"Any trained orangutan could drive a bus," he said.
Really? You could train an animal to do this job? I've heard they might have buses drive themselves in the near future. But an orangutan as a professional operator? Puh-leeze. If you think human drivers are a surly lot when passengers test our patience, imagine a primate's response if it gets spit on or assaulted! Transit agencies worldwide would be broke from lawsuits stemming from the instincts of a wild animal fighting back. They bite, too. All we're allowed is "reasonable self defense", whatever the hell that means. Orangutans don't have the mental capacity to gauge the response necessary to safely stop the bus while keeping attackers safely at bay. Any self-respecting primate would jump on the violator with a frenzy known only to a hungry fat dude in an unguarded donut shop.
It takes a lot of energy, skill and fine motor control to navigate a 20-ton, 40-foot vehicle through the maze of city streets we call home. Even though we have power-assisted air brakes, it takes a few hundred pounds of pressure on a downhill to stop these beasts. At the same time, we're scanning over 200 degrees of a visual plane for possible dangers. Passengers create distractions by thrusting their trip planners into our faces at the most inopportune of times, asking "Where do I get off the bus if I want this address?"
A typical bus line can run from 45 minutes to two hours in length. In that time, we navigate hundreds of intersections, guiding the vehicle into bus stops every few blocks on average. To travel 25 miles, our bodies expend great amounts of energy on precisely-coordinated movements. Our knees take a beating, our nerves are tested by impatient drivers, unskilled bicyclists, and countless distracted pedestrians. We save many lives each day by predicting foolish maneuvers by other people, while working diligently to ensure the safety of our passengers and those around our bus. This is never reported in what passes for "news" these days, because the media is only interested when a bus comes into contact with another object. Then we're drug tested, investigated and subjected to humiliation for none other than doing our job.
I read recently where a driver in another city was attacked as his bus was in motion. A passenger with a doctored pass was angry when the operator wouldn't honor the fare. So the passenger grabbed the wheel of the bus and repeatedly struck the operator as he tried to safely stop the bus. With the aid of other passengers who briefly subdued the attacker, he finally brought his bus to a safe landing. He was battered and injured, but he was able to get in a few "self defense" smack downs himself. Instead of being concerned about the driver's well being, his transit agency actually suspended him for five days without pay. Why? Because he didn't take his beating courteously. Talk about adding insult to injury! Not only was the operator traumatized and injured by the assault, his transit agency refused to back him up, instead choosing to demoralize and insult their own "valued employee".
So yeah, my Irish went haywire at this "friend's" remark. Needless to say, he's no longer welcome to discuss anything with me, let alone my profession. If I ever saw him waiting for a bus, I'd tell him to wait for the next orangutan to pick him up. Good luck, buddy.