Red Twenty-three

Image of Angry Bus Drivers mock game start screen You don't have to spend a shitload of money on NAC theatre tickets to be entertained in Ottawa; you need only ride OC Transpo, the city's public transit system. I've come to accept that my pessimistic view of OC Transpo is jaded from years of travelling with the unwashed masses on a fleet whose floors most likely test positive for urine. Should any doubt cross my mind with regard to the stench-coloured glasses I'm wearing, I need only consider a video shot by a passenger back in 2011 which depicted a belligerent OC driver berating a 20-year old autistic college student for reading his screenplay out loud on a near empty bus. One might deduce that OC drivers aren't big fans of the performing arts.

Had the driver's loathsome nature not been revealed in such an appalling manner, the concept for the Angry Bus Driver app (fashioned on the popular Angry Birds) may never have been spawned. Angry Bus Driver, in case you're curious, promised to feature an OC bus driver in a fit of pique laying waste to notable Ottawa landmarks including the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Care Centre.

Mercifully, Ottawa city councillors do not rely on public transit on a daily basis for, if they did, they'd surely recognize the sheer entertainment value built right into the public transit system. Unfortunately, such a recognition would not only cause but, it could be argued, justify a modest fare increase soley on the basis of a value-added entertainment tax. What follows are three brief summaries of what you can currently expect with your fare at no additional charge. You can't buy this sort of entertainment just anywhere:

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Prior to OC Transpo's Route Optimization Plan in September 2012, route 2 rumbled through some of the city's more colourful neighbourhoods. Commencing in the citys west end in Britannia, the rolling petrie dish proceeded along Richmond Road and Wellington, taking in the south end of Mechanicsville, through Chinatown along Somerset, north on Bank and ultimately winding its way along Rideau and Montreal Road through the cultural hub of Vanier. (I suspect the boarding handrail of any #2, if swabbed, would test positive for faecal content.)

An elderly woman of slight build, her hands firmly clutching a handbag, sat in the first front-facing seat behind the driver. As the bus came to a stop at King Edward and Rideau, an unkempt middle-aged man in dirty, tattered clothes boarded and rumaged through his pockets for change. After depositing an inordinate number of coins into the fare box, the man collected a transfer and stumbled towards the rear of the bus, planting his large frame down on the seat beside the elderly woman.

The woman, clearly disgusted by the homeless man's pungent presence, turned towards him and snarled, "You smell!" The homeless man, presumably accustomed to all manner of verbal assault, turned his head slowly towards the woman and replied, "Lady, I stink... YOU smell."

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There's a common misconception that today's youth, slovenly garbed in pants whose crotches hang to the knees, have little or no respect for themselves or their elders. I can think of one individual riding the bus down McArthur Avenue last year who'd likely disagree with that assessment. A middle-aged woman of slender build, her hands grasping several plastic grocery bags, boarded the number 14 in front of the FreshCo. She had, clasped between the fingers in her right hand and her grocery bags, a bus pass which she was able to raise slightly and motion to the driver as she boarded under the weight of her lading.

She did not take a seat; instead, she remained standing near the front of the bus so as to maintain the integrity of her payload. The bus proceeded in an eastward direction and, about a dozen blocks later, the woman asked the driver if she could disembark at the following stop. "That was my stop!" exclaimed the woman moments later as the driver sped past the stop she had requested. "You've got to ring the bell," the driver quipped, indicating that he had no intention of stopping the bus unless the woman unburdened herself of her groceries and actually pulled the stop request cord.

A youth, perhaps seventeen or eighteen years of age, witnessing the driver's repugnance articulated quite succinctly, "Let her off the bus you fucking asshole." Given the driver's insistence on ringing bells, I'd bet half my stuffed armadillo collection and two bottles of Wild Turkey that it's only a matter of time before someone rings his.

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It would be unfair to characterize all bus drivers as vitriolic miscreants. This, of course, is not at all the case and, in fact, drivers can themselves be a great source of entertainment. Take, for example, the driver of an articulated 97 heading downtown out of South Keys. Passengers holding monthly passes or transfers may use any of the three doors to board the bus. Conversely, only passengers who need to pay a cash fare are required to board the front door of the bus. While articulated buses do facilitate the fast boarding and disembarking of passengers, they are also subject to abuse by "free riders" who chose to board the bus without paying.

Several passengers boarded the bus at Greenboro Station; many by the back doors. Moments after the bus pulled out of the station the bus driver, in a calm voice, blurted over the intercom: "Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I've just been informed by Operations Control that two Fare Inspectors will be boarding the bus at Heron Station checking for valid passes. If your transfer has expired or is about to expire you may want to come to the front of the bus and see me before we arrive at Heron Station. Thank you."

Seconds later, a youth bolted towards the front of the bus, exchanged a few words with the driver and extracted some change from his various pockets, depositing them in the fare box. The driver nodded, issued a transfer, and the youth proceeded in a slow casual walk all the way to the back of the articulated bus. As the youth neared the rear of the bus the driver's voice, once again, came over the intercom. "Thank you for your cooperation. I'm always amazed how many fall for that phoney fare inspector announcement."

Submitted by Norm de Plume, 28 July 2014