Yeah, yeah, yeah…it’s Saturday night and I’m going to take advantage of the fact that most people are out on the town, doing important stuff like smooching with their sweeties and I AM NOT! Sigh. Maybe it’s something in the spring air or the effects of drinking the HRM tap water, but I feel a burning desire to give one (I SAID ONE) Metro Transit bus driver a pat on the back, tip of my jaunty beret, nod of approval, and spring bouquet all rolled into one. Given the intense satisfaction I normally derive when I have the opportunity (and there are plenty of them) to blast Transit drivers (see earlier blogs), I feel oddly conflicted and confused about this new-found bus driver appreciation…but here goes; On Friday, I was riding the #14 bus, bound for the UU church on Inglis to rehearse a ‘green opera’ which I am writing and co-directing (don’t ask. I’ll tell you about it sometime). The driver was a little behind schedule, not unusual for a Metro Transit bus. It was past peak
hours minutes (This IS Halifaxl) so the bus was not the packed sardine it can it can some times. I lulled into my typical bus stupour but remained minimally alert, which allowed my brain to count the turns that the bus was making (to figure out where to get off…driver had not asked me, and I thought he had sounded a tad frazzled and would probably forget to tell me anyway). It turns out that I need not have bothered. I also did not need a compass or GPS to realize that the collective, “Hey!” from passengers (Oh those eloquent St. Mary’s students!) meant that we had blown by Robie street without making the #14 route’s right hand turn off of South Street. The driver realized what had happened quickly enough (maybe it was the three panicky students who swarmed the guy within 2.749 seconds of realizing that the bus was off route). I listened to the following exchange between the driver and students ( they had quickly lurched forward to stand next to the driver, I-pods temporarily disconnected from their heads to allow their ears access to their cell phones;
Driver: “Sorry, I’m used to working the #41 route…it’s Friday….I’m so sorry.” (#41 goes right up South)
Student A: “Is this the #14 or not?”
Driver: “Sorry, I apologize…it’s Friday”.
Student B: “Are we going anywhere near St. Mary’s? I’m supposed to meet someone in…3 minutes” .
Driver: (sounding very tired) “I don’t know where to turn around”
Student C: “Are we going to go back to Robie Street or not?”
Old geek sitting across from me: “What the hell is going on?!!”
Driver: (to the driver of a passing bus he had waved over) “I have no idea what to do. Where can I turn around? What would you do? I’m ten minutes behind schedule as it is.”
Other Driver: “Just get back anywhere on the route. Happens to me all the time”.
Driver: “I don’t want to leave anyone behind on Robie or Inglis which is what’s going to happen if I blow off the route”.
Other Driver: “Do whatever you feel like” (he then left, helpful soul that he was)
Student A: “Is this the #14?”
Student B: “I’m getting off right now!” (at which point he leaped off the bus as though his pants were on fire)
Student C: “Is we still in Halifax? I’m not from here…”
Student A: “Is this the #14?”
Driver: “Everybody sit down please. I apologize…it’s Friday” (he then drove off as though his HIS pants were on fire).
We embarked on the most unusual of bus trips. We headed east, then maybe south and west…north even? I had no clue where I was, but I did not seem to mind (how unusual for me…hence my feeling of confusion). People cursed and grumbled and sighed and tisked all up and down the bus.
Me: “Can someone please tell me where we are?” (The driver was still busy driving like a man possessed).
Student C: “I don’t know where I am either”.
Old geek across from me: ” The son of a. b..ch is going back to Robie Street to pick up his route where he left off!”
Upon hearing this news, I felt an unexpected appreciation for this driver (who was still apologizing profusely as anyone got off his bus). When we finally reached my stop, (some 20 minutes off schedule by now and way too late for rehearsal),
I said to him: “Don’t worry, stuff like this happens all the time to me too….it’s Friday!”
