Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Tweet

God, I hate waiting in line. The more often I order something online, pay for something by tapping, order something on-demand, download a movie or book, send an email or text instead of calling, the more I expect from companies that provide me service.

I have actually hit "refresh" before I've given a page a full three seconds to load simply because I expect the internet to provide me with instant information. You likely have too. I'll bet you've even given up on a page after two tries, assuming that something is broken rather than just queued up due to demand. We expect so much from customer service these days that even a few minutes can be the difference between rave reviews and foot-stomping protest. This goes double for transit. Ask any bus driver, and they'll tell you a story about that person that chewed them out "that day" because they were a minute or two late. To put that into perspective, a minute or two could be two or three red lights or the loading of someone who uses a wheelchair.

So this tweet came across my screen a few days ago, and I can't stop thinking about it.

Now you can call me biased here because I am. Of course I am. This is a coworker of mine, and a personal friend. In addition to that, I am both a bus driver and a member of her union. You can go ahead and line up all the strikes against my position on this matter. I get it.

But let's talk for a second about the driver.

Imprimis, she is an absolute rock-star of a person. This is the type of person you want your kids to hang out with. Bubbly, smiling, intelligent, friendly, centered, helpful, empathetic, and she'd be happy to give you the shirt off her fiance's back if you needed it. Her socials are filled with pictures of smiling people, smiling family, and her own smile. People do that around her. You can't help it. But if you'll take a single thing out of this, she is a human being, and a darned fine example of one.

Secondly, she is an absolute rock-star of a driver. The fine folks that get to ride her bus as regulars know what to expect from her. A smile. An answer to a question. A smooth ride. A hello. She is the type of driver who will go out of her way for you. We need many more of her in this company. She should be mentoring other drivers that need extra coaching, lord knows there are few that could use it.

Thirdly, she is terrible at one thing: Being a robot. Now I'm not sure if her "Robot" dance is up to snuff, but in terms of lasting an entire day without taking in fluids or lasting an entire day without expelling fluids, she is an absolutely terrible robot. In this vain, her human frame has let her down, because she has been publicly called out for it.

You read the tweet, and you're thinking what the author was thinking. "There were people on the bus!".

But I'll beg you to think about some circumstances here. The company allows drivers to exit the bus along the route to "refresh" themselves, so long as they're on time. There is a good reason for this. The 118 is an hour and ten minutes long. At one end is Hurdman, at the other Terry Fox station. If you need something to drink or eat during your 8 hour shift you do not have the time to seek out either. A coffee or a washroom break may not be an option at either end for three or four hours. It needs to be pointed out that bus drivers do not get scheduled breaks. An 8 hour shift is 8 hours of straight driving. So if after 4 hours of driving you feel a little sluggish, your choice is to either mop through it or stop somewhere along the route with your passengers on board to grab a coffee or use a public washroom. This is life as a bus driver and no matter how hard you hit the refresh button, the need for a drink is still followed by the need to pee every single day of our lives. We are in fact human. Really!

I have written this before and I apologize if this seems repetitive, but if I break down complaints like these to their core principle, I'm left with thoughts of George Orwell's 1984.

When I make a complaint to a company, I call them or email them. My beef is usually settled through the direct action of talking to someone who is paid to solve these types of issues. If there is an explanation needed, I get it, analyze it, and react to it.

But Twitter, this bees nest of dissatisfied people seeking justice is a conduit to a whole nation of hashtagged complainers. We metatag our anger for sortability, with no real oversight of validity or quality. We report our dissatisfaction to the hive, letting big brother know that something has happened to someone, and that the whole hive should validate us. Where a simple email to the company would suffice, we publish the photograph of a truly good person in the hopes of publicly embarrassing her and the company she works for.

This is not how I thought Big Brother was supposed to be. It is instead the actions of a needy and whiny Little Brother, tugging on the world's pant-leg because telling on that sibling might get a pat on the head from Mum and Dad on Twitter.

All I ask is that you give the driver that few extra moments you denied the slow loading page, and give her a chance to refresh before you give up on what she offers this city.

Maybe we could recognize our humanity a little in that moment. Hers, yours, ours.