Tuesday, August 4

Community Conflict Deescalation On The Public Bus

On the public bus about a week ago, a man seemed quite drunk (trouble speaking and moving coherently--though more likely to fall asleep than to barge around harmfully), had an open water bottle full of brown (like whiskey) liquid, and had a huge splint on his foot.

The bus driver wasn't okay with the drunkenness and bottle of what seemed to be alcohol. When I boarded, they'd obviously been arguing for a while, and the man said he'd get off the bus. But he didn't.

As time went on, I felt like it became obvious he wasn't getting off the bus because he couldn't walk. I'm not sure if that was obvious to the bus driver in the heat of the moment (who felt under pressure to follow agency rules).

Bus riders were shouting out that the bus driver should leave him alone--and when the bus driver finally closed the door and picked up a phone after the man kept not getting off the bus or handing over his bottle and he'd heard lots of shouts to get moving so people wouldn't be late to work, the riders shouted things like, "Oh now he gonna call the cops." "Why you have to call the cops on that poor old man? Let him off! He said he was gonna get off!"

I realized the bus driver felt kind of powerless to facilitate the man being off his bus on his own and was turning to his support network from the agency. I didn't want to see someone arrested for having a shitty, painful day and getting drunk, so I got out of my seat, went to the front, and asked the man if he'd like help getting off the bus. He said, "Yes pleashe," and I extended an arm like a gentleman does to a lady on some sort of date from the 1900's.

While he struggled to stand up, I asked the bus driver to open the door so I could help him leave like he'd offered to, and the bus driver thought for a moment, then did. Only thing is...the man I'd offered to help wasn't even managing to stand up (partly because he didn't seem much in control of his body, and partly because his pants were falling down and he didn't seem much in control enough to take care of that). I was NOT offering enough support for him to lean on--especially w/ my opposite shoulder full of my belongings.

Thank GOODNESS someone the same size as the drunk man, if not larger, asked, "You need a hand?" from behind me (to the other man), to which he said, "Yes," and HE was strong enough (and experienced enough holding people up) to REALLY give him full support--support standing and everything.

After he was off the bus, on a bench, and we'd given him his bottle and taken our seats and our bus was on its way, I was feeling pretty darned good. As a community of "people on the bus right here and right now," we'd given the bus driver the support he needed to implement our ideas about what he could to, rather than pushing him to rely on the agency's support!


And then...

"You happy now?!" I heard from behind me. "You gonna check MY bottle? Oooooh, you never know what's in it!" The heckles rained on the bus driver.

Those heckles, after he'd switched and sided with our plan for getting the man who was offering to leave off the bus (rather than having authorities take him off the bus) and people had already pretty much offered the same ones before he did.

*sigh* I don't know if he'll ever let the rider community be his support network for executing their suggestions rather than the authorities be his support network for executing their suggestions again. I talked a bit w/ everyone (nods & smiles to the people saying, "let him stay!" / "let him go like he said to--don't call the cops!"; a thank you to the strong man; a thank you to the bus driver for processing so many thoughts so quickly and doing what I thought was the right thing), but I just don't think that'll really help.

Oh well. Crud. :-(

I got real "I tried" experience to keep w/ me for the rest of my life, and I realized that I really need to work out and practice things like holding limp people (I would like to be able to let a 190-pound person lean on me and do a serious assist in walking. 190 isn't beyond reason).

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