Salt Lake City, UT: Greyhound state of mind

Retro in Jackson, TN

Confessions are tricky things. More than just the unflattering revelation, the public admission, when done correctly, should inspire concrete change. This is my attempt at both.

I am winding down my second journey through these United States and, both times, I have struggled with my ability to present the unattractive aspects of my experience. Oh, I can tell the cool stories. I am particularly good at the inspiring ones. But capturing the ugly shadow side, this is my personal nemesis. When I stumble upon the darker revelations, I will often not acknowledge, or worse, simply avoid writing about them. That stops with today’s post (and tomorrows, cause there is more). Here goes,

Bus drivers are mean. It took me several states to see the pattern and you need to know that I do not make this observation blithely. They are mean. Not the lovable curmudgeon Archie Bunker mean. This is the cruel, utterly disdainful, school yard bully mean. And it is not just some of them. By my count I have had roughly 35 different bus drivers as most days have required transfers that create the opportunity to experience two of these nightmares in one day. Of these, I can attest that about 5 have been a genuine delight. Another 10 (and I am being generous here) are simply no-nonsense, get the job done kind of drivers. But, if you are boarding a Greyhound bus today, by my calculations, you have a better that 50 percent chance of encountering one these little monsters.

(that was hard to write)

Allow me to be more specific. These are people who, from the moment of taking your ticket and throughout the ride, will handle each encounter with as much contempt as they can muster. I have seen passengers bullied for being confused, for their language skills, for not moving fast enough. I have watched as two young men were ‘put off’ the bus for a perceived disrespect. Any direction is given as an order and never, never a request.

(super hard to write)

Upon first observation, I was inclined to give the driver a pass. After all, dealing with an unruly clientele (you might recall our pot smoker from the first day) and a high felon to registered voter ratio, it could make a person cranky. But here’s the thing… after the initial incident, there was not one even remotely out of line passenger that I observed. Let me be clear. We are talking approximately 7280 miles resulting in over 146 total hours on the bus. Not one incident. In fact, it is fair to say, that the clientele on the Greyhound buses out-civilized any air travel experience that I have had.

So how did this happen?

It seems that historically bus drivers have always enjoyed the ability to put offenders ‘off the bus’. I suspect this was done as a response to infractions that were clear and tangible. Somewhere along the line, Greyhound altered their list of infractions to include any behavior that the driver deems disrespectful. And they were off. With no checks to add balance, a tone, a look, and as I discovered, quietly taking a cell phone call, were justifications for all manner of outrage. Absolute authority given to a people whose filters are preset to ‘offense’.

Why does this matter?

Because we have, as a group, silently allowed circumstances to justify uncivil behavior. The expectation of respectful resolution of conflict has been completely abdicated. We have sat by, in the name of safety, and not questioned all manner of unreasonable behavior. It is not okay. It is not okay.

(this was really hard to write)


Salt Lake City, UT: Greyhound state of mind — 14 Comments

  1. Brava Chica!! Thank you for taking a stand! I know this is leading to more – can’t wait til tomorrow.

    I do believe that these two journeys undertaken four years apart have lead to a clarity of thought and it is time to express it! You go girl!

  2. My Dear Julie, Wow, that was a very powerful article you wrote. I have been thinking about it since Dan and I read it together a little while ago, and it makes me think about how it is so easy for us as people to often abuse or power or authority. I think you are right on about how these bus drivers came to have this authority to throw people off the bus and how, over time, it has truly become an abuse of power. In fact, it makes me think about how often in our daily lives it is easy to look the other way when we see things that we know deep in our guts our not right. Thank you for bringing this up. We all need to further this discussion. I cannot wait to see you; you inspire me. thanks, love, sally

  3. So I’m thinking that when you get home and get to rest for a bit, everyone who has been following wonderful Julie should mail a letter with your observations to the CEO of Greyhound . My guess is that a few newspapers might be interested in your observations over almost 8,000 miles with Greyhound bus drivers. I can’t wait to hear that Julie is back home safe and sound.

