Thursday, May 27, 2010

Not worth spit

I must admit, I have little experience with spit in the workplace.

Sure, there was that time at Wang when I encountered a major hawked up loogie in the stairwell.

And when she got laid off there, my colleague and friend Cathy rolled down her car window and spit at the Wang Towers as she left the parking lot for the last time.

While I don’t think back on the former spit-related incident with much other than a shudder of disgust, the thought of Cathy, in her smart business dress and pumps – she always looked great – spitting at Wang still makes me laugh, even after 20+ years.

But there was, of course, no one in her line of fire.

Other than that, my career has been more or less spit free.

Which is not to say that I haven’t encountered hostility, with plenty of times when people metaphorically spitting up, on, and at me and my ideas.

But actually being spit on.


Nor have I been spit on in my personal life, other than an occasional accidental saliva misting from an overexcited friend.

So I really don’t know what it’s like to be a NYC bus driver – and, according to The New York Times, last year there were at least 51 of them - who’s gotten spit on by an irate passenger.

I imagine it’s disgusting, and that you feel at least moderately, if benignly, assaulted. It probably takes more than one shower – even if you use Lava, followed up by a good scrub-down with a cotton ball soaked in isopropyl alcohol – before you stop thinking that – ugh! – there could still be some residual spit on you.  Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!  Far worse than dog lips touched mine, I’d say.

Plus there’s the anger behind that spit, the hostility. That’s gotta take a few minutes/hours/days, even, to get over.

Still, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal that you’d actually have to take much paid leave to get over it, does it?

But for the 51 spittees – fully one third of the bus drivers who took post-assault paid leave last year -

…the encounters, while distressing, appeared to take a surprisingly severe toll: the 51 drivers who went on paid leave after a spitting incident took, on average, 64 days off work — the equivalent of three months with pay. One driver, who was not identified by the authority, spent 191 days on paid leave.

Okay, maybe people need more time than it takes to whip out a Kleenex and a bottle of Purell and give themselves a bit of a mop up. After all, if the situation had gotten to the point where someone actually spit, I’m sure that the bus driver may have been experienced a bit of gut tightening and heart palpitation.  And if a small-sized driver was spit on by an agitated gigunta, that must be out and out scary.

But an average of 64 days?

Ah, that does seem a bit extreme, unless the driver was experiencing other mental health issues, and the bit o’ spit just pushed them right over whatever edge they were teetering on.

Of course, once someone takes 191 days to get over being spit at, those taking a mere 10, 20, 30, 40, 64 days no doubt feel justified.

Still, this seems to be just a little feather-bedding-ish, a little ‘because I can’, doesn’t it?  Over 80 drivers overall “reported being spat upon in the last year,” so some folks are apparently robust enough to just shake it off.

It’s apparently a tough offense to prosecute, but the way. A cop has to see the spitter in action before he can issue a summons.

London and other cities have found a novel solution: collecting the DNA of the offending spitters.

One driver who, having been spit on by someone who didn’t want to pay his fare, just cleaned himself up at a Mickey D’s and completed his appointed rounds, doesn’t, however, look down on those who take time off.

[Raul] Morales said it did not occur to him to take an extended absence to recover. “Everybody has their own tolerance to these things,” he said.

I would hope that I would have a Moralesian, keep calm and carry on response to being spit on, but you never know.

Things in New York may be getting worse, as most of the upcoming public transpo service cuts are to buses, rather than subways.

Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck gettin’ dirty and gritty.

Ugh! That might not be dirt and grit on the back of the necks of all those Ralph Kramdens out there.



John said...

This is a tough one. But remember, some of that leave time is spent on all of the required workers comp/HR policy and return-to-work stuff that is now required (like drug tests, fitness for duty, Doctor lines, etc.) Throw in a few holidays and weekends, and you start seeing where some of this problem extends and that it is a shared issue between the agency and the employees.

Nellie said...

Now that title is a hoot... certainly did get my attention, as I'm working on a foreclosure article - and my intended title was exactly the same. So I'll just have to change it, unless the title is just too good to ignore.