I had a group of youngsters bringing in food at the back door after I asked them to take their trash with them when they depart. My comment fell on deaf ears as they went to the back door with their ice cream sandwich and candy bars. Being a bully and demanding an action has never worked in the past, so I simply make a request in a calm monotone voice and let my control over any situation die after I take the action of a neutral toned statement and let the cards (ice cream, soda cans, juice bottles, fried chicken) fall where they may.
Transfer points with fast food stores are the places were food gets brought on the bus. It isn’t too hard to see where the trash comes on board. Once I understand this, I can ask intending passengers to take their food or trash with them, and if they board at the front, I get a positive response. I see them take their bags and cups with them when they get off. The Seven-Eleven at 30th and Mission, and Popeye’s at Divisadero and Hayes are the key litterbug stops on the 24 and 21 respectively.
Yesterday, I had an off duty operator, riding my coach inbound on the 21, alert me that the man who just got off at 8th and Market dropped a full coffee cup on the back seat and the spill was creeping down the floor to the back steps. Cream and sugar, mixed with coffee make for a gross floor and sticky mess that can be tracked throughout the bus over the following hours of service. I had five more trips to make on this day, so the spill was going to affect all the commuters going home after a long day. No one likes to be forced into a sticky seat or floor when all seats are taken on the peak period commute home. Litterbugs don’t understand the effect they are having on all those who come after them on the bus.
I asked the riding operator to get a newspaper at the news rack on the corner, and he gave me a some copies at my window, and I popped the brake. I went to the back and laid the papers down on the floor where the streams of goo were moving and absorbed the coffee off of the seats that were affected.
“Let’s go!” demanded one of the youth. “Not until I clean this mess, look here, there is an ice cream wrapper on the floor.” I responded. “All these seats and aisle are unusable as this coach will be out of service to wait for the car cleaners, and everyone will have to wait longer for the next bus. I am keeping this coach in service.” They begrudgingly got off the bus.
My follower on the 9 San Bruno behind me honked at the delay created by missing a light at the inbound stop. I was holding up the line. Losing a light was a small price to pay to keep my headway intact. I returned to the cockpit and left on the next green. I let the paper absorb all the sticky coffee, and then at the next stop where a trash can is right at the corner, I picked up the wet paper and throw it into the can. The mess is gone.
We operators do have the ability to call for the car cleaners to come and fix the mess, but what these youth and old man seem not to understand, is the delay in coming to clean the coach means my bus blocks the terminal for my follower, who now has double headway. This one spill, along with the wrappers, gets dropped off in a second, but causes hours of dirty shoes and clothes by those who follow, or a delay in service that lasts over an hour. The best lesson I can give for change is to set an example by doing a spot cleaning when it happens and when they are on the bus.
It was made obvious to me from the operator who witnessed the spill, that the old man intentionally dropped his coffee cup and had an attitude. I recall this was not the first time he did this. I file this away in my brain, and be alert for his boarding next time. Last time, I discovered the mess after a full trip to my second terminal.
Indeed, I do find many interesting articles when I do the rear board walk through at the end of the line, as our rulebook suggests. If a spill has occurred, as we may not be able to see the mess when the bus is crowded. It is important to understand a rider can make a difference by letting the operator know . This was the case on this day, as I couldn’t see what happened. At the end of the line I whipped out my window cleaner pads and got the seats shiny and bright and then used the pads to clean the floor where the shoes would rest.
It took two minutes to make the final wipe, and I left Ferry Plaza on time. Snap. Can I get an amen in here?
The youth may believe its cool to ride for free and eat on the bus, without a second thought, but the old man should know better. He was probably an operator who was let go, and is now a hater. He knows the rules, but in an odd twist, a resentment is nursed and fed about how they ‘did it’ to him, how unfair the outside world has treated him. I know his line of thought all too well, and I don’t have to react to it. I can insert a positive action of example, and keep myself on a higher plane. Or bus!
Signs and posters for litterbug fines don’t seem to get through. Positive action does. We now return you to the Trolleybus of Happy Destiny, complete with clean seats and floorspace!