Sunday, December 30, 2012

BUS STORY # 321 (Shorts 28: Other People's Shorts)

Untitled by busboy4
Bus Diary, Entry # 15, a photo by John McNab on Flickr.


Sometimes I love the subway. Sitting across from me this morning was an old gay man with spiked, bleach-blond hair, reading a beat-up copy of Germain Greer’s “The Female Eunuch.” I smiled at him, he smiled back, and while I was putting on my makeup (tacky, I know, but evs), he said, “Good job, kid!” It kinda made my morning.

Posted on Facebook November 16, 2012, by Jennifer DeMerrit, via my daughter.


Dave reports he was on the 17 in downtown Minneapolis when a young 20-something girl gets on, walks past the fare box, and asks if anyone has fifty cents. One of the other passengers digs in his pocket and comes up with two quarters. By this time, the bus is on the way to the next stop. The girl takes the quarters and heads back toward the front of the bus. When the driver reaches the stop and opens the front door, the girl exits! Dave and his fellow riders look at one another and just laugh.

From the story posted February 5, 2010, by Dave, in Bus Tales.


Blue-black hair. Fluorescent lime green tutu over jeans. Chuck Taylor knock-offs. Hello Kitty backpack. Swears like the love-child of Lenny Bruce and Kathy Griffin. At a volume that threatens to rip the fabric of reality to tatters. She’s at the back of the ole 54 and holding court, as only a 13 year old can, regaling her pack with woes of hair dye and parental idiocy. I hop off at an early stop, and watch the wee shuttle to the water taxi. Choppy water, barking seals, pooping gulls, and even potential seasickness is well worth putting a body of water between me and this larval stage Banshee. She could molt at any second and I’d like to be as far away as possible when that happens.

Posted Nov 24, 2011, by Richard Isherman, on Bus Stories: Observations on Life In Transit.


The public transportation system in this city upsets me: everything runs on time and regularly, nothing breaks, all the people on the buses and trains just sit there and mind their own business, nobody gets into fights, nobody has loud inappropriate phone conversations, nobody dresses in clothes that make you want to ask if they think they're in Disneyland, nobody you don't know tries to talk to you. I find myself continually asking, "what is wrong with all these people?"

Posted July 30, 2012, by Rangergirl, on What Happens on the Bus.


The photo at the top of this story is titled "Bus Diary, Entry # 15," and is posted by permission of John McNab. You can see all John McNab's photos on Flickr here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

BUS STORY # 320 (Special Christmas Edition 2012: “Brother's gift fulfills Wisconsin man’s lifelong dream to drive a bus (with video)”, by Sam Cook)

Photo by Bob King/Duluth News Tribune. by busboy4
Joey Moravchik of Washburn stands in front the school bus he received as a Christmas present from his brother, Jeff. Joey is a fan of school buses and memorizes the names of all the local bus drivers and their bus numbers. (Bob King/ Photo by Bob King/Duluth News Tribune.

This story was written by Sam Cook and was published in the January 22, 2012, edition of the Duluth News Tribune.  It is republished here by permission of the author and Michelle McEwen, Assistant to the Editor, Duluth News Tribune.

The photo at the top of this story is by Bob King/Duluth News Tribune, and is republished here by permission. You can see this photo and the rest of Bob King’s photo gallery for this story here.

Brother's gift fulfills Wisconsin man’s lifelong dream to drive a bus (with video)

His whole life, Joey Moravchik dreamed of being a bus driver. But being developmentally delayed since birth, that dream seemed impossible — until his brother came through with an unexpected Christmas gift.

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

INO, Wis. — When Joey Moravchik was a kid, he couldn’t wait for the Ashland Daily Press to publish the bus routes each fall. He’d clip the list and memorize the names of the drivers and the numbers of their buses.

Twenty minutes after he had studied the list, his dad would quiz him. Joey would know all the drivers and all their buses by number, said his mom, Carol Moravchik of Ino, Wis. Joey, who’s now 40 and lives in Washburn, loved buses.

“When he started school and he started riding the bus, he liked sitting up front,” his mom said. “He did like the bus drivers. I don’t know whether they took a liking to him or what, but pretty soon it was buses, buses, buses.”

Everyone knew that Joey, who has been developmentally delayed since birth, loved buses. On family vacations, if Joey spied a derelict school bus in a salvage yard, the family would pull over so Joey could inspect it.

