THINKING ABOUT DRIVING A CITY BUS?


     I drive a city bus in the Portland, Oregon area. I have seen, heard and even been a part of various situations which involve the driving of a bus. What you read is not meant to come across as bitter, hurtful or prejudiced towards anyone in any way. I’m just sharing my thoughts with you about my work day. This particular blog started as a list of ‘myths about bus driving’ but the more I wrote, the more it became evident to me that I could be writing a list of pet peeves. Some are my own personal ones, some are those of fellow bus drivers. What I have written is not necessarily in order of importance. I hope you find a bit of humor and enjoy reading what I have to say.
BUSES CAN STOP ON A DIME!
 
 
 

 

 

     I’m sorry but if you dart out in front of me as I’m driving the legal, posted speed limit, my bus is going to need an awfully long dime to stop on! Say, well, more distance than you want to find out about! Hope you’re not the one my bus comes in contact with because of a poor judgment call you made while driving, biking or walking.  Momentum rules the stopping distance of a bus, not dimes!

BUS DRIVERS LIKE BEING ASKED IF THEY HAVE RUN OVER ANYONE LATELY!
 
 
 

 

 

     A question like that is a bus driver’s biggest fear as well as the worst nightmare of anyone who drives any form of transportation. Causing an injury or worse yet, a death to anyone, has ruined many a good driver’s life. No one in their right mind likes to joke about taking the life of someone else, not even the hardest bus driver out there. If something happens to cause injury or death, we as bus drivers ask ourselves over and over, hundreds of times, “Could I have prevented the accident?” “Could I have done something different?”                                                                                                                                           

     Never, ever joke about killing someone! Would you ask a surgeon, “How many people have you killed today?”? Why not? Because, sometimes, accidents happen. Things beyond our control. Things we had no way of changing the outcome of a terrible situation.  That’s why they are called ‘accidents’.

EVERY BUS DRIVER IS A JERK!
 
 
 

 

 

     Let me qualify this myth. Not every bus driver is a jerk, just some of them. Just like you are sometimes a jerk, just like you will find on any other job, jerks exist in our society. When it comes to bus drivers, some drivers may be having “one of those days”. Not a very good excuse but who of us have not used the excuse when we act like jerks? Unfortunately, you may have boarded the bus at a particularly bad time when the driver has turned from “Mr. Nice Guy” to “Mr. Get On-Sit Down-Shut Up And Hang-On-Guy”. In defense of the truly good guys, let me just say, most drivers are too professional to let their (jerkish) emotions cloud their courtesy to the public. Remember: “He who is a jerk today may be an angel of compassion tomorrow”. (If not tomorrow, perhaps the next day………If not the next day….or the next….report them to their employer! Jerks don’t last as bus drivers, generally speaking.)

ALL BUSES HAVE WORKING AIR CONDITIONERS IN HOT WEATHER AND TOASTY WARM HEATERS IN COLD WEATHER!
 
 
 

 

 

     Don’t you wish? Don’t I wish! Some buses don’t have A/C at all and the windows are the only form of relief a rider has. At stop after stop, when it’s 100 degrees outside, with no air movement inside or outside; inside the bus, it’s going to be 20-30 degrees hotter. Funny thing about it is that it’s just as hot for the driver as it is for the rider! The difference is, you, the rider can escape the “oven on wheels” at the next stop, even if it isn’t your originally planned stop. The driver- they continue to roast till their next break or untill the end of their shift. Even buses that are equipped with A/C doesn’t always guarantee it’s going to be a cooler bus than those without A/C. The constant opening and closing of the front and back door as passengers board and de-board generally lets out more cooler air than the A/C can produce. Some buses with A/C have no opening windows so when the A/C is on the blink or hasn’t caught up with the exiting cool air, that nice, new air-conditioned bus becomes an oven. A/C does not stand for “All’s Cool” or “Always Comfortable”. Think of it as sometimes standing for “A Challenge” or something like that.

 
 

BUSES NEVER BREAK DOWN!