  4. Social class absolutely exists in America. I got to see it first hand on the manufacturing floor of a company that we formerly worked for. Civility and egalitarianism were for the lab – the hourly workers were more like cattle to be kept in line. Sadly, your companions on the bus are likely near the bottom rung of the ladder. With the odd exception like yourself, anyone with means uses other transportation.

    Thank you for telling the story. Even without your parenthetical remarks, I know it was hard for you to write.

  5. On Friday I spent time with 200 children and adults who had gathered to reflect on having seen the film Bully, who also shared their experiences of bullying in their daily lives. 95% of the people in the room had been bullied or had a close friend who was bullied.

    On Saturday I sat with a parent whose son was sent to tell a team mate that he was not only off the team, but barred from any High School team for his next three years, for missing one match (he was getting an award from the Boy Scouts that day and had to miss the match). Both the boy who was tossed off the team and the boy who was sent to deliver that news had been bullied by that coach.

    Another parent recently told me how her son was told by the AP class teacher to “Forget about sports, forget about family vacations, forget about Grandma’s birthday, glee club, theater club… you will give 150% to this class or you will fail.” Another bully.

    Bullying is a pandemic in this country and we have to stand up against it, shine light upon it, and demand that it stop. It is NOT just a problem for children. Adults are bullies. Adults model behavior that children follow. Alex Libby, one of the children featured in the film Bully, was asked if any of the children who had bullied him had apologized after they had seen the film. “One boy told me that his mother had been screaming at him for days after she saw the film. He tried to tell his mother that he was a different person than he had been two years earlier when the film was shot. But she didn’t care. She kept yelling.” His mother is a bully. The bus drivers you encountered are bullies.

    The voiceless need allies. That’s where we come in. We don’t have to take the bus, but when we do, and when we see power abused this way, we have to do something. Speaking truth to power is critical and that’s what you’re doing here Julie.


  6. Julie, you never cease to amaze and touch me. I agree that it seems to be an arena where abuse of power can flourish. And will join Dan in writing to Greyhound.

    It seems it goes on because, as Roderick points out, the people who ride the bus have less of a voice and are much more vulnerable than those with money. Thank you for your journey and being truthful, and brave. xoxo

  7. You continue to amaze me with your observations.don’t know how or what caused this behavior of the bus drivers but it certainly needs to be changed.sometime in the future we will develope a value chain model and send it along to greyhound managers.while the business delivers a service to a market history shows poor service is an exit strategy.

  8. The butterfly theory at work Julie. You made a difference and it will grow and touch many people. Greyhound certainly will benefit from a few comments and things will change for the better for others.

  9. Rich & I went out for dinner a few weeks ago. A new Thai Restaurant that had gotten great reviews for it’s food but not so great reviews for its service. We were hoping that we would catch them on a great night for delivering both. Wrong. Food was awesome. Delicious. Beautifully prepared. Service: Sucked.
    I remember in my old-days of being a Service Rep for DEC/HP – we were really BIG on delivering great service. What has happened? Be it going out to dinner or just to the store ~ when we are treated nicely we are in ‘Awe’ – shouldn’t this be the ‘standard’? We seem to as a society collectively decided to accept bad or mediocre service as the norm. Just not going back to the restaurant is not enough or being reluctant to travel on Greyhound. Bad Service should be reported including the bully bus drivers.

  10. Oof you weren’t kidding when you said this was hard to write – I think I can actually feel your grimace through my computer screen. This is something I wouldn’t have guessed! And I am excited to hear about more of your experiences today. I love you, I love you, I love you. Please get home.

  11. I won’t go on & on about this… but what a disturbing revelation and disappointing piece of news! What a shame!!

  12. Wow, this reminds me of South Park’s bus driver Ms. Crabtree! Suffice it to say no one should ever remind you of Ms. Crabtree. Glad you’re home, congratulations!

  13. I am hugging you in my heart! For telling what I know was hard for you to write, for sharing it with us, for making us aware and painting a picture that is hard to ignore. Like Dan, I too would like to write to Greyhound. Thank you Julie. I feel so blessed, proud and lucky to have you in my life!
    Can’t wait to read tonight’s post…

  14. Steve’s comment on here is priceless. Well done Steve! Hit’em where it hurts, BRING IN THE VALUE CHAIN MODEL!!!!
    hahaha, i love it!