Sunday, May 20, 2012

On the Buses

As a bus driver I see some strange things. I see a lot of bad drivers and quite a few unusual passengers although unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t subscribe to the view that 
“This would be a great job if it weren’t for the passengers”!!
I’m smart enough to recognize this simple truth of public transport:
Passengers = customers = a bus service = my job
And the converse truth, equally as important:
No Passengers = No customers = No bus service = No job.

I see a LOT of car drivers talking on mobile phones as I drive around the city but last week I saw something new; a truck driver driving with two mobile phones, one in each hand!!!

On the #11 to Corio we go via West Geelong, past West Oval, home of former VFA team Geelong West whom I used to go and watch some Sunday afternoons as a kid in the early 70s. The #11 then deviates via North Shore where the timetable instructs us to sit for about 15 minutes before continuing on our journey. While this time is handy for reading the paper or going to the dunny it is frustrating for the passengers to sit idling idly for no apparent reason.
We wait at the first stop in Seabeach Pde. The next stop is, at an absolute maximum, 150m further up the street. However, the farcical nature of this enforced layover is made comic by the following behaviour which I have personally experienced 4 times, the most recent of which was last week.
After the obligatory 15 minute wait I took off and immediately the bell rang signalling a passenger’s request to get off at the next stop!!  They had endured a 15 minute wait on the bus to travel a distance they could have walked, back and forth, a dozen times whilst waiting!
Before you make excuses for them on the basis of ignorance, anybody who has ever caught the #11 knows about the stopover and even if they’re a first-timer, there are a few tell-tale signs like the driver putting the hand-brake on, going for a walk, taking out a newspaper, having a short nap etc to indicate we are going to be stationary for a while!
It’s as much as I can do sometimes not to burst out laughing when the bell rings but, it’s the passengers’ prerogative to get on and off when and where they choose, my job is just to drive the bus!

There is another regular passenger who cops a fair bit of criticism from other drivers. I think she has some mental health problems and admittedly her behaviour can b a little odd at times and this can stir up some drivers. I have made an effort to get to know her a little bit and be courteous and hospitable and we are on a first name basis. She did surprise me this week though when upon boarding my bus she asked if she had to pay a fare because she had “stepped on a piece of foam that morning”. To the best of my memory fare exclusions only cover certain disabilities and age categories; I don’t recall the stepping on of foam as qualifying for free travel so I made her pay the fare!

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