 

     If it isn’t the A/C that breaks down, it could be a host of other things that do. New buses are not supposed to break down but even new buses don’t always perform the same way in the real life work field as they did at the testing facility. Bugs still need to be worked out. The terrain, the climate, the maintenance and so on all affect when, where and how often ‘your’ bus breaks down. How about your car? Even if it was a new car, did it ever break down on you? If it did, were you carrying 50 plus people, (total strangers), in your vehicle? Nobody likes to break down. It’s not like people get on a bus and think, “I hope my bus breaks down today and leaves me stranded somewhere”!  Well…most people don’t want to be on a broken down bus in the slow lane to Nowheresville.

YOU CAN DRIVE MY BUS IF YOU WANT TO!
 
 
 

 

     I don’t think so! Has it ever happened? Yes but not my bus. Is that driver who let someone else behind the steering wheel still driving a bus? Not for our bus company! Not just anyone can drive a bus because not everyone can pass the test. Where I live, a CDL license is required for bus driving. We are driving what is considered a “straight truck”, almost like driving a semi-truck and trailer which require a CDL. At this time, none of our buses ‘bend in the middle’ like a semi truck and trailer do. Those buses are called “articulated” buses and there are some cities that have them. When driving a 40 foot long bus, the back tires ‘track’ different than the front tires do. That is, the front set of tires may clear the curb on a corner but the rear duals may jump that same curb. Pity the object, (light pole, fire plug or whatever) that is in the way if the rear tires roll over them!

BUS SCHEDULES NEVER CHANGE!
 
 
 

 

     This, my friend, is the reality. Schedules will and do change. Ridership or the lack of it, funds or the lack of them determine scheduling. Sometimes, it is next to impossible for a bus driver to keep on a pre-planned schedule so to compensate, time is either added to or taken away by those in the scheduling department. Obviously, we drivers would rather see time added because driving a “tight” schedule adds to the challenges we already face. Things like road construction also does a number to the schedules. Cutting corners to save money sometimes means cutting service to where a bus does not run as frequently as it had once done.

YOU CAN RIDE MY BUS EVERYDAY FOR FREE!
 
 
 

 

     Where I work, a rider can use a pass to ride. They can buy them by the hour, the day, the month or the year. Sometimes, the employer pays for the pass or the government pays for it. Whoever funds the ride is none of our knowledge or concern. What concerns us as drivers is if you as a rider  want to ride my bus for free. Everyone else either pays cash or presents their bus pass to the driver. They paid, so why shouldn’t you?  If you are new or are confused, most bus drivers will work with you. We have all forgot our ID badges, our gate passes, our money and so on. Just be open, honest and up front about why you want a free ride.  But trick me once, shame on you. Trick me twice, double shame on you. You may find yourself not getting a ride if you are recognized as a regular “free loader”. True, we don’t make our money off of your money. In other words, we are not paid on a commission. It doesn’t affect us as to how many or how few ride our bus but it just isn’t fair to the other riders who have to pay for their rides.

BUS DRIVERS LIKE FOR YOU TO TELL THEM HOW TO DRIVE!
 
 
 

 

     Can you imagine having 40, 50 or up to 60 or more back seat drivers? On a really crowded bus, on a really busy route, on a really trying day, you don’t want everyone telling you how to drive. Now, if we are brand new to a route we have never driven before (it does happen) and if we ask for help, that’s different. Generally, one or two nice riders get us to our destination, a place they have been to many times. Generally, most riders want to get from point A to point B and are more than willing to help. Hey, they don’t want to mess up any more than we do. But then, it seems like there is always one in every crowd, that is someone who gives a running commentary on our driving. Everyone knows if we had to come to a stop faster than we were expecting.  No comment is needed about what a sudden stop we made.  We made it to avoid a wreck or a dangerous situation.  We already knew we stopped fast!  Likewise, everyone knows when we had to drive on the curb at a turn to avoid another driver who either didn’t realize or didn’t care that a bus’ turn radius is not very tight. If everyone already knows it, my question is, “Why does the obvious need to be stated”?

BUS DRIVERS WANT TO HEAR THE DETAILS ABOUT THE TOENAIL SURGERY OF YOUR AUNT SUZY!
 
