Your Field Trip…My Morning Commute

by admin on June 11, 2013

I’m a college student, and as rent is expensive closer to campus I choose to live a fair distance away from school and commute by bus each morning to go to class. This is normally uneventful, and people in my town tend to be polite on buses–for instance, people practically scramble to vacate their seats for the elderly, pregnant women, disabled people, and so on. However, one morning I encountered an odd situation and I’m not sure what to make of it in terms of etiquette violations.

I live right next to a middle school (or an elementary school, it’s hard to tell based on the appearance of the kids alone), and as I was standing at the bus stop near my house, I notice a veritable herd of kids being shepherded to the bus stop by a few teachers with clipboards. They were all clutching bus tickets, it seemed. I tried not to panic, but can anyone blame me for being apprehensive of children in large groups?

Anyway, the bus arrived a bit late and already nearly full with people on their way to work and school, but the teachers packed the kids on anyway. The driver seemed shocked as I was getting on (the kids were behind me), and I just turned and looked at them, wide-eyed, and shrugged at the driver to indicate that I, too, was confused. I managed to jam myself in an awkward place near the door so I could let people off but also get out of there quickly–I’m a bit claustrophobic, you see. The kids were a bit loud and obnoxious–sadly, the low standard of behavior for kids these days has desensitized me to some degree, so I don’t recall them being too bad. But the teachers were making no effort to show them how to act on public transit.

What bothered me the most was that the bus, being over capacity, had to pass by stops full of people needing to go places. Work, school, etc. As far as I’m aware, there wasn’t another bus trailing behind and the organization that runs the buses wasn’t given any sort of advance notice. Due to recent budget cuts, bus service has been scaled back, hence there are fewer times in the day when they can afford multiple buses on a route.

Once we arrived at the university, I slipped out of the bus quickly and saw the kids piling out behind me. I gathered that they were on a field trip to the university, perhaps for a tour. Was it really appropriate of them to commandeer the bus to basically use it as cheap field trip transportation? I understand that renting a school bus can be tricky and expensive, but the school district is pretty well funded. While I can conjecture that they could’ve afforded their own bus, I can’t say for sure, so I’m not certain what to think here. 0608-13

That’s an interesting dilemma and one I wouldn’t want to be caught in.  However, I’m not seeing how this school group on a field trip should be restricted from using public transportation.   Users of public transit have no inherent right or guarantee of  available space on the bus or train.  For example, the Washington DC subway system during a parade, holiday event or worse, a large political rally.   The system gets clogged fast and that means regular commuters have an additional challenge getting to and from work.   That also means this school group took the risk of not being able to fit them all on one bus but since the driver let them on, they were accorded every right as paying passengers.

How they behaved once on the bus is a different matter.

{ 109 comments… read them below or add one }

internetmama June 11, 2013 at 11:59 am

How do we know the school didn’t contact the transportation system? I live in Chicago and can only imagine the “who cares” response that the CTA would give to such a phone call.

As other people have posted, for school districts that are desperately hurting for money it very well may be impossible to pay for extra time for a school bus. If you’re in a poor urban neighborhood parents may not have cars to carpool with.

Provided they paid their fare, these children were just as entitled to use PUBLIC transportation as anyone.

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MizA June 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Groups of young people using transit is a daily occurence here, and as long as they’re paying full fare, I don’t see how anyone has the right to dictate when they use it. Would the OP be as irritated if it was an equally large and loud group of conference attendees? Public transit is public, and if passengers are adhering to riding guidelines, they’ve as much a right to utilize it as anyone else, despite their ages.

As for warning passengers ahead of time- How? It’s logistically impossible to do so without enormous resources being used. And even then, people tend to not pay attention to announcements or bulletins.

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darkprincess June 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

First: how does the OP know that the teacher did not contact the bus company in advance. They may have. But if the bus company doesn’t require advance notice for large groups then it doesn’t matter if the gave advanced notice or not. The bus driver did not object to the group and allowed them on so the action of getting on as a group was not against the rules or at least the bus driver didn’t think it was so this is not rude, even during rush hour.
Second, I am holding my opinion on the behavior of the kids because the OP didn’t say exactly what inappropriate behavior happened. On the buses in my city their are rules clearly posted and unless they were shouting, pushing, eating etc, I am finding it hard to imagine what they did wrong. They were probably loud, but if there are alot of people on a bus talking it will be loud. This isn’t rude unless you are on a special light rail care that is designate as a quiet car.
I don’t think it matters if they could have afforded a bus or not. Public transportation is for everyone with a paid ticket. This includes all ages of people, people in groups, seniors, students, commuters, tourists, etc.
I took my daughter to big city X using the commuter train. This is the time that worked for our schedule. We got on at the first stop, took our seats and followed all of the rules of the train. We talked in normal “indoor” voices. By the second stop all of the seats were full and it was standing room only. Several commuters gave us dirty looks and two people even made comments about non-commuters (meaning people not going to work or college) using the commuter train. Public transporation is just that, public.
So far it doesn’t sound like the school did anything wrong.

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MGirl June 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I’ll give you my perspective as someone at the receiving end of field trip students (I work at a children’s museum): kids these days get to go on fewer field trips than in the past because trips are expensive. Why are they so expensive? Because of buses. In my area, the cost of a school bus can be two or three times the cost of admission to wherever the students are going. Many schools don’t have extra money for trips, and parents who are suffering in this economy are understandably reluctant to shell out money for trips. Taking public transportation may be the only way for kids to be able to go on a trip.

The OP also mentioned that they thought the local district was well-funded and should have been able to afford a bus. Well, I’m in a “well-off” district (we have an Ivy League college here) and our district’s budget has been slashed. Some classrooms can only go on field trips when they get outside sponsorship. So I don’t think you can accurately judge this district’s finances from just a cursory knowledge of the town.

The field trip organizers should call the bus system ahead to let them know about a group, but otherwise these children are just as entitled as anyone else to utilize public transportation.

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Lisa June 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I guess I could see an issue if this were to happen every single day. But the kids were all paying customers and it sounds like a one-time thing so I can’t really see anyone being traumatized by being on a bus with a bunch of kids on one morning.

