Saturday, October 18, 2014
Clean Buses or Dirty Deacon?
I'm not saying this is entirely true. Questioning my fellow drivers, however, revealed there are a grand total of six bus cleaners district-wide. Each is reportedly given eight minutes to clean a bus. When doing so, they are dressed for it, unlike the operators who spend 8-12 hours driving the germy monsters. Most buses seem to make it through the wash rack on a regular basis, so they appear clean. But that's only aesthetics; the interiors are often mold-infested, bug-crawling germ factories.
One driver reports, "The sickening reminder comes as I'm walking back to my car, after a long day's work, and I see the brother and sister cleaners wearing full gloves, respirator masks, and practically dressed in hazmat suits just to get, safely, though their eight minutes!"
My trainer suggested using wipes to clean surfaces an operator touches as part of the pre-trip. This made sense, because the first time I sat in the seat, my first reaction was "eew" when I first gripped the greasy steering wheel. I took this wise advice, and I routinely wipe not only the operator controls, but the rails, stanchions, door handles and stop buttons near the back door. Each time, my wipe comes up black with grime. Some days, it takes two or three wipes before I feel relatively "safe", and even then I still seem to catch every bug that walks through the doors.
There's simply no time, or personal finances available, for drivers to clean all surfaces. The seats are usually the dirtiest. While older buses have cloth seats, the dirtiest, the district touts plastic seats on the new models as cleaner. This has long been an issue. But if each bus is cleaned only a handful of times each year, bacteria will build up when not properly sanitized. This 2011 news report gives an example of just how dirty bus seats can be: Dirty Seats Report.
Our district cut the number of cleaners at some point, while later granting non-union employees generous raises and working to charge us for health insurance. Dirty laundry here, but it's abusive to expose us to long hours in unhealthy working conditions, then making us pay for going to the doctor when our very job makes us sick.
I wonder what our passengers would think if we donned haz-mat garb to protect ourselves from germ-laden "offices" while we work? We're already exposed to whatever pathogens our customers bring with them. Another fellow operator states, "I have never been as sick as many times since I started working here".
It isn't the fault of those dedicated, masked souls who try to clean up after the hygiene-challenged who ride public transit. But next time you ride a bus, you'll wonder, "when was this bus last cleaned?".