A New York State legislator has introduced a bill that would enable bus drivers and train crews on the subway and commuter railroads to carry Tasers to deter assaults.
The news report struck a nerve for me: a long time ago, when crime in New York City was at least twice as bad as it is now, I was a subway conductor. At the time, conductors were required to watch the outside of the train move out of the station for a distance of three car lengths. Many people cringed at that aspect of the job: you’re hanging out the window, uniformed, a target.
I had the job for a year, traveling under some of the worst neighborhoods in the city, and emerged from the experience pretty much unscathed. I got spat on a few times, and simply washed it off at the end of the trip. Someone tried to swipe my hat once; they failed. And the most painful experience came when someone threw a pad of postcards at me. Back then, some ads in the subway included pads of postcards for prospective customers to write in for more information. When someone throws one at you while you’re on a moving train, it stings.
It was fun to do for a year, although I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the rest of my life at it. Perhaps it was just because I was in my early twenties and felt indestructible, but the job didn’t seem very dangerous as long as you kept your wits about you.
Would I have wanted to be armed? Absolutely not. I don’t believe anything good would have come of it.
If transit workers had Tasers, for every bad guy subdued, there’d be at least five frazzled passengers zapped because their bus driver was having a bad day, ten fellow workers Tased in crew room hijinks, and probably a hundred passengers intimidated into silence.
It’s a bad idea. Unfortunately, it’s been introduced in the New York State Legislature, where bad ideas never die.