snark and Metrobus

2 July, 2006

So Wonkette linked my metro observations post. And this a day after my first professional photos were published. Not a bad week.

wonketteThe snark in the Wonkette link got me thinking. It sorta misses the point (for sarcasm’s sake I suppose, the site DOES have a brand to maintain…although it was a lunch break post and I could have been clearer I guess). The attempted point: this behavior occurs OUTSIDE the necessary forced interactions like transfers and inquiries. What’s unique to DC is that riders will, unnecessarily, thank drivers as they disembark, and they do it almost every time, however minimally. (And drivers acknowledge people back in the same spirit. Hmm, I wonder if this gets annoying for them?)

Another two aspects add together interestingly. One, there is a peer pressure component. If the bus is crowded and someone says “thank you” or “have a good day” on their way out, later exiters (at that stop and at subsequent ones) are more likely to do so. Two, this behavior seems more common when rider and driver are of the same nonwhite group (of the same “people”, as it were, right birdcage?). The NW branches of the routes I ride most often — the 90 and the 42 — shuttle commuters to points between Red line and Green line metro stops. That is to say, they run between affluent/white and working class/immigrant/nonwhite neighborhoods. So it’s a rainbow coalition every day on them, and the high average diversity per bus can match any “people” of driver. This will increase the odds of the peer pressure snowball effect. So your average rider of, say, the Georgetown to Dupont type lines may not see as much of this. Any D2 riders want to weigh in?

I don’t think race is an underlying cause of this, though. I grew up in Chicago and took buses there for 15 years. Chicago being a strongly segregated city laid out on a grid, knowledgeof a route’s heading and range told you a lot about the age and maintenance levels of the vehicles and what the ridership and schedule adherence would be. I never saw this kind of interaction in the segregated or diverse routes. No, I think what’s driving this (since you asked) is DC’s scope. It doesn’t feel as large as NYC, Chicago, San Fran, even Boston. Heck, I recognize all my bus drivers already, which I never did in Chicago. I stick to my Pollyanna-ish approach to this phenomenon. (And knowing me, this all will probably lead me to start taking field notes about it during my commute. Hey, I was getting bored with sudoku anyway.)

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4 Responses to “snark and Metrobus”

  1. furcafe Says:

    IMHO, it’s not a racial thing, it’s a Southern culture thing, you may notice similar behavior re: who chats w/the checkout clerks @ the grocery/convenience store. When it comes to stuff like that, I’m a definite Yankee, i.e., I hate chatting w/service people unless I need them to do something for me (utilitarian, yes, but that’s their job).

  2. furcafe Says:

    Also, this may not be entirely on point, but since it involves nudity, it’s always on point as far as I’m concerned: I have a friend who’s from Minnesota, & when we were @ a DC “gentleman’s club” for his bachelor party, he & some of his out-of-town friends (also mostly from Minnesota & other parts of the Midwest) remarked that the interaction between the customers & the strippers here was much more friendly & polite than what they had observed in such establishments in the Northeast & Midwest (“they actually come out into the audience & thank you for watching them dance!”).

  3. epmd Says:

    I would disagree. most of the D2 riders that I see say thanks as they leave the bus. And when you ride the D2 more often you get to know certain drivers.

  4. furcafe Says:

    OK, part of the reason people tend to talk to bus drivers is that you often have to “ask” them to make a stop, so many riders will feel obliged to thank the driver for doing so regardless of their socioeconomic background or personality. However, I still think the predominant “street” culture in DC is Southern (or if you want to take it out of a regional context, rural/small town) & there may be a subtle but significant peer pressure effect as techne mentions (just like Yankees will start saying y’all after living here awhile).


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