Monday, September 16, 2019

Perspicacious

When a rider called me "perspicacious" I had no idea what the word meant.  I was a little worried it conveyed an insult.   A moment before he made sport of me by saying: "You're the captain of this ship." He was ribbing me about when I was supposed to depart from the time point in front of his low-slung cheap rent apartment complex. 

The apartment complex is in East Winston, or said another way "on the wrong side of the tracks." I was nervous about my first route in this part of town. Something caused me to pause and evaluate the nature of this interaction, to be present and interpret his tone rather than assume his words were malicious. As the exchanged played out it dawned on me that he was being playful.   I summoned the courage to ask him what perspicacious meant.  To his delight, he had stumped me. 

It is fun to tell this story because it is an example of a stereotype debunked.  I was thinking, "Here is a smart-aleck passenger coming out of an apartment complex in which I had conducted food security research a few years prior."  I thought I knew all about the inhabitants there and certainly that my vocabulary was superior.  But instead of acting superior, I asked him what it meant. 

To prove it's meaning he brought up the definition on his smartphone. Perspicacious means having a ready insight into and understanding of things.  What I could have mistaken as an insult turned into a precious compliment and a rich interaction with a passenger.  This sixty-something African American man was telling me that I had read the situation correctly.  Instead of getting defensive about his jabs regarding departure times, I had kept my head and realized he was playing with me. 

Who doesn't want to have a ready insight?  Who doesn't want to be praised as being shrewd? But I know it doesn't always apply to me.  I make mistakes.  I miss turns.   I get turned down for work that  I perceive I am well suited.  So what am I learning from these interactions with passengers?   

I am learning about what Paul Farmer describes as “a hermeneutic of generosity.”  I just finished reading Mountains Beyond Mountains because I wanted to learn about this luminary of Medicine, Public Health, and Anthropology who has spent his career partnering with the poor.  Here is the excerpt where Tracy Kidder defines the term:
“Depends on whether or not you have an H of G for the endeavor,” he [Farmer] said, without looking up.  
“An H of G” was short for “a hermeneutic of generosity,” which he had defined once for me [Kidder] in an e-mail: “I have a hermeneutic of generosity for you because I know you’re a good guy. Therefore I will interpret what you say and do in a favorable light..."
The danger of stereotypes is they often keep us from seeing the other person in a favorable light. This wily passenger ended up giving me a gift. If I assumed it was an insult I would have missed the precious present. His quick appraisal of me continues to give me reassurance as a neophyte bus driver. 

I am trying to interpret new experiences in a favorable light.  I want to be generous with my words and encourage passengers in the hopes of lifting their spirits. I hope you are given a compliment from an unexpected quarter.   It could change your outlook.
 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Telling Stories

Steve Beck works to help us understand how stories shape our worldview.  One avenue he uses is his website https://cstevebeck.com

Writing stories and doing interviews about my experience as a bus driver helps me process my feelings. It helps me make sense of what I am seeing on my routes.

I am grateful for people like Steve Beck and Rachael Duane who compose stories of real hope.  Doing the interview below was an enriching experience. It also has been a source of encouragement because of its positive reception.

Please check it out at https://cstevebeck.com/new-blog/peacemaker-on-the-bus.

Steve Beck

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Afraid

I am scared of the dark.  I didn't realize it until I started driving the night shift.   Working in the dark has brought out all my anxieties, fears, and worries.   I am unaccustomed to feeling afraid, and the stress of not getting good rest adds to the vicious cycle of feeling anxious. 

Being afraid was not part of my vocabulary, or maybe I was too fool-hardy to ever stop and recognize my fears. Doing adventurous things always seemed glamorous to me, not frightening.   I thought driving a bus would be an adventure, not such a lesson in hard knocks.   Driving at night this last month is kicking my butt and breaking my heart.   I am doubting whether or not I maintain it.

Driving a large vehicle in traffic with passengers is stressful enough, but when you add darkness it feels even more daunting.  While there is less traffic late at night, you do have the added burden of fatigue.  The weariness of both driver and passenger make the bus quiet at night.

Bus drivers are providing a service to people in service industries. Our hours of operation need to accommodate their schedules.   Many of our late-night passengers toil in kitchens, scrub buildings clean, and keep watch over a property.  They are either tired from a long shift or headed to work until morning.   The bus at night has a somber mood compared to morning or lunchtime as riders are tired.

