****Be forewarned, this blog is long****
As a transit driver, I normally go the extra mile for a client by doing things like opening doors, helping to load some of their groceries, or giving them a hand to help them up or down on the bus. Doing things like this takes only a minimal amount of time and it helps me develop a rapport with repeat clients. Most people who ride transit can handle their own items themselves, but occasionally, I’ll have to hold a purse or a bag for an elderly woman, or fold up the walker of the elderly man who rides.
One of the requests we ask of folks riding transit is that they have exact change for their fare. We often cannot make change and if we have to stop and make change at a convenience store, it’s very inconvenient. Most of our clients adhere to this policy and for the few clients who do not have change for their fare we can usually make change, but those clients typically hand us a 5 dollar bill for a 4 dollar fare, so making change is somewhat easy if all you have is a couple dollars.
The Milk Lady is in a wheelchair and partially paralyzed. She rides transit quite often and can be a handful. She is typically agreeable as long as one doesn’t tell her “No” or says something that can tick her off. She likes to take advantage of situations and play that she can’t do something when she really can. Because of her paralysis, she has limited mobility of her hands. However this limited mobility does not stop her from dialing her cell phone, texting her friends, and any other number of things that she can do with them, but she claims she cannot turn a key in her lock or open her door.
Her apartment complex installed a special handle (elongated, not round) on her door just for her so that she could open and access her apartment. We know that she will regularly leave her apartment by herself, lock the door (it has a twisty lock on the inside) and somehow get back in by herself after her trip down the street to K-Mart or Burger King.
The Milk Lady’s story begins on a Tuesday afternoon. She had ridden transit over to our local Wal-Mart. She usually never has exact change and asked the first driver to change out a 20-dollar bill. The first driver did not have the change and told her to simply get change at Wal-Mart and pay me for the full fare when I picked her up. Her full round trip fare was a whopping 4 dollars. It was a dreary rainy Tuesday when I pulled up to pick her up. The first thing I asked her was if she had exact change for the fare. She looked me straight in the face and said, “Yes”. She had a cartload of groceries (milk, yogurt, and a few other things). I loaded the groceries on the bus and then got her loaded and secured in the bus. She really should have an aide with her when she shops to handle all the groceries she gets, but she expects others to simply drop what they’re doing and do it for her.
I get in the drivers seat and am watching her fumble around in her purse, and she asks me, “Do you have change for a 5?” My incredulous response, “YOU told ME you had exact change. YOU were JUST at Wal-Mart where you KNEW you would have to have exact change for the fare. NO I do NOT have change for a 5.” Now, I don’t know if she had forgotten to get change, but she kept coming up with excuse after excuse as to why she didn’t have change. Then she turns it on me and says, “How come you guys don’t carry change? YOU should carry change for ME!” Again, I reiterated that she was just at Wal-Mart and that she had every opportunity to get change. She asked if I could simply “credit” her account the 1-dollar towards her next ride. I explained that we don’t usually do that, and she begged me to call my supervisor. I did, and it was approved for this ONE time only. In past trips, she has always had a 20-dollar bill and I’ve ALWAYS had to stop somewhere to get it changed out. In fact, on one of these stops to change a bill, she remarked “Oh I need to stop doing this, I need to carry change on me.” She is very manipulative.
We leave Wal-Mart parking lot and pull up at her apartment. In past trips she has asked me to unlock the door for her and push it open so she can get in and in past trips I have obliged, going the extra mile. This time there was the added complication of groceries. Since it was raining, I didn’t feel that I should put the groceries on the sidewalk to let them get wet, so I thought I’d be extra polite and bring them just inside to the kitchen. Her kitchen is located just to the left of the front door of the apartment, so it was not a far stretch to simply put the items on the floor in front of the refrigerator in the kitchen.
Next thing I know, she BLOCKS the exit with her chair (she is not a super small woman, and neither am I) and proceeds to ask me if I can put her milk away in the refrigerator. Our exchange goes like this:
Milk Lady (blocking the door and effectively trapping me in the kitchen): Can you put my milk in the fridge for me?
