Tom Vanderbilt, writing for Slate, characterizes the dilemma many bus drivers face: “Make the schedule by driving more recklessly, or drive safely and irritate the passengers.” There are a host of indicators that driving a bus is a very stressful job-from high blood pressure to physical assaults perpetrated by enraged passengers-before we even get to the fact that by some estimates half of all bus accidents are caused by other drivers rear-ending the bus.
Vanderbilt interviewed part-time bus driver Matt Leber, who took the job driving buses in Seattle after a 10-year stint at Microsoft. Leber relates stories he’s heard from long-time bus drivers, drivers who’ve been at the job for 20 or 30 years, and they talk about knee replacements and problems with back pain. And they talk about problems with distraction. Leber himself has had his bit of distraction: “I’ve had people thrust a transfer into my face, while I’m driving, and ask, ‘Is this still valid?'”
In the age of texting-while-driving and other distracted driving issues, Vanderbilt writes that bus driving is more taxing than driving a car-bus drivers must contend with passengers that expect buses to be on time, yet some of these same passengers pull out their wallets or purses and count change after the bus has pulled to its stop, holding up the line.
As Leber’s story demonstrates, passengers expect bus drivers to dole out information about far-flung bus routes and arrival times, all while navigating a bus in rush hour traffic. Leber says his eyes are “moving in all directions, looking for danger.”
In honor of the tough job of driving a bus, we say that there are few things more valuable than a diligent and attentive bus driver-in addition, perhaps, to all other diligent and attentive drivers on the road.