The 500th Post!

My Note: Perusing this blog's stats last week, I saw there were 499 posts so far. It was only fitting, on my Friday night, to find enough inspiration after another 55-hour week to write #500. It was too rough and unpolished to publish, maybe still so, but here it 'tis.

I began this odyssey 10 years ago, simply to describe my life as a bus operator. To me it was pure nirvana to be read by so many of you for so many years. To the internet nerds, it was a paltry number. However, I have never written this blog for them, or any perception of "success". It has always been one operator's viewpoint FromTheDriverSide, for whatever value any of you may have placed on my humble offerings. THANK YOU!

The good things. The decent, hard-working yet least appreciated of America's Working Class.

I've seen every segment of American society, yet I'm still surprised on occasion after 11 years at the wheel. Those who toil each day, often six or seven each week at one or more jobs, just to make ends meet. They pay their fare, are kind and respectful. I'm so grateful for them and their experience. Because there are so many, I can still warmly smile at everyone I serve and heartily welcome them aboard. I learned early on that people need to be acknowledged. Some could care less, but it became vital to me. People too often treat one another with cruelty. If I can evoke a smile via a compliment upon their entering, it's a reward. (Thanks Tommy Transit for your wisdom and guidance here.) I've become expert at spotting potential trouble causers. Although my Scots-Irish blood makes me too willing to fend off any troublemaker, my father's side fights for calm. Dad was gently tough, a musician who enlisted as a fresh 18-year-old in 1944 during World War II. He never backed down, but knew how to exercise logic and kindness to diffuse a potentially-volatile situation. I'm still working on that, and I'll turn 63 this week.

I've been kicked, stalked, hit on the head with a full water bottle, cursed, harassed, threatened, racially-profiled as a bus operator. I didn't, nor do any of us, deserve it. My life prior to this career was much less volatile. This one has worn me down both spiritually and physically. I have made many valuable friends however, so it helps assuage the painful moments. 

This past week, my goal once again was to enlighten the public and my fellow transit brothers and sisters about the sad fact of attacks upon our numbers worldwide. My local friend Henry Beasley and I joined a brother from Florida five years ago to educate the public about the dangers we face "out there". We formed a silent protest we named "BandTogether" during which we placed a bandage on our door-side cheeks in homage to those of our beloved numbers who have suffered attacks.

A few days ago, a dear friend/fellow operator informed me he was brutally attacked and beaten on a MAX platform. In his 70s, this dear man is struggling to recover nearly two months later. I dutifully donned the badge of courage in solidarity with those like him. For those who were murdered. For those who suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder yet drive right through their anguish in solemn dedication to our profession. 

At this stage, five years in, my hopes of a worldwide show, let alone locally, of support via this simple yet poignant protest were dashed by the dismal degree of participation. It seems that our fervent support of those who have suffered fizzled out rather than becoming a leading cause. Henry is more encouraged than I. We'll keep at it year after year, bandages upon cheeks until it clicks. It's for US, therefore YOU, after all. And that's why I'm still here.

* * * * *

Just last week, one of my favorite singer/songwriters died. It's as if my generation is passing quickly into history as fast as it grabbed our young souls. Jimmy Buffett penned so many vital tunes, his death was a horrible start to my work week. The first few days, I had to blink through tears and change my thought processes just so I could safely roll.

When I was sure my bus was empty, I keyed up the PA microphone and sang a capella my fave Buffett tunes Banana Republics and Come Monday. I failed to notice the "creep seat" passenger. Sitting there listening, unbeknownst to the seemingly-alone operator. Tears pouring out of my eyes, I belted it out unaware my grieving emotion was affecting my unnoticed passenger.

"Nice take on a groovy tune, dude," he said as he exited. "I loved Jimmy Buffett too. My condolences."

Wow. His exit left me to sit and collect myself. My unnoticed passenger was a fellow Parrot Head. Fins to the left, I saluted him to my right.

* * * * *

It's truly fitting that today is the 29th anniversary Beloved said "I will" to my altar plea. Beloved is my biggest fan, toughest editor and most supreme confidante. She edited the book "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" (now out of print), celebrated when sales went through the roof and consoled me when they just as suddenly tanked.

Now, as this blog is in its sunset era (a moment I have been preparing for years), Beloved is gently urging me toward more lofty goals. I have a few novels in progress. One I began 27 years ago, went gangbusters through 1,100 pages and stopped. Its characters beg me to finish, as they are aging past where they were written. The other is one I began nearly five years ago, an idea borne on a late afternoon roll over the Tilikum Crossing. I'm also working on a grisly short story (about a bus which eats people) as I lay in bed before sleep claims me. It's a new form of writing, in my phone's Notes app. Slow and tedious, therefore hopefully brief and intense. (Coming soon, I promise!)

Perhaps it's fear which keep me from finishing these fun novels, but I MUST. This blog was simply practice. Of all my life's greatest loves, Mom often knew me better than I did. It's time I pay homage to the wonderful woman who willed me to excel when doctors told her to forget about me. If not for her, I wouldn't even be upright, let alone a writer, twitterpated husband of three decades, father of three and grandfather of two beautiful people.

I'm trying to transition, but it's damn hard sometimes. How can I abandon these transit blogger roots and move on? Nobody else takes on transit management, which requires chastising quite often. I feel a responsibility to STAND in support of those who do the real work of transit. Just like Mom, I'm never  compliantly-silent. The literary poker remains red hot, because I don't see many taking a fiery-enough fight to the unnecessarily-protected transit management. Brothers and sisters regale me with tales of their mistreatment from the mid-management monster our transit agency is heretofore incapable of taming. They fuel my fire, especially when I realize management is looking for anything we do "wrong" even when we do everything else "right", the best we possibly can. Piss me off, and you can be sure I'll write about it.

