Posts Tagged ‘Bus Drivers


Orange Cones, Beware!

A friend of mine who writes a column and blog about transportation for the Minneapolis Star Tribune took a cameraman with him to the annual MetroTransit “Roadeo” to do a story. He ended up behind the wheel of one himself with hilarious results. This is what most of us would look like driving a bus.

Read more here.


Simple Things, Important Things

In a conversation I had once with my sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Przeslawski (so many teachers in the Detroit suburbs had ponderous Polish last names), I observed that the bell had just rung and that several students in the hall would be late to class.

“They’d better run,” I said to her.

“Oh no,” she said. “No. Never. They’re seniors. These are all seniors’ lockers around here.”

I didn’t follow.

She squared her face toward me and gave me a serious look. “Seniors never run.”

It is a lesson about pride I have carried with me through all my life. Better to come late to class quietly and calmly, with dignity, and suffer the consequences, than to arrive sweating and breathless.

To this day, for example, I never run for a bus.

I will turn a corner and see my bus barrelling through the green light toward me, careering toward the stop ahead. There are enough people at the sign that the time it takes for the bus to stop, for a few people to exit, and for those people to enter, I could easily make it in time to board myself. Only if I ran. Which I never do.

Once, and only once, since moving to New York did I run for the bus. And when I got there, the doors closed in my face, and the driver blithely drove away. New York bus drivers are merciless, but I can’t argue. If he stops to let me on, it could give others behind me time to reach the bus and further delay all of us.

So the bus comes and goes. I continue walking to the next stop, glancing back over my shoulder, coolly, calmly, knowing another will come soon, and I won’t have to break a sweat on my morning commute.

Other people, however, do run. From a precarious stance in the aisle, hovering over a woman with too much luggage or a man with halitosis and a dripping umbrella, I often see out the window someone tearing around the corner at a desperate gallop, panting toward the closing doors of the bus. They creak shut just as he or she arrives, and the best the hapless commuter can manage is an impotent bang-bang-bang on the windows all the way down the length of the vehicle, staring in with wild eyes and gaping mouth, or sometimes shouting something rather rude to the driver. I can empathize, but their effort is wasted: They are stuck at the stop anyway despite their run. They could easily have spared themselves the trauma.

Earlier today, as the Q33 was pulling away from the station at 74th and Broadway in Jackson Heights, a woman similarly reached the closed doors. She visibly chastised herself, or the driver, or fate, or the slow people on the stairs in the station a minute back — but she gave up the fight honorably and resolved to stand there, smiling, watching us take off.

The driver, a benevolent soul, glanced around him and decided it was safe to hit the brakes and open the door. He called to the woman, who was looking in the other direction.

“Hey. Hey, you! Come on. Get on!”

She snapped to attention and in one swift motion, she all but leaped aboard as the doors folded shut, and she was safe and on her way home.

She smiled radiantly, incredulously. She could not believe her luck — like a child who had just found the last Easter egg. “Thank you!” she said, dipping her Metrocard. She took a few steps in and grasped a pole at the front of the bus as the driver continued off the drive and the bus lurched onto the street.

Her reacton completely arrested me. It was so real and humble and grateful. I have never seen a driver stop like that, but it was ultimately a small, simple gesture, like holding a door. And she would have waited no more than 15 minutes for the next bus. But it obviously meant so much to her. I was totally charmed to see something so small matter so much and deliver such delight.


Don’t Judge Judy

    <a href="
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Sit down and shut up!
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This gem from the New York Daily News about bad bus drivers reminds me of my youth spent in school bus humiliation. It was a dog’s life on those buses. If you could survive the embittered old drivers, you had to then deal with the assholes who sat in the back. Only a total suck-up would be nice to a bus driver. One dared not sit near the front of the bus for fear of association with him or her. The back was invariably reserved for the ones with the trendy haircuts and nice clothes. The ones who never seemed to carry a book or have homework. The ones who set fire to things with a lighter and an aerosol hairspray can.

Facing the crowded middle of the bus, I was many times forced to hunch down next to one of the lower-el kids, even my safely ensconced friends unable to offer me much more confort than a shrug of the shoulders and a weak grin.

I felt I understood even then why the drivers were so mean. (I came out of my retirement for this?) Every single one of them was humorless and wholely unpleasant, ready to strike unmitigated terror into us with a well-aimed glare or a brief tirade shouted down the aisle. Sometimes I felt I was truly in mortal peril for not sitting down and facing forward. They probably wouldn’t threaten to ram the bus into a wall to kill everyone, but … well, you never know.

Out of a string of drivers from age 6 through 15, I don’t remember faces, just attitudes. Except for one driver. Judy.

She was a manish woman with short, tightly curled hair and large, solid features. Her brow heavy and hard, her voice sharp and piercing. She was a highly aggressive driver. She was tough as nails, that woman. And I kind of loved her.

She was the “activity bus” driver. A few hours after the school day’s official end, she’d pick up me and my nerd compatriots, who stayed after school for the school newspaper and Students Against Driving Drunk and Spirit Committee and possibly the least active chapter of the National Honor Society in the history of public schools, and deliver us to within blocks of our warm, well-lit houses.

She didn’t much like it, I could tell. The kids were ungrateful and often late to the bus, holding everyone up. Sometimes it was just a few of us. It hardly seemed worth her time some nights. With my nascent sense of class, I picked up on some differences between her and most of the kids she transported. I don’t think she had much reason to pass down the same streets in her car that she did in a bus every day.

Being an unabashed kiss-ass, I and my friend Kiran befriended her. She didn’t trust us right away, and was rather tight-lipped at first. But we’d sit in the front-most seat every time, and eventually she’d ask us what we had been up to after school. She’d tell us about her family. I couldn’t imagine her having a husband. Kids. Kids much older than us. She’d tell us stories of misbehaving kids from earlier in the day. She’d openly complain about her job, which was shocking and fascinating to me at the same time, like we were being let in on a great adult secret.

There were times when she’d had a bad day, and we knew enough to stay. The hell. Away. But usually she was quite pleasant to us. I began to look forward to our brief rides. To be friendly with a bus driver seemed to cinched some sort of outsider cachet.

One year, we gave her Christmas presents. My gift was a set of kitchen hand towels my grandmother had crocheted. It seemed like we were breaking down an invisible wall. In my experience, bus drivers just did not get gifts from kids very often. She gave us a couple of those super-fat candy canes that last all winter if you wrap them every time.

When I turned 16, I started driving to school. I never saw Judy again.

the untallied hours