“Joey would open the door. We’d all file on, and he’d take us for a pretend ride,” said his sister, Julie Moravchik of Hermantown.

In high school, Joey would clean and wash buses at Lake Shore Buses Inc. in Ashland, which provides buses for the school district.

All Joey wanted to do when he grew up was drive a bus. But because of his learning disability, that wasn’t to be.

“What broke our hearts is that Joey could never be a bus driver,” Julie said.

All of that changed on Christmas Day, when Joey walked out behind the silo at the family’s farm near Ino and saw a yellow school bus with a red ribbon on it. It was a present from his brother, Jeff Moravchik, 36, of Ino. And it took the whole family by surprise.

Joey was stunned.

With the family in tow, he stopped in his tracks when he saw the bus and heard its diesel engine idling.

“I went like this,” he said the other day, bringing both hands up to cover his face.

There it was, bus No. 74, just retired from the Lake Shore Buses in Ashland, where Jeff had bought it from his longtime friends Mike and Amy Bochler. Julie rolled video as tears rolled down her cheeks. Jeff’s wife, Sarah, snapped photos.

Joey climbed into the driver’s seat.

“I almost started putting it in ‘drive,’ ” Joey said, “but Dad said, ‘Hold on. You don’t want to run anyone over.’ ”

The passengers climbed aboard.

“He turned right into a bus driver,” sister Julie said. “He opened the door for us. He’d say, ‘All right. You must be seated while the bus is in motion.’ ”

Joey put the bus in gear and headed down the lane. He had found heaven in a hayfield south of Ino. But after several minutes behind the wheel, he turned to Jeff with a question.

“He asked when we had to give it back,” Jeff said. “He thought we just had it for the day.”

Out for a drive

On a brisk January day, Joey was behind the wheel again. He has driven the bus about a dozen times since Christmas Day, Jeff said. He drove the lumbering yellow craft down the lane toward the hayfield, where scant snow cover made for good bus driving.

“Nice and easy on the brakes,” Jeff said, coaching Joey.

Jeff stood up front, watching over his brother, offering advice when necessary.

“Now turn to the right.”

“Now cut ’er left.”

“Go pick up your passenger now.”

A photographer stood in the middle of the field. Joey eased No. 74 alongside him and popped the door open with that flappy pneumatic sound every bus kid remembers. A stop-sign sprang out from the other side of the bus, red lights flashing. The passenger hopped on. Joey swung the door shut and rumbled on across the field, powder snow twisting in the bus’s slipstream.

Jeff had searched the Internet and the Lake Shore Buses in Ashland for nine months to find No. 74. The Moravchik family had drawn names for Christmas at Easter — the first time they’d ever done that — and Jeff drew Joey’s.

“Immediately, I thought, ‘We’re getting a bus,’ ” Jeff said.

But it wasn’t until a week before Christmas that the Bochlers at Lake Shore Buses said they had a bus available. A new school bus can run $90,000, Mike Bochler said. This one had been in service as a backup unit, and the Bochlers knew why Jeff wanted it.

“They gave me a really good deal,” said Jeff, a financial adviser in Ashland. “It was very generous of them.”

The Bochlers knew what a bus would mean to Joey.

“We’ve known Joey for a long time,” Mike Bochler said. “That’s what he loves. When Jeff wanted to give him that opportunity, we wanted to do as much as we could to make it happen.”

The bus is in excellent condition. Its big diesel runs with an eager growl. The paint is fresh.

The big surprise

Shortly after midnight on the night before Christmas, Jeff parked the bus behind the silo on his folks’ farm. He put the bow on its grill.

Early on Christmas morning, when the family always gathers at Carol and Joe Moravchik’s to open presents, Jeff and Sarah had to blindfold the others as they arrived by car so they wouldn’t see the bus as they came in. Sarah drove each arriving family’s vehicle to the house, where they were led inside.

Everyone opened presents inside, and finally, Jeff told Joey his was out behind the silo. The whole family, some still in pajamas, traipsed out there, following Joey.

On the video that Julie shot, Joey was clearly in disbelief when he saw the bus. He gasped and covered his face with his hands, then barreled toward the open door and climbed into the driver’s seat.

Carol Moravchik said doctors haven’t been able to give a name to Joey’s developmental condition. He went to school as a special education student. He lives in an apartment in Washburn now, where community support specialists are with him 24 hours a day. He has worked several part-time jobs. He’s outgoing and friendly, although he sometimes gets frustrated when he cannot do certain tasks, his mother said.

