Monday, November 28, 2011

The Good Guys-Honoring the Epic Drivers Who Go the Extra Mile

So lately I've been thinking. We've been hearing a lot about bus drivers who do a bad job. Okay, this isn't really a lately thing, bus drivers always seem to be under attack for some reason or another. It's a shame because it's giving them such a stigma that all bus drivers are rotten, even when it's just a small handful that admittedly are doing a less than stellar job.

And really, anyone who has ever ridden a bus with some degree of frequent attendance will tell you of at least one bus driver they remembers for a good reason. And now, I want to give them all a small bit of recognition and thanks. In the comments below, just tell everyone about an exceptional bus driver (or MAX driver, I'm not discriminative) you know or have had that made all the difference and deserve a bit of credit.

After all, drivers are the lifeblood of the system. There wouldn't be anything to ride or use without them. They deserve a little bit back.

And since I believe for some reason, true or not, that I have the power to make a mini movement out of this, spread the word! Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, all the other stuff, just send it out for people to check out! I mean, there's a possibility that trying to get this out there could be a bust but at the same time, it could work!

Just comment your story to me here, send a link to this page out, and if you're on twitter, hashtag #epicdrivers, and then pass it around! I'll be retweeting like no tomorrow and hopefully you will too. :) We share the stories of the excellent transporation drivers around the world and give them the credit and long last!

And since of course I'd be a fool not to share my own stories, I'll kick it off with five drivers I appreciate!
The first one I really remember was a nice lady named Janet, who drove everything from the 71 to the 33-Fremont (haha, remember when that was the number of the line?) to what I usually saw her on, the 15. This was the driver everyone wanted to have. She was incredibly kindhearted, struck good, real conversation with everyone, and at some points had a smorgasboard of city maps, bus schedules and maps and other city info on the tire cap thing you're not supposed to sit on in the New Flyers.

It took a few acts of random kindness for me to make the connection to the consistent meetings with Janet, but I remember them all. The first was when she snuck me an all day ticket on one ride of the 71, the second was when she handed my mother, aunt and I some of that info she had on the tire cap. The third, however, was the one I'll remember most- a great conversation. I noticed that the line 33 was taking a detour on a small street just outside of Alameda. Me being the curious mapper I am, I asked why we were turning onto Regents or whatever street that was. Her response, a loud, jubilant "Because I felt like it!" had me in stitches for a good fifteen seconds before we continued to talk. And from there I really started to like her.

I'd always recognize her by her short white hair and her banana board that she kept in the dash of the bus. We'd talk every time, too, from the ride downtown at 4 o clock I always went out of my way to catch to my stop of 106th and Cherry Blossom along line 15 about everything and anything. She was a great soul, a lively conversator and showed me how awesome bus drivers could be. She was also a nice help with my TBIP project but I didn't talk about it an overwhelming amount until I met Kristen, whom you can read about below

A second driver I remember was William, who I only rode with twice- once on line 51 and once on line 15. He had a pretty strong British (sic) accent and plenty of good conversation, mostly around the photography I fancied doing. I remember him stopping on Redondo and Hamilton for a few seconds so I could get a good picture of the area, and this was after he picked me up at Dosch and Patton and got to know me for about 5 minutes, if even. They were two experiences totaling to about an hour but they're rides I'll remember.

Then there's Kristen. Before I go on, I should regretfully mention that I'm not sure if I remembered her name right but I know it was either Kristen or something very similar to it. She was my line 27 driver during my stint at Rockwood Library who I caught both ways and perhaps the biggest reason I still mourn the defunct line along Market and Main.

Every week I'd ride with her twice and we'd chat, mainly about my ideas for the big TBIP paper I was doing that started my activism. And not only did she listen to me ramble on about my ideas and projects, she helped me out, responding in conversation, giving me suggestions and some caution and never seeming tired with my endless talking of it. Not sure where I'd be without this bus driver but I'm glad I'm here now because of her help.

And while I'm at it, while I've never actually spoken to him in person or on his bus (yet), I have to say some of my greatest heroes in my activism is Ranting Al Margullies. He's let me know that he's impressed with what I'm doing, he's given his own help, assistance and occasional correction and advice on my work, and the amazing part is that he's considered me one of his heroes. Imagine that, being a hero to one of your heroes. That's just amazing, and it's people like him who make it easier to get through hard times as an activist. It's a shame TriMet seems to dislike him so much, because I believe it's the people with unashamed, loud and brave voices like him that keep things grounded.

And then there's John Hively, a bus driver on the 15 I've mentioned before and that I owe a lot to. He was friendly right off the bat, striking thoughtful conversation with me that went past surface things and to things that really mattered to me, most notably writing, volunteering, friends and life in general. I remember after we first started talking I asked for his name by saying "Thank you, Mr..." and he responded "No need for Mister, just call me John. John the bus driver." And then we parted ways, leaving me thinking What a cool guy.

And he really was trustworthy and nonjudgmental when we talked. I told him about my efforts to volunteer and the projects I wanted to do and he encouraged me to keep at it and told me he was impressed by what I was doing. When I was having a bad day, I made my way to his bus up at Gateway and took a short ride while I vented a bit and he gave me advice on how to handle life's harder moments.

What I most remember was the encouragement, editing, advice and assistance he gave me for my writing. I wasn't that much of a writer either, just an amateur who thought he was a big shot with big ideas. He treated me like a budding author, not just a beginner, which helped me an astronomical amount. He told me to email him some of a piece I was working on, and a week or so later he offered to swing by my place and drop it off. Sure enough, same day he knocked on my door, handed me the papers, asked me a couple questions about it and bid me good day. That was simply awesome, no way around it. It was awesome.

He lent me a book called the Writer's Journey to study up on... and you know what, I never returned it after we moved. John, if you ever should be reading this, let me know and I'll get it back to you.

He also told me about a group called Young Willamette Writers, which met up once a month to learn about different types of writing. He offered to pay me through if I needed it, which I never did, but the offer alone meant so much to me. I mean, I never expected to have my biggest supporter in my budding writing career be a bus driver. But I guess it shows just how awesome they can be.

Overall, out of the bus drivers I know, he is the foremost one I would consider a friend. Because of him, I still write, and I've been told that I'm damn good at it. And I write with a passion and I want to pursue it long term. I believe that his support was what kept my light from flickering out, and it's one of the reasons I believe in the goodness of humanity overall.


And these are just some examples of bus drivers that do their jobs not only well, but to a degree that it impacts how you live and how you succeed. It's people like these who deserve credit from the public as true heroes of the more mundane side of life. People like those are what really keep it from getting too mundane.

So share your stories below, I'd love to hear them!


    This was how I first heard about you. That's so cool. I hope I meet that driver one day

  2. Al M totally kicks ass. Just sayin. ;)

  3. oh, and Cameron? Al is right.