I’m thinking it’s not the safest situation to have kids standing during the bus ride though. I’ve stood on buses before and you do tend to get jerked around quite a bit by all the starts and stops. So depending on how old/big the kids were (OP said she couldn’t really tell whether they were elementary or middle school students) it might be hard for them to keep their balance.

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Lacey June 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Pearl-clutching about the OP’s statement that she’s apprehensive of children in large groups is really unnecessary. Some people don’t love kids. It doesn’t make them horrible people. She did not say anything mean about children, she very politely stated the case and asked if it was an etiquette violation, admitting that she was unsure. Is it really that hard to comprehend that not everyone would love the addition to an already crowded commute of a herd of loud kids?

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Kate June 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I think it is interesting that a lot of commenters seem to feel that you should take what you can get when it comes to public transportation. That you should expect to be late to your destination and be crowded out of your seat and treated badly, generally. It almost sounds like punishment for being too “cheap” to get a car and drive. Ignoring of course the fact that it is cheaper to take public transportation in most cities and vastly more environmentally friendly. Public transportation isn’t just something you take for fun or when you are too tired to drive or as an “educational field trip” for children.

For a lot of people it IS their car. Not everyone can afford a car: buying the car, insurance, maintenance, gas, parking, etc. Where I live it is totally normal and expected that people use the bus AS their car, as their only form of transportation. They get groceries, go clothes shopping, go to work every single day. It is not fair to these people to have their school bus overtaken by a mob of children who, in my district at least, also have big yellow school buses to take them around. Everyone (or at least everyone’s parents and other adults) do pay for public transportation. That doesn’t give them the right to behave badly on it, and I do include taking over the bus so there is no room for people who have to be at work or to a doctor’s appointment, making the whole bus and everyone on it late, among bad behavior.

The difference between the kids and the rest of the commuters is that the rest of the people NEEDED to be somewhere, at work for example, and could get in trouble with the boss if they aren’t their in time. “The bus was filled with kids and I couldn’t get on” might or might not be believed. These kids could have scheduled their field trip for later in the day, or taken more than one bus, or taken a yellow bus. I don’t know that renting a bus for a single day would have been anymore expensive than taking public. As well, the schools where I live at least have their own yellow buses which could be used.

I agree with other posters that at least on parade days you are given advanced warning. As far as being prepared so you won’t be late goes, I live a 15 minute drive away from where I work. I have to take 2 buses to get there, and it takes 30 minutes on a good day, so I always leave the house an hour before work so I have time in case one of the buses is late or something. But if I miss my connection to the next bus because my previous one was late, sometimes things get a little tight. Sometimes I only have 15 minutes to get off my last bus and walk to work from the stop. Imagine missing a bus because it is crowded with kids going on a field trip and being late to work! That would not put a smile on anyone’s face!

I am curious as to where the OP lives now, because I recently experienced this exact thing! There is actually a university stop on the route I take to work in the morning as well. These kids by the way were not at all well behaved. All the passengers had looks of horror on their faces as they got on! They took up tons of seats, didn’t move for elderly people or adults (when I was a kid you gave up your seat for adults, who had been working all day), and kept getting up to change seats and yell “I don’t want to sit next to Lauren, I want to sit next to Peter!”. Their teachers made a few of them move, but not all of them, and they only did this after I constantly moved out of my seat as we kept stopping and elderly people kept getting on. I want to know what kind of world it is becoming when teachers aren’t teaching children to respect the elderly and the frail!

This isn’t an anti-kid thing by the way, most of the passengers I have seen like children. When they get on they talk to them and coo over the babies. And most of the kids that get on stay in one seat, not yelling or throwing things. Of course these seem to be the kids whose parents ride the bus frequently. You tend to see the same people on the same routes day after day, and a lot of people are so friendly with their bus driver that they know about the others kids!

All in all I agree with the OP. I think this is an issue of respect and need vs. want, not who pays to ride the bus. Inconveniencing everyone around you means you deserve to be in E Hell!

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Tiffany June 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm

You mention that there have been cuts to the public transit in your area so there are fewer buses. Around where I live, there have been similar cuts as well. However, where I live, there have also been cuts to educational budgets, which means no money for private buses for field trips, so almost all field trips have to be done via public transport. And it is public, so while having an unexpected group of children on your usual route is unpleasant, it’s not intrinsically rude, and the schools in your area might be in the same bind.

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Anonymous June 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I meant to say, some professors WON’T accept “the bus passed me by” or other public-transit glitches, as excuses for missing class, or being late. At one university I attended (but lived on campus), the only road in and out of town was bisected by the only railroad track. This set-up meant that, if you were going from the university into town, or from town into the university, and arrived at the train tracks at the wrong time, you might end up waiting ten minutes or so (sometimes less, sometimes more) for the train to pass. This happened to a friend of mine, who lived in town, and it happened right before a class she had with a professor who was known for being strict, and sometimes a little unfair. Anyway, when she arrived late, he accused her, in front of the whole class, of being late because she was “hung over.” He’s not the only professor like that who I’ve met, so I’m sure that the OP’s university probably has several as well, who’d be equally unsympathetic to “the bus passed me by,” or “a field trip group barred me from getting on the bus.” The other thing is, a university campus isn’t really meant for children in the first place. I know this isn’t a popular view, but all too often, the buildings that house the “fun” majors (music, theatre, art, dance, and the athletic complex) often see groups of kids on field trips, weekend and school vacation programs, and other things of that nature, and the kids don’t always behave, and their adults don’t always attempt to control them, which can be extremely irritating for students attending those classes, or using those buildings to practice, rehearse, finish artwork, or use the athletic complex/change in the women’s change room without hordes of school-aged boys and their mothers around (for some reason, the reverse-gendered scenario rarely happens). When students complain, the powers-that-be can (sometimes, but not always) side with the kid groups, which contributes to the cycle of resentment, and actually runs counter to the university’s goal of forging a partnership with the youth of the community. I like kids as much as anyone, but I still think that some privileges should be reserved for adults, and university is one of them. I can see taking a group of older high school students on a field trip to a university, in the vein of “you may be a student here in a few years,” but elementary-aged kids usually aren’t mature enough to appreciate it. I’m sure there are a few kids that age who are, but they’re the exception, and not the rule.

