The more I drive my bus for a living, the more fascinating it is for me to come to work everyday. If only life experience counted in getting completely qualified for a college degree, then I would be a candidate for many great scholastic accolades from the top institutions of learning across this great land.
And if truth be told, it’s not always the highly sensationalistic confrontations that I observe that afford me a peek into the inner stirrings of man’s soul. It’s those brief encounters where one doesn’t have their guard up that reveal the most about that person to me, usually because their mind is distracted and on some other issue than to concentrate on presenting a picture perfect pristine image to me.
Because at the end of the day who am I?
I am just that faceless bus driver, who, according to the judgment of most is a guy who pretty much isn’t educated and couldn’t do any other job if he wanted to because of his assumed lower end educational level and very limited aspirations.
I’m cool with that. You know why? Because it’s the perfect shield and cover from which to absorb people in their true state! If their bus driver is considered to be this middle aged idiot who hasn’t ever accomplished anything of note in this life then they aren’t threatened by my presence and will let it ALL hang out!
I’m actually thankful for their perceptions because the few times that my blog has been discovered and associated with me on my bus, I’ve noticed a definite change in how those who were enlightened to my communicative abilities acted toward me and their guard now went up!
The pseudo-intellectuals quickly realized that intelligence didn’t only come from piece of paper.
And I guess they didn’t want me to write about them.
Not bad for an idiot bus driver.
Anyplace one spends eight hours of their eventually becomes like their living room, you are there all of the time and become quite relaxed in that atmosphere with those surroundings.
This is the advantage that I have over those boarding my bus. They never really have the opportunity to get completely relaxed because they are on and off so quickly. Not only that, but many are concerned with how they look to others. While you may not think that this would be such a big issue, it is, as I approach the bus stop it is not only evident by the manner in which the people nervously adjust themselves, but I can tell where their insecurities are located by the way they do it. What’s so amazing about it is that they don’t even know it!
You just have to observe close enough.
It’s hard for most people on the go to notice anything. It’s frightening. Why? Because in today’s world while in public we have learned to shield ourselves off into our own little corner of the universe. Every single day I see people walk right out into the heavy traffic without looking left nor right, headphones blasting and head rocking to the music that just might one day be the last sound that they ever hear.
As a whole, we have become a dysfunctional community of selfish spectators. We crave the quick stimulation and instant gratification by any means necessary and are plugged into our high tech gadgetry like a crackhead taking a drag from his precious makeshift glass pipe.
Nothing else matters as long as you get your blast.
Another unique perspective that I have as a bus driver is that I am privy to all types of information that the passengers give up
unknowingly. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not snoop or eavesdrop on anyone, but when you drive the same bus line for years, certain information falls into your lap so take it from me, be very discreet when talking on your cellphone about your private business in public!
How about the time when I drove the 41 route out of Orlando International Airport regularly on Sundays, there was this women who felt as though her feces smelled like roses because everytime she boarded my bus, she would get on the phone to her friends and speak about the latest stuff that she purchased at the malls across the various cities that she would travel to in the United States.
I mean, I could really tell that she had lots of money by the quality shoes, handbags, jewelry, accessories and manner in which she maintained her personal appearance through her hairstyle and nails. But what I couldn’t figure out about this aging primadonna was if she had so much in the finance department at her disposal then why did she insist on catching the same bus every week and why did she arrive back into town at the same exact time to board my bus? The things that people do only raise red flags and make you ask even more questions of your own even when that wasn’t the intention in the first place.
I guess that she enjoyed being a big fish in a little pond. She became the focus of the general conversation on the bus by my passengers after she would exit the bus. Like clockwork her husband would be waiting on point parked in the bus stop (Illegally but highly visible) in one of their luxury vehicles that seemed to have an additional car added to their collection every few months.
I thought to myself “If her husband could wait approximately four miles away from the airport in a bus stop to pick his wife then why couldn’t he just GO to the airport and get her in the first place?”
I began to understand that this arrangement was to showcase her wealth to the blue collar people who rode the bus. Now it wasn’t because of her possessions why the regulars who rode my bus didn’t seem to like her, it was her overall condescending attitude. She made sure to get into some type of small confrontation on my bus for the short ride she would take.
