There’s a ton of you guys out there these days. Welcome. Here’s what I wish they’d told me when I began:

Generally, bus drivers don’t talk about driving. They talk about people. You might think this job’s greatest challenge is maneuvering those big lugs, but it’s funny how easy the driving eventually becomes. It’s our planet’s fellow cohabitants that make this gig the challenge it is, and what justify its status as the all-singing, all-dancing customer service profession of all time. Nothing else comes close.

It’s possible to have a great time doing this job. I promise (days like this and this are what keep me comin’ back!). Crusty senior colleagues will tell you it’s only a matter of time till your enthusiasm cracks. They have the experience to back that up—their own. Their experiences are valid, but they don’t have to be yours. Nod and smile politely, appreciate the good qualities and ideas they do have, but remember: you have control over your experience. I’ve been doing this for eleven years, and I’ve driven the “worst” routes, at the “worst” times, on the “worst” days, for years on end. I love this stuff. They’re going to tell you you’re going to become miserable, gain weight, become jaded, injured… but the evidence is that some of us are still here. Yes, you’ll find your patience pushed on certain days to the absolute limit. But. You have control over your own experience.

This job, like others but moreso, is a mirror; you’ll get out of it just what you put in, in unexpected ways. Not everyone you greet will respond, and not everyone you’re kind to will return the favor. That’s okay. Things come back in a larger, subtler way. You say hello and help out, not to get kudos or acknowledgment (though you’ll often get that), but to do your part. To feel the relaxed ease of being your good self, of having nothing to prove and nowhere to be in a hurry.

You’re getting paid; you need to be nice. They’re not getting paid. They don’t have to be anything. They’re going through things you couldn’t imagine. Just help and acknowledge, help and acknowledge. They may not love you today, but they may later. Others certainly will. Positive attitudes get noticed, and respect has massive currency on the street.

You might have a few days where you go home stressed or unhappy. The important thing is, as they say in dieting, to not let it become a habit. Eat that wedding cake, but not every day. Identify patterns of negative thought or behavior early on and do something about them. Sure, you’ll have a few days out of the year that go spectacularly poorly. It happens. Don’t be discouraged; as the wise man said, we learn more from failing than succeeding.. the trick is to just not do it too often! Think about how you’ll deal with whatever it is next time, how to think about it next time– because there will be a next time, believe me. The fix might be as simple as a tone change of tone or perspective.

Below are a few links I urge you to check out. Maybe you only have time to bookmark this page for later. I get that. But keep in mind these three bullet points as you start your next trip:

  • Do not concern yourself over schedule or fare. You can’t control those. Disregard them. You only need to do two things: be nice, and don’t hit anything. You can control those.
  • Take care of your body. It’s easier than you think, and more than worth it. if your hurting physically, everything else is that much harder.
  • Pretend to be happy. The funniest thing will happen: that pretending will start turning into actual happiness. It’s bizarre, and I don’t how it works, but by God, am I glad it does.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few:

Two lists you might find useful:

  1. A Love Letter for My Colleagues: Exercises and Stretches for Operators (mostly physical stuff)
  2. What I’ve Learned From Other Bus Drivers (mostly customer stuff. If you click on only one link here, let it be this one)

A few stories on topics that might be stewing on the brain:

Let me know how you’re doing. Seriously. We’re here to help. Say hello if you see me!

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Nathan Vass is an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and author by day, and a Metro bus driver by night, where his community-building work has been showcased on TED, NPR, The Seattle Times, KING 5 and landed him a spot on Seattle Magazine’s 2018 list of the 35 Most Influential People in Seattle. He has shown in over forty photography shows is also the director of nine films, six of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. His book, The Lines That Make Us, is a Seattle bestseller and 2019 WA State Book Awards finalist.