Public transit shouldn’t be an incubator of bad behaviour

So your bus was late today. Maybe it’s always late, or maybe the driver is just having an off-day. Angered, you climb on board, and choose to verbally express your frustration on the poor soul who drives you to class every morning.

Oblivious to the four children, the elderly man and the young couple who are easily within earshot and no doubt wish they (or you) were anywhere but on that bus at that moment, you mutter something disparaging to the driver about how she’s going to make you late for your class (which you hate anyway and would probably rather skip altogether).

I wouldn’t doubt that this type of behaviour happens on every bus in the city at least once per day. When things don’t go our way, we have a bizarre need to blame someone and to make known to the entire world exactly how displeased we are.

Rudeness, pointless aggression and general unpleasantness are far from limited to people on transit. They’re afflictions that don’t discriminate, although they do seem to be most virulent amongst people who drive raised pickups or lowered sports cars, and university students who try to use expired U-passes. A friend relayed a story to me where one such student became hostile to an eagle-eyed driver, stealing several transfers before storming off the bus. I wonder if she’s proud of herself for sticking it to the patriarchy.

Think carefully — how many people have you been rude to in the past day? The past week? Are you proud of that behavior? Did it accomplish anything? Did it make you feel better about yourself? Or did it only serve to further embitter you about whatever you were bitter about and ruin the day of the other person as well?

If someone truly hurts or offends you, you are well within your rights to speak out about it. But don’t think for a second that you now have permission to be as rude as you want. We all learned it in elementary school: two wrongs don’t make a right.

Sometimes we use the excuse of acting in the heat of the moment. That’s bullshit. Everything we do, we make a decision, on some conscious level, to do. You didn’t “instinctively” act like a jerk, you chose to act like a jerk because you thought it would make you feel better or more powerful. Newsflash: abusing the person next to you on the LRT whose music is a little too loud or cutting someone off in the BMW your parents bought for you doesn’t make you manlier, nor does it make you cool or edgy. These sorts of things make you appear small and petty, and demonstrate only your own insecurity (oh, I’m sorry — am I being rude?).

It is, believe it or not, within your abilities to make a different decision in that heated moment. To give the benefit of the doubt to the late bus driver, because as possible as it is that he lazily slept in, it’s equally possible that he had to wait at a stop for a few extra minutes while someone in a wheelchair got on. It’s within your power to decide not to throw that punch, hog the disabled seats or threaten to burn someone’s face off with your cigarette.

Every choice we make is a deliberate one. Next time you feel tempted to take your anger out on someone, consider for an extra moment whether they really deserve it and whether any good at all will come of it.

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