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Anonymous June 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

P.S., I was trying to come up with an analogy for the “monopolizing public resources” thing, and I guess the closest I can come up with is, adult collectors who deliberately buy up ALL of the season’s hot toy at any given store (Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle Me Elmo dolls, Furbies, etc.), and keep them in boxes on a shelf, thereby preventing parents from purchasing the items for their children. Sure, it’s not technically against the rules of etiquette or the law, but it’s just a crummy thing to do–like taking all the seats on a public bus with a field trip group, when there are other options, like a school bus, or a carpool. In fact, I think the “public transit” scenario is worse, because by keeping commuters off the bus, the group could get someone fired, or get a university student on the wrong side of the wrong prof, who could grade them unfairly at the undergraduate level, or blacklist them and sabotage their career at the graduate level. So, with that in mind, does the school group HAVE to get to the university art gallery (for example) for exactly nine a.m.? I don’t think so.

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Katy June 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Barens Mom- You are making an assumption as to the teacher’s other options. Parental carpool isn’t usually an option, first it’s hard to get enough parents willing to drive to any one place, second it’s an insurance nightmare- if one of them crashes the parent, the school, and the teacher could all be held liable and sued.
Second, it’s not commandeering a whole bus. It’s using public transportation as it was intended to be used- for the public. The whole basis of the public transportation system is that any member of the public can use it unless there is a very compelling reason for them to be barred from its use (if you have a history of beating up bus drivers, for example). Public transportation is, and has always been, first come-first served. It’s not uncommon for people to wait on the train platform outside a baseball stadium for two or three trains after other fans have filled the previous ones. Sometimes these trains will go several stops with no one getting off or on even if the game does let out around rush hour, but do you consider the fans rude for using the system?

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Amber June 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I hate comments about “kids these days”. Kids were loud and obnoxious 15 years ago when I was in middle school, they were loud and obnoxious in the late 70s when my dad was in middle school, they were loud and obnoxious in the late 50s when my grandparents were in middle school, and on and on down the line to the times, 100 years ago and longer, when loud obnoxious kids threw rocks at “undesirables”.

Our times are no better or worse etiquette wise, and certainly better than any other time in history based on the civility of one person towards another (especially from a world-wide perspective)

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Brenda June 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

The children sound pretty well behaved, so I don’t think that’s an issue. What I do think is an issue is the failure to consider the regular commuters who use that bus.

Background: I used to take a commuter bus that crossed the Bay. It was popular and often nearly full, sometimes full to the point of people standing for the trip over the Bay. It had limited runs, carrying mostly tech employees, office and sales staff, a few private school students, and some university employees. The buses ran about 45 minutes apart during rush hour, then 1 1/2 hours apart during the rest of the day.

One morning, the bus that ran the route before us broke down. We crossed the bridge to discover about forty schoolchildren waiting to get on our bus for a field trip, along with the passengers from the broken down bus. We loaded everyone we could on the bus, but it was obvious the teachers had not considered how many regular riders there might be before planning their field trip.

Personally, I was glad to see kids riding public transport, but the lack of planning on the part of the teachers had a serious impact on regular riders. This bus was the only one that stopped on the street where the other bus broke down, and there was not another bus route available that was not less than a mile away.

If the teachers had contacted the bus company beforehand, it’s possible the bus service could have worked with them to find a better time to catch the bus (earlier or later, as the time I rode the bus was usually when it was busiest). I’m sure if the teachers had known how full these buses regularly were, they might have arranged other transport.

I had to take a train to catch this bus, and often saw students on field trips on the train, but the train was much larger and could accommodate a sudden increase of riders.

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sv June 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm

To me this is actually pretty cut and dried. They had tickets for the bus, which presumably had been paid for. That gives them just as much right to be there as anyone else. Large groups of children tend to be excited and loud, but that does not mean they were misbehaving. And it is quite possible that the use of public transportation may have been part of the field trip lesson. If they paid for their tickets, why is their use of the bus any less needful than yours? Simply because you ( and other passengers) use it every day does not give you dibs. It’s called PUBLIC transportation, and the fact that they are children does not give them any less right to be there.

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Gabriele June 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm

What caught my eye was the phrase “already nearly full with people on their way to work and school, but the teachers packed the kids on anyway”. It makes me think that at the time the students boarded, there weren’t enough seats for all of them. That raises a red flag for me: We pass laws to ensure children are safe in cars (seatbelts, proper seats for smaller children, etc) but we allow them to ride in buses with NO seat belts and in this case, if the children were allowed to ride on the bus without have a seat to sit on it places them at great risk.
If the driver hit the brakes unexpectedly ( even good drivers can’t compensate for bad drivers in front of them) the children could be thrown around. And if the children were standing in the aisles or doubling up on seats and being loud I can see where the OP could have felt somewhat overpowered by their presence. The OP might also have felt the concerns of the other passengers who may have felt their space encroached on if two students tried to sit in the one seat next to them. There is often a silent crowd reaction to a change in environment and anxiety can be contageous. If some of the other riders were concerned about being physically able to get off the bus at their stop that could raise the discomfort level for other passengers as well.
Ideally (yes, I know we don’t live in an ideal world) one teacher would have gotten on first, announced who they were (school name) and where they were going and if anyone needed to get off earlier than that stop, to call out loudly ‘next stop’ and the children would make way for them.
This field trip could have been a learning experience on so many levels. I think the teachers (I have a lot of friends who are teachers so I’m not picking on the profession, only the conduct here) missed an opportunity.
I would suggest the OP, for her own peace of mind, contact the bus company and ask what their policies are about such events. Do schools usually notify them? Should they? And any other information which would clarify the situation. If prior notice is supposed to be given, ask if in this instance, it was done. Since she’s in school, use it for her own learning experience. Compile all the information and if the school should have but didn’t give the preadvice, then I would write the school and ask for a response. A simple statement of “I am a student at BlahBlah college and I am doing a study” should suffice. If it doesn’t a follow up letter (or email) and if still no response (tsk! tsk!) then call. She could also do the same with either other schools or with the school district in particular.
Consider it independent research and if it doesn’t fit in with her field of study, find out if she can get credit for it some other way. If not, consider submitting it to a blog or local newspaper. If the school was in error then they were wrong and people (especially parents) should know about it.
I would also suggest the OP ask her fellow riders how they felt about the situation and document that.
If they had similar feelings (she should not indicate her feelings beforehand) it would confirm her own and some might express other concerns that could be noted.
When we use public transportation (even private, such as airplanes) we do have certain rights and one group should not be able to infringe on those rights. The students had a right to ride the bus, they had a valid ticket. The other passengers may have had rights which the students infringed upon.
Standards of behavior exist not just because they’re ‘nice’ but because they’re necessary for proper order. Had there been an accident lack of order could have had disasterous consequences.
“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, the horse was lost, for want of the horse, the rider was lost…and so on.
I imagine if there had been an accident, the bus company would have been sued for not providing safe transporation for the children and probably lost the cases. …or if they sued the school..same result.

