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Author: TriSec    Date: 09/05/2020 10:19:33

This is it.

Today, I give my last tours as a conductor for Old Town Trolley here in Boston. We tried, but as one of our sales reps called it the other day….”Dying Trolley Tours”.

But how did it come to this?

Let’s go back in time, many years now, and do a little compare and contrast. Over a decade ago now, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) went home to be with his brothers. We all knew it was going to happen, but it didn’t make the following days any easier. On the morning after he passed, I wrote this blog, containing the following passage:

I owe him my job...my career...my livelihood.

Back in 1996, Senator Kennedy joined forces with a Republican Senator from Kansas by the name of Cassenbaum. They crafted a little healthcare reform that President Clinton signed into law that October. Us old-timers still call it the "Kennedy-Cassenbaum bill", but you probably know it better as "HIPAA". In addition to creating the COBRA program and updating healthcare privacy rules, this bill standardized electronic claims submission formats and set a hard deadline, and literally created the healthcare electronic data interchange industry overnight.

I've been working in the business ever since.

It is true. I worked in healthcare for thirty years – twenty of those years in the data exchange segment Kennedy helped create. I met Mrs. Trisec through work. Healthcare was a solid industry. We got married, adopted Javi, travelled, did all the things Americans ought to be able to do.

The Affordable Care Act was also a major influencer of the healthcare industry. In the years after it’s passage, business continued to expand, and there seemed to be no end to the good times. But then 2016 happened. Trump and the Republicans are not interested in moving America forward – their slogan even states “Take America Back”. All the business growth of the previous twenty years suddenly seemed at risk.

While there were other factors, I eventually decided that healthcare seemed a risky future, especially if all the advances made since 1996 were suddenly rolled back in the name of “Regress”. (It would be wrong to call it progress.) So I left. It took a number of months, but I finally landed a job driving a tour bus through the streets of Boston.

It was an unlikely career change – but I like to drive, I like history, and you certainly know my feelings about my home city here. It seemed like a good fit. My rookie year of 2017 was a whirlwind – one day that early fall, we carried the highest number of passengers ever recorded at an Old Town Trolley city, more than 3,000 in a day.

I suddenly discovered that I had a knack for this, but 2018 proved to be a difficult year. We were shorthanded, and management was rather adversarial at the time. There was a brief effort to unionize, but that collapsed. Corporate, sensing all the trouble, cleaned house. I somehow managed to get on the management team myself as part of the new regime, and we tried to rebuild and mend fences with all those disgruntled drivers.

Something curious happened in the year 2019, though. Tourism was the fourth largest industry in the city of Boston, after Healthcare, Education, and Finance, but the long summer of 2019 seemed like a down year. Hotel occupancy was down, and tourists seemed to be simply not there. MIT did a study at the time, and a friend at the Hyatt Hotel in Cambridge made the same observation.

Previous years had been steady, especially with international visitors, because many of those vacations had been bought and paid for. But as the shortcomings of the Trump regime became more apparent – people simply stopped coming to the United States. We had a decent cruise ship season (Aug-Oct), but overall the numbers were down for last year.

Back at the very beginning of the season, we got a new General Manager. He did the Franklin Covey thing, observing the status quo during the year, seeking first to understand, and then be understood. Over last winter, we blew up a lot of things. We created an entirely new operating schedule, revamped the way we service the cruise ships, and completely re-did the hiring and training process. During this time, I got myself noticed by both the Chief Operating Officer and the National Trainer at OTT – and it suddenly felt like I was on the verge of something big.

But then…literally days after I had made some overtures to the national leadership….the Biogen Conference happened in Boston. Tourism literally evaporated overnight, and by March 13, we had ceased operating entirely. How quant it was when we shut down, to think that we might be able to restart in two weeks, for April 1.

Here is where President Trump enters the picture. Neglect, Malfeasance, Malignancy….
whatever it is in his DNA that causes him to be such an ignorant, mean-spirited, demagogue all came to pass during the long, and ongoing crisis. It was a hoax. It wasn’t a big threat. It was a liberal conspiracy. All the while, people getting sick and dying. His ineptitude led to the initial breakup of the United States. As you know, many states balkanized and formed regional coalitions to create leadership on the viral crisis where none exists at the national level.

A mish-mosh of regulations now exists among the 50 states, and in the national confusion, the tourism industry died. I don’t know even today if it’s safe for me to drive to New Hampshire to look at some waterfalls, or drive an hour south to Rhode Island on a Sunday afternoon to visit my child away at school. But as things gradually lifted, Boston and Massachusetts tried to cautiously re-open some businesses.

After months of uncertainty, we started operating tours in this city again on July 13. We can only operate at 50% capacity (21 or 23 persons on board, depending on vehicle configuration), seats have been chained off to enforce distancing, masks are required, and we run with the windows open rain or shine in order to maintain airflow) So far, it’s been underwhelming. The best day we have had in the six weeks we’ve been running has been around 125 people – all day.

Boston as a tourist hub is dead. Many attractions never opened for the season. Given that we have vast areas in town operated by the National Park Service, the President’s reticence has been nothing short of shameful. Many prime attractions never opened at all. The ones that did are operating under extremely limited capacity. The Old State House, for example, has a maximum capacity of a mere 7 people per hour. (based on square footage.) Driving city streets – it’s easy to find the deserted shops, boarded up storefronts, and darkened restaurants. Nearly every day, we have news that another treasured local establishment has given up for good.

This is all on the President’s lap. Where Senator Kennedy worked tirelessly for the betterment of all Americans, Trump works only to benefit himself and his family. Kennedy tried to reach out, build bridges, bring people together. Trump is only a wedge to separate Americans, destroy all the accomplishments of the past, and leave nothing but ruin.

Where Kennedy created an industry, and created jobs, and tried to streamline and expand healthcare for Americans, Trump has ignored, misdirected, and shown a complete indifference as a major industry in the United States dies a slow death by a thousand cuts.

And so it goes. Today I leave behind a solid core of drivers that I helped to hire, train, and inspire. Many of my team were openly stunned by the news that I had given my notice. At least one of them has told me that he has little reason to stick around himself now, as apparently still being a part of my team was his only incentive for remaining. I had hoped that my leaving might free up a few extra hours for those guys, but I found out from the schedule-maker that the opposite is true; management had asked him to tighten up the timetables and cut another daily driver to try to save more payroll.

I have not worked 40 hours since March, and I simply cannot afford to do this anymore. I am moving on. It is still a driving job, and it’s got all the things the trolley can no longer give me. 40 hours plus overtime, a predictable schedule, and steady work through the winter. As an added bonus, it’s a union job too, so there’s all kinds of possibilities in my future.

But it doesn’t make me feel any better about leaving. In April of 2017, I did take a chance on a career change that proved to be a great success for me, personally and professionally. At the time, it was our dear Raine that said, “Leap, and the net will appear.”

I’d like to think the same will happen this time – the only different is that I didn’t make the leap myself. I was pushed.

This president, and all of his supporters, can and should be disparaged for all time.


2 comments (Latest Comment: 09/06/2020 21:29:40 by BobR)
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