At night you also have passengers seeking shelter and I worry about what they will find. I cannot forget the 60 ish-year-old woman, she could have been my aunt, anxiously asking me directions just as the last buses were departing from the transit center downtown.  It was 11:30 and she would have to make a decision about which bus to take because our service was about to end for the night. It became clear she was trying to decide where to go to be away from others, so she could camp out.  She boarded my bus no longer able to contain her fear about the long night ahead.   She continued to press me with questions about which areas in town she might find to be safe. I am heartbroken to think of what befalls the homeless during the night. 

I am a morning person, so driving from 4 pm until just after midnight is stretching me.  The worst fear I face is the self-doubt about whether my desire to improve public transportation will have any impact.  I think about all the reasons, large and small, that make it so easy for people to be overlooked.  Driving a bus at night makes me feel very small compared to the harsh realities I see.  I didn't mention the regular scary stuff like buses being shot at, passengers cussing at drivers and fellow passengers, fights, and passengers with health emergencies. To feel afraid is part of the stretch of growing pains and I hope my experiences help shine a light on the importance of improving public transportation for our community. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Stakeholder Health Podcast


What an honor to be a guest on the Stakeholder Health Podcast, hosted by Dr. Gary Gunderson. 

In 2005, I read Dr. Gunderson's book, Boundary Leaders: Leadership Skills for People of Faith in graduate school and I have been a fan ever since.  When he came to Winston-Salem in 2012 I stalked him like a fanboy.  So you can imagine how special I felt to be on his podcast.

A college friend of mine said this was her favorite part of the interview.
Gunderson: I want to interrupt, because I suspect, at this point in the interview, some of the stakeholder health folks listening to the interview are saying, “Wait a minute. You’re actually driving a bus, not writing a paper about people who are driving buses, and you’re actually on the bus, watching human beings for eight hours a day, not reading about people writing about people riding a bus?” So walk us through this process. How did you become a bus driver? So you decided, “Okay, it’s not enough to be a researcher. I actually do love the community, and, as we all know, sometimes love makes you crazy.
Summers: Yes.
Gunderson: Well, so your love is you’re driving a bus. How did that happen, and what’s it mean? How do you become one?
You can listen or read the interview at https://stakeholderhealth.org/phillip-summers/ or from iTunes.

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Step Up

"Yesterday they said it was a second bus, so I tried it this morning.  Sure enough, I slept in a little and even had time to bring a lunch," said the man catching the 6am bus to work for the first time.  The early morning light of Spring illuminated our mutual joy.   He normally caught the bus at 5:30am but because of increased frequency on his route, he was afforded 30 minutes in his day.  He used that extra time for two health-promoting activities: rest and preparing lunch for work.

Increased frequency in bus service reduces travel times and frees up time in the schedule of riders to do other productive things.  The study I helped design for the Winston Salem State University Center for the Study of Economic Mobility found that "Employed bus riders spend 8.7 hours more a week in commuting time than equivalent workers taking vehicles. That averages to lost wages of $4,350 per year."  A bus rider complained to me the other day that all the time lost in transit was like having a part-time job that didn't pay.

The WSSU study was conducted before increased frequency was started on 6 routes because of an NCDOT grant to mitigate the impact of Business 40 closing. During the week, I drive 4 of the 6 routes that have 30-minute frequency and I hear riders express their appreciation for the improved service.  The story above came from a modification that was made to service paid for by the NCDOT.   That morning as I pondered how increased frequency had helped his health status I was also struck by how word of mouth was the best way to communicate with passengers.

As I thought about how he had said, "They told me yesterday, so I tried it today," it made me wonder who I had told about our improved service.  Because it was the first week of route modifications and having the fresh idea that word of mouth was the best way to disseminate information to bus riders, I made an announced later that day on a different route that also got improved frequency.  I let the riders on my bus know that there was now a second bus on their route and they would have 30-minute frequency. The overwhelmingly positive response from the riders blew me away.   One rider said, "Now that is a step up!"  

The banner below is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and it highlights how increased public transportation improves social determinants of health.   I witness those health improvements from behind the wheel and I pray that our community will continue the expanded service even after Business 40 opens.  


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Communication

When two people come at an idea with differing perspectives it can cause conflict.  Obviously, marriages have conflict, co-workers have conflict, siblings face conflict, even friends endure it sometimes.  The key to working through these, of course, is communication.  It is a complicated topic: we communicate with our words but also our tones of voice, facial expressions and eye rolls, types of laughter, shoulder hunches, arms crossing, busy hands, etc.

