3 out of 4 stars
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Public transit experiences are usually told from the perspective of the passenger, but Deke N. Blue offers a fresh and unique spin on the same experience – by telling it from the driver’s perspective. Just Drive: Life in the Bus Lane is a chronological compilation of blog posts from Blue’s blog, “From the Driver Side”, which logs his experiences as a bus operator in Portland, Oregon. These posts cover a large variety of topics, such as politics, the economy, race, and even everyday life. He also lists the pros and cons of being a bus operator, such as the occupational health risks, job security, union benefits, as well as the various safety issues that arise during the course of his job.
Firstly, this book is a joy to read. As a bus operator, Blue sees people from all walks of life when he is out on a run (read: driving a bus route), and this serves as inspiration for his posts. As a result, his posts are generally brutally honest, refreshing, and most importantly, informative. “A Battle Hymn for Us All” is one post that is especially enlightening; in it, he discusses the minimum wage, and he breaks down the negative stereotypes surrounding transit workers, helping the readers to better understand the life of a transit worker.
In addition, Blue also includes a couple of blog posts about his personal life, which I think is a nice touch, as it helped me to form a clearer image of his personality. With it, he becomes a multi-faceted personality who is easier to relate to, instead of being merely a bus driver. “Twitterpated” is a fine and heart-warming example of this; even if it only tells the simple story of his wife riding his bus by chance one day, his love for her shines the brightest with every word written.
Moreover, the language used is succinct and straightforward, and therefore, hard hitting. There were also very few grammar errors, most of them being very minor punctuation errors, which made reading smooth and delightful. Blue is also adept at weaving a story, and he knows how to hold the reader’s attention by painting unbelievably clear pictures with his descriptions of various scenes.
However, the book is not without its flaws. As previously mentioned, Just Drive: Life in the Bus Lane is a collection of blog posts about Blue’s experience in the driver’s seat. Being just over 400 pages long, it did get slightly repetitive due to the same issues being brought up again and again.
I also believe that Blue’s writing is overly defensive at times. Whilst we are given a crystal-clear insight into his perspective, I think he seems to be unable to view issues with an objective eye; this is not to say that he is knowingly prejudiced, but he seems to be fettered by his own position, preventing him from viewing matters from the other side.
Furthermore, a couple of his posts are clearly emotional rants, and he even goes so far as to label people “boneheads”. It would be better for a piece of writing to possess aplomb and impartiality, instead of being emotional, which clouds judgement. However, this is not to invalidate Blue’s writing; it is simply saying that he could make more of an effort to step into the other's shoes to provide a more balanced piece of writing. Nevertheless, one must also remember that these are originally blog posts – the products of venting after a tiring day.
Therefore, I rate Just Drive: Life in the Bus Lane 3 out 4 stars. I decided to subtract a star due to the occasional topic repetition, as well as the presence of subjectivity in some of his blog posts. Still, despite these flaws, this is a book that is certainly worth reading for the fresh perspective and depth of insight. I highly recommend this to people who want to know more about the hidden side of the public transport industry – in fact, this is the perfect place to start!
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