This new year’s eve reminded me of something that happened right here in the streets of Portland Oregon half a dozen or so years ago. A late night war was fought right here under our noses. On one side you had a single bus operator and on the other taxi drivers. This battle raged through the night into the new year and yet few people in Portland have ever heard of this glorious battle.
It started oddly enough while I was on a date. Well, let's go back a little more, I had gotten up early that morning for an AM report and ended up driving a morning tripper. A tripper is a bus that does a short shift usually at the peak rush hour need and usually one way. I came back to Powell Garage and then sat for a few hours before I was given a nine hour run that ended at seven PM. This gave me time to get home, wash up, dude up and pick up my date.
Luck would have it she met me in her car and we went to dinner and a movie.
I was working the next day for new years but holiday work is easy rolling. I had checked the board when I left and my report for new years was 12:01. How hard would that be. I would go into work, on the holidays all the busses work out of Center garage, so I would be there and I would either A: do nothing and go home (A good day for an extra board driver like me.) or I would B: sit for a few hours on report getting paid then get a normal shift run, 8 to 10 hours at holiday and overtime pay (Another good day in my book.)
But during dinner something kept bothering me. I had never had a 12:01 report, that seemed strange. Reports are usually given out in 5 minute increments. So 5, 10 or 15 minutes apart. I had never had a 12:01 report on a holiday. I put this out of my mind and decided to enjoy the date that was up until that time going well.
Then came the movie. You ever have one of those dates that’s going so well you think, something is about to go wrong. That’s the feeling I got during the rather lackluster movie. We were still having fun though and after the move we did a little snuggling in the my Buick LeSabre of love.
Then it came back to me, 12:01 on a holiday? that did not seem right. It was 9:00 PM and I took a moment from our comfy snuggling to call into work. Sure it was a minor date foul to call into work but come on how big a deal was it. It was a very big deal! but not for the reason I thought.
It was a big deal because my run was not 12:01 noon. It was 12:01 AM, as in three hours from now. Three hours and I just spent my entire evening on a date not sleeping like I should have been.
Wait who starts at 12:01… I was informed that I was going to be a special service bus. To do special drunk people get home runs. Starting at one minute after midnight.
My date ended there and then, no more snuggles, no romantic new year together. I can’t remember what I said as I rushed her out of the Buick. She was parked right next to me so it was not like I was leaving her in the middle of wolf country. I don’t remember what I said or how I said it, but I do remember her standing there looking at me in the dark as I pulled away, her face frozen between bewilderment and anger.
So I busted ass home and…
- Put on Uniform.
- Packed back pack for another day of work
- loaded up on 5 hour energy drinks
- loaded up caffeine drinks in side pockets.
I made it to center garage with just under two hours to go. I set my alarm clock and grabbed what sleep I could in my car amid the growing crescendo of fireworks. I awoke in panic to a torrential downpour and not a firework to be heard. I checked my watch, 4 minutes to check in. I sprinted into Center Garage and signed in.
Happy Freaking New Year.
So I roll out of Center Garage armed with a radio, a driver's pouch, and a 2800 bus.
I check in with our dispatch and here is what I’m told. “You are the only one out there doing this job. Keep moving and picking up people and doing good things, if we need you for a specific mission we will call you, otherwise be safe, use your discretion and help people.
To me nothing could be better. What I had here was a chance to be a full on bus driving superhero. I pondered what my name would be, “TransPortER!” or “Commuter!” I settled with “Bus Guy!” That’s right Portland Bus Guy was coming to rescue you in your time of need.
I swept the bus mall picking up people between late running busses. Most were easy quick jaunts, I even did a run to the airport for about ten people from a hotel that had missed the last train. It was awesome but what else do you expect when you are Bus Guy!!!
On my next sweep I spied a cab sneaking up the bus side of the mall. When you are a superhero you have better senses than most, so seeing this in the rain and dark was really no problem. He was stopping at each stop talking to the riders waiting there and then moved on, all the time in my bus lanes.
