Sunday, October 2, 2011

What really happened with the baby incident

I reviewed the dispatch call on this incident.
It appears to me that this driver just had reached her limit and "broke" which is something that happens periodically around here. This is a very hard job and the public has no sympathy at all for what we really have to put up with.
The driver did wrong in the incident, she should have never removed the mother and baby from the bus but when you "break" well, bus drivers are people too.
The following is the transcription of the call between the bus driver and dispatcher. The actual recording will not be released by me or anybody that I know at this time:
Dispatch: Hey ***** what’s up?
Driver: I have four or five of them calling me a bitch,  I had a screaming child on my bus she has been screaming since I left Beaverton, I tried to calm her down and she called her husband and she got off so you know what, I am parked.
Dispatch: OK, so, you have your doors open?
Driver: what was that?
Dispatch: do you have your doors open?
Driver: ya I do
Dispatch: So the person with the kid that was crying, did they get kicked off the bus and that is why people were yelling at you or what?
Driver: Well we tried to calm her down and (unintelligible) and I came up and asked her if she had anything that she could play with to distract her and she didn’t so I went into my (unintelligible) and the mom calmed her down and she got off back here on , what’s it called,  what’s the name of the street back here, where you catch MAX , she got off there and then they started calling me F’ing bitch  and all this stuff so I said you guys can get off too.
Dispatch: OK, do we know why, what they are upset about?
Driver: Ya they just thought I should just keep driving with this child screaming  and I said I can’t drive with a child screaming we need to calm her down, she has been screaming ever since Beaverton
Dispatch: OK, how small of a kid are we talking about?
Driver: she was only about 2, she was upset she had a stomach ache or something I couldn’t get her at all to quiet down or anything, so mom just called her dad.
Dispatch: OK umm, alright, we are sending people to you errrr ahhhh,  (pause)
Driver: fine
Dispatch: so the problem people are off the bus?
Driver: sure are, there are a load of people from the corrections center which is where I am sitting
Dispatch: OK if they are off the bus go ahead and close the doors and continue. In the future if there is a baby crying on your bus there really isn’t a whole lot you can do, its public transit, they, we can’t really enforce kids being quiet on the bus.
Driver: it wasn’t just crying, it was screaming all the way from Beaverton and I just finally stopped the bus and said we need to get the baby to stop screaming because I just can’t drive with it screaming because (unintelligible) but that is not safe
Dispatch: What I am telling you is that’s not something we can enforce, if somebody’s kid is crying, you still have to drive the bus.
Driver: I drove the bus all the way from Beaverton to Hillsboro and it gets to where it’s not safe to see, I’m a mother that kind of screaming bothers me.
Dispatch: OK we are not connecting here so I’ll let you talk to your manager about this because this isn’t something that we can enforce.
Driver: Do you know how often this happens? Very rare like once a year or once every two years.
Dispatch: alright


sXg said...

I have to give it up for bus drivers...there is no way I could deal with the public and screaming babies. I feel sorry for this operator, I hope the backlash doesn't get to them too much.

Muppetoid said...

Thank you very much for posting this. While I do side with the mother/pasengers on this one, it's nice to see some real facts about the driver's side of things. Tri-met has clammed up and any pro-driver comments you find on the news sites (KATU, OregonLive, etc) are generally full of racist blatherings buried among over-reactive calls for her to be fired on the spot.

Giving Ms. Driver the benefit of the doubt (that she genuinely felt the child was "screaming" and not just inflating the tale to bolster her position with dispatch), I can see that she may have been frustrated. The problem is that she did not handle the situation in a professional or civil manner. She was abraisive and agressive toward the mother and calling attention to it over the loud speaker likely only made the mother feel more ashamed and anxious. It's amusing that the drivier claims that she tried to calm the baby when likely her actions did just the opposite.

Furthermore, in terms of how disruptive the baby was: since every last pasenger left the bus in protest, they obviously ALL saw it differently. So weather she believes what she said or not ("it was screaming all the way from Beaverton"), it seems her perspective was out of proportion. If she was reaching her limit and about to "break," then she needed to remove HERSELF from the situation, not the mother and baby.

I don't think she should be fired based on this one incident, but some re-training and perhaps some "cultural sensitivity" training is in order. And maybe she needs to evaluate weather this is the position for her, if she can learn to tune-out the babies and get the job done.

Alyssa_ABC said...

I'm blogging about this for and would love to speak with you this morning. Please email me at Thank you!

Al M said...

You left a message on my blog?
What can I do for you?
I am not an "official" spokesperson for Trimet Transit District.
For official comments you should contact Mary Fetsch at 503-962-6403.
If there is something you would like from me let me know at

Thanks, Al Margulies

Al M said...