At one time, people accused me of picking on Halifax’s Metro Transit and their bus drivers too much….they don’t announce bus stops despite the undeniable swath of pan-Canadian litigation and Human Rights rulings which has forced other cities to do so…they have inaccessible route and schedule information, AND they have yanked the “free pass” which allows the blind to travel free, a minor concession for inadequate Accommodation.
It seems that I don’t have to complain about Metro Transit drivers anymore. Why? They are behaving like a big bunch of goofs with EVERYONE these days; Recently, one driver rammed a courier’s vehicle on Barrington street and held up a busload of passengers for 20 minutes while he ranted. Then, last week, a driver refused to allow a veiled Muslim woman on his bus…a definite no-no (a bystander complained, not the woman), this on top of recent accusations of racial profiling and finally, this weekend, one particularly goofy driver got out of his bus in front of the spring Garden Road Library to whack a mock bloody seal with a stick; the toy seal was being used by anti-seal hunt demonstrators. I guess he was just trying to express his opinion? The driver was picked up by the cops and eventually returned to his bus. It seems he’s been invited to join Metro Transit big cheeses in a discussion today (Oh, to be a fly on the wall!). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; give these drivers a refresher course…no, not ‘sensitivity training’…they need a course on how to locate their brains…the one’s stashed away in their back pockets…the pockets attached to the lard asses they sit on as they drive their buses (a job for which they are over paid, if you ask me), confident with the knowledge that the money they shell out in monthly union dues will cover the cost of lawsuits and other damage control expenditures for these ‘special’ (and increasingly often) times when they behave like the big bunch of goofs they really are.
This just in from Halifax:
Wise Advice chief, HRM (AKA Lablady) and her staff canine, Opal, were rescued on Mumford Road by Bionic Lady late yesterday afternoon. Ms. ‘S’, better know as Bionic Lady because of her nifty titanium prosthetic leg, noticed Wise Advice and her trusty pooch trying to navigate home from the Mumford bus terminal. Realizing that there was no way that the self-proclaimed queen of advice-giving would be able to navigate the narrow, windy, and perilously slippery snow tract which pedestrians had created to replace the sidewalk, Bionic Lady cleverly guided the guide dog and Wise Advice (who tucked in behind the dog) through the rough terrain to safety. Their victorious survival story was recorded by CBC TV crews who happened by on their way to film other snowstorm cleanup and disaster stories all over Halifax. It seems that Saturday’s storm hit HRM by surprise. The official line from the city is that they had not contracted the snow-clearance teams to work before November 30th and “were caught by surprise” (this despite the statistics which show that Halifax has recorded snow in November almost every year in its history). Bionic Lady said to CBC reporter, Mindy Ming, “It’s a bitch out there, ya know? They haven’t even cleared out the bus stops at major intersections yet. The curbs downtown are like, gone”. Wise Advice said she had serendipitously been traveling on the same bus as her neighbour, Bionic Lady. “Yeah, I was standing next to the driver all the way to Mumford terminal with Opal ’cause there was no way those young kids were going to give up their seats for me or anyone else. It gave me a chance to have a nice chat with the driver, though. The driver told me (when he wasn’t stopping to dig snow from his bus’s doors at bus stops, so they could close properly), that 48 hours after the snow storm, not one street in HRM is plowed properly and even bus stops at busy, main intersections are inaccessible, and that there is no way the ALF buses could deploy their ramps for the wheelchair users anywhere”.
