Monday, March 21, 2011

Post No. 162: An Ass-Whupping Wuz ‘Bout da Take Place

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time on the bus recently. Apart from saving money, being green, and finding time to read the newspaper, we have the opportunity to examine a microcosm of America. During a prior transit adventure, we gained some insight into problems encountered by children in their homes, which spill over into the public schools. Later, we learned what is wrong with the American male, or at least a large number of them, from the perspective of many women.

During our most recent trip, we saw a riot in the making, which may reflect some of the tension and stress the American public is feeling during these difficult economic times.

On certain days of the week, and at certain times of the month, there are more people using the bus system than is normally the case. With more passengers and more frequent stops come incremental delays which build up over the course of a route.

When we boarded the bus, and saw it packed with 40 plus passengers, we knew there was going to be trouble. At our stop, the bus normally has roughly 16 minutes to make it to the Central Depot, and connect with other outbound buses. But on this day, it only had 9 minutes to spare, for a trip which could take 8 minutes under ideal conditions.

Actually, the bus driver did a pretty good job of making the lights while traveling within the speed limit. Unfortunately, he arrived at the entrance to the Depot 1 minute before the other buses were scheduled to depart. Those of you unfamiliar with the bus system might think that this was good enough, and that everyone would be happy since the connections could be made.

But regular riders know, or at least they should, that if an arriving bus is not fully into the Depot 2 minutes before the scheduled departure time, it must wait at a safety line at the entrance to the Depot, until given further instructions.

The reason for the rule is fairly obvious. The operators of the system do not want passengers jumping off incoming buses, running in between other buses about to depart, and banging on windows to get the attention of departing drivers.

And thus, they made our bus wait. Fifty yards back, but with the other buses, not yet departed, within our view. To make it worse, the other buses did not take off at the scheduled time.

Things began to get testy. First a few passengers yelled, “What are we waiting for?” Then a few more bellowed, “The other buses haven’t even left!” “I’m going to miss my connection.” With each passing 10 seconds, the tension thickened. The bus began to rock as the passengers began to stand up and demand that they be let out at the safety line and be provided the opportunity to run across the paths of the departing buses in anticipation of a lucrative lawsuit.

“This is why the Transit Authority is crap!”

Some even suggested that they had been let out at the safety line on previous occasions, in obvious violation of Authority policy.

Amazingly, the African born immigrant driver sat politely in his seat, as only a citizen of a Commonwealth nation could, and said nothing at first, and later that he was only complying with Transit Authority policy. Of course, no one came to his defense.

Once all of the other buses in front of us departed, and the Depot was cleared, permission was given to our driver to proceed forward, as the African-Americans taunted him and suggested that he return to the country of his origin, in not quite so polite terms. Once the bus came to a stop amongst the empty stalls, both the front and rear doors of the bus opened. The insults reached a level where we were sure that someone was going to punch the driver as the crowd exited, and when it would have been difficult to determine the assailant.

Our driver managed to avoid an altercation this time. Something tells us that might not be the case in the very near future.

As we left by the rear door, we heard someone say,” An ass-whupping wuz ‘bout da take place.”

We guess it was a good thing that the bus was full of otherwise law-abiding citizens. We can’t imagine what an irresponsible group of citizens might have done.


  1. It really is a shame that when the commotion first started, and the driver taunted, that no one bothered to speak up. I guess we are all afraid if the person next to us has a gun or something, and we chose to sit quietly there while someone else takes the heat. Maybe next time this happens someone can at least say "thank you" to the driver for getting everyone safe to the destination. We should all learn to show a little more appreciation. It would make the driver feel proud in knowing he did a job well done.

  2. From a passenger's point of view, its REALLY irritating watching as your connecting bus takes off

    There is always a question over dumb policy and helping others... tough spot

    Re: Allison's comment. In Australia... or at least in Melbourne, everyone says thanks when leaving the bus

  3. ‘Spector,

    I have a different perspective on this.

    If I understand correctly, the passengers on that bus were primarily adults, not children. Why wouldn’t they balk at being treated as though they were children?

    Let them off the bus. If the passenger’s perceived danger of leaving the security of that bus parked in that particular spot is less than his concern regarding the consequences of not reaching his destination on time, why not simply post a sign which reads “Transit Authority Not Responsible for Passenger Injury Outside of Bus” . . . and allow adults make their own decisions as adults?

    Permitting a line painted arbitrarily upon pavement to demarcate whether an adult human being will or will not reach his goal at a given time is condescending. In this zero-tolerance Simple Simon Says society in which we have all been forced to dwell, the failure to reach that connecting bus before it departs can have far-reaching implications. “This bank is now closed and won’t reopen ‘til Monday, so your mortgage check will just have to bounce.” “You’re late, so you’re fired.”

    We now teach (and have for generations taught) our children to respect mindless bureaucratic authority rather than to do their own thinking – in other words, they are conditioned from early childhood to live obediently in an authoritarian state. I think that it is high time that someone does administer a good ass whuppin’ to those “in charge” . . . though hopefully prompted by a scenario more universally recognizable as totalitarianism than the plight of needlessly late bus passengers. Still, this example should indeed inspire those who are justifiably mad as hell and don’t wish to take it anymore.

