Living Out Loud: : Looking Straight Ahead


When the bus driver didn't offer to lower the steps to the bus to help an elderly passenger get on with a walker, I helped the man myself — putting the walker aside, then holding on to him to while he reached for a seat in the front.

The driver, looking straight ahead, didn't seem to notice the struggle at all. He just had a pissed off look on his face, probably thinking the old man was going to put him behind schedule.

I sat next to the old gentleman and he thanked me for helping him out. We talked for a bit. He told me his name was Charlie and it was his birthday — 85 years young. I wished him a good one as the bus driver continued his route, clearly annoyed by our conversation.

Let's just call the driver "Melvin." I tried to find out his real name but he won't give it to me. He's an asshole. He never smiles, never answers back when you say hello to him and only looks at his passengers when they do something he doesn't like.

Why this jerk is driving a bus, I have no idea. It's plain to see he hates dealing with the public.

I remember one afternoon last winter waiting for the bus, back when the fare was still 80 cents. I had my three quarters and a nickel all counted out.

When I got on the bus, I put my money in the coin slot, but the change jammed up in it.

"The machine seems to be stuck," I told the bus driver.

"Well, it's up to you to unstuck it," he told me looking straight ahead.

Taken back by his response, I took out my keychain, found a slimmer key and starting poking at the change in the slot. I must have stood there for a full minute trying to flatten out the coins. Nothing I did worked.

"I can't get it unstuck," I said, feeling guilty.

He took out what looked like a very small screwdriver from his shirt pocket and starting jabbing at the coins.

"You shouldn't be putting your money in so fast," he said, disgusted. "You're holding up the other passengers and you didn't even put in the right fare."

"I put in 80 cents."

"You put in 75, you're short a nickel."

"The hell I am," I said with my guilt feelings going totally out the window. "Ya know, this is a first for me. I've never been reprimanded by a bus driver before."

He got the coin slot cleaned out and didn't say anything else to me as I took a seat in the back of the bus. As I sat there, I started to get steamed at his rudeness. When I got off at my stop, I asked for his name. Apparently, he gave me a false one, because when I called Metro to complain about him, nobody knew who the guy was. So not only is he an asshole, he's also gutless and a liar.

The reality is I shouldn't be writing about a bad bus driver, because there are so many good ones. I usually catch the bus at seven in the morning — the Route 17 that runs down Ludlow Avenue — and the driver making this run is a total pleasure. If you feel like talking, she's up for it. If you just want to be left alone, that's fine with her, too. Either way, you get that same friendly "Good morning" and when you get off, you get "Have a nice day." Metro should be proud of her.

But we don't call Metro on the good drivers, do we? We sort of take the friendly ones for granted while the bad ones stick out in our mind. I don't even know the morning driver's name, and that needs to change. The next time I see her, I'm going to ask. Something tells me I'll get a real answer.

And I'll probably never know Melvin's real name but I think Charlie, the guy with the walker, has, perhaps, found a fitting one for him.

I helped Charlie with his walker when we reached his stop. Once again the driver didn't offer to lower the steps to the bus, but we handled it just fine.

When he reached the sidewalk, Charlie looked up at the bus rider and yelled, "You're a bloody jackass!"

I couldn't have picked a better name myself. Happy Birthday, Charlie.

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