Mr. Smiley the Bus Driver

One thing I love about living in the United States is the sense of humor that finds its way into daily life.

The baggage handler at JFK that shouts out “Welcome to America!” at the top of his lungs as he hauls your bags off the conveyor belt.

The Bart train driver who takes the time to explains the history of the West Oakland shipping cranes and how they were the inspiration for George Lucas when he designed the Imperial Walkers for Star Wars, all in the tone of a pleasantly brain dead Disney tour bus operator.

The New York subway driver who tries to convince commuters from rushing into the same door at the bottom of the stairs by yelling into the intercom, “REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Everyone please jam into the same door at once!”

Today’s wisecracking bus driver is the latest example of this very American humor. The ride back home on the Transbay bus is usually a mundane affair – folks are tired after a day in the work-a-day world and the muffled quiet on the bus is deadening as most just want to sink into their seats and reflect quietly on the day gone by. I have a choice of three buses to take me home so before boarding a bus I usually glance at my watch just to gauge if I should take the local before me or wait for an express. As I ran through the mental calculation the driver hailed me with a greeting and then said, “What are you lookin’ at your watch for, I’m on time. You want to leave earlier? I can do that too.”

As I climbed on board he went on, trying to snap me from my post-work haze, “Hey, you dropped a $20 bill behind you.” when there
was none there. Made you look is written on the faces of all the other riders already seated as I took my seat.

Now alert, I patted the driver on his arm, thanking him for the joke and taking my seat. Each new rider was greeted with a new round of jokes and quips as he poked and prodded each commuter out of their automatic pilot.

“I almost have enough, can I get on?” says a student. “I almost can take you, is that ok?” the driver shoots back.

We’re pulling out of San Francisco and we’re all smiles, heading over the bridge with the sun setting behind us, a bus full of kids on a field trip.

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