Friday, May 30, 2008

When Public Transit Gets Depressing

Have I mentioned that I hate the bus? I hate the bus. Haaaaaaaaaaate. Buses are slow, they get stuck in traffic, and they don't adhere to any schedule.

But today was without question, the worst experience I’ve ever had on a bus in the whole of my 28 years.

This morning, I got off at the metro station, and was very excited to see the local bus pulling up to the bus stop.

Everyone piled on the bus, and the bus was almost full when the bus driver slammed the door in the face of this young African-American guy who was about to get on the bus.

Immediately, the red flags went up. "Uh oh," I thought. "I think I'm on a large vehicle being operated by a scary bus driver."

I kind of wanted off the bus, but at this point the bus was moving, and I needed to get to work.

“Oh well,” I thought. “How bad could this guy be, really?”

Pretty bad as it turns out.

One of the women sitting at the very front of the bus got really upset that the driver had shut the door on this guy and not allowed him to get on the bus. So … they started arguing.

The bus driver insisted he had a schedule to keep and that he had waited two minutes at the stop.

The woman insisted that it wouldn’t have delayed us really to let that one guy on the bus.

They went back and forth a bit, and then things got really ugly.

The driver started ranting, “I have a schedule! I have my business to keep! Maybe, in your country the buses can keep waiting forever, but I have to keep to the schedule!”

Of course that made the woman FURIOUS. “My country? This is my country!” she yelled at him.

And then he pulled the “No you di’int just say that,” line.

“Why don’t you just go back to your own country?” he spat at her.

Let me say here, I could tell by their accents that both the bus driver and the woman were clearly immigrants. So for them to be engaging in this kind of vitriol, for the bus driver to be telling this woman to “go back to her country” when he himself CLEARLY wasn’t born here was … profoundly depressing. I can handle xenophobic native-born. I’m not saying I like it, but I can handle it. But there is something worse about a xenophobic immigrant. Something more corrosive.

Then the driver pulled up to the first bus stop after the metro station, and stopped. He demanded she get off the bus.

She refused.

So he refused to move.

We stayed at the bus stop for two minutes. Then three. Then five.

I started wondering what happened to his precious schedule now?

People started pleading with the bus driver. Other people started asking the woman to get off the bus.

Neither would budge.

Finally, pretty much everyone else EXCEPT for the bus driver and the woman exited the bus.

I called a co-worker to see if she could pick me up.

And then, after ten minutes of being stranded, the bus driver for a rapid bus courteously stopped and picked us up even though we weren’t at a rapid bus stop.

Thankfully I was only fifteen minutes late to work.

The first thing I did when I arrived at work was to call Metro to report the bus driver. Metro, of course, took a very different view of the situation than I did. The customer service rep told me that bus drivers are trained to stop at a station if they get into a fight which would impact their driving.

I get it. But frankly? I don’t think the driver stopped the bus because he was too angry to drive. I think the whole thing was a power-play.

And while I admit that the woman was out of line haranguing the bus driver while he drove, he’s the one who escalated it. Besides, crazy people heckle bus drivers every day. If he can’t handle it, should he really be driving the bus at all?

And finally, I believe that if the young black man trying to get on the bus had been white, the bus driver wouldn’t have slammed the door on his face. Am I reading too much into it?

I’d kind of like to believe that the angry bus driver was just angry and would have slammed the door in the face of any person, white, black, Latino, or Asian. But I really don’t believe that.

And now I kind of want to drive to work tomorrow. I wish that the Metro customer service rep had seemed more upset by my report.

I really hate the bus.


hgg said...

go back to your country! you come here and take our jobs and our women and make a fuss on the bus. MY bus!

ffs, I thought I hated the bus, but that's just crazy.

Garrett Sawyer said...

LOL! That is sooo crazy! If only the Statue of Liberty were in LA and she was a living entity she could smack them both upside their heads with her torch and fling them back to where they immigrated from! LOL! I'm sorry, I wouldn't be able to tolerate immagrants arguing like that. I think it was maybe racially motivated for him to slam the door in the black guys face. I've had a few Mexican drivers slam the door in my face (I'm white/native american) or all together pass right by without even stopping when the buses weren't even remotely full and they were on schedule. I'd love riding the bus if the bus was driven by an indiscriminating robot like on the movie 'Total Recall'. lol. Many riders probably wouldnt like this idea but I think there should be a way to track what riding customers are waiting at what bus stops at what time and compare the data to when the the bus arrived while the rider was waiting, what driver was driving the bus that stopped or passed any given bus stop, along with how many got on and how many got off and how many seats are still available. That kind of electronic inventory would work great for bus service and determine what bus drivers are not doing their jobs right. I suspect people would have problems with it do to privacy concerns but I wouldn't care, I have nothing to hide...As long as it would give us more reliable bus service and bus drivers I'm all for it! Think about that LACMTA, Foothill transit, Omnitrans and others!! Utilize RFID passes and payment too while your at

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, but this is too funny in a twisted and insane sort of way. I laughed so hard. Bad me, entirely politically incorrect. But the bus scene you described was like a bad comedy.

