Thursday, August 11, 2016

I Salute My Brave Sister Operator

My fellow bus operators astound me each day with their personal stories. We are such a diverse group, yet we have a common goal: to get safely from Point A to B. What happens in between sometimes is enough to boggle the most sane of minds. Luckily, ours are more so than many of our passengers.


One sister bus operator had her ex-husband board her bus the other night. Evidently, he caused her great pain over the years. Without knowing details or wanting to delve into them anyway, let's just say it was unnerving for her to see him on her bus. She handled the situation calmly and professionally, and carried on with her regular passengers as if nothing extraordinary happened.

Imagine the incredible stress this situation put on our sister. How would you react? I stated that I wouldn't be capable of behaving as calmly as she did had it happened to me. My first wife was so horrible to me I had to move several states away to escape her, even though the nightmares continued until a few years ago. Even now, I shudder at the prospect of ever having to see her again. How would I react? I'd like to say I'd be calm, polite and detached. My soul however, begs to differ. I have forgiven (most of) her sins against me, but some are too painful to even think about. Having my beloved Lady Blue at my side for decades now, to smooth out the sharp edges of a painful past, continues to be my greatest blessing.

You never know who's going to board your bus on any given day. The most respectable-looking people can sometimes be surprisingly rude and/or impatient, perhaps even dangerous. Those whom you might think to be trouble-causers are often the first to come to our defense in touchy situations. All you can do is be kind, considerate and polite to all while hoping they treat you the same way. What you don't expect is having a painful memory walk through that door and the confidence to not let it rattle you.

As the years roll by, we gain an inner toughness many other occupations don't require. It's not something one notices happening. Each challenge we face comes with its own educational value. We become more hardened, to be sure. Not only do we experience adverse conditions on a regular basis, but we also hear other operators' stories and how they handled these situations. Our personal transit file cabinet gains a folder with each story we hear or live through. The toolbox we each carry within us grows, providing us with a wealth of responses for any number of situations we could face in service. Then something happens that is outside the realm of our understanding, and we have only our wits to rely upon.

In the past month alone, I've heard of several assaults on my fellow brother and sister operators. We all shake our heads and pray for them. All the while, we wonder what lies waiting on our next run. As operators, we're expected to remember all the rules regarding our behavior while in a dangerous situation. One false move while protecting ourselves could land us in the unemployment line. Any overzealous self-defense tactic, while maybe saving our lives, could be construed as beyond "reasonable" and cost us our job. Very few other occupations have as high a stress-level as ours, yet the public commonly spouts smug statements like "all they do is drive a bus". Cops and firefighters know each shift could be their last, and I have the greatest respect for anybody who voluntarily puts their life in danger to protect another. Yet we are constantly left to wonder, "Will I be the next transit casualty?".

So yeah, I nod my head in respect to my friend who sucked it up and kept her cool. Until, she said, she reached her own car in the parking lot after her shift ended. Only there did she allow herself to shed tears and reflect on a painful time in her life.

Thank you, Lady Operator, for being a shining example of the true professionals we all strive to be. You're a gem, and next time I see you, expect a hug.


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