 
 

 

     I’m sorry but not all of us have cast iron stomaches. Sometimes, too many details are too much. And pictures are out of the question for two reasons. 1) We are driving! and 2), I may not appreciate your personal pictures as much as you do. Generally, I don’t get to tell you about my ‘other-than-a-bus-driver-life’ unless you ask and generally, you don’t ask! Forgive us if we force something on your ears that we ourselves wouldn’t want to hear about! Some things are not necessarily meant to be shared like Aunty Suzy and her who knows?!

BUS DRIVERS LIKE IT WHEN YOU FALL DOWN ON THEIR BUS!
 
 
 

 

     Not even! Falling down on my bus could mean a couple of things. Perhaps, your physical condition caused your fall. Some uncontrolled situation caused the bus to move in such a way that it knocked you off of your feet. It could be wet and slick and you lost your footing. You tripped over someone’s feet or their possessions that you could not or did not see. Sometimes, no matter how careful a driver is, falls can’t always be avoided.  Sometimes, our vision is blocked by a packed bus and we don’t even know you have fallen.  Sometimes, you sit, we pull out in traffic and are looking ahead when you decide to move and you end up falling.  Again, events like these are called ‘accidents’. 

BUS DRIVERS LIKE IT WHEN YOU SING, “THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO ROUND AND ROUND”!
 
 
 

 

     Popular as the song may be in your mind, as much as you love the song, personally, that song drives me crazy! Why? Because I hate it! Why do I hate it? If I was driving a bus of pre-schoolers or elementary kids, I could handle it. Why the leniency for kids? Because happy or bored kids sing songs. Kids sing simple songs. Kids sing songs that are repetitious. Kids sing songs that repeat the same phrase over and over and over. That’s how kids learn. They are supposed to be annoyavating and agrivoying! That’s their job. I was once an anoyavating and agrivoying kid myself! I too was pretty young when I was a child just like I was pretty young when I was born! I didn’t know any better. Until I started driving a bus, I didn’t realize that one of the songs that can push a bus driver over the edge of sanity is “The Wheels On The Bus…..”. Of course the wheels go round and round! They’re round! If they were square, they would go “Ca-chunk, Ca-chunk, Ca-chunk….” If the wheels on the bus went “Flop, Flop, Flop……..” it would mean they were flat. They’re not! Thus explaining why they go round and round!  Don’t sing to me what I already know!  Please!   

 BUS DRIVERS LIKE IT WHEN YOU ASK OVER AND OVER, “ARE WE THERE YET”!

     Ah, yes! An old favorite. “Are we there yet”? “Are…we….there…..yet?” Your “there” may not be the one stop you are looking for. You may get to your “there” a lot sooner than you expected because it will become my choice of where you get off.  When we get there, we will be there but until then, WE……..ARE……..NOT………THERE……YET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Thank you.

BUS DRIVERS LIKE IT WHEN YOU VANDALIZE THE BUS!
 
 
 

 

     How many times have you seen a piece of art signed by the painter? Van Gogh or Picasso signed their name as Van Gogh or Picasso. They were proud of their work and usually, they had reason to be proud of it. But when a vandal signs their work, (we call it graffiti), they sign it something like this. InyoUrfAceAce.   Different colors and shapes and sizes and code names that very few people understand. Many ‘signatures’ are undecipherable. Many are vulgar. Many ‘signers’ are no more more artistic than I am! I guess vandals want to be recognized as much as the next person. Personally, I say, “Go buy a sketch book; paint, easel and canvas or hire on to paint the Golden Gate Bridge”! Whatever you do, please don’t vandalize the bus.  It’s not yours to vandalize.

BUS DRIVERS LIKE IT WHEN YOU ASSAULT THE BUS DRIVER!
 
 
 

 

     Big myth! Big trouble if you do assault the bus driver. Personally, I have never been physically attacked though I have been, more than once, verbally assaulted. My Mother has been insulted by some irritated rider. Funny thing, they didn’t even know my Mother! She lives several states away.  For some reason, they felt they had to bring her into the conversation through crude remarks about me being her son (if you get my drift)! I have also been “assaulted” as vulgar body parts and I have even been given some titles I had never heard before! Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often. Like most drivers, most riders are courteous and decent individuals.