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Marozia June 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm

The only problem I have is their ‘loud and obnoxious’ behaviour. None of us like to be packed in like sardines, but with certain cut-backs in the schools, transport and other systems it’s put up, shut up or complain to your local minister. At least they were paying customers.
Thank goodness field trips don’t happen every day.

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WildIrishRose June 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Again, WE DON’T KNOW that the school did NOT contact the bus company ahead of time. There is nothing in the OP’s story to confirm that.

As for the “peak commuter time” issue, we also DON’T KNOW where these kids were going. Perhaps there was a time issue that required them to travel at that particular hour of the morning.

I ride the bus to work every day. I have seen it get so crowded that at least a dozen people were unable to secure seats, so they had to stand in the aisle and hold the straps or stanchion bars. I had to do it myself once or twice. It’s not fun, but it is completely survivable.

And my voice of experience says that I would rather have a group of elementary- or middle school-aged kids ride my bus than some of the drunks I’ve seen.

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Lauren June 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

“…can anyone blame me for being apprehensive of children in large groups?”

NO! It’s kind of cute that this became the standout statement for most people. I definitely can understand the fear or apprehension. I once walked into a room and was attacked by five little girls – all in the 4 to 7-year-old range. (They all knew me from babysitting them.) They all ran up to hug me, and they had me on the floor, completely incapacitated in one second. Middle-schoolers? I’d be dead!

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Allie June 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I will say that the one thing that annoys me is when huge numbers of people get on the bus and none of them are actually prepared to pay the bus fee. I live in a touristy town and a chaperone was actually arguing with a bus driver once because the kids couldn’t get change when they put cash in the machine (this is why most people have bus cards). It took maybe 15 minutes for this guy to get all his kids on the bus. I’ve seen people handle that much better (counting the kids and paying all at once, for instance).

To be fair – I blame the adult who didn’t bother to learn the public transportation system before getting on, not the kids.

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Miss-E June 11, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Just as budget cuts mean fewer buses in your town they probably mean fewer school buses, hence the children taking the bus. I agree with Admin, I live in NYC and it sure is a pain when there is some big event that draws more people but that’s the caveat of public transportation – it’s for the public. Sounds like an unpleasant morning but not really a breech of etiquette.

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MAGGIE June 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I only have one question….aren’t these children, and their teachers, “the public”?

Public transportation is available to the general public. They all had tickets. It’s theirs to use. Why should buses and trains only be available to those who are going to work or school? What if I want to go shopping? Or to lunch with a friend? What if I want to tour the university like these children? My day, and certainly the education of our children, is just as important as your day.

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la June 11, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Whilst I agree that people who pay for public transport have every right to use it, but putting huge amounts of children on at peak time is inadvisable, especially if buses are infrequent. I live in an area with infrequent buses and I’d be pretty angry if the bus passed me by on the way to a place because it was packed with kids – or any large group that wasn’t on as tight a schedule as work commuters.

If the local schools have no other options then I’d consider the school had funding issues.

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Lola June 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Agree with admin: public transit is just that — transportation for public use. Sometimes, we have to share spaces with large numbers of people, even if it’s to our discomfort. Part of living in a society.

As for children’s behavior, it’s hard to say what exactly the problem was, from LW’s blanket statement about kids being loud.

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Doryna June 11, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Speaking as a former school teacher, I thought I’d add a few notes on the procedure of getting a school bus for a field trip. Mainly, it is an enormous pain-in-the-patoot.

First, you have to wait for a bus to become available. Where I live, school start times are staggered (roughly 7:00am for middle, then 8:00 am for elementary, and high school at 9:00 am) so buses can be reused between schools. That means that buses are basically unavailable until the last school is in session since they’re being used to transport students. This also means you have to be back by a certain time, since the buses need to be at the middle schools to take kids home starting at 1:30. I’m sure the practice is fairly common now as a cost-saving measure. In other words, in our area anyway, using a school bus means that your field trip can only be from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm, maximum. If the time frame of these students’ trip fell outside of that, school buses were not an option.

To make things more complicated, in some areas activity buses cannot be used for school trips. Where I live, since they do not have to follow the same safety regulations as proper school buses, they are considered unsafe for transport during school hours, but fine for after-school activities. (Yes, this makes as much sense to me as it probably does to you.)

Second, carpooling is probably not an option, either. There are too many liability issues between “irresponsible parental driving” and “so-and-so touched me inappropriately”. My mom once chaperoned a school trip with my younger sister, but had to drive herself because there wasn’t enough room on the bus. My sister wanted to ride with her because the bus was hot and crowded, but was not allowed to because they were on school time. Also, if your school is in a low-income area, the parents of your students may not even have cars.

And finally, cost. Even though they’re a pain with scheduling, so many schools rely on school buses for field trips because they’re the most affordable option. You still have to pay a fee per student for the driver, gas, and wear and tear, but it’s marginal compared to what you might pay for, say, a charter bus. That means if you don’t or can’t use the school bus, your field trip suddenly gets a lot more expensive, which means you might have students who can’t afford to go.

Back to the OP, I don’t think our school system would let us use any form of public transportation for a field trip as they’re paranoid about lawsuits beyond belief. Had I been a teacher on the trip described, I would have made sure to have a talk with my students before we even left the classroom about proper behavior on public transportation, and would have given a gentle but firm reminder to any students who got too excited/boisterous on the ride about their manners. I also wonder if something could not have been arranged with public transportation ahead of time to ensure the students got the experience, but weren’t causing a safety hazard or being a burden on those who rely on the bus.