First tractor ride

When he was very young, Carol noticed that Joey didn’t react much to stimulation.

“He didn’t really smile,” she said. “I’d try to do toys, and he wouldn’t do anything.”

One day, he was ready to go to a friend’s birthday party. His dad, Joe, was in the upper field, plowing, Carol said. Joey must have been 1 or 1½. He was ready for the party early, so Carol and Julie took Joey out to the field.

“Why don’t you give Joey a ride on the tractor?” Carol asked Joe. “He (Joey) was just sitting there, plain-faced. When he came back, both Julie and I said, ‘He’s smiling!’ That’s the first time we saw him smile.”

Joey loved the tractor ride, and soon that same kind of fascination was transferred to buses.

That fascination is clearly still intact. He still memorizes the annual lists of drivers and their bus numbers. He can reel off the list.

“Number 42 is Scott Brown,” he said. “Number 43 is Jan Larson.”

And he keeps on going down the list. He can tell you where they park their buses during the day between their morning and evening routes.

One more spin

It would be hard to imagine anyone happier than Joey as he wheeled No. 74 through the snowy hayfield on a January afternoon. He took his work seriously, an intense look in his dark eyes. His passengers included Jeff and Sarah and their 3-year-old daughter, Ava. Bella, the family’s tiny dog, slept on Ava’s lap. Mary Lou Clement, one of Joey’s community support specialists, was along, too.

The bus approached a row of spruce trees.

“To the right, Joey,” Jeff said.

Joey cranked the big black steering wheel, and the bus lurched to the right. He straightened it out and picked up speed. The bus bounced over rough spots in the field. His passengers jostled left and right in their seats, just the way Joey had as a kid, riding No. 9 with the late John Gazdik at the wheel.

Several times, Jeff looked back at the passengers from his spot beside Joey up front.

He didn’t say anything.

He just smiled.

Video from Christmas morning:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

BUS STORY # 319 (E-book Reader)

Maybe it’s the day: low-hanging dark gray sky leaking water, stiff, chill breeze.  Or maybe it’s the watch cap, grizzled, unshaven face, and olive-drab car coat.  Whatever it is, the guy coming down the aisle makes me think “seaman.”  He takes the seat next to me, and I am momentarily awash in the reek of old cigarette smoke.

He’s got a covered cup of gas station coffee in his right hand, and a package in his left hand which he lays in his lap and starts to unwrap one-handedly.

His hands are weathered, and all the creases are filled in with black.  So are the edges of his fingernails.  Black and short and rough-edged.

When he’s got the package unwrapped on his lap, I see a well-worn, water-swollen spiral notebook.  Underneath is something smaller in black.

He sets the coffee down on the floor, in front of his shoe, which I take as a precaution against sudden stops. I’m skeptical about how well this will work.

He lifts the notebook up and opens it.  The edges are stained and water-wrinkled.  I don’t see any evidence of writing, but he’s opened the notebook in the middle.

He looks through some of the pages, and he does it in a way that I cannot see what is on the page.  I don’t know if this is intentional or not.

Then he closes it, slides it under the black rectangular package which he then snaps open.  At first I think it’s a tablet.  He catches me scoping it out.

“E-reader,” he says.  He tilts the screen toward me.

“Got it for twenty-seven bucks on the internet.  No mailing charges.  I couldn’t have gotten it in a store for that.”

He runs a finger down some tabs on the side of the screen and taps. Then he turns the screen toward me.

I’m looking at an old Fritz the Cat cartoon.

I tell him I didn’t realize they could do that.

He selects another tab, then turns it toward me again. I see a page of print. He tells me it came with a few books already on it, but he’s downloaded a lot more from the library.

I catch a name at the bottom of the page. Ibsen. No title.

He holds the book higher and closer to me.


I hear a woman’s voice reading, I presume, what’s on the page before me.

“Pretty cool,” I say.

He lowers the book, turns it off, wraps it back up in its black cover, then slides it under the notebook. He takes up the notebook once again, opens it somewhere in the middle. I can see the pages are blank.

He reaches inside his slicker and pulls out a ball point pen. He sits with the pen poised, looking at the blank pages.


Maybe it came with the book and his selection was just random.