In the South, it is common to greet just about everyone you come in contact with, strangers, friends and enemies alike.  If not with words, most people will communicate with a tip of their head, or a small smile.  It still surprises my kids when someone doesn't say, "Good morning" right back to us, as it is the norm here in NC.

When Phillip sits in the bus driver's seat he can use his role to greet every person with a polite hello and give a kind goodbye when they exit. I think this is one of his favorite parts of the job. There have been a few days when people who are consistent riders do a double take to see if they are getting on the right bus since friendly Phillip is not their normal bus driver.  Cordial, face-to-face greetings seem to be sadly less common in these fast-paced, smart-phone driven days.

Conflict can sometimes arise if a rider feels lost and frustrated, needing quick answers, and as a new driver, Phillip has been humbled at not being able to answer the questions about scheduling very effectively or as efficiently as he would like.  This provides a chance to communicate quickly, "I am sorry. I don't know."

"I am sorry," are such simple, powerful words.  We don't have to have it all together all the time, but to be gracious in an instant where we would like to be given grace goes a long way.

I wish this was my default way.  In conflict, when I do take time to pause and gentle my voice in order to address an issue with a family member, or a student, it makes the conversation so much sweeter, and so much more effective.  It takes a lifetime to learn how to regularly, "speak the truth, in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Honesty, kindness, and graciousness in communication are the quickest way to change conflict to calm.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Advocacy

I was nervous on the cold January night in 2017, when I first stood up to advocate for public transportation at City Hall.  The video shows the public outcry from the newly redesigned bus routes.  Riders were grateful that service was restored to the Columbia Heights Extension Neighborhood that night and other simple route modifications were garnered.  Through coalition building and policy advocacy, we were successful in expanding night and weekend service on more routes, getting routes into Google Maps to improve wayfinding and trip planning, creating a short film to educate the public, and conducting a rider survey.

A new regional study found that nearly 40 percent of households have access to one or less vehicle, which can lead to many relying on alternative transportation modes. What was analysis, reading articles, and research has for me turned into daily witnessing the power of public transportation from the driver's seat of a bus. I see how it moves people to community gardens, grocery stores, work, school, and healthcare.

Today I have even more questions about how systems and structures such as class privilege, privatization of government services, economic globalization, and racism affect how we deliver public transportation services locally. Why do we allow the lifeline service of transportation to flourish for the car owner and languish for others?

To improve public transportation please:
  1. Clean the Clark Campbell Transportation Center. It is located in the heart of our city and plays a prominent role in how riding the bus is viewed.  The city is responsible for this task and too often the Center resembles a toxic ashtray of discarded cigarette butts covered in spilled oil from leaking buses.   

  2. Improve the bus fleet.  Buses often break down.  This makes service unreliable. Buses show their age with broken handicap lifts and oil leaks. Disabled riders and the natural environment suffer from our apparent reluctance to update our bus fleet.  

  3. Expedite the installation of bus shelters.   With our current shelter inventory representing a paltry 5 percent of all stops, expanding this amenity would be a demonstration to riders that their experience in riding the bus matters.   

  4. Add 30-minute frequency to more routes. More frequency of bus service means less time waiting for transit, freeing up time in a rider’s day to work, rest,  recreate, and cook and share meals with family. 

  5. Ensure that bus drivers are full-time employees.   The current business practice of keeping drivers on part-time status for an indefinite amount of time means many drivers wait over a year to access full-time benefits if they even stay long enough.  As a city, we need to ensure fair working conditions, particularly when we outsource public service jobs to private businesses.  
As society faces the pressures of bank mergers, global acquisitions, and healthcare consolidation, enacting evidence-based policies that support a growing number of citizens gaining access to the benefits of public transportation is a good local investment.

7/7/19 Editor's Note: point five was changed to say full-time employees instead of limiting it to health insurance. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Run!

"When I seen you (gasp) I took off running. (gasp) I am too old to run like that but I didn't wanna miss you." After he catches his breath he says "I used to run-an-run as a youngster."  The passenger appeared to be in his late sixties, a tall thin African American.  He was happy to have caught the bus to town and glad I waited on him.

When people reach the bus after exerting themselves they are often smiling, reminiscing of days gone by when running was more a part of their life.   It catches me by surprise that they are actually more talkative than most passengers, so relieved to not have missed the bus.   