Either she would demand that someone in the seat next to her move over or complain that someone else was too close to her. Somehow someway she would always find someone to throw her stink ass attitude on. And she somehow always got away with it for some reason. I must say that this particular bus route was made up of many immigrant workers to whom I believe (And actually knew in some cases) may not have been living here in the country legally. The time that I would come from the airport past the hotels nearby was always after five o’clock, a time when many of the establishments were changing shifts, is this why she always scheduled her arrivals at this time so she could beat up on people that had no choice but to take her crap because they didn’t want law enforcement involved which might lead to their “other” issues of residency? I think so, because she always made sure to mention how much she hated the “illegals” that were destroying this system and how much she wanted to “take HER country back!”
I smelled the horrid stench of the Fox News Network all over her!
This short in stature terror of an obviously “dyed-in-the-wool” Republican Party supporting white woman had to be in her late fifties, slim, with a heavily wrinkled face that was always made up a bit too much. When I saw her I was so tempted to “blow” in her direction as though I were trying to put out birthday candles because the makeup made her clownish face look like a birthday cake!
She was just plain miserable!
She felt as though that bus was her personal vehicle and would bitch a moan about everything that was uncomfortable about taking public transportation and would make the loud frequent comments that she would call my supervisor to report my “attitude” issue with her. She would never say this to me directly, but in a general way to see my response. Which I guess pissed her off when she didn’t see any visible signs of fear from me. It’s as though she got a rush from taking control of her immediate environment and terrorizing everyone in sight!
I knew one day very soon this monster of woman and I were going to have it out in a BIG way!
Let’s fast forward a few months to Christmas Day. Although I feel that I know the truth about the Christmas fallacy and really do not get into the hype about it, I did wish that I could have stayed home that day in 2006 not because of a desire to celebrate a day that is fraudulently proposed to be the birthday of Jesus Christ (Which in actuality ISN’T His proper day of birth! But that’s another blog subject!), but because here in Orlando it was a rainy overcast lazy kind of day. The kind of day where you lay in the bed late watching old reruns on the television while talking to people on the phone that you haven’t spoken to in years!
But here I was out in a vicious rain storm on a bus route that contained many twists and turns that I wasn’t used to. Take make matters worse, many of the streets didn’t even have visible street signs! Some were down and some were just plain old non existent! How was I supposed to know where to turn out on these country roads on the outskirts of the city while the heavy thunder roared and the lightning struck in frightening fashion?
Luckily for me, I had a friend with me who helped to identify the street signs while I focused on keeping the forty foot bus within my lane to avoid an almost guaranteed accident. Why was it so difficult to drive in this rain storm MORE so than any other?
Well, to make matters worse, the windshield wiper on the drivers side WAS NOT WORKING AT ALL!!!!!!!
So I was FORCED to drive at the speed of a slow crawl because my visibility was reduced to maybe seeing only TWO FEET out in front of the bus! If I didn’t have my buddy with me to help out I KNOW that I would have had to park the bus indefinitely and on this Christmas afternoon I am quite sure that the passengers who boarded my bus didn’t want to hear THAT!
But they were VERY supportive and VERY understanding and thanked God collectively that I was a cautious and brave driver that would attempt to forge forward even in the viciously intimidating inclement weather.
What a compliment!
After a while, the feeling of connectedness overtook my passengers as they knew that this was a binding event that would always be a pleasant memory to all as we supported each other “through the storm.” That has a nice ring to it, but in life isn’t
that the way things SHOULD be? People supporting each other and wishing each other well?
We continued on a made great progress toward getting everyone home even though it seemed like all of the passengers were riding to the last stop because no one got off for quite a long while! No problem. Because I was now enjoying the new found camaraderie that they enjoyed by listening to the “what I’m going to do when I get home stories” to the “I can’t wait to get in my warm bed” statements.
In retrospect, we pulled together almost like the now infamous Chilean Coal Miners! Lol! Although the situation was more one of inconvenience and not a life threatening one like the South American miracle, the stress of the storm still brought us closer than if everything was routine and running smoothly.
Food was now being shared amongst them from their grocery bags and one woman walked up to put a hot piece of fried chicken in my mouth and held a cup up to my mouth to give me some freshly poured juice to drink while I drove!
Talk about showing the driver some LOVE!
I guess it’s truly human nature to make the best of a bad situation as this was definitely a prime example of that fact. The feeling of
unexpected togetherness was so wonderful amongst those who were formally strangers merely looking to get home as fast as possible that I wish the bus ride could have been five times as long as I now watched a few of those cheerful passengers exchange phone numbers so that they could later enjoy the precious energies that they now shared.