     Sadly, there are a few riders who have assaulted to the extreme, as in physically assaulting the driver. Most attacks are on women drivers and some attackers attack because their mentality has been affected by some mind altering substance. Some assaults are when the exiting rider spits on the driver, which in today’s day and age can be dangerous in itself. The good news is that most buses are equipped with security cameras so the violator is generally caught on tape and then caught in person. Heavy fines and jail time often are the reward they get for their effort.  It’s just not worth it to assault a bus driver.

BUS DRIVERS LIKE IT WHEN YOU RELIEVE YOURSELF OR THROW UP ON THE BUS!
 
 
 

 

     Tied in with the above comment about mind altered circumstances, these incidents are also few and far in between, at least for me. Puking or relieving oneself on the bus is considered a biohazard just as blood is at accident scenes. Any bodily fluid or solid can be potential dangerous and the bus riders have to be de-boarded and the bus has to be cleaned or  “decontaminated”. Not a pretty site and my thanks goes out to the cleaning crew who has to deal with a mess on a bus.

BUS DRIVERS LIKE IT WHEN YOU RING THE STOP BELL MORE THAN ONCE FOR YOUR STOP!
 
 
 

 

     Ah, yesiree! Our theme song is not, “Ring My Bell” any more than it is, “The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round”! Generally, when the cable is pulled to alert the driver that a stop is needed, it rings only once until the bus stops, the door is opened, the riders exit and the closing of the door resets it. Sometimes, that system isn’t working right and the bell can be rung more than once. RING! RING!….RING! RING!… RING! RING! RING!RING!RING! RRRRRIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNGGGGG!  The only ‘ring’ we can think of then is, ‘If you ring that bell one more time, I will ring your scrawny little neck’!  Of course, it’s not polite to think those thoughts out loud!

BUS DRIVERS LIKE IT WHEN YOU DO YOUR PERSONAL HYGIENE ON THE BUS!
 
 
 

 

     Yeah, not really! Picking your nose and wiping it on the seat, the windows or anywhere else humans or even aliens can come in contact with is not cool or appreciated. “Digging for gold” or any other color of the mucus rainbow actually upsets most of the other riders. Thankfully, sometimes, even mercifully, as a driver, I don’t always get to see the action as it happens! Most of the offenses happen behind my back, literally! Generally, if a rider primps and preens, I don’t worry too much about having to remove them from the bus. I have had to remove riders who spit all over the floor. People who puke all over are not welcome. It’s not just me. It’s the other riders who, for some odd reason, hate to ‘share’ other rider’s……….stuff! And as to the flossing on the bus, as pointed out, there are worse habits!

BUS DRIVERS LOVE IT WHEN YOU LET YOUR CHILD OR CHILDREN SCREAM AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS, ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE POSITIONED AS NEAR THE DRIVER AS THEY CAN GET!
 
 
 

 

     What? I CAN hear you! At least until I go deaf or a vessel bursts inside of my throbbing head! I pity the poor person who can not control the bellowing child. After all, the child weighs half or less than the caregiver and they are generally many years younger than the caregiver. They are supposed to have a much more developed mind than that of the child. What I feel sorry about is that the child has that caregiver so buffaloed and confused that they think the only answer is letting the child express themselves in the only way they know how to behave. Throw a fit. My wife and I have raised six children and know different. That story is for another time.  Please control the children who are under your care for the sake and sanity of the driver and those around you.  children are cute.  Brats are not!

BUS DRIVERS LIKE IT WHEN YOU LET YOUR CHILDREN RUN UP AND DOWN THE AISLE OF THEIR BUS!
 
 
 

 

     This one is a safety issue to not only the children but to other riders. When a bus has to make a sudden stop, whether expected or completely by surprise, that small child becomes a human cannon ball. At the least, the child takes the risk of a fall. At the most, the child ends up scooting, rolling, tumbling, flying down the aisle. Upon coming in contact with something in the path of the child’s centrifugal forward momentum, injury happens a lot more frequently and the results are not very nice to the child. Cute little Sammy or Suzy who were standing up when they should have been sitting down are not so cute when they are scraped up, bleeding and screaming their head off. Please teach your little ones to sit down and stay seated until the bus is completely stopped, not just for their safety but the safety and well-being of everyone else on the bus, driver included.

     The above, my friend, are the CONCLUSIONS of the matter of riding a bus.  Happy rides to you!

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