    The Independent Cuss

  4. Lucky, there's a simple answer for that. Lawsuits. You can put up all the signs denying responsibility you wish and it won't deter a lawsuit. It is lawsuits which created the need for those rules which caused those people to miss their transfers. Someone gets hurt and no sign will absolve the owner of a business from responsibility at some level. The signs weren't big enough, or clear enough, or visible enough. There were no additional warning signs or designated pathways with sufficient methods to prevent someone from straying from them and into danger.

  5. Thanks much Allison for joining us. You are correct, it is a shame that no one spoke up on behalf of the driver AND the Authority's safety policy.

    Out of curiosity, let's say there was one person considering or willing to speak up, and and 17 of the remaining 39 passengers who were "pretty agitated." Should that one person have risked his or her safety to speak up? Would that have been the responsible thing to do?

  6. Sue Lin:

    Thanks for weighing in. You generically spoke of "dumb" policies. Do you believe that is the case here, even though it has a safety goal. Should the passengers been allowed to get off the bus and run to the departing buses?

    Here in the U.S., in the smaller cities, passengers have a tendency to thank the driver; however, in the larger cities, less so.

  7. Independent Cuss, you threw us off there for about 20 seconds with the "Lucky" screen name.

    Our original tentative response was "very, very, very, interesting and well-thought out analysis." Once we realized that it was you, we just said, "As we expected." :)

    You raise some very good points. Arguably, we all should suffer the consequences of all of our individual actions.

    Arguably, all of us should be allowed to do every foolish, irresponsible thing imaginable, without restriction or regulation, and someone or something else should only intervene when one's actions hurt another.

    Under this line of reasoning, for example, there would be no consumer protection laws.

    Arguably, if one injured one's self while taking whatever action, no lawsuit should be allowed.

    Do we as humans in a civilized society need anyone to regulate or govern us, or should we be simply allowed to just do whatever and suffer the consequences individually?

    By the way, the language on the sign you suggested would arguably be considered a "contract of adhesion," namely one thrust on the reader without any arm's length bargaining taking place, and thus generally invalid.

  8. Douglas: Thanks for visiting as always. Our response to the comment of Independent Cuss / Lucky pretty much addresses your comment also.

  9. The Inspector mentioned that the scene was a "microcosm of America."

    Here it is we have a responsible driver doing all he can to perform his job and get his passengers to the depot safely. Additionally, he complies with the safety policy obviously designed to minimize the injuries to the riding public.

    Despite this, we have passengers criticizing the driver, and threatening him. And people talking about their rights but not their responsibilities.

    The driver performed his job responsibly. Many of the passengers were not responsible passengers. We also suspect that some of the adults complaining had children with them.

  10. 'Spector said:

    "Do we as humans in a civilized society need anyone to regulate or govern us, or should we be simply allowed to just do whatever and suffer the consequences individually?"

    My gut response to the latter option is: Why not? -- It worked for centuries! Moreover it could be argued that to deny us that right, so long as no one else risks life or limb in the process, is to circumvent the natural selection process.

    Realistically yes, of course there must be limits – but they don’t need to be so numerous and so condescending (yes, I keep coming back to that latter point). Of course there need to be consumer protection laws (and more!) to shield us from the unscrupulous, but there need not be so many laws which protect us from ourselves.

    As for “Lucky”: I found that Google wouldn’t recognize my WordPress handle “independentcuss” when I tried to post (as it previously did) so I was forced to use my old Google account “Lucky” – lucky me! Will it recognize WordPress this time? Obviously, by now you know . . .


    Of course you are technically right from the standpoint of “how things are done today”, but it need not be that way. As I noted above, it worked otherwise for centuries. William Shakespeare said “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” I suspect that he would not change that directive should he espy the conditions under which we suffer today.

    The Independent Cuss

  11. Lucky:

    It seems to us from both an analytical AND a realistic perspective, adult humans are either capable or incapable of making their own decisions, fending for themselves, and consequently should or should not suffer the consequences of their actions.

    Once a society or government starts making exceptions to whichever standard is applied, the exceptions realistically never stop being made. It just depends on who is in charge and their view of the Universe.

    It's a slippery slope no matter how one looks at it; it just depends on whether the slope tilts to the left or to the right.

    It sounds like you're talking about a matter of degree, and if that is the case, then "reasonable men can differ."

  12. Cuss (can I call you Cuss?), I detect a contradiction in your words. You want people to take more responsibility for their actions but you also want them protected. I quote:

    "Of course there need to be consumer protection laws (and more!) to shield us from the unscrupulous, but there need not be so many laws which protect us from ourselves."

    I sense that actually means: "Protect the others, less clever than I, and give me more freedom." The unscrupulous always target the gullible, of course, reasonable and responsible people are rarely cheated. So it follows that the gullible should be protected, not from the unscrupulous but from their own irresponsibility. The problem is we cannot write laws and regulations that only protect the gullible.