I pulled up to offer my heroic services to those he left behind,and was told that the cab was telling everyone the Trimet had no late service on New Years night and that he was available. Now we give out free rides at night on new years and at that time so did the cabs, but they still got tips, and as I learned late at night some only gave you a free ride if you asked.
This injustice was not going to stand. Bus Guy would not.. no could not stand for this. I didn’t mind Cabbies getting their rides but to poach our riders with lies that was crossing the line. I pulled up next to him, he was at a bus stop in a bus only lane. I opened my front door and the young taxi driver looked away in shame.
It’s was on. I was told to do good and good I was going to do, in spades. I dropped off my riders across the bridge and headed immediately back into downtown. No poaching while the bus service was in service, no lies, no ripping my riders off, that was totally against the late night transit code. I don’t think there is really a code but if I’m Bus Guy! I need to have a code and if I had one it would say right there in black and white “NO POACHING!”
I drove back to Burnside to a cluster of bars and the Legendary Voodoo donuts (Home of the bacon maple bar) lucky for me my bus had an awesome PA. When I pulled up and double parked the taxi’s parked along the curb they were shocked. I flipped on my four way blinkers and using my PA announced that I was giving free rides home and that I would be back again and again to do the same thing.
As people filed into my bus I got out and talked to the doorman letting him know I would be back to get his people home no charge and no tips needed. He smiled and understood. I hit a couple other bars and headed out with enough people to fill eight cabs. Not that’s poaching Trimet style.
Using my superpowers I was able to formulate a route getting everyone as near their home as I could. People didn’t mind walking a block or two for a free happy ride. We sang on my bus and cheered if I picked up other people walking along the way, it was great. Then when I was empty I headed downtown.
Remember my date? Remember her face when I drove away? That’s what the Taxi drivers looked like when I pulled up for round two of poaching. Two taxi drivers confronted me. When I say confronted me they walked up to me to just talk because there was a policeman standing just a few feet away. Not that “BUS GUY” needed the back up but I don’t like to use my superpowers in that way. With great powers comes… something I forget, but lets get on with this tail.
They spoke bad English/Turkey and bad English/Spanish but I speak bad English/English so all could be understood. They asked me why I was taking their business, that no bus driver does this, that it wasn’t right”
I stood in the doorway of my bus, crossed my arms heroically across my chest. I am not kidding here. Then I told them the story of the Taxi that was poaching my riders. That he lied to them to get them to ride his cab and that was not going to be allowed. My tone was powerful and heroic, even the cop turned and listen to my proclamation of the late night transit code. I gave them the number of the Cab that was poaching and told them if I saw him on my bus mall telling lies to my riders then I would make it a habit of stopping by their bars every single night.
The cop laughed, the Taxi drivers asked him if I could do that. He shrugged and said “He can do what he want’s” I think the cop knew I was Bus Guy and that I was just defending the code.
They busily got on their phones as I pulled away with another load. I told them, using my booming PA that this would be my last load but that I would be watching from now on.
Most of what I said was total BS. I did do extra service busses in that area but on extra service when you are not working you sit and wait for dispatch to send you where needed. The Taxi drivers they didn’t know it was BS. Just for extra measure every time I did do extra service, I made sure to conspicuously cruise by the bars just so they knew who they were messing with.
Funny thing is. Taxi’s in the transit way at night did dry up for a long time after that. I would like to take credit for that but I have hung up my cape as “Bus Guy” I’m just Dan Christensen now regular driver but know this, wherever there is a rider in need, I’ll be there, wherever a train breaks down, I’ll be there, Wherever the snow is deepest and the ice is at it’s most slick, I’ll be there too.
Well I don’t know what to say after that.
Yes I have a hero complex.
Yes I can be a man of infinite rage when injustices raises it’s ugly head.
I don’t have a catchy ending for this. A slogan or a some meaningful quote… Oh I will say this, if you ever run out on a date like I did, don’t expect a second date, it’s not going to happen even if you are a hero like BUS GUY!
That is all for now
Roll Easy out there.