“Guess they’re (wheelchair users) screwed for getting to work this winter” the driver announced grimly as he drove his bus around a string of cars stuck in a mid-road snowbank. “I feel like Superman and MacGyver all rolled into one” he announced with pride. “Yeah, I had to pull two people out from UNDER my bus who had slipped off the snowbanks as they tried to get on board at a couple of un-cleared stops. AND I made a nifty shovel out of my lunch pail so that I can dig the doors out when they get stuck!” he added excitedly. Wise Advice told Mindy Ming that she should take the film crew over to city hall and film the undoubtedly well-cleared parking lot there, and interview the mayor and council as they emerge from ‘work’. “Maybe shove a camera in their face and ask them if any of them have time to do double duty as chauffeurs to the thousands of elderly and persons with disabilities in Halifax who are at risk of not accessing medical appointments, employment and necessary travel because of the dumb asses’ decision that it’s OK to gamble and allow un-contracted snow crews to get caught with their ski-doo pants down. Environment Canada is forecasting rain in the HRM area for the next couple of days. Prediction? Ice slicks where sidewalk snow paths exist, and ice mounds at curbs. This equals lawsuits and liability. It would have been cheaper just to clean up the snow in the first place, rather than pay for all those broken bones and physiotherapy.” She left for home with Bionic Lady to have a cup of tea.
I am fascinated with how things get done here in Halifax through Council. I am equally interested in what does NOT get done. Our transit system for example, just scored 1.2 million dollars from HRM City council. How so and what for, you ask? The money is for a ‘security camera system’ on transit buses and ferries. It arose after a number of drivers were ‘attacked’ while on the job and the subsequent outcry from their union, as well as the press around it. I think the media attention on this whole thing is what really propelled HRM Council to move the money through to Metro Transit like greased lightning. After all, the city does not want to appear negligent or uncaring about the safety of bus drivers. The teary radio interviews (I bet TV stuff was even more melodramatic) with the female compadres of the driver who was attacked, really cinched it. I don’t have any objection to driver- safety initiatives or union representation. The problem is, the idea of cameras on buses for protection, is silly. My informal survey of female drivers has found that they don’t think security cameras on buses will be effective in keeping them safe from the truly crazy, drunk and doped-up nuts who are the most likely to go spontaneously berserk and attack them. These types of live-wire attackers will not pause and reflect on the presence of a camera over their heads before they punch out a driver for not accepting their transfer or refusing to ‘make out’ with them. It could be that grainy images of an attack, after the fact, will be moderately helpful in getting a conviction in court or compensation from the maimed driver’s employer (HRM).
My complaint is that our transit system gets funded, under funded, or not funded at all, in a way that is a knee-jerk reaction to situations, trends or public pressure. Spending seems to be totally unprioritized. We STILL, after one year of testing, do not have a functioning ‘real time go-time’ service. I can’t recall the price tag on that, project, but whatever it was, it was huge. It should be given priority to get it WORKING at all costs, over some of other recent add-on expenditures, like security cameras. For example the city also purchased some hybrid diesel Transit buses last year because of the push from the HRM’s official environmental geeks (I am a non-official geek supporter). They moved so quickly to tender the purchase of the buses, that they scored vehicles which apparently have proven to be defective. I hear they are going back to the seller. We have no critically-needed voice enunciator system in Halifax, and apparently no plan to find money for it any time soon. The list goes on.
Com’ on! Give me a break! When I get on your bus next time, and say ” I want Spring Garden and Summer street please” in a loud and clear voice, do not think for a minute that you can blow my stop again (like you did today) and YELL AT ME, “You didn’t ask!”, as I get off the bus. Sheesh! Even the guy in the back row heard me tell you where I wanted to get off. Next time, you will ANNOUNCE MY STOP, ’cause if you don’t… I (that is, WE, an entire organization of blind, and partially sighted advocates) will REALLY be inclined to use the incident as the basis for a Human Rights Complaint. I have had it. Metro Transit is spending another million + bucks on security cameras on their buses, because the dirivers’ union told them to? My bus is held up twice this week for 25 and 45 minutes because the RCMP were asked to board the buses by a nervous driver, to remove some cursing kids from Halifax West Junior High? Are you serious? The new microphones pick up sound on buses (how much did THAT cost?). Give the drivers Tazers and get on with it! You will save a bundle, and I bet the kids will behave a lot better. Not only that, but the buses may be remotely close to being on time!
