Avoiding entitlement (aka Don't bother, it's okay)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/09/20 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/09/20/4969758.aspx

Absopositively nothing technical whatsofreakingever. 

Over the last few months I have probably taken the bus more than any previous time in my life since the bus was an American Flyer taking me to Beachwood Middle School.

I just found myself needing to get places that I wanted to have the scooter but did not want to deal with paying to park the car -- like downtown Seattle.

Fer instance at TypeCon. And a bunch of other places. The most recent one just the other dat, as I headed home after dropping off my car to get the roof fixed.

But I found out something weird during these time.

No one ever asked me to pay a fare. Not once the entire time.

Now I had a FlexPass which might occasionally have been in plain sight, but usually it was in my pocket. And I'm just trying to figure out why no one even asked....

It's not like I am a no-frills passenger, either. The bus has to lose some seats because of the whole accessibility thing, and the driver has to stop to help strap the scooter in (I usually try to do it myself but it's awkward and the driver ends up coming over before I am finished).

The three times I actually went out of way to show the FlexPass, each time the driver said some variation of "don't bother, it's okay."

Don't bother, it's okay.


Don't bother, it's okay.

I am really not sure how I feel about this.

On the one hand, I'm annoyed.

I mean, I have the damn FlexPass and even if I didn't I wouldn't have minded paying the fare anyway.

But on the other hand, maybe the drivers figured a favor is being done. Something that probably makes them feel better.

If I correct them (or really in any way take my anger about them assuming whatever they were assuming) then they will feel worse, may be embarrassed, and maybe they won't do it the next time.

Do I even know what they are assuming? Probably not.

And maybe somebody worse off, living off SSDI and barely scraping by, really was depending on this favor, this weird unwritten (till this blog post now?) entitlement that I never asked for and never needed.

You know what it's about? 


My trouble here is pride.

I mean, I don't want to take advantage. And more importantly, I don't want to feel like someone is giving me some kind of charity.

And because of that, which is totally about me, I was not seeing someone trying to be nice, I was seeing pity that I doubt was really even there.

Totally whack, and I mean that in the worst possible sense (assuming it still means something bad? I lose track of that kind of crap, I probably should have asked Claire or Trisha while they were around!).

I have to get this chip off my shoulder, though. I am living my life, and whenever I take the time to notice I am actually enjoying it.

And I'm hardly living the life of Walter Mitty in this blog -- I am doing stuff then writing about it.

What was the lesson from Ferris Bueller's Day Off again? Oh yeah, "Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

I'm not entitled, at all -- but if people want to act like I am, that's cool. As long as I realize that isn't about me, that's about them. And just enjoy what life offers....


This post brought to you by(U+2169, a.k.a. ROMAN NUMERAL TEN)

nksingh on 20 Sep 2007 5:07 AM:

I ride the bus into work pretty often and it's often the case that the driver doesn't really look at the FlexPass at all.  Once I was in a phone conversation (Rude, I know) and didn't even realize that I had made no effort to show the card until long after I left the bus.  

If you're on a bus with a lot of Microsofties or are getting on at the OTC perhaps they figure you have a flexpass.  The drivers certainly aren't paid to care about it.  All I'm saying is that there might be another explanation besides the fact that you're on a scooter.

orcmid on 20 Sep 2007 2:17 PM:

There are a couple of things I have learned about the drivers and the current rules.  First, drivers are apparently being coached not to challenge people about fares and passes.  It doesn't seem to have spread through the system consistently (think of the inertia in any enterprise).  There is a trend in the world to have bus operators separated from fare handling altogether and rely on honor systems (plus spot on-board arrival of inspectors).  This seems to be better for the drivers, and that is very important, and also for the passengers and the ambience of bus travel.

Also, if you did not have the pass that Microsoft provides its employees, I believe you would still be entitled (that word) to a special pass as part of the move to encourage those with mobility limitations such as yours to be able to get around and to partake fully.  Maybe a way to look at it is that it is offered by your fellow citizens to balance the effort it takes for you to get out and about, and to encourage you in doing that.  It's an appreciation for your participation in society.

Odd, I know that I ride the metro system far more than I did even a few years ago, and having a senior citizen reduced-fair pass seems to have encouraged me to become a habitual rider.  Now riding buses (and trains) is my clear preference for travel.  It has also helped my spouse and I to operate extremely well with only one household automobile.

(This does mean that I was out of the house 7 hours last night in order to hear Herb Sutter talk for about 2 hours, but that was worth it and the travel was a pleasant break for me.  I even read more of the book that I now have autographed by Herb and Andrei Alexandrescu.)

Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Sep 2007 4:27 PM:

This does help confirm that I am on the right track when I say that it's not about me. :-)

Though I do have trouble with feeling "entitled" here. I was exposed to chicken pox when I was six (assuming that was the original retrovirus triggerr) and as a result am entitled to ride the bus for free? Hmmm......

Mikkin on 20 Sep 2007 10:59 PM:

I am "entitled" to a senior discount at many establishments. I rarely flash a card to claim the discount, unless the amount seems material. More often than not I get the discount without asking, just because I look like a mature person. I know some people would be positively offended by some imagined presumption of aged decrepitude or destitution, but I don't mind if businesses have reasons for doing this.

In my starving-college-student days I could never seem to scrape together enough cash to buy a monthly bus pass, so I always paid the trip-fare and bought transfer tickets from the driver. If it was a long way to the transfer point the tickets could expire before making the connection. Some officious drivers would not take a recently expired transfer ticket. Other drivers would take it without comment. Some proactively put extra time on it at the outset so I would not be double-charged if they might not reach the transfer point on time.

Was I "entitled" to expect the bus to run on schedule and make the connection? Yes, but that didn't make it happen. Were officious drivers "entitled" refuse a transfer if the first leg of the trip ran late? Yes, under the rules, and I never objected. Were generous drivers "entitled" to be helpful, even if I could afford it and did not ask for charity?

Michael, I think the drivers are "entitled" to be helpful. Try to be charitable by letting them.

orcmid on 22 Sep 2007 12:53 PM:

@Michael: Funny about the chicken-pox entitlement.  Well, I was born in 1939 and it is not that but my present condition (and yours) with regard to the reduced-fare offer.  I also like that it helps me not be behind the wheel.  I am not too proud to think that I am not such a sharp driver any more and at some point I should not be driving at all.

 I want a big party when I celebrate the 50th anniversary of my first line of code next May though.

@Mikkin: I like the use of "charitable."  I think Michael has much grace.  Still, being charitable is something all of us could look within to find more of.  Nice.

Michael S. Kaplan on 23 Sep 2007 10:42 PM:

It is an excellent point, even ignoring the fact that I should endeavor to not be bitterer than I need to, if not assuming the best in so many people, at least not assuming the worst. Everyone deserves at least something of a break if they are doing something nice!

go to newer or older post, or back to index or month or day