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3 Degrees Fahrenheit, 1 foot of snow and a locked bus door at a bus stop
The Cold Problem and a Hot Solution; A case study
CHARACTERS: John Diamond (from Bermuda) and Ms. Luchenco Anna-Maria. John is a black man in his late 20s and Ms Luchenco is white and almost retiring.
Ms. Luchenco Anna-Maria of about 55 years is a very dedicated female bus driver. She has been in the transport industry for over 10 years where she has served diligently. In a few years she is destined to retire with her husband to Orlando Florida (a warmer climate). All this information is shared with the familiar passengers who sit at the front section and who happen to know her well. She and her husband will leave their New York home to their two sons and one daughter. Luchenco’s bus is clean inside and the upholstery is not stained. She seems to know all the people who get on the bus. There is a ‘good-morning’ here, a ‘how-is-the-baby’ there and quick chit-chats that end as soon as one has paid for or checked in a valid pass. The bus cabin is so warm and on a day like this that registered 3 degrees Fahrenheit she cannot tell the difference outside. The normal bodily temperature is between 98-100 degrees (F). The lowest recorded temperatures where a body survived was 55.4 degrees (F). The body gets so cold that one’s bones, especially behind the ear get to be painful. This is the path to hypothermia. If there is persistent exposure it gets to the point when one is disoriented. It can lead to death in extreme cases. Coldness itself is so uncomfortable!On this day (January 22nd 2013), this place averaged 3 degrees (F); a very cold wind blew leaves and light debris. It was so strong that debris were air-borne. The streets, avenues and Boulevard were buffeted by a gust of wind that almost threw John Diamond down! The bottle of water he had got so cold. The cap was frozen hard and fast. The jacket was a very cold garment. It became a strait-jacket that held him in very cold chains which only got broken once he got into a warm building.
GOING TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD BUS STOP:
His experience started at a Brook Bridge stop. The Brook Bridge has a bus stop where drivers have a well-deserved short lunch break.
MEETING MS. LUCHENCO FOR THE FIRST TIME:
Now, ‘this bus stop is not a pedestrian stop’. He got a condescending lecture by Ms. Luchenco on the meaning of a bus stop and pedestrian stop. He had an appointment with our office. The office is situated downtown. He uses a bus as his means of travel. It has always been out of routine and not objective. It was a ‘get-to-bus-stop-wait-for-sometime-bus-arrives-door-opens-say-hello-to-driver-while-paying-quickly-get-to-your-sit’ subjectivity.
IN THE BUS HABITS OF JOHN:
That is all the effort he had tuned his body to execute and no more! He does read books on the bus, so he reserves energy for the books he carries with him. He usually chooses places where he is able to pull out a book while the bus moves. This is to enable him have one eye on the book and another on the stop.
JOHN AND LUCHENCO'S ALTERCATION
This day provided him a different opportunity into the experiences of riding a bus. He knew this very experience happens in USA. But, he thought there was a category of persons who would engage in such acts but not the Ms. Luchenco. There is a universal language in all cities. A bus stop is not hard to see. It may be a clearing on the road-side or a stop area with a metal sign having a bus and a word stop. An idling bus on wheels at a stop area is so re-assuring on a 3 degrees (F) cold day. John walked from the ‘pedestrian stop’ towards the ‘bus stop’ which was 20 meters away. He wanted to keep warm.
“No one boards from here, just you stay at the pedestrian stop,” yelled this Ms. Luchenco behind thick windows in a warm bus cabin. John looked askance. Did Ms. Know it was a very cold day out here?
“You better hurry, in the next minute I may pass that stop,” she continued pointing repeatedly at the stop 20 meters away.
John walked back and the bus picked him up. He thanked Ms. Luchenco and paid for a full day fare. He also told her it was very cold outside, three times. She did not seem to realize why he kept saying it was so cold outside the bus. She started the bus. She did not wait for him to sit down. So, while it was moving she continued asking him whether he was new to the City and the bus.
John did not answer her but pointed at the notice that said: ‘stand away from a yellow line while bus is moving’.
John went and sat down. He pulled out a book and as he was opening it she asked again. “Have you ever been on a bus?”
He said yes.
He also told her to not yell at pedestrians. He told her she is in an industry calling for humane hospitality. Then he got back to his book.
At the next Congregational Church stop the bus stopped to pick up Emeralda Gomez. Ms. Luchenco and Emeralda knew each other. They chatted about the Obama-Biden Inauguration and later bed-bugs!
At Christ the King Church stop the bus picked up Gregory Barnes an African-American. Ms. Luchenco asked if she had ever yelled at him.
He was surprised at the question but said no.
“What would be the reason anyway?” he asked.
John got in at that point when Ms. Luchenco pointed at him.
“The gentleman in yellow has just said so about me”. She shouted.
“I don’t yell at people,” she reassured herself loudly.
John (dressed in yellow) emphasized she did yell.
When Gregory Barnes realized John could speak eloquently about the issue, he came and sat next to him. He talked to John while pointing at the back of the palm (a sign for John to ignore everything but to also know that in his position, as a black man, it should not come as a surprise).
John did not say any word after. Gregory (An African American) told him of his experience too. He said it loudly so that Ms. Luchenco would hear too. The bus that went before ours had just passed the stop! He, because of the cold, had to go to the near-by Church to stay warm. The white janitor had refused to let him in at first until he produced a Bible. We moved on up to the stop next to a College and picked Reginald Brown (African American from Washington DC and a substance abuse withdrawal counselor). Reginald Brown on a supervisory visit to New York City, also shared his experience of that 'other' bus that did not stop to pick him up and two other colleagues.
The other two colleagues were Dally Matthew and Rodriguez Jesus. Dally is Hispanic and attends the drug-addiction/withdrawal support group on Harlem Street. Jesus is a Latino from the Housing Authority, sector 8 units.The driver was not able to hear all these experiences of deliberate locked bus doors and buses that do not stop for a certain category of people. She was sharing her story with Emeralda. She had just put down her cell. She had just heard from her family. They were reminding her to buy anti-pest sprays. Reginald Brown from Washington DC remarked he has helped his clients to fumigate pests and bed-bugs. It was a daily occurrence to him! As soon as the bus moved Dally fell asleep! John did not get to hear him talk, except when he acknowledged his names as they were introduced. Rodriguez went to a corner by himself!
REMAINING SOBER IN THE FACE OF INDIGNITY:
The bus moved on up to John's destination. John got out and he thanked Ms. Luchenco for driving them up to this destination! It was an experience for John
Drivers in the public transport sector need to be constantly reminded that in a hospitality-based industry human needs are vast. These needs most of the times cause many to open doors for people to get warm and cozy in our buses, even if it may not be a normal procedure!
The Five Rules to Remember When faced with discrimination and bias ridden treatment
1. First and foremost do not judge another person.
2. Secondly do not get angry.
3. Thirdly engage the person in conversation.
4. Fourthly share your own feelings.
5. Fifth work out or resolve the issue on the spot.
The Five Best Practices against Localized Racism, Discrimination and Bias ridden Tendencies
Benefits to the perpetrator ( Abuser)
Benefits the recipient (victim of abuse)
First and foremost do not judge another person. .
It helps to be clear and have perspective
Secondly do not get angry
It promotes empathy
Clarity of mind
Thirdly engage the person in conversation
Identify the harm and fears
Identify harm and fears
Fourthly share your own feelings.
Share the impact of harm to you as a human being/sensitivity
Fifth work out or resolve the issue on the spot
Commit to non-violence processing and emphasize non re-occurrence/ non recidivism
Elicit commitment to non re-occurrence through non aggression or retribution