In Ottawa of late, bus drivers have been getting flack from lots of people. In some ways, it may be justified. But the majority of it isn’t.

First off, let’s talk about a recent event that really got the ball rolling.

A few weeks back, a bus driver was caught of video yelling and threatening a passenger. It was posted on YouTube, went viral and helped get the driver fired.

What the video didn’t show, conveniently, was the passenger and what he was doing to cause the driver’s outburst.

Before the helpful passenger began to shoot their video, the passenger was walking up and down the aisles of the bus, talking and shouting into his cell phone. He’d also sit down behind other passengers and do the same thing, leaning over the seat and talking loudly into his cell phone, like it was a microphone.

Personally, if the bus driver hadn’t said anything and that passenger did that to me, I’d be cursing the guy out as well, and probably threatening him too. Think about it for a second; you’re sitting there, after a long day, on a public bus, just wanting to get home. Then some young guy gets on, starting pacing up and down on the bus, yelling and talking loudly. Then, he sits right behind you and leans over the seat and continues to do the same. Would you just smile and ignore it? Doubtful.

Now put yourself in the bus driver’s place. He’s responsible for the people on the bus and their welfare. Now he has to deal with a moron like this?

I’ve heard it that this guy was slightly autistic. Yet he was out in public, going to Algonquin College, and supposedly practicing a monologue. Well, in my opinion, that tells me the guy can function in public, especially if he’s not accompanied by someone, ergo, he should know how to handle himself in public. In short, he should be polite and respectful. Having been in drama courses, I’ve had to practice monologues. But I don’t do them in public, much less a public piece of transportation. It’s part of that whole “being polite and respectful” thing.

Perhaps he was goading the driver into a confrontation. According to the driver, the same passenger had gotten on a few night earlier, started acting up, but when told to cool it, he did. Maybe he told a friend to join him on his next trip, so he could get some sort of confrontational performance piece. Instead, they got some juicy footage of a driver blowing his top. Of course, that’s pure speculation. But it wouldn’t surprise me.

Many people have talked about the driver spewing threats upon this helpless autistic man (as I typed that, I rolled my eyes). As I mentioned above, the guy couldn’t have been utterly helpless. But what about the bus driver?

I read an article about his side of things, and like many others out there, his life isn’t all sweetness and good. The guy has had a severely rough patch over the past year. Multiple deaths in his family, his kids dealing with those deaths, severe illness, and having his life upended by everything that has happened. His story isn’t unique. Other people and families have it hard. But maybe it’s a reminder to not be so callous and selfish to total strangers, their life my not be as easy as yours.

The week the driver had to deal with Mr. Monologue didn’t start well. A few nights before, he some kid come on and ask the driver to call out the stops, even though theirs an automated system that does it. But the kid kept at the driver and he agreed. Each time the bus stopped, the kid pulled himself away from his cell phone just long enough to ask “Is this it?” Finally, when it was his stop, before the kid got off, he spit in the driver’s face before nearly knocking over a mother and her stroller.

Some might say this is an exaggeration. Sadly, I doubt it. If you don’t believe me, maybe you should go and see how some kids deal with other people these days. Some have no respect for anyone, and will do whatever they want, especially if they think it’s funny or that their friends will think it’s funny. The only thing they know is their cell phone or whatever device they use to stay in-touch with the friends.

After the event, the driver was pretty shaken up. Everything piling up on him at home, in his life, then having to deal with some little f**ker like that, he said in the article he couldn’t believe how upset he was. He said “Christ man, I even said (to the supervisor) I didn’t even cry when my Mom died.”

Having gone through a rough patch myself, but nowhere near as bad as the driver’s, I can honestly say I know how he feels. It’s frustration at how things have gotten this way, the feeling that you’ll never get out of it, then add to that having to deal with stupid, ignorant, self-centered people. To say I can relate is an understatement.

Then, a few days later, even after a sick day, he has to deal with Mr. Monologue. If he didn’t snap, I’d call the Dalai Lama to tell him he could take lessons from this bus driver.

Since then, tensions have been high on the buses and between the OC Transpo (the bus company) and the union. A singer bus driver was silenced by the company, despite tons of emails being sent in, coming to the driver’s defence. Another bus driver, repeated asked why the bus was late stopped his bus and walked off. Maybe the stupid bus rider didn’t realize there have been massive route changes that the drivers have no say over, yet they are the ones who face the brunt of the rider’s questions. I suspect there are more stories from both sides that we’ll never hear, or maybe, we’ll start hearing more of them over the next few months.

Years ago, I used to ride the bus regularly. Having been brought up with proper values and taught to be respectful, I never had a problem with the bus driver. Sure there were rare occasions where I might be irritated by the bus’ lateness or over-crowding, but that’s part of public transportation. I remember one bus driver I saw regularly. I wish I could remember his name, cause he was the nicest, friendliest guy. He always had a smile, a kind word to say, or even a dirty joke to tell. He was a good guy and seemed to love his job. And that was reflected among the regular passengers. I’m sure there are other drivers like him out there, and the regular riders should be thankful when they have one.

I think it comes down to the riders on the bus. Many are quiet, peaceful rider who just want to get to their destination. Others are probably upset with the changes and don’t have the thought in their head to call up the company and tell them. Instead, they blast the driver, like it’s their fault. Then, there’s the self-absorbed people who don’t care about others around them, so long as their life isn’t disrupted. They are generally loud, stupid, have no respect for anyone or anything and if someone defends themselves against their verbal sewage, they are the ones that feel slighted. They are the victims, and are willing to tell everyone about it.

If people practiced more civility, respect, common courtesy, then maybe people wouldn’t cause a disruption, people wouldn’t snap back, viral videos wouldn’t go up on YouTube, and a father, a son, a man under great stress, only a few years from retirement, wouldn’t be on shaky ground when facing his future.

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