This week I was catching a bus when I was assaulted by a bus driver and then spat on in the face. For what? For standing up for myself and my right to be on that bus.
It started that morning when I stood at the bus stop in the hot Maltese sun for nearly half an hour. There was no shelter at the bus stop for me to take shade under and I was sweating uncontrollably. I continued to check the time, although I knew I had arrived five minutes early to ensure myself that I wouldn’t miss it. The bus was 20 minutes late when it finally pulled up to the stop. I was alone at the bus stop so when the driver opened the doors for a passenger to disembark, naturally I walked onto the bus. The driver began to order me off the bus. Confused, I gestured at the passenger who had just stepped off, telling the driver that there was clearly space for me. He shouted angrily at me to get off the bus. I listened and stepped down to the pavement, however, angered by the unfair situation, I continued to argue. The driver then got out of the bus and followed me to the pavement.
He then reached for me, pressing his finger hard into the soft spot at the base of my neck, cursing me, and then spit in my face. His saliva went all over my face and hair – I even felt it spew into my mouth. It was literally the most disgusting thing I had ever experienced.
Terrified, I followed him back onto the bus, demanding the number to his manager. He just continued shouting at me to get off. My voice shaking, trying hard to sound brave, I turned to the passengers and asked who had just seen what happened. Nobody said a single word. One woman even shrugged her shoulders. I felt completely alone. I stormed off of the bus and took the license plate number. I was going to do everything in my power to have this man caught. I had never been so disrespected in my life.
I stood on the side of the road, sobbing uncontrollably and gagging. If my stomach hadn’t been empty that morning, surely I would have vomited. I was gagging over and over again from the feeling of someone else’s saliva being spat into my mouth. I phoned someone close to me and attempted to tell him what had just happened although my voice was shaky and I was nearly hyperventilating. He was there in minutes.
We drove straight to the police station to report this relentless act. Completely disheveled and traumatized, I tried explaining what had happened to the police. Once again, between quick, sharp hyperventilating breaths I managed to get my story out of my mouth. The police were quick to react. Several of them picked up telephones and within minutes they had someone on the case.
We were then sent to the clinic for a shock report, where I once again had to describe what had happened. I felt brave before those words escaped my mouth but as soon as I had to relive the experience a third time, my chest gave out and I was gasping for breath behind my tears. I felt like such a weak person, trembling at the thought of my repulsive experience. Although it was now over, the process of reliving it was tearing apart my confidence one story at a time.
When the doctor finished his check-up he handed us a trauma certificate, which was to be brought to the officer investigating my case. It’s kind of a funny thing really – a certificate to prove that you’ve had the shittiest experience ever, as proof to why you cannot stop hyperventilating.
I handed the trauma certificate to the officer like a child hands a failed test to their mother. Yes, I am the one who was spat on in the face. And once again, I had to go through what had happened. This time I made it further through the story without crying but as soon as my mind pictured that man with his hand on my neck and his saliva all over my face, I burst into tears all over again.
Finally the investigation was underway. Calls were being made to Transport Malta and I expected that the issue would be dealt with soon enough. The officer requested the CCTV camera footage to be sent from Transport Malta and I couldn’t wait for everyone on the case to see what this man had done to me. I was asked several times if I was sure I wanted to go ahead with this. They informed me multiple times of the consequences that come with giving misinformation in a case such as this.
Transport Malta even threatened me, stating that if they look at the CCTV footage and saw my story was false, they would take me to court and press charges for libel.
I was pressured so heavily about my decision to move forward that I somehow even started to convince myself that I was over reacting. I took several deep breaths to calm my nerves but I could not get the image of that man’s face out of my head. I could still feel him pressing his finger hard into my neck and that sticky saliva all over my face. What was I thinking? Why in hell would I EVER second-guess this decision? I looked the officer straight in the eye and said with full confidence, “I want you to get that CCTV footage and when you see for yourself what he did to me, I want to press charges. What he did was unacceptable and nobody should get away with this.”
We passed the time with coffee and chocolate croissants, waiting for the CCTV footage to come in. My hands shook and my nerves got the best of me. I fought with my mind to stop thinking about what had happened, for every time that image crept back into my head, I felt sick.
Then the call came. It was the officer and he had finally heard from Transport Malta. But what we heard next was almost more disgusting than the saliva that I had wiped from my face that morning. They were unable to provide footage, as their CCTV cameras “weren’t functioning on that particular bus.” (Or any other bus EVER when a customer has a problem to report!) I call bullshit, seriously. Every time a passenger has an issue with a driver, they report the issue, which is then never resolved because every single time that there’s an issue, there just happens to be a camera malfunction.
Clearly this is a company who lacks respect for their passengers as well as their drivers. Aren’t the cameras installed for everyone’s safety? And not to mention the fact that there is money handling on the bus as well.
The officer requested that Transport Malta hand over writing which states that these CCTV cameras were in fact not working. He received nothing. Two days later I contacted Transport Malta myself, and requested documentation relating to the malfunction of these cameras. If these buses were inspected for safety (as they should have been) then documentation stating the malfunction of these cameras would definitely be in the hands of the company. Instead of agreeing to show me these documents, the company argued with me.
Their argument? “We told the media that the cameras were not working.”
I responded: “You can tell the media anything. I want it in writing.”
I still have received nothing.
I feel disrespected by the driver who assaulted me. I feel disrespected by every person on that bus who refused to stand up for me. And I feel disrespected by Transport Malta who argued and couldn’t provide their CCTV footage.
What does that tell me about the value these people place on me? It tells me that they don’t value me one bit. Is this the kind of company you want to support and continue giving money to? Is this the kind of company that you trust your children with? Is this the kind of company that you deserve to waste your own time with? Absolutely not.
Chances are, if you live in or have spent time in Malta, you too have experienced an unfortunate situation on this public transport system. So out of respect for yourself and respect for your fellow humans, I think it’s about time we all stand up to them. Make your complaints heard and share your stories! Spread the word when other’s are in need of being heard. Nobody deserves to be treated inhumanely and nobody should get away with doing so.