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Surly Bruce

September 1, 2010

(A post from the archives)

 

Every morning I take the bus in to work. My usual driver is a quiet, silver-haired man I affectionately call Surly Bruce. I overheard on the radio that his actual name is Bruce, so that part isn't too inventive.

Every morning, I greet him by saying, "Mornin'" as I swipe my bus pass. He usually responds with a nod, a grunt, or some days a quiet, "Morning" in return. So, he's pretty nice to me. I have seen him clench that frog mouth of his and look blankly at other passengers' friendly greetings. Similarly, when I de-bus, I always say, "Have a good one." He is more apt to just grunt then.

This man will not hesitate to lay on the horn at offending cars or come alarmingly close to running down campus pedestrians. I honestly saw two sorority girls dive the other way as this big blue bus barreled through the crosswalk this morning. When he switches the sign to Not in Service at the last stop, I pray for anyone in his way. I can hear the engine rev and feel the wind pelt me as he slams that bus back on the road and, presumably, home.

Now, I understand that this man probably hates his job. I can't imagine that driving around in circles all morning is very stimulating. I know some (most) of the passengers aren't the most pleasant or endearing either. But something happened this morning that made me rethink Surly Bruce.

At our last stop in the 'burbs before turning to downtown, a large crowd had gathered. It took a few minutes to load everyone on, but then we were off. As we turn the corner and head to the highway, I saw a man in business attire just giving up on his run towards us and the now vacant stop. He put his arms down, turned around and started to walk away with his shoulders slumped. Surly Bruce pulled up right next to this man, stopped, and opened the doors. The man thanked him profusely and took a seat. 

Now, I have seen other drivers drive 5 feet from a stop and refuse to pick up a passenger because they weren't at the stop. I saw a homeless man start to lose his shit on a bus at a stoplight begging and screaming to be let out. The other passengers and I had to wait it out until we arrived at a designated stop. Thankfully, the homeless man dove off the bus to chase whatever demons where plaguing him that day. My point is that these bus stops are some kind of holy ground in bus driver Standard Operating Procedure. It was an extreme act of kindness for Surly Bruce to pick up this man this morning.

Maybe Bruce is a slave to the schedule. He tolerates no delays because that is his responsibility, his duty, to us as passengers. If he comes across as cold or blank, well, that is just how things get done efficiently. After a hard morning of that, I would be ready to push the throttle back home too. Maybe Surly Bruce isn't so surly after all. He's human and showed me an act of kindness to start the day off. I needed that.

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