I have come across reader’s letters and editorials in many magazines and tabloids asking this question.
Oh yes, they do! When they are new to the job! Like most humans, drivers want to please their customers and peers, when they start a new job, but it soon wears off. After the driver has been threatened by 12 year olds, spat at by 10 year olds and sworn at by 65 year old women, racially abused by anyone who’s having a bad day, they learn to ignore the public.
In any other job, if you are being abused by a customer, there will be a team of people around to protect you and support you, but NOT in this job. You are an easy target and, rarely, will anyone step forward to back you up; not even the police. the police is as ineffective in tackling this menace as the TfL despite all these big promises about protecting ‘their’ staff and pushing for the hardest penalties for the perpetrators, which is all just a good PR exercise.
Generally, the trouble only occurs when a driver challenges a passenger’s ticket or asks them for one if they have forgotten to present it. The genuine mistakes are resolved with a smile from the passenger and a ’sorry I forgot’, but the habitual fare evader is ready for a fight immediately. There is no process in place to eliminate such regular occurrences: not even the ‘Revenue Officials’. TfL have this team of people who board the buses randomly and, supposedly, check that all passengers are travelling with a valid ticket. It is hard to find these teams in the notorious East London routes and when you DO come across one, it is amazing how quickly they can check a full bus, sometimes without even climbing to the upper deck on a double decker. They are equally aware of the menace and want to stay clear of any trouble!
In light of the above facts relevant to every day in the working life of a London bus driver, is it a surprise that not many of them smile to the public?