Reflections of a Bus Driver


Reflections of a Bus Driver
| published February 5, 2015 |

By Michael Sigler
Thursday Review contributor

Most people don’t give much thought to public transportation other than a means of conveyance getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and as quickly and safely as possible. But what about those select individuals who actually man these vehicles, in and out of situations and circumstances that would test the strongest resolve.

The following are some of those stories taken from the annals of one who lived the moment; and believe me, it was quite a ride from beginning to end.

My field of action, Los Angeles, California, the late 1970’s—the journey begins with three months training behind the wheel of a forty foot city bus. The driving portion of our training would take place along the Golden State Freeway and in the L.A. Aqueduct, the old now-reupholstered Los Angeles River. For all you 1950’s Sci-Fi buffs, you will remember it as the final home of the giant ants in the movie THEM. Other movie fans will recall the aqueduct system as the scene of scores of police chases and shoot em’ ups, and younger fans will know it as the location of the famous truck-chases-motorcycle scene in the sci-fi thriller Terminator 2: Judgment Day (watch that high-speed chase closely: you’ll see the burnt-out hulk of an ancient city bus).

It was hoped this quasi-subterranean training would prepare us for the world above ground, and when we were finally turned loose, each of us assigned to various divisions, we would soon find out that Los Angeles was the loony bin turned up a notch. Those who should have been locked safely away from an unsuspecting public could be found on the streets, often riding city buses. In my time, I must have picked most of them up. This was no mean task, as being low seniority only gave me a choice of the very worst routes.

Once, driving Hollywood Boulevard late afternoon with no passengers on board, I stopped to pick up a rather slight, effeminate man carrying a Persian cat. I politely explained to him he could not ride with that cat while he countered with an equally impolite he didn’t care what I thought. Why I let him ride remained a mystery to me, but as fate would decree, two stops later I picked up another passenger bearing a striking resemblance to Black Beard the Pirate, and on his shoulder (you guessed it) was a live and rather large green parrot.

Walking on board, he purposely seated himself next to the gentle cat man, both parrot and pirate glaring menacingly at the curious feline. You can probably predict what happened next. In a moment the parrot attacked the cat, feathers and fur flying everywhere, while the cat man screamed piteously. Silently I drove on until the battle had ended and cat man ran for the door with his now chewed up kitty. As he stepped off the bus I could not help but get off one last parting shot: “I told you so!”

My final story in this segment came as I drove the always crowded #9 bus through downtown and past some of the smaller movie studios dotting the area. As the bus was always crowded, I sometimes had to pass people by, watching their angry faces as I sailed past.

On this particular day, it was again packed, patrons standing everywhere, even in the stairwell. All of a sudden I began hearing the old familiar strains of that Gene Autry song ‘I’m back in the saddle again.’ Looking over, I could not see anything until the crowd parted only to reveal a 3 foot 6 gentleman in spurs, boots, and a ten gallon hat. You just never know do you?

So, next time you decide on taking the bus, don’t be surprised if you happen to see a wry smile on your driver’s face. He probably knows something you don’t.

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Hamburger: A Family Affair; Michael Sigler; Thursday Review; July 10, 2013.

To Beard or Not to Beard; Jeanne Sigler; Thursday Review; May 22, 2014.