I am always fascinated/puzzled about the clear prejudice between ethnic (immigrant) groups. In some ways I understand where it comes from. Many in ethnic groups tend to hold tighter to their culture and identity. It unfortunately translates into less understanding of other ethnic groups. Not-understanding is a major source for prejudice, IMHO.

Bus riding is like observing a micro-multi-cultural cosmo? Am I just romanticizing it?

ruchi said...

HGG, Yeah he didn't say the rest of the stuff about the jobs and the women, but it's true that that's basically implied. Stupid bus.

Garrett, that is interesting. I don't think I would want cameras on all the buses, but it's an interesting thought nonetheless. I agree, robot drivers would be cool. :)

Cindy W, don't be sorry. It was kind of funny in a twisted way. But it was also really annoying in a, "Oh great, now I'm going to be totally late to work," way. I'd rather the human drama play out on the way home when I don't have a job to get to.

Going Crunchy said...

Durn, too bad nobody got it on tape to You-Tube it. Seemed pretty effective at exposing the cursing police officer picking on kids skating.

Sounds like she was a Rosa Parks for being decent to your customers.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Oh I'm sorry to hear about that. Most of the bus drivers here are OK but some of them are just plain psycho and those encounters can ruin an entire day.

I was once on a very crowded bus when the driver ordered about 10 people off to make way for a guy in a wheelchair who'd only just arrived at the stop, even though the guy in the wheelchair said several times that he was happy to wait for the next one. (they come every 3 minutes and are always PACKED). The driver got super angry when people wouldn't get off and was yelling at all the passengers. When a woman standing near the back got her foot stuck in the back doors he just kept on going, even though everyone around her was yelling "her foot's stuck! Stop the bus!"

Ah, the joys. And thank goodness for the drivers who don't get angry when dumb people don't move to the back, but instead shout "free cookies at the back of the bus! Go and get'em!".

hmd said...

I dated a European for 6 years who was over here getting his masters degree. And this is like the defaut response! Anytime he disagreed with anyone it was "if you don't like it, go back where you came from." How ignorant! Ugh!

Sorry you had such a hard time on the bus. Ours is small enough that it's a pain in the butt to catch a ride (only passes once an hour), but at least it's not THAT bad. Yikes!

Unknown said...

Wow, I took a break from bone cancers to read your post today and I read it outloud to SinNombre. That's super crazy. I'm so sorry to hear things got that crazy and I wouldn't be surpised if part of that was about racism. Hang in there though. I'm sure you weren't the only person to complain and who knows maybe the customer service reps are trained with canned answers. Let's hope there's more going on behind the scenes to see that the driver is reprimanded and if not this time, it's on record that there was an incident people complained about.

Love your fashion posts by the way!

Chile said...

Yikes! That would really distress me, and I'd be pushing the company pretty hard. I have to admit I don't ride public transit here. I tried it out in Phoenix and got totally freaked out by the drunks on the bus. (First ride required a call in to the station to have a cop meet the bus to deal with the open container drinking!) My sweetie works with a guy who's told some scary stories of being followed off the bus by gangmembers....and this guy is not wimpy looking.

I'll stick to my bike....and hope the angry bus drivers don't run me down. ;-)

Green Bean said...

All fodder for some future novel, Arduous!

Anonymous said...

This is the type of situation best handled with the following:

"Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."

I had heard that quip a million times but my boss start using it recently to make his points about how we as a staff are getting along and it has really stuck with me. I know it sounds cliche but stop and think about it. I'm not defending the bus driver or his seemingly crazy actions, but I am saying that his actions may have some deeper cause. Maybe his mom died this morning. Maybe he knew the guy outside the bus and there was a reason he slammed the door. Who really knows? Aside from what you did do (which good for you for reporting it) all you can do is keep going in your own direction, being kind and doing good.

Also, I would just like to say the whole scenario reminds me of the movie Crash...

The bean-mom said...

Wow, that's just insane.

I completely understand why you hate the bus. (FYI, I once lived in L.A. without a car while I was going to college, and I also hated the bus system there)

Grad Green said...

I've seen plenty of angry bus drivers, and plenty of really nice ones. in my experience, the nice ones seem to keep their jobs and the angry ones don't last long (or maybe they get transferred to a different route).

Maybe you should also make a written complaint, or call back and talk to someone else. Racism and toxic behavior happened before the fighting really got going. The bus driver should have just shut up and kept driving.

Yeah for everyone getting off the bus.

ruchi said...

