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Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Would You Do?

Wednesday it rained, and rained, and rained.
And then it poured and rained some more.
Craig asked me to drop his car off at the mechanics to have some work done. I took it in at 9am and since it wouldn't be ready till 2pm I opted to catch the bus home and come back.
Just missed one so caught the next one but in the intervening time I was blown by damp spray as I futilely tried to cover my entire body with a small folding umbrella.
I got damp again walking home but soon warmed up and got a few little jobs done.
And still it rained and poured.
The afternoon arrived and there was nothing for it but to plunge back into it again at 2pm and catch a bus back into town to pick up the car.

Here comes my ethical dilemma. 
An incident happened on the bus that has left me disturbed, saddened and a bit sick at heart.
What would you have done?
Here is my story....
When I got on the bus, two other people got on at my stop also and I guess there was another 3 or 4 already on board. I didn't take much notice. I purchased my ticket and sat down a couple of seats from the front. The bus moved on to the next stop and a young girl and boy in their late teens got on and a man in his 20s. They moved up to the back of the bus. 
The bus moved off again but pretty quickly the driver yelled out to the back of the bus,
"What are you drinking?"
"What are you drinking?"
The driver stops at the next stop and repeats the question twice more till a female voice at the back says
"She (driver) wants to know what you are drinking"
"Coke" is the (another female voice) reply.
"Hold it up, show me" says the driver.
She repeats this a number of times and the person up the back says,
"I've put it away, I won't drink it anymore"
By this stage we've all cottoned on that it must be alcohol.
I didn't turn around because I thought the humiliation for the girl up the back was so profound I didn't want to add to it and so far the little voice had been quite meek but what if they became angry and violent. I had assumed by the young sounding voice it was the young girl who had got on after me and I was feeling a bit annoyed that she was holding us all up with this stupidity. The rules are very clear about consuming alcohol. 
"You can get off the bus thanks", said the driver.
About a minute of silence followed, no-one said a word and the bus driver held ground and wouldn't move off. People were starting to get restless and some were turning and looking. 
"Come on love, we'll have to walk" I heard a gentle voice say.
Again I assumed it was the girl talking to the young boy who had got on with her.
Finally I heard someone opening the middle door just over my left shoulder and I turned to get a surreptitious look at the girl to see if she was at all ashamed for holding everyone up...
I was shocked to see that it was a young mother with a small boy of about three!
She walked with eyes downcast that had large black hollows underneath them.
I vaguely saw bags as she alighted and maybe a fold up stroller but the child was definitely alighting by himself from the bus.
Before I could blink the doors were closed and we had moved off again leaving them in the pouring rain with scant protection of a bus shelter.
My first reaction was to wonder what she would do now? How far was she travelling? Why was she drinking at 2pm and what had made her life so bad that she was reduced to this?  What was to become of the little boy in the next 15min, next year, next 15years?
By abandoning her, I felt we had truly abandoned that child. 
Should I have stopped at the next stop and walked back?
By the time this thought had occurred to me we were already a significant way ahead. 
What if I did get back to her, would she accept my help or what kind of help would have been appropriate? Is it my place to make a judgement and step in to say she is not able to care for her child today. 
I kept going all the way into town and collected the car and drove back home looking out for the lady and the child but the rain was torrential and conditions dangerous and it was hard to take my eyes from the road for long. She could have ducked into a shop I suppose, anyway, I didn't see them.
It has left me feeling very disturbed.
I was angry with the driver, how could she put a small child off like that?
Then again there are cameras on the bus and if she had been found to not uphold company policy then she may have risked loosing her job. 
Then again, one doesn't anticipate that the zero tolerance rule for alcohol is going to involve a small child.
 I tried to think of other scenarios.
Should the driver have asked the young woman to refrain and taken her to the bus depot to be met by depot management and perhaps police so that the situation could have been assessed more appropriately for the child?
I just keep feeling like we have punished an innocent child, putting them off the bus into the most miserable cold wet weather. It was pouring and blowing and probably only 10C. I worry now that the child has caught a cold or worse all because the driver took such a black and white stance and I was too slow to react. Should I have spoken up?
What would you have done if you were the driver?
What would you have done if you were me?


  1. Not being there it is hard for me to say, but from what you have said a bit of grace from the bus driver, as she didn't seem to have been disruptive, would have gone a long way. We can all benefit from a little kindness.

  2. That's a difficult one. You laid out the ethical dilemmas well - on the bus driver's part and as spectators. Drinking in such a public place makes me wonder if it was a cry for attention and help, though? But I don't know what you would have done for her. Perhaps a letter to the bus company out lining your concerns for the boy?

