Letter to a Bus Driver

metro bus 3

Dear City Metro Bus Driver —

I ride the bus in to work two or three times a week. A 30 or 40 minute ride each way. And I find myself wondering what it’s like to be a bus driver, particularly for a city metro bus.

Because the metro buses are so many, I don’t always have the same driver, but I see you fairly consistently. A young-ish woman, maybe mid-30s/early-40s, black, with beautiful box-braided hair, and long fingernails, and a smile on your face every time you greet a rider or a fellow bus driver. You always say good morning to me when I walk up. You always say “have a nice day” when I thank you for the ride as I depart. And I find myself wondering: how did you become a bus driver? Is it a job you enjoy? Do you have a family to support? I have no doubt you had bigger dreams as a child and young adult, but what about now? Do you still have bigger dreams, or are you content (or feeling stuck) where you’re at?

Most of you bus drivers are black and under 50 years old. I firmly believe it is a sign of the class and race divide in this country. I have no doubt at least one of the reasons you become bus drivers is because you did not have the opportunity to go to college and/or do something else with your lives. But that doesn’t necessarily mean being a bus driver is unfulfilling. What if you enjoyed driving? Didn’t want to be stuck in a cubicle all day? Or are simply happy to have a semi-decent paying job with some level of security? (Because these are city-paid jobs, the salaries are easily found online. I see that City Metro bus drivers can make anywhere between $25-48k depending on seniority, which while not a TON of money, is really not too bad in this city, and is certainly more than I make).

As a sat on the bus yesterday morning, watching you drive expertly through heavy traffic, I imagined you must wake up very early every morning – 5am? 4:30am? I wake up at 6:45am just to make the 8am bus, and you’re probably on your second or even third route of the day by then. I hope the people with early morning routes are not also stuck with late-night routes, because that would be cruel, if you ask me. But I know you’re still driving at 5:30pm during the afternoon rush to go home, because you’ve driven both routes in the same day when I’m riding on at least a couple occasions. I hope you get a break during the mid-day lull at least. I hope you’ve eaten at some great restaurants downtown or in Mid-Town. Any you would care to recommend?

One of these days, I would like to strike up a conversation with you. Ask you about your life, and how you became a bus driver, and if you enjoy it. But every time I think about doing that, I feel awkward. Would it be rude, presumptuous? Or would you be touched that someone has thought to ask you how you feel, rather than just viewing you as another cog in the city public transit machine?

I wonder a lot of things that I’ll probably never know.

In any case, thank you. Thank you for always getting me where I need to be, quickly and safely. I hope you have a good day too.

Silent Sister


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