Thursday, December 11, 2014

A show of support

After my blog describing my shocking yet true experiences aboard the city bus, many other drivers reached out to me. They mostly wanted to tell me that they were appalled and make sure that I knew they were not all the same. Of course I did. I've been riding with some of them for almost as long as I lived in America. And the bus service has been a  part of my every day experience for the last ten years. I tell this story as an anecdote: a day after my parents left me in Gainesville and flew back to Poland I just got on the bus, without any prior practice I just got on the bus and went to school. Being able to do it for and by myself was the first independent thing I was able to do without my mom and dad present. They helped me find an apartment (although I only lived there for a short while), they've assembled a collection of furniture and equipment some of which I hated, but the bus.... was my own way to stake my own independence. My point is, that no matter how bad my day was, how early or how late, just like the sticker that advertises the bus as a safe zone, I have always felt safe. Yes, I've had some good times and some no so good times with the drivers and some I probably like some better than the others. Some became my friends; Some have been to my house and fell asleep on my furnished-apartment-standard couch. And most of them have an amazing power- to brighten your day with a pleasant interaction and affect how your day's going to turn out. Think about it: You leave your bus on your way to work and your day begins. You're ready to take on the world. When I was hit by bus about ten years ago it was the friendly drivers who went off course and hid on the bushes because they heard on the radio that I was in trouble. They wanted to know how I was  doing. Then they apparently reenacting the entire event back at the base. I'll admit that the times have changed a bit and I'm not as close with the new drivers as I was with the ones back in the day, but then the new recruits don't sing to you to welcome you on the route 46, wish you a "great one and a safe one" greet you with a "hello, hello, hello" or call every boarding passenger  a "darling". It could be that there's many more routes than 5, 7, 10  years ago and are many more drivers. Still, they're nice and likable and a conversation on the bus can still make my day. That's why what happened to me Saturday night was so unacceptable to me. Because for the first time while on the RTS bus I didn't feel  safe. And I didn't know what to do with that feeling. Even when I was hit by a bus I was not afraid to board the bus the next day and I  never avoided that same driver. He was the one that felt unsure and it was me who felt bad for him after he drove into me, because I survived and he was stuck with some type of guilt. One of my other transit friends tried to rationalize the Saturday driver's behavior. He was under pressure. There's very little time on the route, maybe they'll be more next semester? And that's all fine, but for me that's not what the issue was. They also told be that the driver felt bad and wanted to apologize. And that's nice to recognize that he did something wrong but I'm not angry. I'm not convinced he's the person most suitable to do this type of work, but I never really intended to do anything about in  terms of indication. It's not like he was rude to me or drove off or ignored me, like some other drivers have in the past. The aggressive behavior was so beyond anything I have ever experienced on the bus. I felt fearful for my well being, being so wound up he could have injured me without even meaning to. At that moment I didn't want to be on that bus with him. Some were even defending his conduct saying he was allowed to talk to himself and mumble (although he was shaking his head and cursing throughout) . Such behavior is of course problematic from the legal stand point. Some standards for emotional distress are relaxed when a common carrier (a person or company that deals in transporting people or goods) is involved. Under Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965)  section 46 a public utility defendant may liable for conduct which falls short of extreme outrage, but is merely insulting. I of course never cared to get the driver into any kind of trouble, but I was afraid he'd punch me or otherwise hurt me. But let it be a lesson to all my other bus friends. You not only have the power to inject yourself into your riders' day with your behavior, not only are you representing the company that you work for in the image building sense, but the way you conduct yourself and interact with them can have unforeseen consequences in the legal realm. 

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