Respect the Rider

When I board my early-morning MAX and settle in for the long trip, I often glance up and see one of those ubiquitous “Respect the Ride” placards. Anyone who rides Trimet with any regularity has seen them, sitting up there next to those “GET REAL” signs that warn us not to talk too loudly, taunt the train or do stupid shit like crossing in front of the MAX because “it takes two blocks to stop.”

As a side note, if you’re going to do something like tempt fate by walking out in front of a moving MAX train, I refer you to a copy of the The Collected Works of Charles Darwin. Carelessly crossing in front of the moving train is a simple cleansing act for the gene pool.

The Respect placards are pretty non-offensive, and could be easily replaced by signs saying “Don’t Be A Dick.” What I’d like to see are some signs reminding us to respect the rider.

I’m very well-aware of my privilege. I’m a middle-aged white guy who rides mass transit voluntarily. My world is made safer simply by an accident of birth. Dark train platforms and mile-long walks home are much easier for me than for many others, just because of my age, ethnicity and gender. I try to always keep this in mind, especially when I’m sitting next to someone who would clearly rather be getting to their destination in an easier fashion. The man to my left who waited in his motorized wheelchair to catch the train. The woman in a maid’s uniform with three small kids. The homeless guy.

One of the things I dearly love about my commute is what a friend calls “mixing it up out there.” If you think that the Portland metro area is lily-white, grab an eastbound line 57 at rush hour. If you’re tired at the end of your day, check out the guy wearing the same pants he’s been wearing for a year, carrying his sleeping bag and rolling toward some concrete bed for the night.

I flash my subsidized annual pass at the fare inspector as the guy next to me digs into his pocket for his transfer. I wait to board the bus as someone wrangles three kids under age 5 up the stairs and into their seats. I’m here by choice, and worthy of respect just like every single person on earth. Feel free to return my smile, and then please pass that smile on with an understanding nod to that harried lady with the stroller you just walked around to get to your seat. Respect the rider.

Story contributed by Dr. Jeff Guardalabene, who blogs at Follow @doctor_jeff on Twitter!

About Dr. Jeff

Dr. Jeff, in real life Dr. Jeff Guardalabene, is a Portland-area psychologist, who logs 300-plus miles on TriMet each week. He often live-tweets his commute to avoid intellectual stimulation. He lives with his wife and their five children and blogs about psychology issues at Follow @Doctor_Jeff on Twitter.
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