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rosie June 11, 2013 at 5:57 pm

First world problems… get a grip. It’s a bus ride, everyone survived and life went on. Good lesson for you, though, one which you will need once you’re finished with your education: not everything in life is an etiquette problem. Stuff happens, deal with it and go on. That’s what people do.

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TylerBelle June 11, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I do think that the schoolchildren have the right as others to ride the bus, though if I were one of the chaperones I’d be afraid of the monumental task of trying to keep up with all of them as they mixed in with groups of other people.

Also I too would be apprehensive about the approach of a big group of youngsters. Mainly because the idea of to be possibly singled out and perhaps ridiculed for having a physical difference. That said, though, if something like that happens, I’ve found it’s moreso with adults.

If the kids aren’t being rude and tacky to others, obeying their teachers, and staying with their group, I don’t see much wrong with their riding the bus. I think it’d be better if they’d have their own bus to go on, but that would be mainly for their own safety.

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Anonymous June 11, 2013 at 8:00 pm

>>I hate comments about “kids these days”. Kids were loud and obnoxious 15 years ago when I was in middle school, they were loud and obnoxious in the late 70s when my dad was in middle school, they were loud and obnoxious in the late 50s when my grandparents were in middle school, and on and on down the line to the times, 100 years ago and longer, when loud obnoxious kids threw rocks at “undesirables”.

Our times are no better or worse etiquette wise, and certainly better than any other time in history based on the civility of one person towards another (especially from a world-wide perspective).<<

But, it's not about "kids these days" being obnoxious, it's about adults putting kids into situations that they're not ready for. Yes, these kids might have been acting perfectly developmentally normally, and not misbehaving, just by virtue of being loud and excited and in a large group, but when out in public, interacting with adults, kids need to behave at an "adult" standard of good behaviour, so as not to bother the adult passengers/movie-or-theatre-goers/diners in a restaurant/whatever. If the kids aren't mature enough to sit or stand quietly on the bus, then they're not mature enough to take public transit. Also, as for the university issue, in response to Politrix, yes, I know that a university campus may be fascinating to a child, but again, adult standards of behaviour apply, IF it's even appropriate for them to be there, which I think is debatable. If the children are visiting the music building, that means, no fiddling with instruments that aren't theirs. If they're visiting the sports complex to swim or whatever, that means they should change in the locker room appropriate to their gender. If they're attending a church service at the university, then no shoe fights in the foyer while their parents are worshipping inside. I've seen all of these simple rules being broken, and little to nothing was done about it. The thing that stuck in my craw the most about it was, the university got all the Brownie points for opening their doors to the community, but the burden fell on the students there, who were just trying to live their lives at university in peace.

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Amanda June 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm

My impression of the story was that the bus company was unprepared to handle the large group. While the kids themselves may have been committing no violation of etiquette, I do feel that the organizers of the trip had a responsibility to contact the bus company beforehand so they would not be interfering with commuters during a peak time. In my opinion, there was a major violation on the part of the organizers, as what if there weren’t enough space for them? Would the group need to separate? That constitutes a big safety issue.

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Steph June 11, 2013 at 9:44 pm

“sadly, the low standard of behavior for kids these days has desensitized me to some degree”
What a horrible generalisation to make. Think about how this story would be received if the children were a group of disabled people or elderly people. ” I was apprehensive when I saw a group of senior citizens about to board the bus. You know how noisy and disruptive they can be. Why weren’t they on a private bus”??
Children are part of the world. If you don’t like children, don’t venture into public places where children may be.

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Lexie June 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm

The fact that there were multiple teachers makes me feel that this was a large group of children – in Aus, a field trip with three teachers could be anywhere from 20 to 40 children. In that case, the sensible and considerate thing to do would have been to divide the children into three groups and either have each group leave fifteen minutes or half an hour after the previous group, to allow the teacher more control and not to strain the public transport system, or to have the field trip run on different days. I’ve attended and witnessed trips like this, and everyone appears to enjoy them more – the kids, the teachers and the onlookers. I’m also under the belief that if they were seeing a performance or something with a strict start time, they probably should have organised the transport differently.

Overall, it’s not truly an etiquette violation, but a frustrating situation to be in. I feel sorry for the people who didn’t get to catch their bus that day (I’ve been in that position and it is the most frustrating state of being) and the OP, because large groups of children make me very nervous.

I think kids today realise how much power they have, since teachers can’t discipline them and parents won’t discipline them (I’m not talking about physical discipline but rather anything that is enforced – parents crying ‘You’re traumatising Precious! Lawsuit!’ every time the teacher tries to make a badly behaved student serve detention, write lines or confiscate their phones; I have friends who are in their first years of teaching, and they are gobsmacked.)

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Michelle C Young June 11, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Cramming them all onto a bus, which was already well-filled, and thus putting the bus OVER capacity, was a safety issue. Even if the bus-driver allowed it, the teachers should have checked the capacity, and if they had gone over, they should have made alternate arrangements, either by leaving half of the students (and chaperones) behind to wait for the next bus, or else taking them all off the bus, to wait for a bus with room for them all. This concerns me.

As Admin said, they have the right to use public transportation, and commuters just have to take their chances. However, if would be both wise and considerate to make prior arrangements to avoid such situations. I do not know how much it costs to charter a school bus for the day, nor how much public transit tickets cost, but I imagine a chartered school bus for that many kids is probably not that much more, and even if it is, for safety reasons, as well as consideration for other commuters, it would be worth the price.

In all my years in school, and all the field trips we went on, we NEVER crowded a public bus that way. We almost always took school buses. I think one class did a public transit field trip, but we were high-schoolers, and there were only ten of us. We knew how to behave, we went outside of rush hour, and we did not delay anyone who needed to get to work.

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Michelle C Young June 11, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Lia – not everyone who rides public transit is prepared for a bus being late. This is not necessarily an indication that they are not responsible, or are poor planners. Sometimes, being “prepared” for a delayed bus means, in fact, having money for a taxi, or a friend who can give you a ride. It really does depend on the availability of the buses.