But while a bus formerly full of guarded strangers turned into what someone would mistakenly think was a family reunion, the storm still raged with limited visibility and a daunting task at hand. The internal festivities couldn’t erase this important realization or make me oblivious to the mission at hand.
As bad as the storm was this late afternoon, I just didn’t expect to see anyone outside in the rain waiting on the bus especially since it was also a so-called holiday. But I still had to be cautious as I passed each and every bus stop to make sure that no one was left behind.
I guess I am more of a caring soul than the usual battle hardened attitude encrusted bus driver who only cares about getting off of that bus to go home as soon as possible because I really tried that day. My buddy who rode up front with me to aid my handicapped visibility was truly a blessing but even he had to get closer to the front window in order to see through the merry mess that we were in.
It’s commonly known and usually federal law that the bus is not to be in motion when a passenger is standing in front of that yellow
“standee” line on the floor. This insures that no one goes flying through the front windshield if the brakes were to be applied in an
unexpected fashion as in a vehicular collision or someone jumping in front of the bus.
As I got deeper into Seminole County on this now defunct 39 route, I felt better that the passengers would soon get home safely with the extra joy that came with making a few new friends. Little did I know that I was in for the shock of my life and about to be presented with a holiday gift that I nor any of my happily chatting and feasting customers would have desired.
A small light was feverishly moving back and forth to my right a little bit in front of the bus I would say about 15 feet away. My friend told me that there was someone at the bus stop and that I should be careful not to splash them with the water that had puddled up by the curb. I carefully moved up as close as I could to make this new passengers entry a bit easier but after I came to a full stop and opened the doors, to my surprise a very angry verbal woman stormed onto my bus walking past me without even paying her fare! She said that I was the reason that she was going to be sick because I didn’t arrive to her stop on time and that she was going to contact my superiors in order to either have me fired or reprimanded! She snatched the rain scarf off of her head and shook it furiously getting one of my now formerly festive passengers upset.
Lo and behold when I focused on the features of this woman it turned out to be the condescending cranky woman from my old 41 bus route!
I WAS IN SHOCK!
I also had a ton of questions. What was she doing out in the rainstorm by herself? Where was her husband? Why did she have to show up and break the upbeat and very celebratory mood of my bus? I definitely wasn’t happy to see her, and my passengers seemed to soak up her totally negative mood in the blink of an eye! Not that they were now evil like her, but they reflected a disdain for how she entered my bus with the threats of how she was going to notify my supervisors for something unimportant when all I was trying to do was to get my passengers home safely and swiftly so they can at least get to enjoy SOME family time at home with their families on this stormy afternoon/evening.
I, as the multitude of now upset people on my bus choose to do, just ignored her for a time. She babbled on and on about how bad the public transportation is here and how much better it was up north where she is from. Now, she had a point, most major cities up north DO have better public transportation systems but it’s a trade off because you have to take the good with the bad. Up north is also freezing. Up north has a high cost of living. I love New York City to the bone as it is the city of my birth and I will ALWAYS be a New Yorker until the day that the good Lord calls me home. But this is a big world that we live in and we can’t expect every place that we go to be exactly the same. When I want a dose of the city life that I know so well, I know exactly where to go! So she really needed to clam it up with that rhetoric!
As a handful of passengers arrived to their destinations and blessed me with a kind word upon their exit for getting them there, this “Scrooge” of a monster sneered at me at every opportunity that she could. I thought to myself, for someone who travels as much as she does and for someone to have the money and obvious disposable income that she has, why is everything a problem? It goes to show you that although we all need money to pay our bills and levy some level of security and comfort into our lives, it WON’T make us happy at our core! Using myself as an example, look at how I am up at this late hour sharing a story with you when I could be in the warm bed fast asleep but this is what makes me happy. SHE needs something to do that brings purpose into her life and all I could think of was how bad her husband must feel to be married to a monster like that. I mean, what did he see in HER?
I don’t even think HE could answer that at this point. But looking through the reflection of the windsheild into the bus (An old bus driver trick) I noticed how she began to write down the identifying numbers down in a small padof hers that are located on the front of the bus. Passengers might use these numbers to generate a complaint as well as a compliment. Guess what she was using it for? You are right! NOTHING GOOD!
All of a sudden here she is starting with the threats and I had just about had enough with her demonic spirit!