* * * * *

Once again, our transit agency is sponsoring a "Bus Roadeo". Problem is, like all events management puts on to "celebrate" its workers, it ignores a full third of us. Night shifters cannot possibly participate in events which begin at 8:00 a.m. because we are asleep then. Any celebratory meal offerings are merely wilted leftovers when we arrive back at the garage in the wee hours of the next day from which we started our shifts. Unless you work bankers' hours, you're the forgotten lugnuts of transit. We have come to accept this disrespect, and it's just wrong. Truly pisses me off, Boss. 

It also makes me sad you still suspend/terminate operators with decades of tough experience because of your refusal to educate the public on the basics of transit, in place for a century. You're trying to re-define the rules to support irresponsibility, ridiculousness and laziness. At the expense of your most-valuable resources. You refuse to teach the public the basics of How to Ride then punish us when some malcontent complains when we insist they simply follow the rules. Transit Rules, not mamby-pamby hold-their-hand-and-kiss-their-boo boos over petty bullshit management rules.

I had hoped this new GM would change that, but he won't even schedule a follow-up meeting with me after his "hey look at me I'm the new GM!" meeting 15 months ago. I had hoped to have a meaningful discussion with him, and then a follow-up to discuss the progress. Fairly, there have been several positives since Sam took over, but it's the harshest crap he needs to send packing before we feel truly appreciated.

Yeah, I'm bitter. Most veterans are. That's why they want to get rid of us. They go "phishing" whenever some idiot complains, even falsely. Worst part of this is, our union allows them to do so. I'm sorry, but none of us are, or ever could be, perfect. We sure don't see management setting an example lofty enough to admire, much less follow.

* * * * *

The Best: After all I've seen as an 11-year Operator, I still love driving The Beast, meeting new passengers and having the best view of our lovely city. Hopping off my bus at a layover, I enjoy stretch my limbs by  walking into the beauty Northwesterners may not cherish often enough. Savoring lovely vistas of the Willamette Valley rising to a newly-snowy Mt. Hood. Finding my humanity intact after seeing the worst of it, still finding beauty within and acknowledging those who share my vision.

Those of you who know me are aware of the joy who came bouncing into my world January 25th. Distance separated me from my first grandchild, but on his 20th birthday a week ago, he finally said "I love you too". It was a quintessentially-shining moment, equal to the joy my new granddaughter brings me. She, who bounces with joy upon seeing me, reaching out to be held as I sing... "Mila Rose, my itty bitty Mila Rose. She's got 20 fingers and a button nose, my love for her grows and grows." I dance around with her in my arms, and it's the best medicine for an aging fellow whose love for his children and theirs is infinite. Those of you who share this honor know exactly how it feels.

Last week, this bundle of boundless energy was grumpy. She missed Mama and Daddy, but they needed to attend to serious business. Beloved is gifted as a grandma, as she is always an incredible mama. I'm second to her, and truly embrace that.

One recent afternoon, I sat in my dear departed friend Liz's rocking chair, bottle to Mila's mouth, rocking gently. I held her tight, but not confining. She wiggled, cooed, zerberted and grumped. I began to softly sing, gently cupping her head and massaging her temples. I felt her grow heavier. The sucking continued rhythmically, and her breathing became slower, more regular. She sank into me, her eyes struggling to remain open. I placed my hand over her face, radiating my love. Within seconds, she fell asleep. The bottle's nipple fell from her mouth. Gently lifting her to my shoulder, I patted her back. A good solid burp later, she snuggled deep into me. For 45 minutes, the wee lass slept, content within my arms. It was easily one of my most blissful moments. Ever. Each second, I cherished her soft breath upon my cheek. It took me back to my earliest moments as my father sang to me. He was much better at it. Still, it was a generational moment, from my father to me, from me to Mila Rose. What a wonderful moment to rock any baby to sleep, let alone my own grandchild!

Remembering each of my three incredible children doing the same so many years ago, it was pure contentment. I was one with my granddaughter just as I had been with her father, uncle and aunt. No matter how much pain the days before had wrought, it was all erased by a baby's softness upon my neck. Nothing else mattered.

And that, dear readers, is where I am today. Content, happy and loved in my personal life. Conflicted, often angry, feeling neglected in the professional. If I were dead tomorrow, all that matters is that I loved, and was so. In 25, 50 or 100 years, my life will be long forgotten. Today, it is real. I am stubbornly enjoying it regardless of the dark spots which try to cloud my vision.

Peace and love be always with you and yours. Thanks for reading #500.

-- Deke/Patrick


  1. Ahhh Deke man …. You are a gem. Well written my dear friend … thanks fir the nod. As a new grandfather myself I feel you saved the best to the end here. Soft breath on my eyes is your real words wisely shared. You are the real deal Gramps and I am deeply honoured to call you my friend. Bless you and your family always, much love from Michele and Tommy in Vancouver CAnada.

  2. Deke, you never fail to evoke so many emotions in me. And how right you are about being a grandparent. Please enjoy every single moment, as the teen years might not be as close as previous. One of my granddaughters is still really close, but sadly not in proximity. The other two are more involved with friends, but still came to visit this summer, & I got a good dose of love. 💜

  3. We haven't had a bus rodeo in Winnipeg since 1997. I thought the one I participated in was fun, but the next one was cancelled by management as they wanted minimum numbers of participants. Even with strained management/operator relations they could probably make a go of it now. Takes a lot of planning and volunteers though.


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