The above is a copy of the email to Alyssa Newcomb.

Al M said...

FYI-This particular driver does have some ongoing problems.

Anonymous said...

Hey, if I'm a passenger I'd rather the driver not be distracted and safe even if it meant having a non-stop screaming child and mother leave the bus. If the kid was truly that annoying, I as a passenger am paying for the service and deserve to have a half-comfortable ride even if it's mass transit.

punkrawker4783 said...

Yes, one wrong move, bad day, lets just fire the driver. You know, as they say, until you have tried it, shut it!

I have had a crying child once on my bus, the mother was doing everything she could, while unpleasant for me and the other riders, she was trying, and still has somewhere to go. Much like derogatory comments (like Gary H there), you let them go, tune them out. The mother apologized to everyone and me for it too.

Anonymous said...

I don't see a problem with this. I think the dispatcher had a bit of an attitude problem, though; the dispatcher's not in a position of public safety anywhere near the degree the bus driver is actually operating the vehicle. If older obnoxious passengers can be sent packing, then why discriminate based on age? A decent person would have found a safe location, excused themselves from the bus and calmed the baby down.

Unknown said...

It probably would have annoyed me as a passenger f,or that kid to be crying like that; but Its public transportation. You just have to tune it out and hope the next ride is better. Yes, work can suck no matter what kibd of work you do. Sometimes you just have to think, the mom probably didn't want the kid to cry either. But you know, that's what kids do.

Sunset Oaks Homeowners Association said...

A screaming child is a SAFETY HAZARD, would the news report be better saying bus crashed and a screaming child distracts driver???

TM needs to support their people and the other guy Al M. making statements the driver has other problems is WAY out of line.

Unknown said...

well I have to say that this is amazing for anyone in transportation especially public transportation. this driver all be it annoyed by the crying baby appears to have exercised her right to be insensitive and unamusing.I am embarrassed to say I even work with people like this but I do. when the public and Trimet drivers start to realize how much they need each other maybe things as idiotic as this wont happen. I wonder if that had been a group of young men using profanity if that driver would have taken such a harsh stance or would she have wanted those passengers that stodd beside this mother to join arms with her. all in all it's actions like this that make being a Trimet bus operator difficult we already work for an agency that leaves you hung out to dry now we can't even treat our potential allies (passengers) with plain and simple common sense. Sensitivity trainning is just the tip of the iceburg to the mother I feel for you but unfortunately some drivers treat other drivers the same way.. WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO !!!

SpamTrap said...

Screaming babies are very irritating. That's why I'm not a bus driver.

Erik H. said...

I know you mentioned it elsewhere Al but since this is the active thread I'll say this:

In the "real railroad" industry (i.e. Union Pacific, BNSF, etc.) - there is one universal safety rule:

No movement shall be made until it is absolutely safe to. When it doubt, you STOP.

At my work (the power company) we have a similar rule for the field folks - when in doubt, you ALWAYS take the safe course of action - stop work, do a tailboard, measure twice (or three times, or four times), get out of your vehicle and do a walkaround...whatever it takes to make sure that what you're about to do is 100% safe.

What TriMet's public message is, is that "babies cry, suck it up if you're a bus driver, because no matter what you do, Mary Fetsch and the voice of TriMet is always going to second guess your decision."

What happened was absolutely unfortunate, but it's clear there was a safety matter and the Dispatcher (who is as far as I'm concerned Management) advised an Operator to NOT take the safe course of action but to continue. The Dispatcher REFUSED to send assistance when requested.

At my work - that kills people.

In the railroad industry - that kills people.

Anywhere else - that kills people.

How long will it be before there is another fatality on TriMet? This Operator was not at fault - she called it in, and was DIRECTED BY MANAGEMENT TO TAKE THE UNSAFE COURSE OF ACTION.

Of course the ATU will get beaten up by the public court of opinion and TriMet's own management is feeding the public court of opinion as well - Mary Fetsch opened her big fat asshole (I won't even dignify that thing on her face as a mouth) and basically told 1,600 dedicated TriMet drivers that they WILL be second-guessed in the public scope by TriMet management, and that all of the training, their experience - is all for naught.

Just Sayin said...

Hello,,,, did anyone notice the Drivers last comment??
(Driver: Do you know how often this happens? Very rare like once a year or once every two years.)
Sounds to me that the driver is the one with the issues in this case and knows it also! something just Snaps every year or two???
And Trimet knows about this??
Al M said...
FYI-This particular driver does have some ongoing problems.
Monday, October 03, 2011 8:23:00 AM

Dag said...

If im on a bus with a screaming crying ankle biter, either
a) im gonna sit far away as possible an crank up my headphones or

b) just get off the bus and catch the next one. You sad and sorry souls can deal with that crap

Ranonadg said...