  3. A difficult situation Tanya, and one I would still be thinking about too. I feel the sane as Naturally Carol, kindness does go along way. Rules are all well and good but I'm afraid they do have to be flexible. We have not walked in the shoes of the mother and child so do not know what is the norm for them. In saying that I really feel for people who have "issues" and seem to be constantly bullied by society into conforming. I can imagine being in her position and either feeling angry or just more sad that someone had let me down again. She wasn't hurting anyone other than herself. Let's start to support each other instead of judging and alienating.
    All you can do Tanya is presume they are ok, and lay it to rest. I know how consuming these thing can be :) x

  4. Quite an ethical dilemma with no "correct" answer, so don't beat yourself up over it.

    The bus driver has an obligation to the bus company, to the supervisor, and to the passengers - all of the passengers, not just one with a small child. Rules are made to protect the everyone, the driver included. Obviously, the woman with the child knew the rules because she tried to hide the alcohol from the driver.

    That said, I am not on ogre and definitely have empathy for the child, yet the driver cannot bend the rules to fit the situation because what happens when it is a group of teens or adults instead of a mother and child? Do all the teens/adults get booted from the bus into the driving rain or just those who are drinking?

    I know you will mull this day over and over in your thoughts, and if there is a next time, you will have some possible solutions to help if help is needed.

  5. Oh Tanya what a dilemma! Drinking alcohol in a public place is illegal so I agree with the driver however to the detriment of the child's health and safety. The woman concerned is hurting herself AND her child and possibly has an addiction to be drinking when she was. She is probably a product of her own up bringing and it is sad to think how her son will turn out. Hopefully the authorities already have a watchful eye over her and her children. I don't think there was much you could do.

  6. I don't think there was much you could of done to help the situation and I think you will find the mother would not accept your help anyway. The driver does have rules to abide by no matter how hard it is to enforce.

  7. I bet that situation is nothing compared to waht that bus driver sees regularly. It so sad.

    There's so littel you can do.

  8. I think when she said she had put the alcohol away the bus driver should definitely have left it at that because of the weather conditions and because she had a small child with her. I think it is a pity that those who witnessed the episode (and you were absolutely right to not turn and look and possibly esculate the situation) did not speak up for her and her child. I'm sure you would have if you had been observing. Compassion and kindness are always right and rules have to always be adjusted to be a decent society.

  9. Oh Tanya - I hear you. I do admire the bus driver for sticking to the rules because then we passengers do not suffer. BUT I also hear what you are saying because there is a child involved.

    Let me just say in my line of work I see SO MUCH of this and it makes my heart break. SO many children born into these sorts of cases. Innocent people who are then moulded into not socially acceptable people.

    All services that are to benefit children are so under the pump. One wonders if this woman has tried to get help or accepted help or if help cannot get to her...

    I would have done the same as you and feel like you do.

  10. Sorry to hear your story Tanya.
    Maybe the bus driver has encountered the woman before.
    Poor child whichever way we look at it.
    Very sad indeed.

  11. i just wonder what has happened in that young womans life to make her think and maybe even compromise that drinking alcohol at that time of the day on public transport when the rules are clearly stated and clearly visible for all to see ...and while she has a young child to care for totally OK...i dont think i could have sat there either Tanya...but sometimes it is hard for us to believe it is happening...(being part of a movie in slow motion sort of experience)....dont beat yourself up....experience is a great time maybe!!!! see you tonight...

  12. Yikes Tanya.......what a can or worms you've opened......

    I think the comments have covered most of the angles.

    Considering the terrible weather I feel perhaps the driver could've continued on after the young woman said she would put the drink away, but as Chrisartist says, maybe the driver has had to deal with this woman before.
    I know I would've been squirming in my seat, wondering what to say and whether I could help in any way.
    My BIL is a bus driver and I have heard stories from him about unruly passenger behaviour and rules are rules.... but you know, sometimes we all need to show a little compassion in situations.

    Hopefully, we can all take something from this post and be prepared to stand up and say 'how can I help here?'

    CLaire x

  13. Things like this are never easy to deal with, or to get over. I guess the first thing we have to remember is that other more apathetic people have spoilt things for everyone else and therefore zero tolerance prevails. However, I feel that the driver should have let her off with a warning, and if she continued to drink then kick her off the bus.

    I've just remembered how different it is when the Metro provide the free shuttle buses to and from Launceston Cup. The drivers must turn a VERY blind eye to the goings on between Mowbray and the CBD.......


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