Drivers also shared tales of being spit on for no reason, yelled at for directing passengers to fold their baby strollers and fussed at for arriving late when there’s traffic.
“It used to be a rider might say some words to you if they were mad, but now they come on with knives, bricks, bottles and frozen eggs,” said Angela Milhouse, who has driven a Metro bus for 11 years. “No matter how positive you are or how nice, it can make you bitter.”
Jeffrey Jay, a psychologist who has worked for decades counseling Metro bus and train operators, said bus operators are often seen as symbols of government-type agencies at which people are angry.
“They’re in uniform,” he said. “They can’t fight back to defend themselves. They’re the face of the authority. They become targets for people’s sense of everything that is wrong with the world.”
Metrobus operators know the feeling all too well.
Shawn Jones, who has worked for Metro for eight years, said he’s reluctant sometimes to even greet customers.
“I’ve gotten cussed out for saying good morning to people driving the 90 line,” he said, referring to a bus route that runs in part through Congress Heights and Anacostia. Now, he said, he prefers to simply nod at customers when they get on his bus.
Langston challenged him.
“Don’t let them get to you,” he said.
While most of the operators said they found many of the tips in the class useful, many said morale was low and that not enough support was being provided by Metro supervisors.
Drivers reported not being able to get quick responses from Metro’s command center when they call in with a problem.
Others told of instances where Metro Transit Police officers showed up 30 minutes after they’d called for help.
Carey and Langston assured the bus operators that the bosses will be receiving training, too.