By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Wheelmen fight back against the Bad Boy List
First, let me preface the following with a quotation from Kierkegaard: "If I had a son who was a criminal, I should think there would still be a chance for his salvation, but were he a journalist, I know he would be irrevocably damned."
Has Robert Downs any experience whatsoever with what we as drivers encounter on a daily basis? Does he believe, while lacking experience, that we are all irresponsible cretins? Is he really so hopelessly obtuse? Does he know how it feels to be terrified while being shot at, sucker punched, spit on, knifed?
We do not enjoy the sincere position of reclining in a cozy cubicle, but at times put our lives on the line—and I can give personal examples—while being lambasted by the governor, Peter Bell, and the media. I know of drivers who have been beaten by miscreants and landed in the hospital, but it is never acknowledged in the papers, as such things don't make good press.
There are many drivers who do have a good rapport with their customers, are hard workers, and responsible. Of course, Downs has no interest in these, has he! No, that wouldn't make for good muckraking.
Your article on city bus drivers was so one-sided and biased against the drivers. Drivers go out there and struggle to do their jobs every day. If you stop and wait for someone running to catch the bus, someone on the bus gets upset because they do not want to miss their connection. If you do not stop, the person running gets upset. If you stop in the middle of a block in a busy street to pick up a running customer, the other vehicles on the road get upset. The person who starts looking for the fare after getting on the bus gets upset if you move the bus before he sits down. If you wait until he counts his pennies, everybody on the bus gets upset.
The balancing act a driver has to go through all day is a long list of things. Any normal human being stops being nice after a few of these incidents. Some customers get on the bus and blast their music. You tell them not to do that; some people on the bus say you are rude. If you let them play their music, someone calls in to complain about you not doing anything while someone was playing music. The list goes on. How about customers who try to smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, and do other offensive acts on the bus? You think bus drivers are bad?
Your cheap shot at the union was bizarre, too. That's how unions protect the interests of their members. What did you expect the union to be? A branch of the management? If you think drivers are not nice enough now, remove the union, allow the management to hire minimum-wage drivers, and come back to check how nice they will be.
Shame on you, City Pages! What did us city bus drivers do to you? I'm a 22-year veteran driver at Metro Transit, and probably one of the 20 on the union's list, and I was offended by your article about us being "Bad Boys."
If some of us do have a bad attitude on occasion it's because of the abusive political environment we are continuously caught in the middle of. Every time the media slams us, our management comes down hard on us and makes our jobs miserable. Not only that, but by making us look bad in the public's eye, you jeopardize our personal safety out on the streets!
According to our Driver's Rule Book, we are not allowed to leave the bus while on duty except to go the bathroom. We are only allowed to eat or drink during our layover, and then only "if there is enough time," an exact quote from our rule book. We must leave our layover no more than two minutes late or we get a violation; oh, and did you know that Metro Transit is exempt from OSHA rules on breaks? That's right, we work straight eight-, nine-, and ten-hour shifts with no breaks, or scheduled meal times, every day. That means if we don't get any time at the layover, we have no break.
Now let me put all this into perspective for you. Last winter when the streets weren't plowed very well, I couldn't get into my layovers on time. When I did arrive it was time to leave again. Since I am required by the company to leave at my scheduled time, there were many occasions I sat in the driver's seat for eight straight hours without eating or stopping! I had sharp stabbing pains in my back and neck, sores on my butt, cramps in my legs, and growling in my stomach for most of last winter until the snow melted off the streets. How do you suppose my attitude was? Actually, I think it was better than that of Robert Downs, the writer of your article. If you do a little digging, you will find most of my statements are verifiable. If you publish this, keep my name and personal data out of it.
Name Withheld By Request