In fact, I had a co-worker once, who told me about her bus-route to work. She took the ONLY bus that ran from the vicinity of her house to the city in the morning. There was another bus that ran that direction in the afternoon. Yes, you read that right: There were ONLY TWO buses running that route for the ENTIRE day. Her work day ran about 12 hours long (for a regular office 8-5 job), due to having to arrive really early, and then wait rather late for the return bus. If she missed either, she had to take a taxi.

Now, I am not saying that this was the case for the OP’s route. However, I am saying that sometimes the delay to wait for the next bus could be an hour, or more, and many employers look askance at employees who are that late to work.

I once worked as a temp worker, and due to bus schedules, I had to arrive at 7 in the morning, when the plant did not open until 8:30. You see, the next bus that went that way did not arrive until after 9.

So, yes, I can really empathize with the people who were used to taking their bus at the regularly scheduled time, only to be forced to wait who-knows-how-long for the next bus.

OP, do you know how long it was until the next scheduled bus route?

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Michelle C Young June 11, 2013 at 10:49 pm

As to the fear of children in large groups – For some people, who are introverts and shy, crowds of any kind can induce fear. For many people, crowds of children are scary, not because they do not like children, but because when there is a large group of children, it means that the adults in charge have a more difficult time keeping tabs on all the children, and it makes it much more likely that one or two of those children will get up to some mischief, while the adult is looking the other way, dealing with the other children.

Now, if it had been a large group of children, along with a large group of adults, it would probably not have been frightening, depending on the child to adult ratio. However, the OP stated “a veritable herd of kids being shepherded to the bus stop by a few teachers with clipboards.” That, to me, indicates that the child to adult ration was pretty bad. Maybe even 10 to 1! In such a case, trouble is bound to come up.

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rachel June 11, 2013 at 10:51 pm

I used to take the bus and Skytrain to work so I know how op feels. Groups if children are obnoxious and everyone knows that. People disagreeing probably never relied on public transit.

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Michelle C Young June 11, 2013 at 11:10 pm

To be fair – I’m probably projecting, a bit, because of my own experiences.

Also, we do not know if the school had, indeed, contacted the public transit authority, to alert them to the field trip, and maybe there was an extra bus just five minutes behind the OP’s bus. I would like to think so.

In a metropolitan area, with good and plentiful public transportation, this is a minor inconvenience. In an area like mine, where bus stops can be miles apart, and some bus routes run only once or twice a day, it would be a major issue. So, really, more information is needed.

I’m not judging the kids involved, of course. OP says they weren’t that bad, which means they were probably on good behavior, mixed with high spirits – meaning loud and happy, boisterous, but not hurtful.

So, I don’t think this was against etiquette. Just a logistics issue, and it would be kind of the school administrators to make arrangements in advance, to minimize the inconvenience for all the other commuters.

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Michelle C Young June 11, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Anonymous – re: being delayed at the train tracks.

One time, I came up to the train tracks at JUST the wrong time. The bars were coming down, and the train was approaching, so I knew I would have to wait for the whole thing. What I did not anticipate, though, was that there would be another train coming the opposite way, and that they would PARK, apparently so that the conductors could have a little conversation.

Now, I’m sure it was an important conversation, as I have never seen that sort of thing before. And I’m glad it happened at 9:30, rather than 7:30. I had my tunes in the car, and air conditioning, and was able to calmly wait the forty minutes it took for the tracks to clear and traffic to proceed again. And fortunately, it was a small-town area, with little traffic.

The people stuck behind me were less laid back about it. I was lucky, in that my appointment was easily changed, and I had a cell-phone with me to do it. I cannot speak for the people stuck behind me. Not everyone has a cell phone, and not every appointment can be easily changed.

At a job I once had, the boss was so annoyed at being frequently delayed by the train nearby, that he had me keep a log, and each time an employee was delayed by the train, for any length of time, they were to report to me, and I would log it. I think he meant to take the information to the rail-road, and demand some changes, or something, but then he retired, so nothing ever came of it.

In other words, “I was delayed by a train” is an excuse that I would always accept, were I a teacher at that college. How dare the teacher accuse a student of being hung over! Even if the student looked hung over, that is no reason for such an accusation. The student could just as easily be legitimately ill, but dragging herself to class because he demands it. Goodness knows, we see enough of that in this world. Germs. Ick.

That was very rude of the professor to do so.

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NostalgicGal June 12, 2013 at 1:20 am

I used to have to commute 20 or more more minutes a day each way for work, and possibly a few hours to go crosstown into next town (major urban) to visit a friend, go to a meeting, doctor appointment, etc.

You took your chances. I happened to be on one of the extendeds where it was through both downtowns and the express connector/commuter besides (total four buses) and happened to have gone through the second downtown and got on my linebus right AFTER the parade wound up for the World Series Winning Team. Because I was about 7 blocks from ‘ground zero’ I managed to get on AND get a seat on a half full bus. By three more blocks it was jammed standing and there were four buses nose to tail at a crawl through the disaster. The city had put on extras but still. We were crawling and people were trying to get on a bus… and all four of the buses were at you could not breathe, well over capacity and the last guy in front trying to stay behind the standline. One fellow forced the door open and stepped onto the steps with a toddler in arms and said he’d been trying to board a bus for well over an hour. The driver had to stop because he was on the steps and turned off the engine to get the guy back off the bus. And the guy was told the bus could not move because he was on the steps. With lots of hot words the guy finally got off and we resumed the inch crawl, with two more busses now joined the conga and all were full. Um, three blocks that way the guy could have gotten the blip out of there, he would have been able to get on one. As it was, we finally crawled the 11 more blocks to where some were starting to get off, and I managed to get up, with telling others I had to, and wormed my way up and got off at my destination. When I made the return four hours later, the area had finally emptied.

Same town, I lived right on one busline, and I kept two cats and my friend and neighbor kept two cats. About a mile up the route was a veterinarian. On a Saturday morning I sometimes DID take two cat carriers with four cats, all ticked off and telling everyone about it, to their vet appointments. They were allowed on because they were under control (in carriers). I would pay for three fares, ask for transfer slips (if asked the driver had to issue them) and take three seats, and put a slip on the handle of each carrier. Now they were paying passengers and paid for the right to use the seat. USUALLY at that hour the bus would be at best half full, but. Sometimes it would be fuller, and someone rarely would ask me to move a carrier. No place to put them without being further in the way, so I would politely point out the carrier paid a fare, and yes, had a right to the seat it was sitting on. Only had one person get irate, and the driver did speak up about find another seat to the person giving me grief. (and it was not standing room).

