Francesca’s Footprints – Have a Nice Day & Watch Your Step

“Have a nice day and watch your step!”

I ride buses when I am in the U.S. and pretty much everywhere else.

Every single time I cannot help but notice how nice and customer friendly the bus drivers in the States are. One morning, for example, we were on our way to the Washington, DC train station, schlepping lots of luggage, it was nice that the lady driver “leaned” her bus to help us get on board.

Francesca's Favorite Bus at Union Station in Better Weather

Francesca's Favorite Bus at Union Station in Better Weather

She greeted every single passenger and did not answer her cell phone when it rang. Why am I noticing all this? Because I am Florentine. I live in the historic center and I avoid buses as much as I can – to the point of getting soaked in the rain by riding my motorino just to avoid Florentine buses.

Let me explain for those unfamiliar with the Florence ATAF system: On our Italian buses cell phone calls are always answered. Questions about stops are not answered. Speed limits are not respected. Drivers roar in to halt at the posted stops and brake abruptly at all traffic lights or during the usual dodging of double parked cars, known to all Italian byways. Just take a moment to view these spectacular circus events that were filmed by  passengers in Italy and posted on YouTube: here, here and here.

Buses in the Renaissance City

ATAF Bus in the Renaissance City

Let’s go back to that morning in Washington, DC to the beautiful African American woman driving the bus, with her long painted nails, and friendly smile. It was pouring down rain. We asked her whether there would be a stop very near the train station. She said we would have to cross the street, but then she offered to take us to her final deposit stop inside the back of Union Station so that we wouldn’t be soaked. When we got there, she explained precisely how to get to the train tracks, smiled and said goodbye.

I thanked her profusely. Smiling, she said: “This is not part of my job. This is the way I am. Have a great day!”

Now I think: either I am very lucky and always find happy drivers when I am in the United States (both in Washington and New York City), or bus drivers are happier there than in Italy, or it is just a matter of general fabulous customer service?

Cross-town Bus in NYC

Cross-town Bus in NYC

In the end if you think about it, doesn’t it take the same amount of calories to smile or be grim? Sometimes I have tried to thank the bus driver in Florence, and I got a look like I was a strange lunatic passenger.

And so I will go on riding my motorino, rain or shine in the Renaissance Disneyland where I happen to have been born by mistake, it seems.

Have a nice day, and DO watch your step!

4 thoughts on “Francesca’s Footprints – Have a Nice Day & Watch Your Step

  1. Oh my! I had no idea. I thought the driver along the coast was bad, but the guy with two cell phones is really astounding!

    When I first began taking buses here in Los Angeles, I was terribly worried that I would get lost, not know where to get off, etc. My mom said “Just tell the driver where you want to go. He’ll help you and tell you what you need to know.” She was right. Italy, I guess, is something else!

  2. I’m somewhat surprised as to Northern Italian bus drivers (whether all or some) not having the discipline to fully focus on their public driving. I have generally found the Northern Italian temperament & reserve to be much more ‘Nordic Roman’ than those of the lower peninsula.

    In America, there remains the residual Anglo-Saxon reserve for behaviour (especially in the Southern states). Hence, the disciplined & focused approach upon their public driving (on average).

    As for in Madrid: would anyone know if such habits with mobile phones have affected her bus drivers? It’s been a number of years since my last visit.

  3. Ho letto il tuo Post. Secondo me sei esagerata, non sono fan dell’ATAF, ma scrivere così crudelmente non e’ giusto, devi tener presente il temperamento italiano.
    Natalia

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