Tuesday, June 13, 2006


The 21 is a route that goes down Lake street, which is one of the busiest streets in south Minneapolis. The longest trip ends in downtown St. Paul. There is also a limited stop route 53 that goes much the same way, but jumps on the highway in St Paul to get you to their downtown faster.

One weekday during rush hour I was doing the 21A...the long trip to St Paul. Lake street can be very busy during rush hour. I had made the stop at Lake and Bloomington. People got off, people got on. I had closed the door and was checking my mirrors in preparation of pulling out into traffic. I noticed someone running for my bus. Since I was still in the bus stop, I opened the door and let the very grateful man on. Again, I checked the mirrors and this time I started to pull out into traffic. When the nose of the bus was out in the street, I heard pounding on the back passenger side of the bus. People on the bus said to wait, there was another guy that wanted to get on. In training, they tell you that once you start going you are to keep going. A lot of accidents happen when a bus stops unexpectedly midway into pulling into traffic. Knowing this, I said "I'm already out in traffic. I can't stop now. There's another bus a couple of blocks behind me." And I kept going. I had seen another bus in my rearview mirror so I didn't feel too bad about not causing an accident. During rush hour, there are 21's and 53's going by every few minutes.

I had all but forgotten about it when I got to the Light Rail stop. The other bus had caught up to me and off came an old guy with a cane who hurried onto my bus. He proceeded to yell at me for not stopping for him. I explained that I can't do that when I am already pulling into traffic...especially on a busy street during rush hour. He said I hadn't pulled out, I said I had. He got VERY argumentative. I said I would be the first to apologize if I had done anything wrong, but seeing as I already opened the door TWICE at that stop and was pulling into traffic when he came from out of nowhere and pounded on the BACK of the bus, I felt I did nothing wrong and therefore didn't feel the need to apologize to someone who just gotten on my bus and started yelling at me. He threatened to call in and file a complaint. He just kept up and I told him to do whatever he wanted, but I was not going to argue with him and if he kept yelling at me he would have to get off the bus. At this point, I told him, he was interfering with public transportation by distracting the driver and this is a felony. He proceeded to get on his cell phone to call in his complaint. I heard him on the phone saying he saw the bus across the street (it would have been kitty-corner) and that when he got to the bus I just drove off. He made it sound like I just looked at him standing at the door and drove off laughing at him. Then I heard him say he was an old man and he was BLIND!!!!!! I was amazed...since he just told them he SAW the bus across the street!!

I had had enough. I called the Control Center on my bus phone and told them I needed a supervisor to come and pull the tape of the incident. I told them the old guy was lying on me and I wanted to cover my butt. This was at a time when management was putting a point system in effect. Complaints would count against us...people calling in to say good things about us (commendations) would NOT count in our favor. Fair? I think not. This was a perfect example of a bogus complaint. Thank God for cameras on the bus and that I happened to say..out loud...that I was pulled into traffic. Some lady who saw the whole thing came up to me. She said she thought I handled it very well and asked where she could call in and say so. I told her and thanked her. She said I didn't deserve to be treated the way this grumpy old man was treating me. What a nice lady.

The real kicker was where the old not-so-blind liar got off. It was one block from where the limited stop bus that he got off of to come yell at me would have let him off!! That bus would have gotten him there faster...which was part of his complaint. He had said he didn't want to wait 20 minutes for another bus. As I said, the buses run every few minutes during rush hour. The only time he would have to wait THAT long would be late night-early morning times. Nice person that I am (most days), I called the Control Center back and told them that if they got the old guys' name and number that they may want to call him back and let him know about the route 53. After all, I didn't hate the guy and this bus would get him where he was going a whole lot faster.

Well, they pulled the tape. Interestingly enough, I never was notified about the complaint he called in. I did get a commendation from the call the lady made to say I handled a difficult situation very well. Best of all, I am happy to say the the whole idea of a point system for the drivers was squashed. I don't know if this incident had any role in that. I am just glad that the management, especially those that have never been bus drivers, got to see the tape and see how angry people get and how fast they will call in a bogus complaint on a driver. Score one for the good guys!!


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