and coming to a smooth stop only to be met with a casually-dismissive swipe of the hand when we open the door. Given we stop a bus about 800 times a 10-hour shift (yes, I have counted them) for various reasons, this would save both time and money, not to mention my aching right big toe, which controls a smooth touch on a stiff brake pedal.


Stops would also be better-lighted. Several years ago, our agency "tested" lights on bus stop poles at certain locations. Unfortunately, they stopped too soon and failed to take the darkest stops into consideration. That's Corporata for you, almost doing the right thing, then failing at the most crucial of times. I would drastically-increase solar-powered bus stop pole lights and shelters, to give Operators a fighting chance against complaint-heavy intending passengers who hunch over their phones while wearing dark clothing in an unlighted shelter. Given this improvement, I would direct Customer Service to denounce false claims of an operator "passing up" those who are clearly not prepared to board a transit vehicle. Today, we are called into disciplinary meetings after the ill-prepared whine on the line about the driver who passed them by. Hey folks, unless you're standing at the pole at a dark stop, waving and holding up a light, we cannot see you. Get a grip, and take responsibility for your disregard of common sense. We should not be blamed for your being unprepared.

Too many times as an Operator, I have found myself fuming over the simplest matters. If I truly felt supported by management, my rides would be much happier. Why? Because an informed public, one held accountable for its actions on transit, would be happier. Instead of worrying about some puffed-up corporate stiff overriding my authority as a highly-trained professional in a position they know nothing about, I should feel justified in insisting order be maintained as I safely roll my fellow citizens to their destination. Instead, I'm forced to second-guess my numerous bosses every time a passenger misbehaves. It happens several times a week that I must decide whether to bother an already-overwhelmed Dispatch with a problem. Sometimes, we choose not to call. If we felt truly supported by management, it would be a no-brainer: call, get quick and meaningful support as the problem is solved. Instead, we are not given the latitude to exercise our judgement (learned over thousands of miles of experience) and expect the help needed to solve the problem. It's ridiculously unsupportive, and I would put an immediate stop to such negativity.

* * * * *

It's time to stop now. I could go on for about 20 paragraphs more, but hopefully you get the picture. My common sense approach would be a refreshing contrast to Corporata's. Having driven a transit vehicle for eight years, I'm still green compared to a few hundred of my superior brothers and sisters. However, I have come to respect them much more than our management does. In its eyes, these million-mile warriors are dead weight rather than incredibly-valuable resources. As GM, I would further value their experience through incentives designed to retain and revere them. I would also reward them with lasting security when they retire. 

In my next post, I'll explore more positive changes I would implement as General Manager. First, it's time transit's hierarchy become a reinvented wheel, spokes radiating inward toward Operations Personnel who make it all roll. Another major change would be the very title associated with being the Jéfe. It would be most fitting, attaining the post after my humble eight years, to change it to JCMP (Just Call Me Patrick). I would adopt a "GM's Uniform" which does not involve wearing a suit, making me stand out while not being viewed as "other". If we're supposed to be a family, I would adopt a role of supporter rather than superior. I would be much more humble and attuned to the frontline worker than any GM the past 30 years. And that, my brothers and sisters, you can bank on.

Stay tuned for more. Meanwhile, I remain your humble brother,

Deke N. Blue

(Share with this hashtag: #DEKE4GM. Let's make this a worldwide movement, rather than a mere dream.)




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 ...