Though the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to
—— Bob Dylan
“It’s two dollars ma’am, I’m sorry I can’t make change for your five.”
“You do not have?”
“It’s the rules ma’am, I’m sorry. I told you the last time and we are enforcing them now. It’s like the city bus. You need exact change to get on the city bus and we are the same. It’s two dollars for you and your PCA rides for free.”
My passengers then speak in their native language. The woman with the five dollar bill then opens the bag of the other woman (sitting in a wheelchair) pulls out a small purse and hands it to her. She then takes out some one dollar bills and hands me two of them.
“Thank you very much ma’am.”
I drive on to take my passengers to their destinations. I’ve transported them many times before and this is the first time I’ve had to enforce the no change policy. The management has been getting on us to do so and for a few months now, I’ve been making all my passengers aware of it.
It was just last week (more like four days ago) that I had this same talk with these same women. I made change that time and reminded them of the policy. This is the first time I’ve had to be so strict about it.
The two women chat as we go, I hear no animosity in their voices. I feel I’ve been polite and respectful in how I’ve been enforcing this and the other policies in the current spotlight and tonight’s example is no exception.
There are several policies that we’ve been recently reminded to enforce and I have no intention of refusing to do so. I’m happy and confident that The Handi-Van management does not expect me to be so rigid about the rules that I can not serve my passengers the way I know I must.
We arrive at the first destination. The woman who had tried to get me to make change for her five dollar bill gets off and the two children riding as PCAs get off as well.
“Wait a minute.” I say quickly to the woman still on board in her wheelchair. “Isn’t the other child your PCA?” The woman and two children keep walking away from the van.
“Yes” she says “but my grandson want sleep his auntie’s house tonight.”
“But ma’am… your PCA must accompany you to your destination. Your PCA is your helper, that is why the PCA rides for free. You are a passenger and the other woman is a passenger. That’s why you pay the two dollars. You said the two children are PCAs so they ride for free. But if both children get off at the same destination, one of them becomes a companion and must pay an additional two dollars.”
“I understand, I’m sorry… next time I do.”
“Thank you very much.”
We go on to the home of the woman in the wheelchair without speaking, but without any sense of hard feelings. I know she was already aware of this aspect of the PCA policy. I’ve had to strictly enforce it with others while she was on board. I will probably have to do this again, only next time I will insist and enforce it strictly with her. She will probably comply without complaint.
I don’t understand why it is this way. I only know that this is the way it is. This woman and the others I pick up with her, are from a culture I understand the least of all the others on this island. Since they do not interact with me in any way other than polite formality, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I get what little information I can about their culture online and from my coworkers but the online information is of course not experiential and my coworkers (I’m sorry to say) have little to say that is helpful to the kind of understanding I’m looking for.
Perhaps if I work at this job long enough I will understand better since the youngest children of these recent immigrants look at me with those fresh and inquisitive eyes. Their parents and grandparents quickly brush them away but I can see they will be more interactive with the greater culture here than even their older siblings.
Children do grow after all.
Thems the rules.