February 25, 2021

On Riding RIPTA


Not having to worry about the pitfalls of a personal vehicle feels like a luxury when I ride RIPTA. Being able to ride the bus 35 miles from Providence to Point Judith for a couple of dollars is a good service as I see it. Also, a schedule that runs seven days a week is a fine thing.

Being a rider on the bus can also be an unnecessary challenge.

Most folks who ride the bus do not necessarily choose to voluntarily. Most riders are low wage workers, unemployed or disabled and are used to a low income life. Because of this, many of them are overly stressed most of the time. I’m talking about the struggling single mother, the addict (or recovering), the grandparent who works past retirement age to help support children and\or grandchildren, the sexually and physically abused, etc.

Due to chronic stress some of them mentally and physically degenerate, whether they turn to drugs or not. When they degenerate they behave in manners most like toddlers and become ignorant of the idea that people around them are experiencing more than enough aggravation in their lives.

For example, while riding, they talk on their phones as if everyone else was deaf. To mention etiquette to these folks would mean inviting humiliation upon yourself when they throw a tantrum, and they usually do when asked to lower their voice. When this happens, they sometimes try to turn the situation around by convincing themselves of the right to any freedom they choose. They may even think it just to report (you) to transit security for harassment.

Others, having nothing interesting in their lives to concentrate on, instigate drama. Or, having so much unwanted drama, they decide to vent it out on you. It usually starts by whistling or singing out loud, there way of testing people and seeing who will look first. Catch their gaze and they usually grin like a child who got their way for the day, or they raise their chins and pucker their lips slightly, letting you know they wish to test your fortitude.

Then there’s the “culture of sagging”. Oddly enough, most “men” who do this are well over the age of 18. (I’m surprised more American women aren’t engaging in this, with their comical quest for equality.) The only way for this “fashion statement” to have become normalized on the bus is simply a lack of enforcement.

Regarding drivers, anyone can see that most of them are aloof and aggravated, and who can blame them. They already struggle with the stress of a tight schedule and the fact that they never know who will be coming on the bus with what problems from one ride to the next. Half the time drivers ignore inappropriate behavior . Perhaps because they need to concentrate on driving and it’s exhausting to act as a babysitter every fifteen minutes. Also, they know transit managers may not support them properly to defend their authority as drivers.

Classic philosophers like Sun-Tzu, Lao Tzu and Machiavelli have all commented on swift action for improper behavior before it becomes difficult to control. Rudy Gulliani, knowing this rule well, acted on it in 99 as mayor of N.Y.C. when he put forth to fine citizens up to $100 for failure to remove their dog’s waste on public streets. Perhaps one can see it wasn’t necessarily about dog waste but making sure citizens knew that even minor infractions that posed unhealthy for the public would be stopped before that behavior spread.

Do not forget the elderly, they should not have to give too much thought about dealing with other riders when those riders act out. This disrespect for senior citizen care may be the most shameful outcome of weak enforcement by RIPTA.

Tim Fratelo


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