BUS FUMES SEEM TO BE IMPAIRING BUS DRIVER JUDGMENT
[from July 2002 issue]

PRIOR EDITORIALS ARCHIVED HERE


The weekend preceding the July 4th holiday was not a happy one for Adams Morgan resident Keith Kreger, who also happens to be our newspaper's photographer. What he reports sounds very much like the over-reaction by Metro police not long ago when a wheelchair-bound patron was effectively trapped in the underground system and yelled some curses out of frustration. So, too, here we have another individual terrorized by a Metro employee whose authority is questioned by someone with whom the employee had occasion to come in contact with--almost literally, as it turns out.

The story begins with Kreger on his way home from work, in the process of making a start to cross Columbia Road just west of Connecticut Avenue--in the marked crosswalk--in front of the Wyoming Apartments when, as he reports, "a Metro bus that was approaching from the south almost ran me down as I began walking through the marked walkway. I literally had to jump out of the way or he would have definitely hit me."

We continue the report in his own words (only slightly edited), with some comments of our own in brackets and italicized:

"I took note of the bus number and then went to the front door to ask the driver what his name was. He refused to give me his name after I asked twice; and he was also hiding his name plate. [ We thought Metro regulations required that employees provide their name and/or ID number if asked for it.] As I tried to exit the bus (I never went past the first step) he slammed the doors shut on me, thereby trapping me in the door. He then stepped on the accelerator and started moving east on Columbia Road with me trapped in the door, one arm and a foot dangling out. He also started opening and closing the door on me while the bus was in motion. I yelled and pleaded for him to stop the bus and let me out of the door with no response from him. [ Aside from the question of lack of judgment and wonderment that the driver should seemingly try to set the Metro Authority up for an injury, or even worse, a wrongful death lawsuit, did that driver not consider the possible personal consequences that he could face personally for criminal assault or maybe, God forbid, even second-degree murder?]

"After the bus drove approximately 80 feet farther on Columbia Road, the driver then slowed down enough for me to jump off. [Finally, the seemingly minimal training Metro apparently gives these drivers must have begun to click on in his brain. But one has to wonder about the kind of training they are getting. It would appear that his actions were borne out of anger and frustration not stemming from anything that could be said to be the fault of the person he almost ran down, yet there is seemingly no anger control training provided.]

"He then started accelerating again and I began yelling for him to stop the bus. In a fit of anger I then punched the door and pushed a window in; this is what got him to stop the bus (the police report noted that only $17.43 of damage was done). [ Kreger's anger at this point seems to us ever as much justified as the anger of the patron who was trapped in the system and yelled a bunch of curse words. But Kreger had even more justification to be angered--not just from frustration but because he was nearly killed by a cowboy bus driver with a dangerous attitude.]

"I then stood in front of the bus so he could not proceed. He yelled out his window that he was going to call the police and I responded, 'Please do, I'll also call them.' By this time I was now in front of my house when I noticed that I could see his name plate through the window. I took out my Palm Pilot to get his name and he leaned out his window and punched me in the forehead. I then went to my front door to get the phone to call 911. When the Metro police arrived at the scene, they took me in cuffs to lock-up where I stayed for 24 hours before I was able to see a judge and get out."

And so ends the report of this sad episode with Metro police doing the only thing they seem to know how to do which is to lock 'em up. Obviously, they took the side of the out-of-control driver. It apparently is not in their training to use discretion. After all, they could have written a ticket for the busted glass pane in the door, which was clearly the fault of the driver trying to see how far he could carry out his act of mayhem.

We have to agree totally that "being assaulted and brutalized by a Metro bus driver and then to be victimized again by the police and held for 24 hours is just too much to be ignored." We are as outraged as our neighbor, but, frankly, not surprised. There is something just so terribly amiss in the undercurrent of Metro employee psyche that we cannot quite explain, but over the years we have sensed it on numerous occasions--unprovoked rudeness, often downright nastiness, a feeling that the employee's head will explode in a million fragments. The Metro board members need to worry just as much about pathological behavior by their humans as well as by their escalators and elevators.