HOW TO RIDE THE BUS
We use our phones almost constantly these days. When I first began this blog, I sported a "flip phone" that was plenty adequate for most any purpose. Today, even this stubborn old fool uses a "smart phone," although I don't see how it's measurably improved my intelligence. Our attachment to technology has also had a negative effect, because it has removed common sense from the collective consciousness. We've lost the ability to use common sense in the most basic functions of daily life. While most who ride the bus don't read this blog, it still requires somebody to attempt educating people on how to do so. While our transit agency believes silly little signs with antiseptic messages are adequate, today's rider sometimes needs a subtle yet informational slap upside the head so the lesson takes hold in their isolated minds. So, here goes.
We've all seen the type. They're sitting on a wall 20 yards from the stop, staring down at their phone. Others are standing at the stop: a blue pole with a bus route number upon it. Not at the shelter, but at the actual stop. The professional rider is prepared, money or ticket or phone in hand, queued and ready to board. Donnie Dolt absently looks up as the last prepared passenger boards, and shouts at the operator who has already begun closing the door. Donnie casually strolls to just outside the entrance, staring intently at his Samsung appendage. He stops just short of the door as the operator re-opens it. Deke sighs impatiently. Donnie holds up a hand, dismissively disregarding my impatience. He could have already boarded, regardless of his ill-preparedness, but he somehow believes it's illegal to board until his fare appears on screen. Once it finally does, 30 seconds after Deke has prepared to leave the stop, Donnie enters without a word. He purposefully looks askance while holding his phone pass a foot from Deke's face. Nary a greeting, especially no apology for his inability to be prepared to board, as those ahead of him have.
BIG NO-NO, folks. Be ready to board. We're rolling on the agency's tight schedule, not yours. Everyone else on the bus was ready to board, but you weren't. Their being on time is a signal they need to arrive at their destination on time, and are usually very annoyed with your narcissistic attitude. Next time you're sitting there unprepared, I'll close the doors and leave your inattentive ass behind, no matter your insolent crybaby call to our customer service line complaining that I passed you up. That way, maybe you'll be ready for the next bus.
Also, please don't hold us up while you ask a question. Many times, people ask me when a different bus line will arrive at a shared stop. I don't know because I don't drive that one, folks. It's impossible for me to know the schedule of any of the 80-plus routes in our system. If you're downtown, look at the reader board placed there for your convenience which lists arrival times of any bus that services the stop at which you're waiting. If you make me miss a green light on our transit mall, my two or three brothers and sisters just behind me are truly annoyed that I haven't taken advantage of it. Chances are one of them are driving the route you want to ride.
RESPECT THE RIDE
Although our transit agency is hell-bent on being everything to everybody no matter the consequences to its frontline employees, there are (and have been for a century) basic rules people need to obey when using transit. Please take note, because professional riders already know them.
1) Operators are not your servants. Yes, we are public servants, but we're professionals who deserve the respect of someone who has spent considerable time learning how to safely conduct you around town. We don't take orders from you, no matter who you think pays our salary. You do not have the "right" to berate us for being late. We have to concentrate on a thousand things every trip. That's our job. Yours is to sit tight, minding your own business. You're expected to be considerate of your fellow passengers and the operator.
2) If we make a request, it's usually to ensure the smooth and orderly operation of our vehicle. Yes, it's policy to take small children out of strollers and take steps to keep it out of the aisle. This way, passengers can walk to and from the doors when the bus stops. It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like. The same is expected of everyone who boards, and we don't have time to debate transit policy with you. Please do the right thing.
3) Turn your sounds OFF on your electronic device. Music, videos or whatever are of your own interest, not mine or that of people around you. Your tastes likely don't jive with others. To the operator, it's a distraction. We're listening to the sounds of the bus engine, traffic noises, possible emergency vehicle sirens, or passenger distress signals. It takes concentration to guide a bus through narrow streets among impatient motorists. Normal conversation is "white noise" which blends in with normal operation. If I allow one person to jam their tunes, then another plays theirs just a tad louder, another joins in and suddenly there's a concert of distraction assaulting my ears. Please use earphones.
