• By: OLM Staff

Bette’s Etiquette Beat: OCivility and Bus Etiquette

Letitia Baldridge, aka The Doyenne of Decorum, was an American etiquette expert and public relations executive. However, she is probably best known for serving as Jackie’s personal social secretary during the Kennedy administration. Affectionately called “Tish” by her nearest and dearest, Ms. Baldridge passed away last October and, in my opinion, the world lost a true champion of manners and civility. In reading Metro’s Charles the Butler’s homage to Letitia Baldridge last fall, I was comforted by her philosophy of etiquette and am pleased it is the same one shared by Charles the Butler and myself. “There are major CEOs who do not know how to hold a knife and fork properly, but I don’t worry about that as much as the lack of kindness.” A true lady of manners – rest in peace, Tish.

Recent reports in Ottawa newspapers heralded that OC Transpo has the green light for the $34.2 million Presto card system with the rollout to riders beginning this month. An even greater incentive will be present after July 1 when the fare prices are scheduled to rise. Coincidentally (or a good marketing strategy?) the introduction of the Presto transit initiative has come at a time when OC Transpo’s riding a wave of popularity. According to a 2012 ridership survey, 73% of transit customers gave the National Capital Region’s public transit service a “positive rating” with 61% of non-transit customers echoing the sentiment. Complaints are down too. So with customer satisfaction at the highest it has been in three years and the dawn of Presto, it stands to reason that more people will opt for public transit. And increased numbers on transit means more potential for lapses in the 3Bs of Bad Bus Behaviour.  So what would Letitia have to say about the trials and tribulations of transit riders in the NCR in 2013? I will do my best to emulate her wisdom in this month’s blog.


One fare, one seat

It is a simple rule, but it seems to be broken constantly on the many OC Transpo routes every day. If you pay for one fare, is it okay for you to bring along two friends for a free ride? Absolutely not. So it is not okay to put /purses/ knapsacks, sports equipment, kitty carriers, groceries (which when piled all together can be the size of another person) on a second seat. It is especially unforgivable when others are standing because seats meant for human derrières are occupied by non-human entities (no offence to cat owners, I have two) that would be easily accommodated on a lap or the floor. I think I can say that at the end of the day, all that we want is what we have paid for – a seat. And if by chance you have paid two fares, one for you and one for your parcel – politely advise me of this and I will gladly move my tired posterior elsewhere. Until then, please keep your stuff in your paid space and I will do the same. You have my word.

On, Off and In-between

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They all have their exits and their entrances”  These words that Shakespeare penned for his play As You Like It over 400 years ago, dare I say, have their relevance  in 21st century bus travel. Seriously, getting on and off the bus is akin to a square dance: “step back two and to the left; step forward two and to the right; step up and to the back…” you get the gist. I would suggest that the unwritten rule for transportation systems all around the world is – be it trains, planes, automobiles, or buses, let people off first. As cited above, Willie supports me on this one.


The point here is that we all have somewhere to go, and usually in a hurry, so let’s make our “exits and entrances” as quick, hassle-free and pleasant as possible. And your kind adherence to said protocol reduces delays which will help to ensure that the nice OC Transpo driver (and they are nicer according to the survey) stays on schedule. So I have briefly addressed the getting on and getting off; now a few words about a few “on-board blunders.”  OC Transpo has put up those delightful yellow (easy to see) progressive signs kindly asking passengers to: Please move to the back of the bus. Keep moving. A little further back. Thank you for moving back. I am specifically calling out the front-of-the-bus cloggers, the door-blockers, careless leg positioners, the loud talkers, the diners, the personal groomers, etc. So all of you who contribute to our collective public transit experience as being less than civilized, stop it! Besides as Toronto Grid writer Kim Hughes so eloquently put in her recent piece on the erosion of Toronto Transit etiquette: “Have people simply forgotten the proper rules of conduct or is flagrant ass-clownery now hip?” Finally, if there is a line-up, go to the back of it. Always.


According to Wikipedia, behemoth originally referred to a beast in the Bible. Now,  in a metaphoric sense, the word is often used to describe “any extremely large or powerful entity.” In an early Bette’s Etiquette Beat (January 2012), I wrote about pet peeves and received an email from an OLM blog reader that cited one of her peeves was people who insisted on leaving their backpacks on while standing on board. Now, if one were sitting, it would be removed, since it would be uncomfortable for the owner. Is it not equally uncomfortable for riders in close proximity who have to duck when you decide to make a sudden 180 in order to avoid a TKO? On top of all the other boorish bus behaviour one has to put up with, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back is a close encounter of the MEC  kind, a Marc Jacobs hobo purse or overstuffed diaper bag. Take your pick. All are on alert. And by the way, a mumbled “I’m sorry” is little solace when one has been rendered into a semi-unconscious state by a canvas-covered wrecker’s ball. By no means is this request meant to tread on your right to carry an oversized bag, but when in close quarters with other human beings – be it an elevator, movie lineup or OC Transpo bus – disarm the heavy artillery and delegate it to the floor in front of you. This small gesture, I guarantee, will make the journey a lot more enjoyable for all of us.


“Come on, Be Happy”

The title of this segment may be familiar to some readers as it was the theme song from one of my fave 1970s sitcoms. I would be remiss with this month’s blog if I did not include a nod to one of the most colourful and fun buses I know: The Partridge Family Bus. From 1970 to 1974, thousands of youngsters (myself included) raced home and watched the adventures of the Partridges, a musical quintet, who sang their hearts out while travelling on their groovy mode of transport. For the time, it was 30 minutes of pure escapism each afternoon after a mundane day of school. I am not suggesting that OC Transpo riders break into song on their regular commute (while some do, but that is a topic for another blog), but if you take anything away from this blog, it is to be kinder to each other when circumstances find you on the same bus. Whether saying an ”excuse me, please ” when trying to pass, keeping your voice down when talking on the phone (same goes for the volume of your iPod), moving your bags off a seat for someone to sit down (before they ask you), are a few of the most common infractions mentioned above. Finally, when you board and disembark, acknowledge the OC Transpo driver by making eye contact and afford him/her the appropriate words of courtesy. This could be hello, please, thank you or even an appreciative smile. You may very well make their day and even your own. I am sure that show of etiquette would make the grand Ms. Baldridge very happy indeed.

With those words, I’ll sign off for this blog and look forward to resuming our journey through the maze of decorum do’s and don’ts next time. Glad you dropped in – you are always welcome.

This month’s blog is dedicated to all the wonderful men and women of OC Transpo who on a daily basis do their best to get the thousands of NCR commuters to their destinations safe and sound.

Top Photo: Andrew King –andrewkingstudio.com 

TTC Vintage Posters from the  City of Toronto Archives