I had my share of buses in accidents in snowstorms (the white car with snow caked on the back end and turned in front of us on their red, the driver STOOD UP with both feet on the brake and had shifted down and said ‘we’re gonna hit’ and crunch. Car survived, and I did see the whole thing so I got to write out the accident card… delayed us a couple of hours and I missed connection and meeting)
OR the raging rainstorm and we had a slight detour because of them ripping up and re-punching a major artery through downtown and the articulated slid and ran around on a high curb, we had two city buses and two school buses behind that one. The city had finally stopped sending buses that way and we were told an hour or two more to get another bus there to take us away… I walked and was an hour late and mud caked light linen suit to the belt on my skirt…

OP, sorry you have to do the long commute. If it’s not a main feed, those that couldn’t get on may indeed be stranded or be late. It happens in commuting. IF the driver was rolling full, maybe he did or didn’t call in that he was at rafters and they needed to dispatch a pickup… and if funds are tight they probably didn’t send another one. However, city bus lines are ‘on demand’ and if they have the ridership to pay for it they will add the buses. If not it’s make do. That one place I lived there for three and a half years, did not have a car, and about 5 times that I vitally needed one, I could arrange with a car-owning friend. Else I was at the mercy of erratic schedules, accidents, weather, and being ten feet late for the bus. Only thing I can say to those that are running a group trip like that, if they’re running commuters (a few hours in morning then a few hours in evening only) on that route, DO NOT fill up the last one of the runtime.

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Kate June 12, 2013 at 1:58 am

I’m assuming this story takes place in the USA. The school system in the US is, in general, so underfunded that some teachers have to purchase students’ supplies, such as notebooks, out of their own money. It does not surprise me that this school elected to have students take public transport rather than hire a separate bus for the school.

As for their behaviour, ‘loud and obnoxious’ is pretty much kids being kids. Even the most well-behaved class of children can go a bit feral on special occasions like field trips. I’m a student teacher, and on my second teaching placement, I was supervising the school swimming sports. Kids who were normally very quiet got absolutely hyper and I did have to tell off some kids who had never given me trouble before. If anything serious like vandalism was occurring, I would suggest notifying a teacher or bus driver.

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Green123 June 12, 2013 at 2:33 am

OP is missing the point of PUBLIC transport and being very entitled.

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Mer June 12, 2013 at 3:46 am

I have to comment again, and perhaps my point of view is affected by the fact that we do not have school busses of any kind. And renting a buss is 10 to 20 times more expensive even for short trip than using public transportation. But, as we do not have school busses, kids can be “commuters” just as much as anybody else. So perhaps that is why we are quite used to see children alone or in larger groups in our public transportation.

While I in some degree agree with Anonymous about his/her post, I disagree about “adult” environments. I don’t think busses (or other public transportation) or other public areas are in anyway “adult environments”. As they are public areas and children are part of the public. Which means that it is acceptable that baby cries in the bus. It is acceptable that small children are noisier than adults. It might be annoying, as well as adult talking loudly or smelling strongly can be annoying. And I rely solely on public transportation and spend well over 10h per week in them calculating only work related transportation. In addition to that comes any hobby/freetime related trips. I have to say that majority of the irritations I encounter are adults. Kids, usually not a problem, except crying babies but as it’s quite impossible to handle for example dirty diaper in bus, it’s not really anybodys fault and they are sounds of life, as annoying those might sometimes be.

Harmfull behavior is not okay, that should go without saying.

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delislice June 12, 2013 at 6:34 am

My one thought about 40 or so kids all being led onto one bus is that I wonder how the field trip schedule and the bus schedule fell out. If it was logistically simple to divide the kids into two groups and have each group ride a bus, or if it could be scheduled for a non-peak-travel time, that might be helpful. The average-size city bus is going to be very crowded by adding 40 people.

We also don’t know if this was in a big city/popular tourist/convention city like Washington or Philadelphia where residents are used to large groups.

As for bosses/professors accepting lateness reasons… one summer I was doing an internship and the main route had a huge accident that tied up EVERYBODY. The supervisor found out about it when the first two or three people used their cell phones to report their pending lateness, and it was accepted.

In graduate school, on the first day of class one semester, one student came in five or six minutes after class had started. The professor stopped what he was saying and asked him why he was late; the student said he couldn’t find a parking space.

The only parking near the building was a large lot that was also where residential students stashed their cars and the lot was notorious for having few open spaces at any time of the day. Most of us built in time for the possibility of having to park farther away.

The tardy student rightly got the professor’s death stare.

But that’s very different from accusing a student of being hung over. Wow.

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The Elf June 12, 2013 at 7:12 am

While I completely agree with the admin that they have as much of a right to be on the bus as anyone else, I would think concerns of safety and classroom control would prompt field trip organizers to arrange for private transportation as much as possible.

I use the DC metro system every day, for a 90 minute commute, and I’ve seen a LOT of school groups use it. With good reason – once inside DC, it would be easier to use Metro that keep re-loading kids onto buses and re-locating buses. But wow does it disrupt everything. They take up a lot of room, they’re loud, and sometimes they completely misbehave. But that’s the price I pay (one of many) for the dubious pleasure of being a public servant. Well, it’s a living. It works better when you have single chaperones taking charge of smaller groups rather than a few adults and a horde.

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The Elf June 12, 2013 at 7:17 am

I don’t fear groups of kids, but I don’t like crowds, I don’t like noise, and I’m not very fond of kids in the first place. I like some kids, but get any of them in a crowd and the “kid-ness” gets more pronounced. It’s the nature of the beast; I was like that when I was a kid too. It’s one of the many reasons I decided not to have any of my own. When I see a group of kids board my metro car, I switch cars to avoid them. Can’t do that on a bus, but I certainly would attempt to get lost in a book or music so that I could ignore them. I can’t blame the OP for seeing the field trip with a certain amount of dread.

