Locked on the 105

The Night an STM Bus Driver Held Me Captive

Well, tonight I called the cops on a bus driver. Yes. The driver of the 105, bus number 22-288, departing from Concordia’s Loyola campus, held me captive on his bus at my stop.

I was the only passenger left; he closed the doors, parked the bus, illuminated the out of service sign and told me I was not going anywhere. This happened after I had requested that he lower the bus when I got on at Loyola. He looked me up and down and said: “Vous êtes pas capable de prendre la marche?” I stared at him. I said, “Are you going to lower it?”

He said, “S’il vous plait?” I stared at him. He reluctantly lowered it. I sat at the front of the bus and we departed. He said, “You could have said please.” In French. I said, “It’s not up to you to ask whether or not I can take a step.” In English. He said, “Vous pouvez parler en français.” I said, “Yes I could.” He sassed me. I sassed back.

At my stop, someone was getting off first. I sat down to wait and hit record on my phone because I had a feeling this was not over, and then I found out that I was right. The driver got up out of his seat, came and leaned over me, and said that I was not polite. He said that he has children and he’s teaching them to be polite. I said, “Oh now you’re comparing me to your kids? That’s demeaning.” I told him that it is his job to lower the bus and ramp whenever asked, regardless of what a person looks like. I was angry. He was threatening to call the cops. He had closed the doors, making it impossible for me to get off the bus. I was locked on the bus. He was going to call the cops? Fuck no!

I dialed 9-1-1 and told the operator I was being held on a city bus against my will. I told her where I was and the bus number and she said she’d send a car. After hearing me speak very loudly, in English, to an emergency dispatch centre, the driver opened the doors of the bus. Imagine that. He got off and talked to the driver of another 105 who had pulled over to look out for his union brother. I waited on the bus for the cops. “Let’s do this shit,” I said to myself and to my recording cell phone, “fuck this. Let’s see what the cops have to say about a male bus driver locking a woman alone with him on a bus late at night.”

The cops came to talk to the bus drivers, completely ignoring me. “Does anyone want to hear what I have to say?” One cop told me to go away—over there. The other, shorter, shittier cop grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away, and when he realized I was audio recording him he took my phone, stopped the recording, turned off my phone and wouldn’t give it back to me. After having a chat with the driver the cop confronted me, saying if I “can’t live in the society,” that was my problem. He had my bag, including my wallet, and he threw it in the mud. He told me to go home.

“Ma’am, go home. You’re off the bus now.” As though I am the problem. I am a hysterical, crazy bitch who should quiet down and disappear. I did something wrong by calling the police when my security was in danger. “Go home, ma’am, go home now. Back off. When I tell you to back off, you back off.” Me: “Don’t touch me, you can’t touch me.” Cop: “If you don’t follow my order I can touch you. Back off. That’s an order.”

An older STM cop took me to sit down in his cruiser and take notes on my side of the story. I recounted the whole thing—how I didn’t answer the driver’s inappropriate question about my physical “capabilities”—and he took that as an opportunity to hold me hostage and reprimand me.
I grilled him: “Who, according to the STM, is entitled to accessibility and who is not deemed disabled enough for those features?” He did not answer.

I asked who gets this report. He dodged my question. He asked what my disability is. I asked him about protocol when a complaint is filed. He told me that I should consider taking Transport Adapté. I repeated how scary it was to be locked on a bus with an angry, aggressive man. He offered to drive me home. I declined. We got out of the cruiser, out of earshot of his bitchy young white Quebec-supremacist lady cop partner with a swishy ponytail. He told me his mother is “handicapped” too, that she uses a wheelchair and she has a hard time getting anywhere, and it’s not just the STM. He said that this is a hard moment and it will pass. I said yes, discrimination is everywhere.

Yes, this moment may pass, but actually, this happens every day. As I sit writing this with a strong impulse to destroy something and eat chocolate almonds, I ask myself: now what? Now, I keep trying. Keep resisting. I choose civil disobedience over quietly taking whatever abuse the STM throws at me. Now, I keep working with my comrades in Accessibilize Montreal, and we ask others to join us.

Now we need you to be with us as we speak out, as we take direct action, as we get harassed, as we get abused, by the STM and the SPVM. We need you to stand by us, between us, and the people in uniform, so that this daily abuse is no longer kept a secret. We need to put an end to the daily violence hurled at us just because we attempt to access transit. Now we need to accessibilize the STM because they won’t do it themselves.

RETRACTION: The Link would like to acknowledge the criticism surrounding the graphic published with the “Locked on the 105” article in the opinions section of Volume 35, Issue 25. We understand that the graphic is a misrepresentation of the Black community and that it perpetuates the stereotype of an angry black man scaring a white child. The graphic should have been flagged at the editing stage. The Link regrets the error and has retracted the image. It can still be found in our archives.