Posted in Access Laws, Accessibility, Advice, advocacy, Announcing bus stops, blindness, Disability Rights, Halifax, humour, Nova Scotia, opinion, personal, Transit, Uncategorized
Tagged blindness, bus stop announcement
Mum says we’re going to a boring luncheon at city hall today. I don’t get it. I LOVE luncheons, especially at city hall where there is always lots of food, even though mum says the food is overpriced plastic crap payed for at the taxpayers expense. She says we have to go so we can bug the mayor and some city councillors while the going is good…something about a municipal election coming up and they’re falling all over themselves trying to get some votes. They don’t usually hold this event until springtime, but the mayor (you know, the little guy with a whiny voice?) wants to score political points NOW. She says we must shmooze with them…work the room before they know what’s hit them. I don’t get it. Why would HRM council not want to do the right thing in the first place? She says they could build me a service dog run (yeah!!!) and improve transit (maybe pay for a voice enunciator on buses to announce stops), and hire some bylaw enforcement officers, and FIRE some dead-weight HRM staff whose salaries suck up the city’s budget which could be better applied elsewhere, and get some funding to provide recreational programs for kids with disabilities, and spend more money on removing physical barriers instead of making ridiculous expenditures like the Chebucto road widening project which destroyed property and trees to allow a few more gas-guzzling SUV’s to squeeze into town, and make the public library services more equitable for the blind who don’t care to use the ‘charitable’ library, and find some balls ( not the kind I like) so they stop caving to the interests of developers who are destroying the city with condo and commercial development in all the wrong places, and….why don’t they just listen to mum in the first place? I think SHE should run for council in the next election. I’d love to run around my new service dog run.
Posted in Accessibility, Advice, Announcing bus stops, blindness, Canada, dogs, Fairness, Guide dogs, Halifax, humour, news, Nova Scotia, Opal, personal, Transit, Uncategorized
Tagged Accessibility, Announcing bus stops, city hall, dogs, Fairness, Halifax, HRM, Opal, personal, political, reception, Transit
To the 3 (three) drivers who almost ran me down yesterday…. IN A CROSSWALK!
Dear Tom, Dick and Harry,
Yeah, I know it was hot yesterday and maybe you guys were in a hurry to get home to the beer and burgers, but you really need to be more cautious around crosswalks. Maybe you didn’t notice the gigantic Metro Transit BUS that was stopped which you PASSED illegally… at a MARKED CROSSWALK? Perhaps you were too busy playing with your radios, cell phones, or your ‘privates’ to see the FLASHING YELLOW CROSSWALK LIGHTS? Was the music in your car blasting so loud that you could not hear the BEEPING CROSSWALK SIGNAL? Didn’t the string of cars STOPPED in the opposing direction give you a clue? Let me guess. The air conditioning in your big gas guzzling SUV was on the fritz and you needed to keep moving at all costs to maintain the cooling breeze? I know. You were thinking, “So far, I’ve got away with running crosswalks without getting caught by the cops, so what the hell? I’ll blow through just one more and to hell with the lady and dog in the middle of it?” Hmm. Well boys, the party’s over. Today, I am declaring war on you. It’s for your own good. I don’t want you to kill some poor schoolchild in a crosswalk someday, and then have to live with the ensuing police investigation, maybe a suspended license so you can’t drive to the store to buy your beer, the TON of media attention (all bad press that will make you feel like a worm) and who knows? even a little guilt? No, I’m shutting you down before it comes to that. Watch yourselves fellows ’cause I have already spoken with the Divisional commander of the HRM police about increasing police presence here. You can expect a police cruiser to be parked behind a bush near the crosswalk in question for a while. Chances are they’ll enjoy pulling you over when they see you race through the crosswalk. They really like to play with the flashing lights on the cop car and hey, maybe even the siren if you are stupid enough not to notice the lights. I KNOW they will love handing you a ticket with a big honking fine.
Posted in Advice, blindness, Guide dogs, Halifax, Nova Scotia, opinion, personal, Transit, Uncategorized
Tagged crosswalks, Guide dogs, Halifax, opinion, personal, Transit