Catherine Drake: Why rude bus drivers go in my Room 101

Posted on November 13, 2013

Most of my encounters with bus drivers have been pretty negative.

As an extreme example, I once witnessed a bus driver get out of his vehicle to verbally abuse and humiliate a female driver in front of him.

When I tried to report him, the only way to do it (there was no social media in 2003) was on the phone. It was incredibly difficult to get through. And when I did, the mumbly impatient person brought the call to an abrupt end – without even making it clear that my complaint had been registered.

For me, an obnoxious bus driver usually meets one or more of the following POOH criteria:

Patronising: being told to ‘smile’ after waiting half an hour in freezing wet weather.

Officious: shouting at you for not standing in the correct place at the bus stop – yes that happened to me in London.

Odious: abusive and rude (see example at beginning of article)

Heartless: how many of you have run for the bus stop, only to see the bus move off as soon you approach it?

My recent hellish experience would certainly convince Room 101’s host, Frank Skinner, to pull the lever on them.

I am borderline profoundly deaf with limited vision caused by Ushers type II.

One morning, I took my children to the library. I hadn’t used the bus for a while, normally preferring to walk. But the 1 1/2 mile trek to the library was too far for my three-year-old.

I had my free disability travel pass, £1 fare for my older child and being under five, my son could get on the bus for nothing.

The bus came and we all got on. Then they said my pass had expired and that I had to pay my fare. I had no more coins, so I pulled out a £5 note and looked pleadingly at the lady to make an exception for me.

“Exact change please” was the stony reply. Meanwhile, my lively three year old was running amok, looking for somewhere to sit. My stress levels soared.

“Can’t you just let us on this once?” I asked, “there’s nothing on this travel card to say that it has expired”, which was true.

The bus driver and her supervisor were not sympathetic and I was so embarrassed at holding people up, we got off. We bought some lollies from a shop opposite the road and came back to wait for the next bus, which was supposedly due in five minutes.

It was 15 minutes late.

By which time my children were restless and bored, and I was stressed. So when we got on, my overriding concern was my 3 year old, who was bounding across the bus. As I chased him, I failed to see a pole and thwack! My nose bore the brunt of the impact.

It was excruciating. I was in so much pain. My eyes were watering, my nose was bleeding slightly.

My children and other passengers looked on, concerned, as I fought to hold back a flood of angry tears. If we’d been let on as a gesture of good will on the other bus, none of this would have happened.

Luckily I didn’t need to go to A&E. But a few days later, when the bruising went down, it was apparent I’d acquired a slight Roman nose.

I wrote a letter of complaint, suggesting that the bus drivers in question should try managing children on the bus with “hearing aids and restrictive vision glasses.” I’m still waiting to hear from them six months later.

Not all bus drivers are gits. I’m hoping that some readers will disagree with me – that nice bus drivers do exist. But unfortunately, in my experience, the profession seems to attract some deeply unpleasant people.

They come face to face with a wide diversity of customers on a daily basis so you’d expect some awareness or training on disability. Instead, they often make me feel like a major inconvenience taking a free ride.

Rant over!

A former Derbyshire lass, Catherine Drake now lives and works in South East Wales as a university librarian.  She recently married (finally after 16 years) and has two children, aged seven and three.

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