“THIS IS BULLSHIT!, I heard someone shout from the back of the bus. Man! I heard that over Nine inch Nails that I had blasting full volume through my earbuds. THAT guy is seriously ticked off. I knew what the trouble was. On a day where the temperatures were close to 100 degrees, several of our city buses had broken down. The one I was currently riding in was unable to go over 20 MPH.

I had very nearly passed out while waiting almost two hours for a bus to show up, so I understood the frustration the man was feeling. It was his REACTION to the frustration that left me baffled. He continued to curse, eventually focusing his fury on the driver and it wasn’t long before other riders were joining in on what I can only describe as bullying. Suddenly, I felt a flash of white hot anger course through me.

“HEY! Do you think this is FUN for her? Do you think that she broke the bus herself? Maybe just for shits and giggles she jacked some wires? She is doing the best she can in an impossible situation so BACK OFF!”

My heart was pounding at the ferocity of my reaction. Calm down, Alice. You’re hot and exhausted and not thinking clearly. Still, the small but vocal passengers piped down and the look of gratitude and relief in the bus driver’s eyes was unmistakable. What had provoked such a vocal and immediate reaction? At first, I thought it was simply my gut level aversion to bullying in ANY situation. Upon later reflection however, I realized that it went deeper than that. I RELATED to that bus driver in that moment.

As a direct care workers, we know EXACTLY how it feels to be held accountable by family members, office staff, even our own residents for situations that are beyond our control. We are the faces they see every day and we make good enough scapegoats.

It’s a counterproductive mentality that is easy in the short term but inevitably causes complications, as we are so busy trying to appease people about situations over which we have little power, that we sometimes neglect those situations to which we can actually contribute and actively offer solutions. Again, it goes back to the difference of what the reality is verses what it appears to be.

For me, one of the greatest blessings derived from being a direct care worker is that the lessons that I learn on the job, I often have the opportunity to apply to my life outside of work and vice versa. My encounter on the bus reminded me how very important it is to step outside of our own little worlds, our own little circle of irritants and personal frustrations in order to see clearly. Otherwise, we run the risk of remaining stuck in that futile cycle of blaming or being blamed. As for the bus driver, well, I hope that in that rough moment in what had to be a terrible day, she felt just a little less desperate and alone. After all, being the scapegoat can be terribly lonely business.