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Deke's Note: SO much to say, but so little time. You see, I just earned another VACATION from driving a bus, and it feels OH SO SUBLIME! Also, it took time to wade through Blogger's bullshit "new stuff" before even accessing this site. Finally, I can write to you! Bear with me; my thoughts are jumbled.I'm so damn... tired. It has been a full seven months since my last vacation. COVID was in full killer mode, it was my birthday week, and a lot has transpired since last October. Usually, seven months is just that. Pandemic-wise, each week feels like six. I cannot remember one from the last. They're all full of random bullshit, and it piles up to the point I don't want to recall any of it. But as a blogger, it feels like I must do so. The past year: COVID rears its ugly head and causes panic; ridership plummets as people self-quarantine; Deke pens a story nobody reads; the economy nosedives as people lose jobs; historic fires blow choking smoke and embers into our buses, forcing us to close bus windows we had hoped would blow virus particles free from our lungs; protests and violent riots chase us out of the downtown transit mall further terrorize our workforce from operators to supervisors and maintenance workers; a fierce winter storm shuts down transit for the first time in modern history. If Mother Nature wanted to wreak more havoc, she could not have thought of a more chaotic year.The worst part of it all, to date, was hearing mid-shift last week that my beloved co-worker had been shot while behind the wheel. Our worst fear, realized in one who sacrificed his body to be bloodied in the seat working his day off to help a management that has fired many experienced workers and forced many others into retirement before their time. It's a wonder that bullet didn't kill Dale, but he's a helluva lot tougher than those who manage us. I am so thankful he is on the mend, and making us realize how happy we are that bullet didn't hit him a few inches askew.Even so, transit workers constantly show up to serve our fellow citizens. Even as management concocts new ways to torture us. Suspensions, terminations and utter ridiculousness follows us every roll of the transit wheel. We roll along, gritting our teeth, determined to do our jobs no matter natural or corporate obstacle. No hazard pay, ridiculous signs lamely proclaiming "Heroes Work Here" as our numbers were terrorized by a bloodthirsty management, and a plummeting morale among those who kept transit afloat despite its mismanagement of our well being.This past week, I told you management had called for volunteers to be on our Director of Bus Operations "new task force on safety". Ha! I thought. Okay, I'm game. Let's see if this is the real deal, or just another ploy to get our hopes up only to slay us with "budgetary constraints" and other corporate jizz for "we really don't give a shit, ha ha!" After one meeting, the jury is still out. Chances are good, it's all for show as I expected. I mean really, don't we already have another such corporate "safety committee"? What came of that? I'm not feeling any safer. We're still waiting for the money they owe us in back wages after approving a new contract. A simple computer query would instantly calculate what we're owed, yet we still await payment. Huh. That's how they treat "heroes" I guess.Why should I put any strength behind my agreeing to discuss "Operator Safety" with a management that is more concerned with disciplining us than paying us what we're due? I'm skeptical, to say the least.* * * * *Most of all, tonight I am relieved. For nine days I won't have to put my life at risk for a public that would rather bitch and moan about any perceived mistake I might make, no matter its ignorance of the ridiculous rules I operate within. A few asked what I'm a gonna do my week off."I'm not gonna drive a bus," was my reply. And that's vacation enough. * * * * *Driving a bus is not anything like it once was. The past decade, Portland's transit agency has doubled down on pleasing the unforgiving riding public while making our lives miserable. The toll on those who roll wheels has become insanely-past unbearable. Yet here we are, still and always showing up for work even in the most miserable conditions. Pandemic, fire/smoke, ice/snow/freezing rain or unbearable heat, we take the wheel while management brazenly brags it is "working from home". It's difficult to show any respect for those who rain horror down upon us as we suffer the worst possible conditions.Meanwhile, we have an Interim General Manager who seems to have a heart. Like many of us, I hope for the best but am conditioned to expect the same ol' same ol'. I gave up my quest for the top job because my "qualifications" don't meet corporate standards. Why put myself out there? It would be a joke to the "Bored of Directors" to consider someone who actually understands the plight of transit operators. Their purchased media mugs would make a joke of my "lack of qualifications" and I would be subject to ridicule. No thank you. To chase an impossible quest is more than I can stomach. My ego is not sufficient to withstand the scrutiny necessary to pursue the improbable. I'm faulty at best, unwilling to defend my perceived misgivings, at worst. I have too little time to fight battles I cannot win. Fuck it. Sam, go for it but don't forget where you began your transit career, like most of us. I have been beaten down by extremely-low expectations from those whose very job should be to support US. To say I'm tired belittles the reality of my utter mental and physical exhaustion. I'm 60-years-old, hoping to find some security in a looming retirement after 40+ years in the blue-collar workforce. The government taxes us heavily when we work more than we're expected to and then sucks even more when we leave the workforce. When I die, they'll tax my carcass for the pittance it's worth. Retirement is not a pretty scene for most of us, but it's ALL we have to keep us going. Most of us won't live long enough to enjoy it anyway, given the toll this profession has on our mind/body/soul.Retirement into a casket is all too often our lot. It's too sad to contemplate.So here I sit, happy to have nine days absent from the seat's torture. I'll dread my return to the seat. I will play, enjoy time with my wife and sons, begin and finish home projects, work on my upcoming novel, drink to excess and rest at every opportunity. At my age, a nap is 40 minutes of bliss. Yard work, housecleaning projects and helping Sam move will ease my aching soul. Seeing dear friends will be a calming elixir. Treating my PTSD, avoiding transit-related nightmares... byproducts of this profession. Even on vacation, I cannot escape the reality of a profession which beats us into a hardly-recognizable facsimile of who we hope to be. The sun has risen. It's time for me to snuggle next to Beloved for my first rest sans alarm in too long a time. Nighty night, dear readers. Stay safe, would ya?
This article first appeared on fromthedriverside.blogspot.com
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