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Opinion >  Column

The Slice: Road rage? Won’t find it on the bus

Here’s how I know there are a lot of decent people in Spokane.

I have been a now-and-then STA rider for about 20 years. And I cannot recall ever having seen a bus driver or passengers exhibit impatience when a wheelchair rider wanted to board.

I’m sure it happens. But I haven’t seen it.

Given the selfish, hurried way so many people act these days, that strikes me as amazing.

OK, let me be clear. It would, of course, be wrong for people to get bent out of shape about the bus driver having to put down the ramp and reconfigure a few of the front seats to accommodate the wheelchair user.

It usually takes just a couple of minutes. Moreover, those who rely on wheelchairs have an absolute right to this.

Still, people behave badly all the time. The fact that it would be utterly inappropriate to sigh loudly or roll one’s eyes when the bus stops for a wheelchair rider is no guarantee that people wouldn’t do it.

I think there are two reasons I haven’t witnessed that.

First, riding the bus is more relaxing than driving a car. You can get lost in your daydreams and ignore the traffic. You don’t find yourself contemplating cutting in ahead of another car so you can get to the next stoplight half a second sooner.

Bus riders are not morally superior. I just get the feeling that they are more chilled out than many motorists. So when confronted with the prospect of a two-minute delay, stress alarms don’t go off.

Another reason I think people take the wheelchair delays in stride is that young people have shown us all how to behave in these situations.

In a sense, they have become society’s role models.

Inclusion and acceptance of differences is second nature to legions of young people. It would not occur to them to get all pouty or shoot angry glances at their watch because the bus driver had to get out of his seat and hook up a few safety straps.

To them, that wheelchair rider isn’t a problem. He or she is a person. And the younger generations have been taught since daycare that people deserve respect even when they aren’t exactly like the majority.

Some of the Jasons and Caitlins in our midst might need to pull up their pants and take a break from texting. But there’s nothing wrong with what’s in their hearts.

OK, maybe it’s sort of sad to cite simple decency as a cause for optimism. And patting people on the back for calmly “tolerating” wheelchair delays runs the risk of sounding condescending.

But I’ll take encouragement wherever I can find it.

•Today’s Slice question: If some drivers of extra large rigs are suspected of compensating for personal shortcomings, do people assume that those behind the wheel of compacts are qualified to be porn stars?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; fax (509) 459-5098; e-mail pault@spokesman.com. I’ll bet I am not the only one who has not seen any of the “Best Picture” nominees.

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