Hello, I'm actually one of the riders from this incident. I will only speak for myself here over what I witnessed in the event, as well as what few constructive comments I've read here.

The facts, as I see them: there was a baby in the back seat, crying. It was not normal fussing, as many witnesses like to say, but that baby was screaming at the top of its lungs from time to time. The mother was trying to console her from what I could tell, though I'm no expert on how to handle babies, so I can't make a call there. Specifically, she was talking quietly to the baby and holding her, gently rocking her at arm's length. The driver stopped the bus one stop after I and my friend got on, at which point she came back to the woman and told her that if the baby did not stop screaming and crying that she would have to leave the bus. She then spent five minutes asking if the woman had any keys or something the baby could play with, but as stated, the woman did not speak good English, so it was unlikely she completely understood what she was being told. Several passengers called her out for her decision, and to me, this is where it started going downhill.

The driver attempted to explain that she couldn't drive with that noise, which I felt was at least understandable, but if such was the case a career in public transportation probably isn't in your best interests. However, several of the riders would call out to move along, that it wasn't bothering anyone else, and more than a few delved into obscene name calling toward the driver. The driver then compounded the whole thing by spitting heatedly that anyone who didn't like it could get off the bus as well. In the end, however, the woman left the bus of her own accord, whether from embarrassment over the ordeal (which is my personal opinion) or just to cooperate, at which point several people tried to get her to stay. She left anyway, and everyone ended up leaving after her, reporting the incident to Trimet shortly thereafter.

My thoughts? I'm kind of unsympathetic to everyone except the poor woman who was just trying to get home and found herself surrounded by all this hooplah. The driver lost her cool and escalated the situation, yes, but several of us riders (yes, myself included in the heat of the moment) did not make things any better. It is also true that if you know you are being distracted, you should stop driving. ESPECIALLY in the face of risking the safety of a bus full of passengers. And while it's commendable that we stood up for the woman and her child, I don't think it was necessary, or helped the situation in any way, at least looking back now.

That's my take on the whole thing as someone who was actually there.

Anonymous said...

@Erik H.- frankly, that's just unreasonable. Real railway industry? Go ask the workers of the East Japan Railway Company, or the Keisei Group (buses and railways) if their drivers would be distracted enough to get people killed by something like that. No. I've seen it- through anything and everything they'll drive on, and keep to schedule while they do it. Tourist mom having trouble keeping her kid quiet? Nope, keep going. No, when people het killed it's because they jumped of their own accord.

Penguinfeet said...

For those people who said they "can't stand crying babies on the bus", you know what? Drive your own vehicle or walk! This is the public service, you have the right, so does she and her baby.

Any parent would know that when a baby gets fussy and screams, there's really nothing you can do. So just throw them out on the street in the dark next to the jail at 8pm? That's the right thing to do? Where are you guys heart?

The bus driver should remove herself, not the mother and baby. And now she should be fired because she obvious can't handle the stress and that's not good for public safety.

Al M said...

For the record-
The driver in question is not my favorite person. Do I have a right to say that?
Does she deserve to be fired over this?
Do I believe that this story is worthy of all the attention its getting?
If you want to see what I really think then watch THIS!

Erik H. said...

frankly, that's just unreasonable. Real railway industry? Go ask the workers of the East Japan Railway Company, or the Keisei Group

Not only is it reasonable, but there's almost no comparison between American transport systems and Japanese transport systems.

If you really want to compare us to the Japanese, why not ask:

Why can the Japanese run 15 car "light rail" trains, at speed, at three minute intervals, where Operators get only one warning if they are more than three seconds late - and fired on the second offense?

Why can the Japanese run their services with impeccable reliability - train and vehicle breakdowns are almost unheard of?

TriMet would never survive if it were in Japan.

There's also no comparison to rail versus bus - the rail operator (even on MAX) is in a sealed compartment. They do not provide the same customer service function as a bus driver does, nor are they impacted by the actions of a rider to the extent a bus Operator is.

And finally, Japan transport systems have a high level of safety and oversight. I was on a TriMet bus some time ago that was 12 minutes off schedule - when the Operator called Dispatch, the Dispatcher had no idea where she was. And in this recent case, the Dispatcher made a bad decision not to send a Supervisor when the Operator called in with a problem - leaving the Operator on her own. That would **NEVER** happen in Japan - because there is a huge supervisory oversight of all transport, so that decisions about service are never whittled down to one person. Heck, a train doesn't leave the station unless a Stationmaster gives a signal to the many stationmasters does TriMet have on the MAX system? How many Conductors? The answer to both is simple: ZERO.

ProudParentx2 said...

