Another one snides the bus

Image of OC Transpo bus It seems one can hardly get through a single week in Ottawa lately without being subjected to yet another incident in the continuing public transit debacle. Ottawa's public transit authority, OC Transpo, received national acclaim earlier this month when a 20-year old autistic college student was berated with a tirade of profanity and physically threatened after reading part of his screenplay aloud on a near empty bus.

The driver's tirade, captured on a cellphone video camera, went viral after being posted on YouTube. In response to public outrage, and following an investigation by OC Transpo, the driver has since been fired. Ironically, it would appear that the driver's union, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279, will be grieving the operator's dismissal, citing various mitigating factors including the recent deaths of the driver's wife and mother, and a recent altercation in which a passenger spat in the driver's face two days earlier.

Any reasonable person would extend their condolences to this man for his tragic personal loss. Those same reasonable people, however, would expect him NOT to use his personal loss as an excuse for inappropriate, and arguably criminal, behaviour. Moreover, while it is wholly inappropriate for a passenger to spit at a driver, one might ponder a couple of incredibly innocent questions as a consequence: What action did the driver take? Did he call police? What occured just prior to the incident? Clearly, if drivers engaged in profane jihads uttering threats of physical violence or passengers engaged in regular launchings of sputum projectiles have become commonplace, then the problems at OC Transpo run far deeper than driver's concerns over bus scheduling or passenger discontent in the wake of major route changes.

In an unrelated incident, after being asked by a passenger why the bus was 40 minutes late, a driver walked off the job leaving the bus and its passengers stranded at a downtown stop. The City has apologized to the passengers, including one person in a wheelchair, who were forced to disembark the abandonned bus. The Amalgamated Transit Union were quick to rush to the driver's defence citing his right to remove himself from perceived threats or dangers. Ironically, they were recalcitrant on any responsibility the driver might have to ensure a passenger in a wheelchair can actually disembark the vehicle after he abandons it.

The ingenuity of public servants to avoid work should NEVER be underestimated. One can only hope drivers at OC don't find even more innovative ways of shirking their responsibility by abandoning their buses when passengers start asking them really offensive questions like: "Excuse me sir, do you go to Hurdman Station?"

Most recently, James Perry, a 20-year old Ottawa man, was charged with uttering threats for having posted a note on his Facebook account which stated: "OC Transpo I'm done with you. Prepare to have your headquarters blown the f---up."

Why was the criminal justice system used when a frustrated young man wrote: "Prepare to be have your headquarters blown the fuck up" and why was it not used when a driver screamed "If you don't shut your fucking face, I'm going to stick my fist in it" at a passenger? Critical legal scholars would likely pose some very innocent questions. For instance, whose interests are being protected and who has the ability to influence the Crown to initiate criminal proceedings? Who are the victims and what are their resources? Why is an instrument as blunt as the criminal law used in one instance and not in another? Do the monosylabic grunts of an online post constitute a greater threat than the verbal threats of a driver having the immediacy to carry out those threats? But I digress... that's far too cerebral and lacking in comedic value to pursue here.

In retrospect, I've muttered the words "Prepare to be blown up!" but at the time it seemed fitting. No wait a sec... my mistake... it was "Prepare to be thrown up!" and I was muttering to an empty bottle of tequila whilst hunched over a white porcelain bowl. In light of the Perry incident, should I be concerned about anything disparaging I might post on this site with respect to "no-see" Transpo?

"Pffffft..... kufaw.... I'd hope that anyone with an opposable thumb who doesn't leave furrows in their wake from their knuckles dragging on the ground would actually be able to distinguish satire from the utterance of a threat. To this end, I'm going to start a new church... the church of OC Transpo. As Pastor Deacon of the Ministry, I'll grant absolution to all drivers for their rude, petty and sometimes obnoxious indiscretions. They need only confess, offer a handsome tithe, then drink the grape Kool-Aid. It's all about foregiveness Brother."

Submitted by Norm de Plume, 30 November 2011