A Day in the Life of a Bus Driver

I think I have mentioned a time or two that I drive bus for a living. And not any bus. I drive transit bus. Transit is an entirely different world from real life. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it is an altered state of existence on a good day. And today was not a good day.

I have been working over time now for so long I have forgotten what it is like to have two days off in a row. Every time I think I have caught up on my bills something else comes up or breaks and I end up behind again. Just today I took my truck in to get the front end aligned, only to discover there are a couple of things that need to be replaced before I can get it aligned and its going to cost about $400… Really?! So I guess I will be working next Saturday again so I can fix it… sigh. I’m so thrilled.

Driving bus is a great job in many ways. You aren’t stuck in an office staring at the same four boring walls all day. You don’t have your boss hanging over your shoulder watching every little thing you do, ready to jump on you for any mistake you may make. You meet interesting people and you get to drive around in an air-conditioned vehicle all day.

However, the flip side of this is that many of the people you meet on a day-to-day basis aren’t the kind you want to bring home to meet your family. Many of them have mental illnesses that make them inappropriate for polite company. Heck, they are inappropriate for ANY company! Often they are drug addicts or alcoholics with no home to go to and no family to care if they live on the streets or not. They are dirty and they smell bad and they are rude or violent or just plain strange.

Then there are the average people who just ride the bus for transportation. Often they aren’t excited about the fact that they have to ride a bus and don’t have a car of their own so they can be surly and rude and disrespectful. Those people make my job unpleasant because they like to take that anger out on me, the hapless bus driver, and because I am a public servant I have to smile and take their abuse. for the most part that is. I can put them off the bus if they get too extreme or their language becomes too abusive but by then they have arrived at their destination and get off the bus anyway so I don’t get any satisfaction out of booting them off!

And then there are the people like the ones that rode my bus today.

I know I say this a lot but you have to realize that when I tell you these stories I’m not making them up. These people truly exist! I don’t have that good of an imagination that I could just make this stuff up!

My day started out just fine. My first route went smoothly as did my second route. I broke for a quick lunch, handed the keys to my truck to my daughter to bring down to the front-end shop to get aligned, and headed out on my third route. That was when things started to go down hill for me.

I picked up three guys at a stop about ten minutes into an hour and fifteen minute route. The one boy I know, since he rides my bus every morning to a special program he is in downtown. The other two, a boy of about 14 and another guy in his mid 20’s, were not familiar to me. They sat down behind me and began to talk and I realized that it was going to be a long, long bus ride for me.

As a driver I hear conversations all the time. Some I even join in on, especially if it’s with people who ride with me a lot and we know each other. But this conversation was not one of those. this was Beavis and Butthead meets Garth and Wayne and I couldn’t escape it. They were talking about movies and they weren’t classic movies. They were movies that teen age boys find to be extremely hilarious and I find to be beyond stupid. And they quoted lines from said movies. A lot. My ears were raped. I felt my brains beginning to leak out of my ears by the time we arrived at the mall.

I was relieved to see that they were getting off the bus, and then the Jedi Knight walked up to the bus, complete with his light saber. I stared at him for a moment, thought of several things I could say, discarded them all, smiled and let him on the bus. I wanted to ask him if he was going to a costume party, but having driven bus in this town for 18 years that was a question I couldn’t ask. Because if he said no and wanted to know why I asked I’m afraid my tenuous hold on my self-control would snap and I would have laughed in his face till I cried! Which would have gotten me in trouble with  my boss. And would have offended the young Jedi.  I also wasn’t sure if the light saber was fully functional or not so I decided to err on the side of caution and not tempt fate…

By the time I finally made it back down town to hand my bus off to another driver I was pretty done with it all. I called my husband and told him if I made it through the rest of the day without slapping someone or worse that it would be a miracle. And that if I did finally go transit on someone there was money in my account to bail me out with so not to worry. I only had one route left to drive and I figured I had made it this far I should be good.

My first passenger was a lady in a wheelchair that I call Betty. I don’t know if that is actually her name but I thought someone called her that once so the name stuck in my head. Betty is not a very likable person. She is surly and rude and never smiles. I use to drive this particular route every day and she rode with me several times a week, and during that time I made it my mission to make her smile. Whenever she got on my bus I made sure I smiled at her and spoke to her. I asked her questions about her day and made sure I told her to have a great day when she got off the bus. Every now and then she would talk to me. I found out she had adult children that never visited and twin grand daughters she never got to see. I would have been grumpy and mean too if that was me! So today Betty was waiting for me and I smiled at her and asked how her day was going. She smiled back at me and we made small talk as I tied her wheelchair down in the bus. I didn’t have very many passengers and was able to leave on time.

I picked up another gentleman who I haven’t seen in quite some time and we exchanged pleasantries and I began to relax. I dropped Betty off and the bus was empty except for the one gentleman and I began to remember why I love my job. Each person I picked up was someone I use to see all the time and it was like coming home. And then I turned the corner and there was Ida Mae. And all the stress from my day just slipped away and I was happy.

Ida is a crotchety sharp-tongued elderly lady that I love with my whole heart. Most of the drivers don’t much care for her, but I know that under that gruff exterior lies a heart of gold. Ida lives in a poor neighborhood and she is always doing things to make it better. She has organized cleaning days, where she had the city bring out some of those big garbage bins so the neighbors can dump all their unwanted furniture and junk in them instead of tossing them in the alley ways behind their houses. She had a little contest once for the workers at the McDonald’s she goes to every day for coffee and gave the young lady who won some key chains she had beaded and a little money and a few things she had picked up at the Dollar Store. She is getting more feeble now–I believe she is 83–and my husband says that it is getting very difficult for her to get on and off the bus. I lowered the bus and watched as she carefully stepped in and sat down. We continued on our way and the next person I picked up was JP, a man in a wheel chair that I also enjoy chatting with. By the time I got back downtown it was like a party on my bus and I unloaded everyone with a smile and a wave. I handed the bus off to my relief driver and headed home.

As I am writing this I am trying to remember what the point of my story was and I realized I really don’t have one. I just thought I would share a little bit of what goes on during my day and what I deal with on a daily basis in my chosen profession. Are there days I hate my job? Absolutely! Everyone has days where they just want to walk away from it all and start over. But there are many, many more where I remember why I do what I do and why I love it. Every day is a new challenge and obviously some days are more challenging than others!

So what makes you keep going back to your job? Is it just a job you do for money or is it a job you do because you love it and can’t imagine doing anything else? I’ve been doing this for 18 years now and I’m still not bored! And if you have a bad day how do you get past it? I’m heading out to the ranch in a bit with my grand-daughter for a sleep over. Not sure how it will go but I am looking forward to spending some time with her all by myself!

Hope you all have a great weekend and to all the mothers out there my your Mother’s Day be as special as you are!