Yes, they vary wildly in temperament, outlook, attitude... but isn't that what you want in a group of people? Look at them. There are so many reasons to become an operator, and accordingly you really do have all walks working here. There was a time when most any trade or service job paid enough to raise a family with; those days are long gone, and with them much of the middle class. Bus driving remains a unique anomaly (to the point that saying thank God for unions, as I do, is less a political statement than a practical one).
Some of them are authors, musicians, pastors, comedians, teachers, here so they can afford to live their passion. There are students, morticians, sports coaches, sneaking in for a few hours before heading off to the rest of their lives. Some of us have doctorates and MFAs (when the bus drivers in a city have four year-plus degrees, you know there's something wrong with the job market...).
For others, this is highest-paying job they've ever had. The gateway to a new life in a new country, a job that actually pays enough to make the dream real. Others are single parents raising children, or homebuyers, or here because the benefits will cover procedures and operations that are important to them, their families, paths to having agency over their lives. Or it's a second career, something you always wanted to do for a few hours a day.
Some of us just like to drive. The heady mental rush of stimuli.
Some of us appreciate the faux-military nature of the outfit, perhaps familiar from earlier days. Others enjoy having coworkers who speak their language, who pray in their tongue and that of their forbears. And some of us really, really like the people, forwarding the tradition of being on this Earth to serve others. You know how it feels better to help others than to be helped, better to give than to receive?
What all of Metro's drivers have in common is an remarkable amount of aptitude and responsibility. By any reasonable yardstick of measurement, it is difficult to get hired here.
Every driver you see succeeded in jumping through hoop after hoop of licensing certification, written tests, appointments, aptitude tests, equipment knowledge, intensive customer service and operations training, driving tests... they showed up early to class every day for a month, because they knew if you're one minute late, you're gone.
They stayed up nights studying for the CDL walkaround test, memorizing all the different parts of the bus and what to look for when inspecting each one, so they could recite it and demonstrate their knowledge with no notes and no mistakes, as required.
They prepared for the infamous air brake test, the one so many of my friends have failed, which involves verbalizing and executing a series of fairly complex actions in a specific order.
They tried their hand at the even more infamous driving test, where you're thrown out onto the streets of Southcenter, with the full knowledge that if you run over even one curb, you're toast, and it's six months of waiting before you can reapply. It's six months of waiting with no guarantees if you fail at any of the above. All of my colleagues set themselves up for that challenge, applied themselves, knowing the stakes, and managed to succeed, every step of the way.
I find that impressive.
They show up to work now in uniform, every day, signing in within a grace period that's measured in seconds. I imagine each operator is probably the most time-aware person in their respective friend/family groups. I know I am....
When I wave at my colleagues driving past, I wave out of solidarity. Only they know, truly, what it feels like to be behind that wheel. The particular aches in our shoulders. The way you can process the entirety of the city's demographic and traffic flow geography instantaneously, on a micro and macro level. How we can roll our eyes together at the zany and ridiculous chaos of these multitudinous streets, together knowing the weird safety in not expecting people to be reasonable or do things that make sense. We've learned the weird bliss of not asking too many questions, of exchanging logic for humor.
I love you all, my fellow brothers and sisters in arms. I love the lively chatter at Atlantic Base, and I love the mellow rhythms of North. I love you when you're happy, resilient, healthy in mind and body. When you help a blind customer cross the street... and when you succumb to the pressure and abandon your better selves. When you're insecure, standoffish and angry. It has its challenges, this gig; but we do it together. I even love you when you're watching that awful news channel on the North Base TV set. (Meanwhile, somebody please grab the remote....) But most of all, during every moment you inspire me by trying to be a good person.
Jack, Jesse, Patricia, Paul, Abiyu, Ibrahim, Michael, Mitch, Greg, Dawna, Brian, Tyler... the way they love the people. The way they keep an even keel, through all this ridiculous madness. Apathy is easy; they put in the discipline for something greater.
Siret and I, both running late today, planning out a way to share the load using two buses leaving at the same time. The Control Center won't help us now, at the height of rush hour; we figure it out ourselves, with aplomb. Our combined efforts result in him getting a break at the terminal he wouldn't have gotten otherwise– and he spends part of it with me, sharing food from his home country by way of thanks, in brotherhood.
The way we breathed a grin of exhausted relief at the end of the busy trip. No one else can understand the unique multitude of things contained in that grin. That's the swagger I'm honored to be a part of, and excited to share on this blog with you.
7/29/2018 11:00:36 am
Your words ring so true. You've put into words the reason I loved working there and why I stayed for 35 years. I would tell my friends that some of the best folks I had ever met were my co-workers, I learned so much from them over the years.
7/29/2018 11:05:06 am
7/29/2018 11:34:59 am
Very well worded sir. I can completely understand and relate to this. Im a union elevator mechanic, and just like all of you we hand to put in the long hours studying an training to learn our trade. We also are dealing with the public from all walks of life. Also just like you we are responsible for safely moving people from one place to another, we just do it vertically. The jobs can be stressful at times but completely worth it to provide a good life for one's family. Stay safe out there.
7/31/2018 03:22:35 am
You know exactly what I'm talking about! Thanks for reading, Landon, and more importantly for the good work you do. I have such respect for the blue-collar work that keeps a metropolis actually functioning; the tactile nature of it. I really love getting to be a part of it.
7/29/2018 12:52:37 pm
I love this so much! As you know, I've tried twice and didn't make it. I know how hard I worked for it, so I have immense admiration for those who did make it. Metro is old school: Back when I was teaching math at colleges and universities, I would never have been allowed to hold my students to such high standards.
7/31/2018 03:25:15 am
7/29/2018 03:59:37 pm
You always put into words so much of my thoughts . Thank you so much for what you do.
7/31/2018 03:27:59 am
Stacy! Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment! It's a blast to be out there, and so much of it has to with the supportive work environment the rest of us provide. People thought I was nuts when i started for liking the job as much as I did. Now people know I'm more nuts than they ever suspected, but they also know I'm totally genuine about it!
7/30/2018 08:56:33 am
Incredible and on point as always Nathan. Would you please see that this gets in the union paper. If you'd like me to contact them on your behalf I'd be happy to. This is stellar and those who don't follow you should share in this. Keep up the great work my friend, here and behind the wheel.
7/31/2018 03:29:40 am
Tim– Wow! I'd love to see this in the paper! Please reach out to them if it's convenient; I imagine that'd increase the chances of it getting published! Grateful for your words here, thank you.
8/1/2018 08:14:23 am
In agreement w/ the above .. let's get the other media outlets to 'sit up and take notice'. On the spectrum of drivers out there [caveat: my limited review], there is indeed this un-written rule of quiet camaraderie and more to the point: even more quiet and selfless compassion for our fellow man. It brings many smiles to know you raise the bar for Metro drivers. Keep doing that.
8/5/2018 01:40:51 am
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