THOUGH THE METRO spotlight has been focused lately on the adventures of the subway and all its rush-hour consequences, we still receive a regular flow of public commentary on everyday life, such as it is, aboard the buses. The existence of life, of course, assumes the existence of the buses, which some complainants have been unable to confirm. But once the right vehicle does show up, the success of the venture rests to a great extent with the driver - and therein hangs many a tale.
Tourists and townspeople alike know the frustration and anger caused by the uncommunicative driver - the one who, instead of answering routine pertinent questions, either mumbles, grunts or goes deaf. Still worse is the driver who turns fully surly. A notable example of such meanness, according to a report from one longtime reader, occurred a few weeks ago abaord the T-6 that leaves 14th and Kennedy Streets NW at 7:38 a.m. bound for Montgomery College.
First, a soft-spoken, obviously confused foreign student asked the driver if the bus went to Montgomery College, to which the driver snapped, "Can't you read the sign? You go to college - you must know how to read if you go to college - you read the sign." The student, unable to understand this rude lecture, repeated his question. That drew an inaudible response. After a third try in vain, the student meekly boarded to be comforted by others.
A while later, a passenger gently asked if the driver might let him know when to get off for Old Georgetown Road. Hearing no reply from the man at the wheel behind farebox No. 1119, the passenger asked two more times before he heard something to the effect of "about three blocks." As you may have guessed, the next thing that passenger heard was, "You missed your stop," followed by a gruff explanation that it's not up to the driver to make the stop, that "you've got to keep your eyes open. You look like you've got a brain - why don't you use it? You look for the stop." The passenger, understandably enraged, then asked for the driver's name, got no response except for an audible nasty "M" workd.
Now, there may be one way for riders to change this kind of service. As you may know, Metro has a program in which passengers cast ballots for their favorite candidates to be "Operator of the Month." It's been a good way of recognizing the many courteous, patient and informative men and women who work to make bus-riding as pleasant as possible. But maybe their surly colleagues deserve some recognition as well. Metro might consider running a "Rudest Operator of the Month" contest and then posting names and sketches of the winners. The grand prize-winners of the year could then be awarded their walking papers for just cause - to be replaced by others in need of work.