Or maybe I’m sitting next to another Joseph Conrad, seaman and as yet undiscovered world class writer.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Mann im 4er Metrobus mit E-Book-Reader,” © All Rights Reserved, and is published with the permission of admit. You can see all admit’s photos on Flickr here.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

BUS STORY # 318 (An Iranian Woman Bus Driver’s Story)

Farahnaz Shiri by busboy4
Farahnaz Shiri, Downloaded from the website

While searching for videos of bus driver interviews, I came across a remarkable documentary about a woman named Farahnaz Shiri, “the first female bus driver in Tehran.” (You can read more about the film here.)

Tehran is a long way from Albuquerque, but I have shared bus stories from elsewhere before. (For the last such example, see here.) True, these have been stories told to me first-hand by friends or family. But I thought this eight-plus minute film too compelling a story to be relegated to a sidebar link.

In addition to being a remarkable bus story, it also is a reminder of how far many of us have come in our own cultures, and that gender equality is not a universally shared value among all contemporary cultures.

Regular riders here also might note how quiet, orderly, and polite the riders are in Tehran, in contrast with some bus behaviors in the land of the free. However, the heated, profanity-laced exchange between drivers seen and heard in this video is all too familiar.

This film was made in 2007 -- two years before the "Green Revolution" protests against the rigged election that kept the cultural hardliners in power, and the Iranian government's brutal repression of those protests.

On October 14, 2011, a press release from the Social Democratic Party of Iran (SPI) reported Shiri and 30 other women bus drivers were forced out of their jobs. You can read the press release, updated on April 19, 2012, here.

I have found no further word on the status of Ms. Shiri.


The photo at the top of this story was downloaded from the website.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

BUS STORY # 317 ("Is It A Cultural Thing?")

Crowded Busride by Simply Boaz
Crowded Busride, a photo by Simply Boaz on Flickr.

Recently, I read a post in the Portland bus blog, Sardines Are Only Packed Once, which made me realize I’d had a similar experience earlier in the week. This is the second time something I’ve seen or read made me realize something had happened on my bus that hadn’t registered as a bus story. (You can read the first time here.) You can read Nickareeno’s Portland bus story here. You can read my similar experience below.

When I boarded the 11 this particular morning, it already had more riders than I was used to seeing. By the time we got to Wyoming, the aisles were filled to the back door.

There were several people at the next stop, and the driver called out to please move back and make room in the front.

The guy at the end of the line looked back at the empty platform aisle, then looked forward, then stayed where he was. Others looked back, too, but no one tried to get around the guy.

The new riders were bunched up in the front past the yellow line where riders are not supposed to stand -- a precaution to prevent the driver from being distracted.

There were more folks waiting at the next stop. The driver again asked people to move back. Again, there was no movement.

He pulled into the stop, opened the front and back doors, then exited.

Next thing we knew, he’d entered the back door. He addressed the guy at the back of the line specifically, asking him to please move back.

The guy moved all the way to the back.

The driver asked the person in front of him to please move back, and that rider moved up on the platform as well.

By this time, the rest of the line didn’t need individual prompting. The line backed up, and I could see room had opened up in the front.

The driver waited until the line had completely moved, then said thank you.

He returned to the front of the bus, took the driver’s seat, and motioned to the waiting riders to come aboard.

Nickareeno wonders why his end-of-the-line guy didn’t move back when asked, and why no one else moved back around him or repeated the request to move back. And then he asks, “Why aren’t there more righteous passengers demanding civilized behavior from their fellow citizens?”

He concludes, “Is it a cultural thing?”

If Nickareeno is on to something, he’s talking about Portland culture -- in contrast to San Francisco and Los Angeles where he tells us he’s also been a rider and insists this incident would not have happened.

But apparently not in contrast with Albuquerque, whose culture is decidedly not-Portlandia, but where the incident very nearly replicated identically. The difference was our driver.

I would prefer to think ours was an early-in-the-morning not-enough-coffee thing. The driver didn’t get any pushback; people moved. But it took a special effort on the driver’s part to make it happen. Like our counterparts in Portland, the rest of us were silent even though we could see what was going on.

If we opened this up to “American culture,” I might hazard a theory of societal transition from respectful-of-others to self-absorbed, something like that. But I can’t quite pull off making two cities the size of San Francisco and Los Angeles the exception that proves the rule.

I am at a loss here.


You can read a bus story about the contrasts between Albuquerque and Portland here. Oh, and if you do, Poetry On The Bus is now history.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Crowded Busride,” and is posted with the permission of Simply Boaz. You can see all Simply Boaz’s photos on Flickr at: