Monday, May 21, 2018

Reality Requires Tact

A friend found this gem somewhere in AZ.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Moss.

At a certain point in a bus operator's career, driving becomes second nature. It's the people that you're constantly learning to deal with. Passengers, managers and other motorists present challenges each trip. We deal with so many different, yet also often similar, personalities that making a mistake becomes inevitable.

Our management seems even more dysfunctional than our looniest passengers. Many have never sat in an operator's seat, yet they believe they know better in every aspect of our job than those who actually do it. A mayor has no earthly idea what cops and firefighters deal with, yet their ego-encrusted positions give them supposed inklings of how these brave public servants should behave. Often, operators deal with situations that are damned-if-you-do-whatever. Choose to follow district code, the passenger could react in many different ways and our management will have their backs and attempt to fry our backsides. We're presented with so many no-win situations on a daily, even hourly, basis that it's impossible sometimes to know which method of "customer service" bullshit we should follow.

Sometimes, discussions on a bus can be peppered with salty language. The usage of the word "fuck" is about as common as a Valley girl's saying "like." It's a lazy way to converse. True, this obscenity has many uses in language, but it can be offensive to some. To ask passengers to use more refined vocabulary often offends them. We risk getting complaints by not controlling a situation we sometimes shouldn't venture into. A manager will ream us for any complaints, whether we follow code or try to appease the offended. Upper management has no use for "grey areas," and I think they often have little "grey matter" to discern what constitutes proper procedure in many situations we constantly deal with. Yet their positions are comfortable. They don't have to deal with knife-wielding maniacs on a transit vehicle. People don't spit or throw urine in their faces. They read memos on subjects we handle up close and personal. They make decisions on numbers they pull out of the nanosphere of the filtered and protected air around them. We do so while breathing in the toxins of those in ill-health, surrounded by filthy vehicles and billions of airborne pathogens that slither aboard.

Sure, Deke is complaining again without offering "solutions." It's not like anyone with decision-making power gives a damn about my opinions. They don't have to. For some reason, harassing those of us who do the work of transit is more important than doing the work necessary to improve our working conditions. That's mental illness for you. Repeat the same irrational things while expecting a myriad of different conclusions, few of which are weighted toward the operator's benefit. No wonder we suffer such alarming rates of depression, work-related injuries and illness. Management actually brags about their record of declining Workers' Compensation cases. It's not that cases are down in number, it's that they care about numbers more than people.

So the next time you complain about an operator's actions, remember you're most likely refusing to accept your part of the blame. We tell people not to cross in front of our bus because of safety, not because we're assholes. When you walk in front of a bus, you risk becoming another hood ornament of Impatient Ichabod in the Infiniti who takes that opportunity of a stopped bus to speed around it across double-yellow lines. We ask you to let us know when you're going to take your bike off the rack because of your safety. On my route, I board about 20-30 people each shift with bikes. It's impossible to remember each face and match it to a bike on the rack. Informing the operator of a 20-ton beast before you step in front of it is ensuring that operator uses the safety protocols designed to keep it from rolling over you. Rolling past Foolish Freddy who just raced across six lanes of traffic to try and catch your bus is a lesson in safety: don't do that. If you're late for some engagement, it's not our fault. Don't expect us to endanger those on the bus who had the foresight to arrive at their stop early. Take responsibility for your own actions, and thank us for our vigilance rather than whining with a false sense of superiority.

Had a motorist in some little beater cut me off the other night. Out of frustration and fear, I honked my displeasure. Then the brainless bastard slowed down in front of me and made a right turn with his middle finger extended. Wasn't sure if he was telling me his IQ or driving test score. Luckily for him, I cover the brake pedal whenever I'm not accelerating. I just nodded my displeasure and continued keeping the remaining fools around me safe. They have no idea what a car looks like underneath a 20-ton vehicle, and I hope to keep them thusly ignorant.

If any of you have logical solutions for the dilemmas we experience, feel free to explain them. Sometimes, I don't have to offer any. After all, I'm just a bus driver.

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