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The fusses on the buses

Things have been a little crazy on the city buses lately.

First there was the driver who was videotaped shouting, swearing and intimidating the student. (If you haven’t seen that video yet, here it is).

Then there was the driver of the #5 who, when challenged by a frustrated customer for arriving 40 minutes late, got off his bus and walked away.

The singing bus driver has been ordered to stop singing because a handful of crankypants passengers complained.

And now the head of the union is threatening to take the buses off the road if “the witch hunt” doesn’t stop.

Tensions are definitely escalating.

Should the verbally abusive driver who threatened to put his fist in that kid’s mouth be fired? I say yes. Being a bus driver involves way more than driving a bus. It also requires an ability to interact appropriately with customers. If you can be that big of a jerk towards a customer, it’s time to find a new job, like driving a truck.

I’m sure it’s hard dealing with customers while trying to drive a bus, especially when your customers are frequently irate because, through no fault of your own, your bus is often infuriatingly late. The bus drivers aren’t responsible for scheduling, yet they’re the ones who take the flack when it’s done badly.

I kind of respect the driver who walked away from his bus. At least he recognized his own limits. He was probably just as frustrated about the bus being 40 minutes late as his passengers were, yet they were blaming him for it. Not only that, but one of them was urging the others to contact their city councilors to complain about it. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I can see how it might have been the last straw for the driver. Frustration is cumulative, and his had probably been building for hours. A bus doesn’t suddenly become 40 minutes late.

He didn’t explode, he didn’t swear, he didn’t insult or threaten anybody. He just put on his coat and went for a walk. (My understanding is that when the bus is running late, the driver has to sacrifice his break, so on a chronically late bus like the #5, he might never get a break.)

Last but not least, we have Yves Roy, our happy, cheerful, friendly, singing bus driver, who has been ordered to stop singing. This even made the Huffington Post). I think he should be allowed to sing his little heart out while driving the bus. (Today is Sing On the Bus Day, by the way. Everybody’s encouraged to sing on the bus in support of Yves Roy.)

Anyway. Nobody expects the buses to be paradise. They’re crowded, uncomfortable, grumpy places filled with people who would rather be somewhere else. All things considered, most drivers and passengers are remarkably civilized to one another. There’s no point getting adversarial towards one other, since more often than not we’re frustrated by the same things – things that neither group controls.

Maybe it’s time for passengers and drivers to form some kind of alliance to lobby for improvements to the system.

(By the way, is anybody else worried about catching bedbugs on the bus?)

7 comments to The fusses on the buses

  • This may be the first time I’ve ever disagreed with anything you’ve written. ;-) I think the driver who lost it should have been disciplined – suspended without pay – and been required to go into counselling but after 25 years of service and mitigating factors (including the recent deaths from cancer of his wife and his mother), I think he should be given the chance to redeem himself.
    OC Transpo is clearly a toxic workplace – if so many on the front lines are cracking.

    • Yay, a controversy!
      I just read the fired driver’s side of the story – I wrote the post before learning about him mom and ex-wife dying, and his triplets, and his father, and so on. Does it change my opinion? A little. Maybe counseling and a behind-the-scenes job at OC Transpo would have been a more fitting solution than firing him. I’m also inclined to agree with you about OC Transpo appearing to be a toxic workplace.

      I had lunch with a friend today who reminded me that the scheduling difficulties can’t just be blamed on management – it goes higher than that, since it was a cost-cutting measure. So City Council has to answer for it too.

  • Alicia

    It is very frustrating for all concerned. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been late for work because of the #2 and #85. Consistently 10-20 mins late. I know that may not seem like a lot but let me tell you, retail managers are less than sympathetic when you’re late and keep using the bus as an excuse. Something must be done and if you find out that someone else is interested in forming some sort of alliance, let me know. That would do wonders.

  • and drivers keep getting asked the same question. going thru downtown the driver was asked at several stops in sequence by 7 people if we went to the airport. no, the one that says airport goes to the airport…it was like some sort of comedy.

  • grace

    I am 99.999999999% sure I have encountered this young man on the same route. It was an easy decision for me to exit.

  • Gillian

    There are a lot of residents of Ottawa who don’t understand that a bit of patience and courtesy go a long way to making a better day. Taking your misery out on anybody and everybody doesn’t make your day better and makes theirs worse. Smile, think positive and try to contribute to something better. Stop behaving like a sulky, badly brought up teenager.
    Now I can get off my soapbox.

  • It is really too bad what the bus drivers have to go through! I couldn’t imagine doing what they do!