We get more from OC Transpo drivers than just transportation more or less on time. They give directions and boarding assistance, call out stops, and sometimes even manage to do it with something resembling a smile.
They handle general troubleshooting, too. One recent morning, two young boys, maybe seven or eight, got on a No. 16 unsupervised. The driver asked where their parents were, and, “You guys aren’t running away, are you? I have to check.”
His tone was jokey, a bit Mayberry-nosy, but he was also making sure.
It also falls to drivers, and this does little for their popularity, to give some passengers the bum’s rush. It’s a judgment call, and it’s up to the person charged with safely keeping the bus on the road.
These calls will at times be second-guessed, as in a case in Halifax last month, when a bunch of summer camp kids and counsellors were reportedly booted off a city bus because one of the boys wouldn’t stop screaming. The boy was autistic, and apologies were forthcoming.
Also last month, the OC Transpo LiveJournal community was buzzing with reports of a woman who was refused boarding because she was wearing a bikini top. Many commentators accused the driver of sexism, or of overstepping his authority, appointing himself as fashion police.
Right or wrong, though, there is an element of the arbitrary in every kickoff call, and there will be another, likely less prudish, driver along in a few minutes.
In Honolulu this month, city council debated, and then killed, a bill that would have allowed for criminal citations for disruptive behaviour on buses, including smelling bad. That, council decided, went too far.
It is public transportation, after all, and you’re going to get up close and impersonal with people you might prefer not to, and who may feel much the same about you. The bus is for everyone, every seat blessed by the brave butt of Rosa Parks, offering equal service to everyone, regardless of colour, wealth, disability, or, we’ve learned, blood-alcohol content.
Take any late-night or Canada Day bus for example, or one stopping at LeBreton Flats during Bluesfest, and you’ll find much of the crowd is moistly boisterous.
Annoying, sure, but the misadventurous alternative is to have these addled schmucks trying to drive (or even walk) home. And so to the drunks, I say, welcome aboard, and, uh, mind directing your breath over that way?