Shannon, Oh, I forgot to mention that I started to quietly stick up for the woman and I was explaining what happened to this other lady and the other lady was like, "Yeah, but this is America, you know? That's the thing, you have to take care of yourself. She should just be sticking to her business." That made me even more depressed, the idea that in America everyone should just take care of themselves.

CAE, we have some very nice bus drivers as well to be fair. It's just that you kind of forget the nice ones, but the scary ones get imprinted on your memory.

Heather, buses only once an hour!! What do you do if you miss the bus?!

SDG, yeah I hope I'm not the only one who reported the driver, though I wouldn't be surprised if I were.

Chile, honestly if the bus was the majority of my commute, I'd stick to the car. Luckily I take the subway 9 miles, and only have to spend a couple miles on the bus.

GB, heh, true. If you see it in a novel of mine one day, you'll know where that particular gem came from. :)

Csim, it reminded me of "Crash" too. Only all the drama unfolded on the bus and not a car. And actually I've never had to deal with racist drama in my car. One of the advantages of driving really.

Bean-mom, yeesh! No wonder you hated LA if you were reliant on the bus system!! :) Like I said, love the LA subway, hate the bus.

Grad Green, well there wasn't much choice. Everyone got off the bus when it became clear that the bus driver was NEVER going to get moving. Had the woman gotten off the bus, everyone would have quietly sat while Angry Bus Driver continued to drive. Even me, though I would have still reported him. But I do have my job to get to. :\

Sam said...

I thought this was a bit funny too.

My husband (who is white) has had black drivers drive off when he was the only one at a bus stop. Its annoying and hard not to read into it too much.

Generally the drivers here are very nice, professional. But the customers? Yuck!!! They smell of B.O., they pee on the seats and then deny it. Lots of body fluids are unloaded on PT buses here. Not frequently, but enough to make it very unfun. I esp. hate it because my sense of smell is very fine tuned.

Maybe because I rely on public transit so much, I give myself alot of time to get anywhere. If time is of the essence I ride my bike. Its much more reliable.

hmd said...

If you miss the bus, you either walk, call someone or figure out what to do until the next hour. Thankfully, we also have a university bus system that runs off campus routes every 15-20 minutes, but it takes me 30 minutes to walk to the closest stop. Needless to say, I've been riding my bike lately. It's 16 miles round trip, but it takes less time and it's more reliable.

Garrett Sawyer said...

Keeping track of those variables wouldn't require cameras. The cameras that are already on the buses are merely to record incidents between passengers, passengers and drivers, and vandalism, they wouldn't be necessary in my idea,'s really not my idea, it's already been thought of by companies...It's just a matter of time before they implement it. If more people demaded it though, they would roll out the improvements sooner.

Melissa said...

I also hate buses - many reasons, not least of which involved being stranded at the Canadian border because the driver's felony conviction was a problem for the authorities at customs...but that's a long story...

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I'd always assumed people born outside of this country who immigrated here would be tolerant of others in the same situation, and I've seen over and over lately that sadly, all people everywhere have the potentially to be equally closed minded.

I think witnessing xenophobia from immigrants is especially disturbing because you can't just write it off to ignorance. When you see American born people doing or saying stupid prejudiced things, we can at least console ourselves by saying wow, how ignorant - we can pretend that the person is only closed minded because they've never left the US, never seen other cultures. When it's an immigrant behaving this way, we can't use that excuse - they've obviously been to at least one other country, and experienced at least one other culture. if anything, I think we expect empathy or compassion, since there must be SOME similarity in the backgrounds of two immigrants.

Or maybe I'm all wrong...either way thanks for the thought provoking post.

ruchi said...

Beany, the buses kind of smell sometimes here too. Why is that? The subway doesn't smell!

Heather, yeah I think I would be pretty committed to the car if I didn't have public transit options! I am not athletic enough to ride a bike 16 miles!

Garrett, what I really like is the info they have now where they can tell you exactly when the next bus is coming. They only do it for the rapid buses here, but it is SO convenient to arrive at the stop and know exactly when the next bus will arrive, because the buses really never run on schedule.

Melissa, I think that's a good point. We assume most prejudices come from ignorance, but an immigrant can't be ignorant about the immigration experience. You're right. That's exactly why it's more depressing.

Charles said...

I so know how you feel, I got back from a flight to San Jose airport and was going to take the light rail home, but they changed the schedule so I'd be sitting for an hour. It's a 10 minute drive, I ended up having a friend pick me up and we ate dinner and caught up.

Why is doing the right thing so hard sometimes.

ruchi said...

Well, same reason why working out regularly is hard or eating properly is hard. Sometimes we'd just rather be lazy, you know?

But I think the important thing is to cut ourselves some slack on days, and then get right back into the saddle.