Sunday, April 3, 2016

A penny for your thought

The whole episode is kind of a blur to me now, though even at the time I could sense the significance of it. There weren't any lightning bolts or tremors, just a cool breeze on a sunny day. Even so, there's no denying that I got schooled that day. I didn't take notes, but certain parts are still vivid in my memory so that will have to suffice.

It was a Sunday morning on the 60. It was most likely our first northbound trip, which has zero wiggle room timewise and pretty much requires the bus to be constantly moving. We were approaching Commercial Blvd, preparing to stop for some exiting passengers. One of them was an elderly woman who spoke in stunted English that was occasionally comprehensible. A sweet lady, but seemingly confused and flustered. I'll usually ratchet up my patience in these situations to ease the customer's experience on our buses and assist in any way I can.

While others were exiting, she lingered to make sure this was her stop. I assured her it was, glancing at the traffic light to determine if we had time to make it through before it went red. It was looking good, she was preparing to exit - then she stopped. She squatted and bent down to the floor and came up with a solitary penny. Not sure if it was hers or an errant coin, but the time it took for her to retrieve it was enough for the light to go red and delay us a few more minutes on top of the several we were already down. Then I did something out of character, but hardly offensive. I raised my arm to the light and uttered a sigh about missing the green. By now I'm resigned to the whims of our signal system and rarely get annoyed by them, even when they're clearly malfunctioning. For some reason on this morning the timing was such that I was more sensitive to the lost opportunity than the needs of the poor woman navigating her way around town.

"It's alright, bus driver" I heard a calm voice behind me pipe up.
Apparently my moment of weakness did not go unnoticed. A young man standing by the luggage shelf saw the whole scene. His measured tone is still with me, no judgment in it, just acceptance of the situation. He went on to elucidate about time and preparation, verging into philosophy. The precise words escape me now, but the lesson was learned, the reminder duly noted.

The County instructs us operators to never sacrifice safety for schedule, and I'd like to think that every day the goal of safety becomes more sacred to me. On the same level - of equal priority - may I strive to never sacrifice service for schedule.

So here's to the old, the young, and the lowest coin of the realm - the smallest and most undervalued of our society. Truth, wisdom, and Life give power to the powerless.

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