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--Lia June 12, 2013 at 8:16 am

I’m still confused about how a field trip of fare paying children is any different from 40 adults who by chance all happen to show up at a bus stop at the same time. If their behavior is at issue, that’s one thing, but it sounds like the problem is with their lack of planning or their very existence. If a bunch of unrelated adults all wanted to board and pay their fares at the same time, and if the bus, once full, was unable to pick up more passengers, would we blame the adults for making those at the next stop late to their appointments?

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Stella June 12, 2013 at 10:03 am

This is another culture difference I’ve bumped into on this site. Where I’m from (a country in Europe), it’s quite common for schools and kindergartens to use public transport for local school trips. If the trip is farther away, or more than one class participates, then private buses are booked.

Also, while I do agree that the teachers have a responsibility to to make sure the children behave themselves and sit still, I personally feel like children are noisy by nature. If you want them to sit quiet the whole trip, you’re in for a disappointment. Children will chat, and ask questions, and get excited. As long as no one’s shouting or running around, I’d say they’re well-behaved.

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EllenS June 12, 2013 at 11:18 am

I completely fail to understand the logic behind anyone’s objection to these children riding the bus – for *any* reason. They bought tickets. That is what the bus is for, people to ride.
The right to use public transportation is not triaged by having an “important reason” to use the bus. This is entitlement mentality – “get out of my way, I am going to do something important.” If I, as an adult, want to buy a bus ticket to go to lunch, or shopping, or ride around all day for my own amusement, should I avoid getting on a crowded bus because it might make a total stranger feel claustrophobic, or cause the bus to be full for a few stops? What if five, or seven of my girlfriends wanted to go out together? What about tourists? What exactly is the cut-off for what size of group is allowed, and who gets to decide whether my job or errand is more important than yours? Such reasoning is ridiculous.

If you don’t like crowds or noise, or you have a very tight schedule, then the bus is not a great transportation choice for you. This is not a punitive or elitist attitude, it is facing reality. If you don’t like rain, don’t live in Seattle. If mouths gross you out, don’t be a dentist, and if you cannot cope with unpredictable delays or overcrowding, avoid public transportation – or put up with it like everyone else.

Anyone of any age being noisy, shoving, not yielding seats to those who need them, yes these are etiquette questions. Members of the public merely existing in a public place – what is the problem?

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Abby June 12, 2013 at 11:19 am

I agree it was unfortunate if people were late for work or class because they were forced to wait for a later bus, but you don’t have an inherent right to public transportation just because you frequently use it. I have never taken a bus to work, but, living in a northern climate, have frequently suffered a much longer than usual commute while driving, thanks to snow and ice. At least several times a year I have shown up late due to issues beyond my control, and I’ve never been fired for it. Things happen sometimes. If I had an important presentation or meeting where I absolutely had to show up, I would make sure I left in plenty of time, whether that involved taking an earlier bus or making alternate arrangements that day. To suggest that anyone who does not have a destination deemed acceptable by OP must not take up room on a bus is wrong, I think.

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Tsunoba June 12, 2013 at 11:36 am

Haven’t read all the comments, but…

As a college student (who is also employed by said college) that takes the bus to work/school, I’m on the OP’s side. The buses where I live are frequently late to begin with. It’s to the point where if you call to see what the situation is with a late bus, the representative will not tell you until the bus is more than 10 minutes late.

Due to the time it is scheduled to arrive at the school, I can afford those ten minutes. But if it were ten minutes late, and then it skipped me on top of that? Not only would I be upset and angry, but I’d also be guaranteed to be late. I COULD call a taxi, but it takes five minutes minimum to arrive. Furthermore, if I could afford a taxi on a whim, I wouldn’t be taking the bus.

Not to mention, I live in Phoenix, Arizona. At this time of year, arriving 5 minutes early + 10 minute late bus + 5 to 20 minute wait for taxi = 20+ minutes in 100+ degrees fahrenheit weather. An umbrella and water doesn’t decrease the unpleasantness of that situation much.

Onto the other topic of why the OP was “understandably nervous” about that many kids, some of you seem baffled. It’s possible this is part of the aforementioned claustrophobia, and the author misattributed this to “normal” fear instead.

Or it suffered from a re-write error, and the OP had originally mentioned the claustrophobia earlier before he/she decided to mention it later, and forgot to edit a part that referenced that. I’ve done that plenty of times.

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BarensMom June 12, 2013 at 11:46 am

Of course, school children have the same rights as a passenger as the daily commuters. However a field trip is an optional activity – their livelihood does not depend on if they can make it to the museum at 10 a.m.

With transit companies facing budgeting problems, many buses have been cut from the various lines. As a previous poster stated, some lines only have one bus in the a.m. and one in the p.m. If the teacher would have contacted the bus company, the company could have put another bus onto the line to pick up the overflow.

The teacher was in control of what time and how many students she would be putting on that bus – he/she could have contacted the bus company, found out what the peak times were, and adjusted the field trip accordingly. If he/she did not do so, it may very well have caused a multitude of problems for the commuters, all for the sake of an “optional” activity for a group of children who were not facing the possibility of being fired/docked pay/reprimanded, etc.

Think on it – there could have been people fired that day because of a field trip.

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PrettySticks June 12, 2013 at 11:50 am

I think just because something is allowed, or isn’t technically rude, doesn’t mean it isn’t inconsiderate. I mean in the literal sense, as in not considering others.

I will never forget this time when I was meeting with a study group in a McDonald’s in college. The place was dead, and at 9:55pm we all got up to leave. As we’re walking out the door, a school bus pulls up and an entire basketball team plus cheerleaders piles out. The first kid to the door calls back to the others “Perfect – they don’t close until 10!” Then they all rushed in and lined up. Was the basketball team entitled to be there? Sure, the place was technically still open. But was it inconsiderate? I think so, because they had to know they would be keeping the staff well past closing in order to serve all thirty or so of them. It was just the manager and one counter worker there too, and the poor counter worker had literally been taking her nametag off as we were leaving.

Lia, I think the difference is that 40 random adults would not have the expectation of sticking together as a group and all getting on the same bus, which these kids apparently did. I agree with those that suggested the kids should have split into two groups. That would have been more considerate. Though, I will allow, it’s not always possible to be as considerate as you’d like (say, they had a scheduled tour time of 9am or something).

And I used to serve concessions in a theatre (live, not movie). Put me down as groups of children = terrifying.

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