4) Priority seating is reserved for seniors and those who live with disabilities. This should be obvious, but we often have to remind people to surrender these seats for those who need them.
BE THOUGHTFUL AND CONSIDERATE
The bus you normally ride is just minutes away and I'm late to that stop. You're two blocks away, running frantically to catch a bus you normally wouldn't see if I was on time. If I roll away before you reach the stop, take a breath. You arrived early, your bus is likely right on time because I've picked up most of my follower's passengers. Chillax, dude. Throwing us your one-fingered IQ score won't get you anywhere but looking foolish.
If we're stopped with our engine off and doors closed, don't take it as an invitation to bang on our doors and demand we let you in. It's called a "break" for good reason. We use the time at the end of the line to eat, call the wife or husband, and enjoy a few minutes of silence. The stop just ahead is where you should wait. Oh it's raining, you say? Yeah, it does that here. Rain gear is preferable if we're at a "Drop Off Only" layover stop and you're early. Umbrellas are handy as well, and woe to you if you left it on the bus earlier. Not my bad, sorry.
America is multi-lingual, a safe haven for people of all cultures. While English is the main language spoken in this country, it's not the only one. We enjoy freedom of speech, which means you can speak however you choose. Unless, of course, your speech is offensive, threatening or divisive. You are not free to berate another because the language they speak is different from your native tongue. People who know several languages are usually highly-intelligent individuals, most assuredly smarter than those who haven't even mastered their own. Your freedom doesn't allow you the privilege of interrupting others having a discussion in a "foreign" language. Remember, many civilizations have been around centuries longer than our own. America is a melting pot made up of people from all over the world. If you berate another on my bus because they speak a different language than yours, I will definitely call you on it. In other words, don't be an asshole... I don't like it, and chances are most agree with me.
Additionally, freedom of speech doesn't allow you to curse at will. When your speech is liberally-peppered with common curse words, it's offensive to the majority of people who speak intelligently. Buy a thesaurus, learn new ways of expressing yourself. Hey, as you can see I'm no stranger to coarse language. However, a bus isn't your living room... it's everyone's.
Don't use racial slurs, no matter how narrow your world view. It's offensive to speak of others in a disparaging manner. I will refuse service to anyone who disrespects another passenger because of race, religion or nationality. Just be nice, or be quiet. If you can't obey this simple societal norm, try walking. That way you can talk to yourself all you want.
Avoid politics. Today's political discourse is too divisive to think a bus full of people is going to agree with your opinions. Try FaceBook or Twitter to air your views. I like a smooth roll on my wheels, and political discussions can make it bumpy.
As I tell folks, I'm not your maid and I'm too ugly to be your mama. Please use the trash cans conveniently placed near the front door. It's simple common decency to clean up after yourself. Pretend the bus is your granny's living room.
Have a problem with an operator or fellow passenger? Remember you are constantly under surveillance while riding public transportation, and assault is a serious offense. If you hit me while my bus is rolling, you will be charged with a felony. Your actions are on film and will be used against you. If you strike us from behind as you're exiting, you're a sorry piece of chickenshit. As I write this, there have been 70 instances this year where operators have been spit upon, punched, slapped, threatened or menaced while doing their job. Be thankful for your operator. It's not easy to do this job. We have loved ones awaiting our safe return home just as you do. No disagreement or misunderstanding is worth a trip to jail.
Safety is a two-way street. Put the phone down as necessary to ensure your safe passage wherever you're going. Be alert and mindful of signals and your surroundings. We do our best at scanning, but if you're wearing all black, even the best eyesight can't spot you. Also, remember we're humans, and fallible. We cannot be perfect all the time. It's ultimately up to you to safeguard yourself. Be visible, vigilant and very careful.
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There you have it. Of course, there are points not listed here. However, that's where common sense comes in. Take a few moments and think about what you're doing in public. Be cognizant of how your actions reflect on your public behavior, especially where your own safety is concerned. Don't be afraid to tell us if something "isn't right." We're there for you, Johnny Public. Work with us, and life will be just fine. One can only hope, anyway. There are no guarantees, but we do have your best interests in mind when we're behind the wheel.
Peace be with you all, and thanks for riding and reading.