Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bumming On The Bus: An Email to ABQ Ride

I don't feel entirely comfortable foisting my little personal windmill tilts at Burque Babble readers, but below is a copy of an email I just sent to ABQ Ride officials Greg Payne and Mary Alice Ayze about an incident I endured on the bus a while back. Needless to say, I strove hard to reduce the stratosphericallly high level of Rant typical to my posts here, and tried to be real nice about an incident that pissed the absolute bejeezus out of me. As Samuel L. Jackson's character says in "Pulp Fiction", "but I'm trying Ringo. I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd."

I don't know if I'm shepherd material below, but I do want to get the word out about my little experience, and encourage feedback through all channels on experiences others might have had on ABQ public transit.
Ms. Ayze/Mr. Payne:

I've been putting off emailing you about an incident that occurred on the Route 53 bus one afternoon about a month ago, but it's still bothering me and has made me very hesitant to ride the bus since. I also hesitate because I value public transportation, yet don't want to be identified as the "whistleblower" who will someday ride that same Route 53 bus again.

It was a midweek afternoon and I took the Isleta bus (the 3:35 as I recall) from Alvarado. Nothing much happened until some riders mid-route got on the bus, obviously regulars who the bus driver knew well. As we went down Isleta, the regular riders started making oblique joke references which other riders found very funny. Something about "swirl". Riders throughout the bus then started making other references, comments which I finally figured out were anti-gay in nature. "Fudgepacker" was a common one, uttered in particular by a woman rider accompanied by her young child.

That was depressing enough, but it got worse when the bus driver got involved. He started speaking into the microphone, addressing his regular rider "friends" with things like "Do you like swirl, (name I forgot)?" and "Are you a fudgepacker, (again, I don't recall the name)?" All this while he rambled the bus down the heavily under construction Isleta Blvd., and with several children of various ages forced to listen over the bus "public address" system.

Of course, much of the bus thought this was all very, very funny, and I did not feel comfortable addressing the driver on the matter as I got off the bus. To tell the truth, the incident was sickening. I don't know what was worse, the use of the "public" microphone for gay slurs or the fact kids were listening to this garbage. No, I think was upsets me most is that my tax dollars are paying for bus drivers who use "public" microphones to make such "jokes".

It's been a month now, and I haven't ridden the bus since. I was contemplating, again, taking ABQ Ride tomorrow morning, but don't know if I want to risk another disgusting, beyond unprofessional display. Over the years I have periodically ridden the bus in Albuquerque, and I've seen good and bad bus drivers doing ultra-professional and unprofessional things. Never, however, have I had to sit through shenanigans like those performed by this Route 53 bus driver. I think I WILL give ABQ Ride another shot tomorrow morning, but not without first sending this email correspondence to you.

Thanks for taking the time to read this message, and for your consideration of how to properly address what I think is an important, and disturbing, matter. I am very interested in hearing a response; I trust ABQ Ride is just as concerned as I am about incidents like this. I also trust that the matter will be dealt with in a way that protects not only me, but ALL RIDERS of Albuquerque city buses who report matters of this sort.

Thanks again for your time.


Sophie said...

Oh my god. I am horrified.

Anonymous said...

I sent an email to Gregg Payne, amoung others to verify this incident. The following is the text of my inquiry and then following the text of the response.

Text of email to Gregg Payne:

From: (name & email address redacted)

Date: Oct 2, 2006 5:30 AM
Subject: Gay Bashing On Bus?

I was disturbed to read the blog entry I came across concerning an alleged incident on on #53 Isletta bus. I too have encountered such conversations on the buses where drivers have participated, however not so blatantly over the PA system.

Was an email sent to you in regard to this incident?

If so was any action taken to investigate the alleged incident?

If an investigation of the alleged incident was done, what was the outcome?

What, if any, programs does the City Of Albuquerque have in place to deal with homophobia among it's employees as well as other problems concerning religious, ethic, or race bashing? Assault does come under the definition of a "hate crime" in the State of New Mexico

Thank You

Text of response:

Date: Oct 2, 2006 5:03 PM
To: (email address redacted)

This is in response to your e-mail to Greg Payne regarding the incident that was entered into your blog. I have been in contact with the person involved in the incident and can assure you that ABQ Ride has taken this incident very seriously. After fully investigating the incident we feel as though we know which driver was involved and planned to issue the appropriate discipline. Unfortunately this driver is facing discipline for another incident and at this time has not been to work for some time now. It appears as though this driver may not even return. Should the driver return, our Operations Staff will issue the necessary discipline.

Again, ABQ Ride takes this type of behavior very serious and will do whatever it takes to correct any incident that causes a passenger to feel harassed, threatened, or assaulted. The safety and comfort of our passengers is of the utmost importance.

If you hear or know of any additional occurrences such as this please don't hesitate to let us know.

Danny R. Holcomb
Customer Service Manager
City Of Albuquerque Transit Dept.
E mail:
Phone: 505-724-3156

Greg A. Payne/Transit/CABQ

10/02/2006 03:03 PM

To Danny R. Holcomb/Transit/CABQ@COA

Subject Fw: Gay Bashing On Bus?

You and Mary Alice need to get on this.

----- Forwarded by Greg A. Payne/Transit/CABQ on 10/02/2006 03:02 PM -----

(email address redacted)

10/02/2006 05:30 AM


Subject Gay Bashing On Bus?

Anonymous said...

It's not just gay bashing that goes on with the bus and city bus drivers. I have heard racial slurs, been cussed at by bus drivers and even seen the 766 leave a woman with a stroller because she was taking too long to fold up the childs transportation. He actually went so far as to call her a c.u. next tuesday.
I had to stop taking the bus to work altogether because two of lomas bus drivers won't even stop and pick people up downtown, and one of the ones who does will go so far as to stop at walgreens for breakfast.
Night before Halloween (10/30)the night driver on 766 had a conversation with me about hating the 'retards' that come on the bus. He was actually referring to a mentally handicapped girl and her big sister.

What makes this so funny is that both my dollar and my tax dollars are going to fund a service with these kinds of issues.

frannyzoo said...

Anonymous: This is sad, and especially sad because it reminds me of similar (albeit less dramatic) events happening throughout my very sporadic riding of ABQ buses. The whole situation strikes me as out of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo House", with drivers feeling superior enough to their riders to commit sanctioned acts of cruelty.

I know it's a tough job, and they should be paid more...but taking it out on riders who are perceived as inferior is ghastly behavior.

...and no, I haven't been back on the bus since the aforementioned gay-bashing incident.