Blaser: Defenders of Blue Line driver are asleep at the wheel

Randy Blaser
Randy Blaser

I worked at a company once that had a provision in the employee handbook about sleeping on the job. Bottom line? Sleep on the job and you’re fired.

My job wasn’t all that stressful or tiring. Basically, I sat at a desk all day, answering telephones and reading copy. If a fell asleep for 10 or 15 minutes, it hardly mattered.

Nobody would have gotten hurt and millions of dollars in equipment would not be destroyed.

Still, the warning in that handbook kept me on my toes. Even on deadline days when I’d put in 16 hours before dragging my tired butt home, I’d load up on coffee and sleep later.

The policy worked. As far as I know, no one slept on the job, or at least got caught at it.

Not so at the CTA, where last week we saw the spectacular accident of a CTA train roaring into the station at O’Hare Airport, blowing past the stop and ending up on the escalator. Thankfully, no one was killed. As it turns out, the operator of the train fell asleep, or so she told investigators, and didn’t wake up until after the accident. And this wasn’t the first time this driver has dozed off while driving a train.

I don’t know about you, but my first thought was, “What the hell is going on at the CTA that drivers fall asleep and keep their jobs?”

Let’s see, I fall asleep and miss a phone call. I get fired. El train driver falls asleep and is given more hours.

Ready to defend the right of all workers everywhere to sleep on the job, the president of the train and bus drivers union, Robert Kelly, notified the press that everyone has done it.

“We’ve all dozed off driving a train,” he announced at a press conference.

I can’t even doze off while riding a train. I used to fear some thug lifting my wallet as I dozed. Now I have to stay wide awake on all El train rides, ever ready to jump in for when the driver decides to take a nap while guiding the Evanston Express, or whatever color they call it now.

Union chief Kelly went on to explain the employee had a long week, working 69 hours in the seven days before the crash. Over at the CTA, they say it was just 55 hours, and the employee asked for the extra hours.

A lot of people today put in long hours. That’s how they keep their jobs or make a living in the new economy, doing the work that used to be done by two or three people.

That’s what everybody does. But everybody doesn’t crash, figuratively and literally, on the job.

Correction: In last week’s column, I incorrectly stated that GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner refused to debate his opponents. He actually agreed to appear in five debates. As a voter, I still don’t consider that enough and that was the intent of my criticism. Still, he made the effort and that should be noted. I apologize and wish him the best of luck in his campaign.

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