Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I was riding the 16J bus from Culmore up Columbia Pike toward the Pentagon. Two men, either drunk or hopped up on drugs, were in the back of the bus carrying on a loud and extremely vulgar "conversation."
Like several other passengers, I made the mistake of turning to see who was creating this disturbance.
At that point, they began to physically threaten those of us who had dared turn in their direction: "You wanna say something? Come say it in my face and I'll beat . . . you" -- that sort of thing.
I should add that the two men were young, maybe 20, and over 6 feet tall, whereas I am 62 years old, partially disabled and 5 feet tall.
The bus driver did nothing.
Never mind terrorists: These guys scared me. I didn't turn around again, and said nothing at all at any point. A couple of other passengers decided to play dumb.
The driver, who couldn't have missed what was happening without getting off the bus, did and said nothing, even when another woman and I urged him to exercise his right to keep order on his vehicle.
Maybe he was scared, too, but isn't it his job to maintain order?
This went on for a good 10 minutes, until one of the men got off the bus and the other, apparently not wanting to fly solo (so to speak), shut up.
A few blocks later I got off the bus. Fortunately, the obstreperous man who had remained on board stayed on board. I was worried that he'd get off at my stop and assault me.
What should a senior citizen do in such circumstances, where obviously there is no bus intercom and no transit cop?
I've been riding Metrobuses for years, but I'm really nervous about doing so again.
Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel advises that you not look at these miscreants (which you already know) and that you move up as close to the bus driver as possible.
These people were threatening you, and with an inert bus driver, you might also think of getting off the bus immediately, if it appears safe and you have the time.
Bus drivers are trained to maintain order, and the driver could have radioed to Metro control center to summon law enforcement personnel, Taubenkibel said. Whether that should have been done here cannot be determined without the bus driver's account, he said.
If you see outlandish behavior on Metrobus or rail, report the details to Metro at 202-637-1328. Send me a copy.
From this one account, it sounds like this bus driver should have summoned help, unless this sort of thing goes on all the time. That's a scary thought.
Calling All Pedestrians
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Yesterday, I observed a twentysomething who was talking on a cell phone, walk across a busy street against the light and nearly get hit by an automobile.
The cell phone user was completely oblivious not only to the warning cries from onlookers and to the oncoming traffic but also to the fact that he had barely escaped getting hit by a car and getting severely injured.
On the other hand, I have stopped counting the number of times when I, as a pedestrian crossing a street in a crosswalk, with the light, have been almost run over by cars making a right turn on red while the driver was engrossed in talking on a cell phone.
I ask you to remind your readers that, regardless of any existing legislation, that drivers and pedestrians who use cell phones have a responsibility to maintain awareness of the events going on around them.
Only in the District is it illegal to hold a cell phone while driving. Virginia and Maryland should follow. Good idea to put away those cell phones in crosswalks, too.
A Break From Traffic
Dr. Gridlock will be vacationing for a while. The next columns for the Thursday Extras will appear Sept. 29. The next Monday online chats will be in mid-September. The Sunday column will continue each week.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at email@example.com or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.