Me: I’m sorry I can’t help you, I have another pick up, and I need to get going now.
Milk Lady (still blocking the door): Why can’t you? Its just right there!”
Me: I’m sorry, but I can’t. Now please let me out so I can go do another pick up, I’m going to be late if I don’t get out now.
Milk Lady: I just don’t see why you can’t help me and put my milk away. Its in its own bag, you wouldn’t have to take it out of the bag, just put it in the fridge.
Me (getting exasperated): I’m sorry, but I really CAN’T, now please move aside so I can get out and on my way.
Milk Lady (rolling into her apartment in a huff): How rude is that! Someone who can’t even help a handicapped person! I guess my milk will spoil!
Me (slamming the door):…..
Milk Lady (trying to call me back inside):……….
By this time I was late by 5 minutes to my next pick up, and late getting to my primary job (school bus) that afternoon. All I could think about after the exchange was the story “If You give a Mouse a Cookie”. I called my supervisor to let her know I was running late and what had happened regarding the milk. Shortly after that, Milk Lady called the office complaining about me not putting her milk away and about how I was rude and disrespectful. I made the decision right then and there to NEVER go out of my way for her again. If she has groceries, they get deposited on the sidewalk outside her apartment. I’m not going to unlock and open the door for her anymore. She has taken advantage of me one too many times.
Fast forward to Saturday when she shows up on my list again. This time, going out to her boyfriend’s house. Her fare was 6 dollars round trip, but I subtracted the one dollar credit she had, so her fare turned out to be only 5 dollars. I pulled up to her apartment and her aide comes to the door. I call out and tell the aide to make sure that Milk Lady could get back inside her apartment by herself. When Milk Lady finally appears I tell her in no short order that I’m not going to unlock the door for her anymore and that she had better be able to get back into the apartment without my help. She becomes indignant and asks why the sudden change of heart. I explained to her that after Tuesday’s incident, there would be no more help.
She was visibly angry at me and started to berate me about how I was heartless for not helping a handicapped woman. I told her that I’d simply call my supervisor and my supervisor would tell me not to even take her anywhere, and just leave. She stopped for about a minute, just long enough for me to get her on the lift and start moving the lift up. About half way up she turns and looks at me and says, “Your attitude is just like your face!” I finished moving the lift up to the bus level and stated, “Thank you for the compliment!” She was speechless, and then proceeded to whip out her cell phone and call her boyfriend and advise him that I’m so heartless and that I don’t care about handicapped people. She also called me “that FAT transit lady.” She was loud enough that I had to listen to her for the entire 20-minute ride out to her boyfriend’s house. I simply let her off and told her of the return time.
On the return trip, she confirmed that I wouldn’t open the door for her back at her apartment. I simply told her that I wasn’t allowed. I should have known that would set her off. Again she angrily dialed her boyfriend or other friends and claimed I was being mean and heartless to her. Then she demanded to know who told me I wasn’t allowed to open the door for her anymore. I did not justify that with an answer, so she exclaimed that she was going to call the big boss man and demand answers. Basically she was threatening me to see if I would cave and give in to her demands. Then we had the following exchange:
Milk Lady (rather haughtily): Well YOU wont have to worry about seeing ME on your bus again!
Me (politely): Oh, do you mean me personally or transit in general?
Milk Lady: YOU personally!
Me (still politely): So would you like to cancel for tomorrow morning too, since I have you on my list?
Milk Lady (still rude): No, well you can pick me up for tomorrow, but no more after that.
I dropped her off and then called my boss man to advise him of the situation that was happening. I told him exactly what had happened, how she had insulted me and what I said to her in return. Sunday morning, she called me and told me she was canceling her ride. Cry me a river.
A few days ago, she called up and asked for a ride again on Saturday. She also requested that I not be the one to pick her up. The scheduling lady told her flat out that we don’t accept requests; you get who you get, and either you go or you stay home. Milk Lady tried to be rude and got told that she will not disrespect the transit drivers again. Go office secretary lady!
So as of right now, I haven’t had to pick her up since the last Saturday exchange. It will be interesting to see what this weekend brings!
Being Very Patient,
The Bus Driver