Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Don't Need to Be A Jerk

Ever had a passenger that initially annoyed you, yet your conscience told you patience was the key to working with him? I have one this signup.

Nearly every day, this aging little fella boards my bus around 3:30 in the afternoon. He asks if I think he'll be able to catch a bus that will get him to the east side of town by 7:00. After a few days of this, instead of being irritated at having to answer his daily query, I realized he must have a memory issue. He's usually disheveled, hair a mess and looks like a scared puppy. At first, I was impatient. I groaned when I saw him shuffling toward the bus with a frantic wave. He always has his pass, but he has to dig for it. I would sigh impatiently, tap my foot, and was your total jerk bus operator. After three days of this, my impatience turned inward. Is this what I've evolved into? The snarling driver people always bitch about? Tonight after my run, I just sat in my car, head hung low, as I realized how uncomfortable my actions must make this poor fellow. Shame sunk in, along with the painful fact that I'm not always as nice as I'd like people to think I am.

What if he has some sort of impairment which affects his memory? He's always apologetic, polite and tentative. Compared to some people, he's the kind of passenger I should look forward to driving. Lately, I've had some real bozos ride my lines, and it's been harder for me to be kind and gentle. This Irish temper has been sorely tested on several occasions recently and it's been very difficult to remain calm under pressure. My soul is in upheaval, because I'd hate for someone to be as impatient with me as I have been with him. He's somebody's family member. What if someone was mean to my brother, who was born with Down Syndrome? What if someone treated my brother the way I treat him? So what to do about this, Freaky Deke?

Beginning today, I resolved to turn my frown upside down (pardon the cliché) and be the person he doesn't need to fear. I've nicknamed him "Frank", the name of a dear friend of mine who while was as ornery as I am, had a heart of gold and the patience of a saint. I miss my friend, and by giving this poor soul his name, I'm going to turn myself around and quit being such an asshole. So while Frank dug through his wallet this afternoon, I told him it was okay, he could have a seat. "I know you always have your pass sir, so go ahead and have a seat."

"Thank you," he said quietly, then added "but do you think we'll make it to the transit center in time for me to get to Powell by 7:00?"

"Yes sir," I replied gently, smiling. "It's only 3:30 now, and you'll have plenty of time. Now go ahead and sit down, and I'll get you there with time to spare!"

He half-smiled, trembling, his eyes betraying a remaining trace of fear. "Oh thank you, yes I'll sit. Thank you, sir."

As I continued down the road, he rose and came up to me. "Are you sure I'll make it on time?"

"Yes. It's gonna be okay," I replied, knowing this same scene will play out again every day. If I work on it, maybe he'll lose the fear. Maybe I'll be one of few people who are kind to him. And perhaps, I won't have to kick myself for being the type of driver I said I'd never be.

When he de-boarded at the transit center, he turned back around as always, waited for people to board, and thanked me again. Then he asked if his next bus will pick him up at that stop, which I assured him with a smile and a nod. Once more, he thanked me several times. He seemed slightly more at ease.

Of all the people we transport daily, there's no real way of knowing how many are scared to death, fighting illness or inner demons. It's hard sometimes to remember patience. It is, after all, part of my mantra to be kind, thoughtful and patient. We're often treated to a large ration of rude, and it's hard to avoid becoming jaded. But I'm ashamed of myself for allowing it to happen. Life is full of bad news, hard times and mean people. Why must I be one of them? There's no excuse, but there is redemption.

That old song, "What the World Needs Now, Is Love Sweet Love" comes to mind. Not just for some, but for everyone, it says. Another thing I need to remind myself of is that we are judged by how we treat those with the least, and I am blessed with so much to be thankful for.

I'm sorry, Frank. You deserve better from me. From now on, you'll have it.


  1. I am in total agreement and I, too, have experienced the same "enlightening" lately. I also find that it makes my job much more tolerable and enjoyable, even, when I am tolerant and patient with those less apt than others......it is a flaw I find in myself sometimes, lack of patience with those less endowed with intelligence or aptitude....something I struggle with and work on each an every day. I am able to admit it and know that I have tons of room to improve. God speed and help me to be a better person for all of those out there who have no one else looking out for them.........Thanks, Deacon. For speaking the minds of those of us too arrogant to admit these failings......

  2. Not only did this make me smile, but it also brought tears to my eyes! Just think, you made a difference in that man's life, and you quite possibly, could have been the only one to do that, in God knows how long. You showed kindness, and smiled at him, which we all know isn't always easy as a driver who is often mistreated, disrespected, and abused in all sorts of ways. It's wonderful to see that there are still drivers out there who truly care about how they treat their passengers! I, myself, have always tried to think of each passenger as someone's mother, father, child, etc., and ask myself, how would I want someone to treat my family? I know I would want my family treated with the utmost respect, and kindness, therfore I try to lead by example and treat all of my passengers as though they are my family. Thank you Deacon, for sharing your experience, for showing compassion for others, but most of all, leading by example and being a great role model and co-worker.

    ~Julie~ ��

  3. When I used to get asked what my job was like I'd answer that it was like grabbing the line at the DMV and taking them for a ride for a half hour. But it's that and more because we have people who have not seen the inside of the DMV for years if ever.
    They're not that together.
    Fortunately, occasionally we get people like "Frank" who are both common and rare. Common in their circumstance and rare in that they have no memory of the day before. Or if they do they aren't telling. Like Adam Sandler in "50 first dates" each day affords a new opportunity to hone our skills and hopefully one day be consistently compassionate.
    Thank you for a great article. :-)

  4. Been there, done that! I always said, I would save my anger and attitude for those who deserve it. Which I did for quite a while, until I found myself treating everyone equally BADLY.

    I had to stop, step back, and reset myself...and make some changes towards that end (different division and type of work too). Which is not to say that I was and still am able to be there for the people looking for trouble, but being able to Jekyll and Hyde when needed.

  5. Beautifully put. I too often fight impatience and feel terrible about it. Thank you for the reminder.

  6. Well done Deacon. This is something we can ALL relate to. We all have those "why am I being such an ass" moments. You get this guy that, even though he's a bit of a pita*, he's friendly and doesn't cause any issues. I'm with Gloree...thanks for "reminding us" that we need to take a minute and breathe.
    *pita-pain in the ass

  7. I know this passenger, his daily inquiries and need for reassurance tried my patience as well, and I have BIG BIG PATIENCE; ) I love your writing, thanks for sharing! :)

    Heidi Riley

  8. Thank you for sharing. When I started 12 years ago I had the patience of a saint and was the nicest person to deal with. I had great customer service skills and was happy to help. Over the years I've lost myself. I'm impatient, sarcastic and sometimes plain rude. I wasn't brought up like that and hate that I become that way. I would like to blame it on poor scheduling, but the onus is o my shoulders. I've taught my kids that each day is what you make of it... But somehow forgot to live by it. Thank you for reminding me that I am still me, and my job does not define me but that I define my job!

  9. It's difficult to keep your equilibrium when tensions and frustrations mount up each day, I know, as a caregiver for my 90-year old, mostly deaf, mother. I appreciated your story.