Mantra for D.C. to N.Y. Bus Driver: Eat, Phone, Litter

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009

The last straw for DC2NY bus rider Jessica Dungan came when the driver started munching on a cheeseburger after pulling away from a rest stop in New Jersey.

The 30-year-old contracting consultant had boarded the New York-bound bus at Dupont Circle last Friday afternoon. She had been looking forward to the trip for weeks. She had just lost some weight and had planned a weekend of shopping to "celebrate a new figure" at stores around Broadway and SoHo.

She grabbed the seat directly behind the driver and almost immediately became disturbed by his behavior. Going through Northeast Washington, heading toward the Baltimore Washington Parkway, the driver was using a cellphone without a headset. Dungan nodded off for a half-hour, and when she woke up, the driver was riding the bumper of a Subaru station wagon. After steering the station wagon into the next lane, the Subaru driver give the bus operator an obscene gesture.

"The driver didn't think he was doing anything wrong," Dungan said. "He was asking the bus, 'Did I do anything?' "

The next thing she noticed was the driver devouring breath mints and tossing the wrappers out the window. But the worst part of the trip lay ahead.

At a New Jersey travel plaza, the driver was late getting back to the bus. Dungan noticed that he had a bag full of energy drinks and a cheeseburger. "Which he proceeded to eat with both hands while driving with an elbow," she recalled. "You could only see one of his hands. I was scared. I had seen stuff on TV about banning texting. I thought, 'What about eating cheeseburgers with both hands?' "

Fed up, Dungan booked a seat on a train for the return trip to Washington on Sunday.

"When I saw the driver giving us the finger, I wasn't sure," she said. "When I saw [the bus driver] throwing wrappers out the window when I knew he had a trash bag, I was mad. Then, when I saw him driving with his elbows eating a cheeseburger, I was freaked out."

On Thursday, after inquiries from The Washington Post, Richard Green, chief executive office of DC2NY, issued Dungan an apology. In an e-mail, he wrote that he was embarrassed that her e-mail complaint about the trip never reached his office. He said he also reached the president of Destiny Tours of Woodbridge, one of two companies that DC2NY uses to serve the line, and demanded that the driver no longer be assigned to DC2NY trips. He also offered to reimburse her for the train ride home and to credit her for a future trip.

Later Thursday, Green said Destiny Tours had suspended the driver, whom he declined to identify, pending an investigation.

"I think it's good that the guy is not going to be driving that bus," Dungan said. "Maybe it's a moment for the driver to understand that people are watching."

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