Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Just Shut Up and Drive



Deke's Note: I've been reading "All Aboard" by William F. Alsheimer III, written by a bus operator from Rhode Island. Billy began his transit odyssey in the '80s when operators had much more leeway in dealing with passengers. Then, people were expected to obey the rules or face the operator's wrath. He was usually backed-up by his management. Now they're too concerned with pacifying the public to show respect for those who actually roll the transit vehicles. As I read my own book preparing the audio version, I realized how our job has evolved over the years. It now caters to a public that feels entitled to complain whenever an operator exerts any measure of authority. This post describes how today's operators sacrifice their pride to avoid argument or even an assault.   

It's interesting how as the years roll by my windshield, my attitude changes. As driving a bus has become second nature and the passenger-types have been noted and catalogued, I've learned not to take myself so seriously as I once did.

Once upon a newbie time, I felt like a big-shot, Captain of the Ship, MR. Bus Operator, and often challenged even the slightest infraction on my bus. Now most of the time I just shake my head. If nobody complains and the rule-breaking is minor, I usually just roll the wheels and concentrate on scanning for anomalies in my path.

Why the change in operating philosophy? Because my management doesn't respect me, my authority as a transit operator, or even my personal safety. Why risk my well-being arguing with someone who could assault me, when my employer will take the passenger's side rather than backing me up? Like a passenger who once told me to "just shut up and drive," that's what I normally do. Today, that's just the way it is, and I have to accept it if I want to keep this job. Reality sucks, but so does homelessness.

Of course, there are some things I just can't let pass. Take the baby out of the stroller, please. Remind me you'll be stepping in front of my bus when you exit to remove your bike from the rack, turn your phone audio off, move from the Priority Seating Area when the elderly or disabled board, and don't drink or smoke on the bus. Keep your conversations at PG level. Those who harass others are also warned only once that their choices are: be nice or walk; they also have the choice of exiting peacefully or in a loaner pair of shiny wrist bracelets courtesy of law enforcement.

Every time a passenger boards, I look them in the eye and greet them. If they even throw an eye in my direction, that is. Those with the HopPass tend to ignore me as if this type of fare is a direct invitation to disregard the operator. Or, perhaps they think the bus drives itself and we're only there to serve them refreshments and swat flies away. To them, I add an exaggerated "How ya doin' today?" Sometimes it diverts their attention from their phone long enough to offer some mumbled greeting as they amble past.

I don't expect everyone to be jovial and kind. Humans are prone to grumpiness, and everyone has a bad day on occasion. It's also wise to avoid over-amiability, as some take it as being too-forward for "a simple bus driver." Good for them. As long as they arrive safely to their destination, I'm doing my job. They're also the types who fail to thank me for doing just that, but oh well. I don't require acknowledgement to continue providing the smoothest ride possible. It's my nature to do so regardless whether people notice.

Once upon ages ago, my journalism instructor smacked me upside the head with a newspaper and told me "quit worrying about things you can't change." It's a lesson I had a hard time with for a while. It's especially important to remember this in my profession. People will be who they decide to be, and little I say or do can change what I have no control over. JUST DRIVE, asshole.

And that's all I have to say about my supposed "author-i-tah..."

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