Amateur Psychologists On Wheels

Like so many others, I abstain from road-rage and hop on a bus when I need to get from Point A to Point B. For me, I often have to venture into Seattle and usually take an express bus that's at best forty minutes one-way, at worst...well, let's not go there. I actually got the idea for my book "The Express" while riding on, yes you guessed it, an express bus.

I've been commuting here in the Seattle metro area now for about two years, and I've noticed a common thread that many of the bus drivers seem to share. I'm not sure whether by training or by experience or by common sense, or a mix of all of the above, but bus drivers here in Seattle are fantastic psychologists. No, I don't mean they listen to the passengers and converse with them (although some will if you're standing up front). I'm more referring to how drivers communicate with passengers and non-passengers who step foot inside the front bus entrance. As you can imagine, bus drivers see every walk of life in every social tier. And they get asked the craziest questions—and not always having to do with routes. Now shake that combination up with changes in weather, traffic, bad days, good days, hard times, good times, etc. and you quickly become faced with a very complex emulsion of encounters.

It amazes me how drivers (that I've witnessed) find the exact sweet spot on how to handle people. It seems almost parental in nature to me. For one passenger (having his full facilities), a driver may be very stern whereas with the next passenger who has obvious issues, kid gloves are put on. What amazes me even more is that bus drivers are just like everyone else, they have bad days. And I've seen some who get frustrated behind the wheel and let it spill over to a controlled version of road-rage, but never have I seen a driver who was having a bad day ever take it out on a passenger, especially on a passenger who it could have devastating implications for.

From schizophrenics to drug addicts to folks just down on their luck, bus drivers always seem to find a pause for patience and dare I say empathy. Conversely, for folks who need firmer handling, bus drivers are quick to give passengers a reality check. Not with attitude or anger, but again with a parental delivery that elicits a chill down your child-being-corrected spine. 

Just makes me want to say kudos and thank you, because bus drivers do what I know must come very hard, especially on days when they themselves aren't doing so well.