Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bus Driver: 2; Me: 0

So now that it's occurred to me that I can cut my commute time in half by taking the bus to work, I've been doing so most days. I actually like the bus much better than the Metro because it's bright and pretty and you can see what's going on around you as you drive. I may revise my opinion once winter gets here and it's too cold to stand around outside waiting for the bus, but for the moment, I'm a fan.

However, I always wonder about the safety of buses. I mean, they don't have seatbelts, and often people are standing up inside them, and some of the seats seem more buffered than others. The bus route I take uses some of the older DC buses, with a slightly more old-fashioned layout--the front of the bus has two long, sideways-facing benches along the walls of the bus, and then the back of the bus has two rows of forward-facing seats, two to a side. I always try to sit in the forward facing seats because I find it easier to keep my balance and also because having another seat in front of you provides a place to hold on if you have a crazy driver.

So, speaking of crazy drivers. This morning we were driving down the road and approaching a stoplight when the light turned yellow. The bus driver at first seemed to think that she could drive through the yellow light, and started to accelerate. Then I guess she changed her mind, and slammed on the brakes. This is something that happens to everyone who drives from time to time, I think--but most of us aren't driving giant buses full of people when we do it.

I was watching, and I already had my hand on the back of the seat in front of me, so while I jerked forward a little, I was more or less fine. But all the people on the sideways seats at the front of the bus slid way forward, so they all landed on each other, and two women actually flew out of their seats. One landed half on the floor, half on a man who had been next to her, and the other, an elderly woman, slammed into a metal pole. A lot of people screamed.

It was kind of nice, actually, how everyone sort of helped everyone else get up and back in their seats, and made sure that everyone was okay. Except the bus driver, who didn't even turn around to ask if everyone was okay. She just ignored the whole thing like it hadn't happened. It was probably that same jerk who drove right by me when I was waiting at the bus stop that time.

The whole bus driving thing is scary--they pick their routes by seniority, which means that the most experienced drivers pick the nice, quiet routes with few passengers, and all the busiest routes are being covered by novices. And they're under huge pressure to stay on time with their schedules, even though there are huge amounts of traffic that aren't accounted for. So in a way it isn't really surprising that they drive like maniacs. But still. When old ladies are crashing into poles and be-suited women are falling on the floor, I'm pretty sure it means there's an issue.

So tell me... have you had crazy experiences on buses in the past? Or is this just a DC thing?


  1. Well it seems that I will now have to use the fact that you leave a comment as a cue that you have posted, and not GOOGLE READER EVEN THOUGH THAT IS ITS SOLE PURPOSE.

    I always wonder about bus safety too. I remember our school buses back in the day having padded seat backs and we were ALWAYS being launched into them.

  2. I recently fell in love with NYC buses. I was kind of scared to try them at first (um, yeah, what you talked about above!) but they are SO great! And you can talk on the phone while riding them!

    I don't have any horror stories yet, though I've only ridden about 4 times.

  3. I take the El to work and I often think that the train operators drive crazily just to see if anyone is awake or paying attention.

    Not to be grim, but the thought of a bus accident always reminds me of that scene from Frida. ::shudders::

  4. I seldom ride the bus, but I would have taken the bus number and called to complain - Both about her driving, and the fact that she didn't check on her jostled passengers.

  5. Bus drivers are crazy. my junior year of college i lived at the university apts and the had a bus that took us from our building all the way to campus and along the way (as our bus was packed like you had described) he made sure to hit every bump along this one specific road and he laughed every time. yeahh not cool. we all held on for dear life every morning.

  6. I seldom rode the bus, and if I did it was usually along some quite suburban route as I usually walked anywhere in the city proper from a Metro stop.

    I distinctly remember one INSANE cab driver, though. I offered him $20 on top of the fare if he would JUST SLOW DOWN ALREADY.

  7. i live in boston. and i am convinced that anyone, who is behind the wheel and actively drives in this city, is a crazy driver. bus with peoples lives in their hands, or not.

    ohh public transportation. how i love thee.

  8. Over here [California] there are so few people on the buses, usually only one or two people [not in SF of course]
    BEst wishes

  9. I am so scarred from riding the city bus in high school that I have flatly REFUSED to do it here. There is a train-type thing tho and I will ride that. :)

  10. Ahhh, the bus. I don't ride it all that much anymore and instead ride the el, but one time a man was wearing one of those rain jackets with a zippered pouch in front and, after glancing to his right and left, opened it and discreetly (if that's even possible) ralphed right into the pocket. Then zipped it up and went about his bus riding day. Puked in his pocket. True story.

  11. Tessie--I will have to make sure to comment on your blog after I post on mine! It'll be like our new system.

    Stephanie--The DC Metro is wired for cell phone use if you have Verizon. It's great, although reception is patchy.

    Yasmin--I haven't seen Frida, and now I'm not sure I want to.

    3carnations--I thought about that. But really I would have just wound up on hold for three hours before complaining to a disinterested jerk who didn't do anything about it. The DC Metro system is notorious.

    A.P.--Wow, how cruel. At least my driver didn't mean to hurt anyone. I think.

    Artemisia--I hate cabs in DC! I hate them! And the cab drivers always try to lie about how many zones you're going so they can make extra money. I finally had to buy a book that provided the exact number of zones from any address in the city to any other one. Now I wave it in their faces when they try to cheat me.

    Blogging Barbie--I've driven in Boston before, and it is Not Fun. Once I had to parallel park a minivan on Mass Ave while a huge bus was barreling up behind me. I still haven't fully recovered.

    Maddy--Interesting to know that CA buses are empty. Too bad SF isn't included in that.

    Epic--Isn't it scary that they allow children and adolescents to be placed in such life-scarring situations?

    Tilly--Your story wins. That's just flat-out disgusting.

  12. I take an express bus from the suburbs into downtown. It is pretty nice, and at the time I usually take the bus, the buses are so full that they use coach buses. The drivers aren't too crazy- only because it is all highway so there are few chances to stop and start!

  13. yikes! Metal poles? Falling out of seats?
    We don't have a lot of public transportation here so I have no stories. The last bus I was on was a school bus.

  14. Damn those bus drivers!!

  15. I have never taken a bus before but have always been curious about them. However, with yours and Tilly's stories, I think that curiousity may have been killed.