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No Bozos on this bus for COC's next 'Scholarly Presentation'

Save the date: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Posted: February 17, 2009 4:34 p.m.
Updated: February 17, 2009 1:34 p.m.
Have you ever boarded a bus, took one look at the driver sitting on the other side of that yellow line that boldly says "Do Not Cross Yellow Line" and thought to yourself, "I wonder why?"

Ever wonder why certain bus drivers seem agitated, rude or downright mean when passengers cross that hallowed yellow line while others simply smile and make no big deal about it?

Do you wonder about how many of society's boundaries - figurative yellow lines - you and your fellow passengers may come in contact with, cross or adhere to during a simple bus ride or the course of a normal day?

Better yet, have you ever considered what you could learn about society just by taking a bus ride and observing what happens when rules and regulations are applied to small slices of life?

If so, you'll definitely want to get on board and attend one of the most interesting topics to be presented at a College of the Canyons Scholarly Presentation.

By the way, no fares are required for this ride (admission is free!).

Featuring original research and first-hand accounts integrated with a collection of familiar bus-themed songs and movie clips, original photos and videos and a live performance element, the scholarly presentation ‘Busology: Standing Behind the Yellow Line' will take place 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, on the main stage of the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons.

Busology, of course, is a made-up word created for marketing purposes but which, loosely broken down into its word roots means - a study related to buses.

"Everyone has a favorite bus related story, experience or anecdote of their own," said College of the Canyons sociology professor, and presenter Pamela Williams-Paez, who conducted the research for this presentation over a two-and-a-half year period in Seattle.

"So this presentation is definitely something the audience will be able to relate to as we look at some of the theoretical aspects in which sociology can take something as simple as a bus ride and use it to show us the connections between our daily lives and much larger social realities."

Over the course of her research - which included countless hours riding buses at all hours of the day and night, during all seasons and on all routes of service, more than 30 driver interviews, countless hours of onboard observation and a two-and-half week new driver training course - Williams-Paez attempted to baptize herself into the ‘bus driver culture' in order to better understand the occupation and tie it to its larger sociological context.

What she found, and what audience members will learn, is that bus driving is an occupation that places its members on the front lines of a wide variety of social issues and problems, which must be confronted, dealt with or incorporated into the driver's daily routine.

"Most of the public thinks ‘oh this is a snap job, all you have to do is open the door and collect fare, how easy,'" said Williams-Paez, "but in fact it's probably one of the most stressful occupations out there next to law enforcement. And part of that stress comes from dealing with social issues that drivers really don't have any control over."

Explaining that variables such as a transit service area's ridership demographic, economic climate, homeless population, crime rate and potential for on-board instances of violence and assault are all issues a driver must take into account, Williams-Paez points to an ongoing tension between drivers and riders that helps explain why drivers may develop a reputation for seeming angry, grumpy and unhelpful behind the wheel.

"Under these conditions it's impossible for them to keep all the rules, so they look for shortcuts," Williams-Paez said, "and one shortcut is to classify their ridership, sort of size them up psychologically, to determine ‘ok this is probably a good passenger, this is probably a less favorable one that I definitely want to stay behind that yellow line.'"

Designed to both inform and entertain, Williams-Paez is confident that audience members will leave the ‘Busology' presentation with a greater understanding of ‘bus culture,' a deeper appreciation for the value of sociological study and a new context to place their favorite bus-related stories, memories, jokes and anecdotes.

"I'm trying to make this presentation something really fun for people to be a part of," said Williams-Paez, "but I'm also trying to give the community an empathetic view of the world drivers work in, what they are up against and what that can tell us about our society."

The Scholarly Presentation is sponsored by the College of the Canyons Foundation and the reception following the event is hosted by the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees.


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