    I think of those tobacco lawsuits and the silly warning labels on cigarette packages. And passive restraint systems like airbags. And product safety laws.

    I may be as willing as you to be responsible for my own actions but I might change my mind after an injury. Because, obviously, I was blindsided.

    But you are right in a lot of ways. We seem to have way too many rules and regulations when a little common sense would be in order.

    But common sense isn't all that common, is it?

  13. Douglas,

    Actually, no: I don't consider others to be less clever than I am. That would be condescension, a quality which I abhor in adult individuals and institutions. (Okay, perhaps the remark regarding circumvention of the natural selection process was a little bit condescending – but it was funny, too).

    Apparently I am alone in distinguishing the desirability of personal choice regarding ones own safety versus legal protection from predators who would deliberately place one in harm's way for their own gain (if not to make a buck, then to save one).

    Intelligent people can make their own decisions relative to safe behavior: whether or not to wear a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet, or whether the expense of a vehicle equipped with air bags is worth the extra cost – or when to step off a bus. These, unfortunately, are decisions now left up to the insurance companies, their lawyers and the legislators whom they have collectively lobbied (at great cost) for laws which protect us from ourselves – thereby saving them money. They are now the "deciders" -- our only job is to pay them for their wisdom.

    Do you see the connection? Both corporate negligence AND corporate manipulation of ones freedom to choose = profits – and neither is morally defensible.

    Yes, yes – I know all of the arguments about how legislation-by-insurance-industry is “saving us money” – so tell me: when was the last time YOUR insurance premiums decreased?


  14. Lucky, you wrote: "Apparently I am alone in distinguishing the desirability of personal choice regarding ones own safety versus legal protection from predators who would deliberately place one in harm's way for their own gain (if not to make a buck, then to save one)."

    Work with us while we try to work through this one.

    What would you say about these potential predators?:

    (1) People selling unsafe or unproven remedies for diseases.

    (2) Money lenders extending loans with interest rates above 50%.

    (3) Married individuals entering marriages without revealing that they are already married.

    (4) Auto companies, let's say Porsche, selling cars with VW engines.

    (5) Individuals with AIDS having unprotected sex with others.

    (6) Sexual predators, who prey on unsuspecting pedestrians walking down dark streets.

  15. IC your last question first. Numbers 1 to 6? Answer: Jail. Expensive? Not al all. Huge secure jails would be built, creating employment throughout the land. Humanely forced labour therein would subsidise the cost. Products would compete with foreign imports. Life would not be bad. Violence would not be tolerated.

    I think Lucky is for freedom to be stupid, and against freedom to exploit the stupid. Me, I like it when study and statistics lead to restrictions (seat belts) because EVEN CLEVER PEOPLE cannot study all of these things and know how to be responsible. IC, I note some over-simplification in your stated views on this subject - as some of us have said, you can't be responsible without information. And that's not always available.

    Do the buses all leave at once? Can't the drivers be careful until they are out of the depot?

  16. CorfuBob:

    You framed Lucky's position beautifully: Freedom to be stupid, and against freedom to exploit the stupid. We'll remember that one.

    We're nothing if not over-simplistic, on most subjects. :)

    Yes, all buses are scheduled to depart at the same time, and traffic is stopped to permit them to do so. Are drivers capable of being sufficiently and consistently careful in such situations, or are the odds for less injury better when they adhere to the Authority policy?

  17. Bravo, Bob! I agree wholeheartedly with everything which you wrote, particularly the condensed paraphrase of my perspective. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit. Thanks!

    Oh, and I finally fixed my "identity crisis"; I didn't remember that user names could be changed so easily here.

    The Independent Cuss

  18. So Independent Cuss and CorfuBob are in agreement on this freedom to be stupid, and against freedom to exploit the stupid.

    Hmmm. But "explain us this?" If freedom entails responsibilities, if one is stupid, why shouldn't he or she suffer the consequences of their stupidity, even if the exploitation is malicious or ill-founded? How will they ever learn or be motivated to stop being stupid? Or are you suggesting that the freedom to be stupid be only granted to those with sufficient intellectual or physical capabilities to avoid stupid behavior?

    Or are you suggesting that children and others incapable of having the capacity to make adult decisions be protected from exploitation?

  19. Oi Inspector! I am NOT in agreement with 'freedom to be stupid' in principle, only when it does no harm to others.

    Next time I come across a corpse with its head poking through a shattered car windscreen,I will call you to get it out and take it home to its wife and family.

    What did the corpse 'learn' IC?

    If you came to Greece ic IC, you would drive your car off a narrow mountain road without barriers, you would fall into deep un-fenced holes in the pavement, you would be bitten by crazy dogs that roam in complete freedom. Greeks look out for these things, but you being a 'stupid Yank' wouldn't know better. (And FORGET litigation after)

    I can't work out your second paragraph above, - but the answer to the last one is "YES" and protected from themselves as well, up to a point. This 'point' will be determined pragmatically over time.


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