Thursday, May 02, 2019

Some serious concerns about driver distracting behaviors on our work bus

Update, September 16, 2019:

This past May, beside submitting these unwelcome driver-distracting concerns, I submitted this (below) to the bus company and two social services agencies. Though I haven't noticed any results yet, it's possible that this is something that various managers handle discreetly. Every agency I submitted this to, at least replied to the message, acknowledging this is something that should be looked into, except for no reply forthcoming from the bus company. Skills Management claims that they can't really doing anything about events on the bus - it's "out of their jurisdiction."

Yet, when I witnessed an actual assault on the bus by one of the Skills workers upon another and tape-recorded this, they acted more concerned.  Skills management later told me that the bus management (instead of thanking me) is most concerned about me filming on their buses! 

It feels like someone is getting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" confused with "If you see something, say something." What if someone assaulted a member of their family? Would they not hope for the best evidence? 

Delegating authority should not be equated with passing the buck and I keep feeling as if I'm getting lip-service over these various bus concerns, with limited actual change or improvements of the important issues.

Original post: May, 02, 2019:

Skills of Central Pennsylvania, Benner Pike, State College
Centre County Transportation, Milesburg, Pennsylvania

To whom it may concern,

I have pressing concerns about unwholesome habits being demonstrated by some Skills workers on our Centre County Transportation work commuter bus. These have become so out of hand that they frequently distract our dedicated bus drivers.

As a Skills Program worker over the past year, I’m grateful for the training I’m paid for, as well as the supplementary bus rides between my residence and work. This has made a big difference and improvement in my life.

And I like to think I can carry these precious skills onward and upward to other aspects of my life. I believe positive attitudes and outlooks can overlap, influence and rub off onto fellow colleagues; therefore it strikes me as disheartening when I experience negative ones as manifested in the following scenario which repeats itself so much that it’s become predictable:
First, the bus driver travels over a bump and somebody sitting in the back shouts over our whole group that he’s going to kill, strangle, beat, or otherwise disfigure the driver if they don’t slow down more. Then, others chime in angrily, saying it can’t be helped and that they will then kill or maim the complainer someway. Everything heats up more, as riders commence shooting personal insults to each other from several angles. Often this unhealthy banter gets recharged over the next bump and continues boisterously for the full bus ride or at least until involved passengers depart. Not only that, but there are other standard protocols of politeness that some Skills workers disregard daily, such as leaving the aisle seat open and properly securing their safety belts, even after the driver asks for this.

On the bright day I learned of my bus riding approval I received a memo which included the guideline: “Passengers must conduct themselves in an orderly and polite manner when riding in county vehicles.”  Presumably, the other riders and / or guardians received the same memo.

I feel that if I say nothing about this unacceptable societal failure, then it follows I’m giving my sanction that it’s okay. The last straw occurred recently at lunch one day when a Skills staff manager made a similar comment in jest about killing someone. This was in response to a minor question from a co-worker when Ms. ____ __ answered “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you!”  An old worn out joke for sure, but not one that everyone at Skills comprehends. Half-shocked to hear this myself, I sensed the surprise and confusion coming from the young woman who asked the question, and then soon left (to cry?) And certainly a grievous trigger point for others who have lost loved ones to violence. Indeed, our widespread TSA agents arrest and interrogate glib travelers for lesser offhand ‘jokes.’ about violent acts.

If integrating Skills workers into the community is still part of Skills mission, as I’m told it is, then I would like to point out another pertinent observation: In my vast experience of finding respectable employment over the past forty-five years the majority of the better jobs I’ve discovered came through personal contact or via word of mouth. Many workers I’ve met have experienced this same serendipity. Even now, it’s likely that someone on the bus or even the driver is or knows of homeowners or businesses looking for decent help with various chores, e.g.: gardening, grass cutting, dog-walking, gutter cleaning, cooking, leaf raking, trash- recycle sorting, garage sweeping, knitting, vacuuming, sewing, fruit-picking, stable cleaning, fetching tools, folding tarps, painting, snow-shoveling, furniture rearranging,  brush removal, etc. The odd job list is long...

But if potential employers sometimes we encounter on the buses experience a constant sea of Skills disharmony; seeing perpetually rude and disorderly behaviors, this impression immediately dissuades those prospective employers and that bad imprint gets shared with others.

I have faith in my work colleagues that several of them will see the light right away when this is explained by someone with the proper timing and authority. Other good news is that at least one bus driver has already vowed to keep the bus atmosphere ship-shape, and starting by requiring window seat placement for those first on, when additional riders are expected. 

Posting a sign on the bus could help remind riders that bus privileges come along with the responsibility of respecting other commuters. 

At Skills we have occasional days off when no work is scheduled, and here we help with volunteer projects instead. Why not consider a few hours of one of those days for training or a refresher course about courteousness, even if it’s just done in small groups? Tacking on a small challenge for Skills workers to use to their imaginations to say something complimentary about each other would be a nice start.

I’m impressed by the safety standards our Commonwealth of Pennsylvania uses in other important niches now, such as automatically cancelling registrations when drivers insurances lapse, and implementing brief back road closures for migrating turtle egg-layers. Bus services themselves may have already set aside funds for safety programs which dissuade driver distraction, and if so, may offer to go in half when approached with an idea for a brief annual refresher meeting or class to remind riders of their respectful responsibilities. Such a gesture could go a long way in helping mend these inappropriate and outlandish driver-distracting behavioral patterns.

Thank you,

c.c. Centre County Transportation
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, safety division.

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