The bus driver was wrong- they should be thoroughly punished for their actions and be made to do a public apology. If you drive a bus, you should have the full understanding that you are going to have to be able to safely drive with many distractions. Obviously, she should not be qualified to drive a bus if a fussy child interferes with her driving ability. Mothers all over the world drive everyday with kids screaming in the backseat and can do it safely. She is grasping at straws to try and justify her actions.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. This bus driver should know that lots of people would like to her place if she can't work in such condition. Also, I did mention- the local bus operators on this side of the Pacific are the same. The airport bus doesn't suddenly pull over to the side of the expressway and stop because some tourist mom has trouble keeping her kid quiet. The local buses don't do this just because a kid's making noise. Yep, I sure like the "keep to the schedule or else" attitude here.

Max said...

Mothers everywhere do not drive 40'x8.5' 20-ton buses with dozens of passengers on board. It takes a little more attention to drive a bus than a minivan.

Also, I'd argue that many parents (myself included) pull-over when their child is making so much noise that it has become a distraction to the safe operation of the vehicle.

Rollie Aden said...

If the driver can't handle the noise of a a crying child, they shouldn't be a driver. What about the safety of that mother and child? You just throw them out in front of a correction's center and say,"Fend for yourself?"

It's a child and children cry sometimes. How often do you see people as a group get off a bus in support of someone wronged? Evidently the other riders thought this driver was clearly in the wrong.

Thank you for publishing the transcript. I hope you don't get in trouble. I think the public deserves to see and hear the truth.

I like Tri Met and respect their drivers. They have a difficult job. However,I think this driver stepped way over the line. She needs psychological help, and I don't say that in a mean way. She should be able to work through an incident with a crying child without snapping.

link to my blog

IFoundPortland said...

@Penguinfeet "Any parent would know that when a baby gets fussy and screams, there's really nothing you can do."

Not true. Good parents have solutions. The reason you keep hearing that this is a rare instance is because ALL babies fuss but MOST parents can deal with it. I ride to work every day and someone has their baby at least half of the time. Only once in recent memory has the driver had to instruct someone to quiet their child. The rest of the time parenting happens first.

Anonymous said...

I am a mother and I know it is hard when your child can not be calmed its just a fact of life.... have you thought of how embarrassed or shocked the mother must have for passengers yes it is public transportation and people from all various lifestyles do ride the bus if you feel bothered by something as trivial as a child that's hurting or maybe scared (we do not know) then maybe you should call someone you know for a ride if a driver tried to throw me off the bus i would be dialing the police on my cell phone it's child endangerment to just put them out like that what if something happened to mom or worse the kid.. duh PUBLIC transportation that's means people that means noise and yes problems just because a drivers having a bad day don't take it out on an innocent child if you can not handle it find another job.... mom should have filed a report and a lawsuit I would!!!

IFoundPortland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
IFoundPortland said...

And as for the repeated argument that anything goes and nothing can be criticized because it's "public" transportation - that is the sort of lazy, selfish, unmannered attitude that causes these conflicts. These are the people whose parents never taught them how to behave in "public." Yes, a certain amount of patience is required of everyone. But the other side of that is that a certain amount of decorum is required of everyone. That means being polite, hygenic, quiet, orderly, and yes - in control of your children.

Unknown said...

give the driver a written warning and move on.

BlogAdmin said...

Babies have been crying since the first one was born. This is not a new phenomena. Everyone has bad days, but this job as a professional public transit driver involves having to knowingly encounter this type of behavior.
Perhaps a professional truck driving job where the drive would be alone would be more fitting for this indevidual.

Cassandra C said...

Babies cry bus driver get over it! Not to mention the fact it's a bus. How long could the poor mom and sleepy baby be part of your day. Relax

lifeexplorerdiscovery said...

You know, rarely am I sympathetic to bus drivers because ours (STL) are very terrible, hateful people who I swear must have hearts of stone. They make us stand in the rain, snow, or scalding hot sun while they get to sit on the bus as if they are on some kind of ego trip. They often drive slower than they are supposed to and make us late.

Our bus system actually pushed me to buy a car because it got so damn bad (mostly because of the actions of the planners and execs).

But in this situation, I am on the bus driver's side.

On our buses, mothers with babies and toddlers do 1 of 2 things with their crying child:

1. Ignore the child and let their baby cry. They don't even try to comfort the baby. They won't hold it or anything.
2. Yell at the baby to the point that it cries even louder than it was before.

I rarely have ever seen a mother actually try and comfort and love on a crying baby. Those that actually do get their baby to stop crying pretty quickly.

If being a neglectful mom is your thing, fine, but on public transport have some common sense. You can breakaway from your bad mother schtick for a little while.