“You are not supposed to operate this bus with ANYONE standing in front of the standee line! If you hit the brakes hard then he will go straight through the windshield! It’s federal law that you are operating this vehicle improperly and THAT is grounds for your termination! You my friend will soon be OUT of a job after I call your supervisor!”
The remaining passengers were now also angry to the point of action as I could see it in their faces but what they didn’t expect was MY course of action to this out of control entity!
Slowing the bus down in the stormy terrain until it stopped, I popped the emergency break, lowered the bus, put it in neutral and took off my seatbelt. I WAS THROUGH!
She says: “You better be careful what you do or what you say, I have some very good lawyers and I don’t think I need to remind you that your every move is being recorded on a digital hard drive!”
I was somewhat taken aback by her knowledge of the inner workings of the bus system, especially as a passenger. But I guess some people spend the time to get such knowledge to rattle the drivers.
I told her that I was well aware of the operations of my bus and that since she was about to call my supervisor, it might be a good idea to tell him that my windshield wiper is broken, a very good reason to NOT drive the bus anymore. And since it was improper to have ANYONE in front of that yellow standee line while the bus was in motion, I better have my friend sit down and NOT help me to be proactive in getting out of the storm and everyone home safely because we need to avoid any and ALL mishaps! I told her also that while she was at it, let the supervisor know that this bus WILL NOT move an inch until we have a mechanic come here in this out of the way desolate location to replace the windshield wiper and since it IS Christmas Day and the mechanics are limited, it JUST MIGHT BE a “little” wait for a few hours so I hope you can understand that we will probably spend the REST of our Christmas here together with all of these passengers who now have a great LOVE for you! And PLEASE, I hope everyone can hold themselves from having to use the restroom! (That was a psychological trick, by saying that I knew someone would have to use the restroom even if before they didn’t realize that they would have to go! LOL!)
After my diatribe I sat down peacefully and calmly. At first she was transfixed that someone would speak to her in such an authoritative manner but the real shock was that she had to face the prospect of being enclosed with about 12 angry people who were happy to be on their way home but because of her, had to be stuck according to policy. They weren’t going for it as the disgruntled people were now getting very verbal about their evening.
“Hey! This ugly dumb bitch came up on the bus and messed everything up! we were moving along not bothering anyone, now we have to sit here for a few hours and I have to get home to take my shot because I am diabetic!”
“Yeah!” Anyone said, “My baby girl has been waiting all day for me to get home because she said that she wanted to open her presents with me there with HER and now she might have to wait longer because of this woman? Hell naw!”
And yet anyone spoke out…….”Look lady, I’ve been locked up for the last four months and finally got out this morning and I am trying to get home to my girlfriend if you know what I mean because there is a whole lot of unfinished business that we have to take care of!”
The roar of the crowd rose as this woman began to have a look of fear in her eyes. I continued to sit there as though I wasn’t moving as I would occasionally look down at my watch. After some indirect threats were sent her way she got up and humbly walked over to me and said: “I think it WOULD be a good idea if we do not wait any longer, I mean, it IS Christmas and these people deserve to go home to their families!”
I turned slowly and looked her square in the eyes and told her to apologize to these people who have suffered long enough because of her attitude issues. She sheepishly turned around and was barely audible in her response to their frustration but she got it out although it was with great struggle. ” I….I am sorry, I am sorry to you people for messing up your holiday. I won’t complain anymore nor will try to get this driver in trouble as he was only trying to get you all home safely. As a matter of fact, I WILL call the bus company and will give him the BIGGEST compliment that any driver has ever had!”
Boy was I shocked! But she wasn’t finished…….
“…….and I want you ALL to write down your phone numbers so I can contact you within the week because I want to treat you all out to a night at the Olive Garden Restaurant!”
My jaw HIT THE GROUND! This woman did a complete turnaround and I witnessed the entire episode! Was this the same woman who rode my 41 route and made immeasurable amounts of people miserable from the mere sight of her? WOW! While I did not partake in the offer of her culinary festivities, I was told that she DID hold true to her promise even MORE so than what she stated. I was told that those passengers had a limosine pick them up at their homes and their entire families were also taken to the restaurant to eat at her expense! Talk about a holiday gift!
But to witness the personal growth of one who was written off by me a long time ago and to see how she wanted to now bring a little joy into someone’s life made it all worth it for me. These are the stories that most will never hear about but as a bus driver in the City of Orlando I am quite sure there are so many more tales to share with you as I drive my bus in the underbelly of the City Beautiful! Stay Tuned!