We have a policy that if someone is making an effort to get to the bus stop then we wait.  What this means is if you see someone running to catch the bus, be courteous and wait.   Having folks run up to the bus or to a stop is a daily occurrence.   What is fascinating is that people of all ages, genders, sizes, and builds will run to catch the bus. I get to witness passengers run, jog, shuffle, hustle and hurry to catch the bus.

Bus riders get to move more.   Studies show that compared to commuters who drive to work, bus riders get more steps.  They get to walk to the bus stop and walk to their destination.  They step up to board the bus and hop off to continue on their journey.   Daily, I revel in the movement that I get to witness.






 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Role Model

Clark Campbell was faithful.  
Clark Campbell drove a city bus for 45 years.  His contribution and legacy are so profound that though he retired in 1972 riders still remember him.   The transportation center downtown is named after him and he drove more than 3 million miles on our city's streets.

He is a role model because he built rapport with passengers and enjoyed a fruitful tenure in public service. One older gentleman loves to reminisce about his in-law Clark Campbell and the history of Winston-Salem. One morning I got up and stretched at the end of the bus route and he made an off-handed comment, "Clark Campbell always did that too. He would really stress getting up and stretching." 

For the rest of the trip, he regaled me with stories about his legendary relative.  He told me that he had a side lawn business and loved to stay busy. I plied him with questions about Campbell but was most intrigued by the tidbits he dropped about Campbell's faith.   He said that Campbell loved to sing hymns and Gospel music. 

I enjoy the conversations I get to have with passengers because I learn so much from them.  Seeing regular riders gives you a chance to have ongoing dialogue and gain insight into their life. I have been surprised by how close-knit passengers and drivers become.  I have met mothers, children, significant others, in-laws and, of course, cousins of fellow drivers. You meet all manner of households and kin riding together. Come Ride!



Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Springtime


Springtime is a balm
for snarling traffic
and surly passengers. 

It soothes the frustration
of broken equipment
and missed turns. 

Springtime is a promise
of a day when
creation is made new. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

See the Traveler

Seeing "the traveler" is currently my favorite part of being a bus driver. Or is it the Spring weather? No, definitely it is seeing the beauty of humanity in the face of passengers, especially if I get to help them find their way. 

Have you read Khaled Hosseini's poetic short story, Sea Prayer, about refugees? My heart breaks when The mother says to her husband, "Oh, but if they saw, my darling. Even half of what you have. If only they saw.  They would say kinder things, surely." It breaks because I have seen. 

I got my first glimpse in high school on the soccer team when the recently arrived Hispanic immigrants were obviously skilled players but struggled academically due to the language barrier.  While witnessing others heap ridicule on them for their struggles to speak English,  my heart was nudged to find ways to make them feel welcome.   

The news of political unrest in Venezuela is troubling, where many have been forced to flee their homes to seek asylum.  Our friends who just came back from neighboring Colombia mentioned seeing vast numbers of Venezuelan immigrants looking for refuge in Colombia. Isn't it ironic that both that country and our nation's capital are named after an explorer who was seeking new land?  The Americas were settled by immigrants and political refugees.  It makes me wonder how many Americans are quick to forget our nation's history of welcoming the traveler. 

On my route last week I helped a mother and daughter from Venezuela to find their way to the West Campus of Forsyth Technical Community College.  As they rode my bus they confided feeling relief and surprise at meeting someone who could help them find their way in their dominant language.  As I talked with them in Spanish, I could see the anxiety on the mother's face melt away. Connecting newcomers to our community's resources is rewarding.

Also that week a first-time passenger flashed a smile and thrust her phone at me displaying an address to inquire about where she should get off the bus.  I could tell from my recent trip to Guerrero that she was from the Costa Chica region of Mexico.  Most of our neighbors in Waughtown are from there, so I had gone to see what they were fleeing from. My videos from the trip show the landscape and rudimentary fishing but they don't capture the drug/gang violence and the harsh racial tensions that deny many people of opportunity.  Our Guerrerroan neighbors come to America looking for opportunity.   

This new passenger was surprised that I readily helped her find her way in her own language. Like many Guerrerroans, she was amazed that I had been to her small village.   Later that week, when she rode my bus again, she had other questions about the schedule as she planned her commute to work.  It's a joy to help the traveler find opportunity in our community. 

Sara Groves' music has inspired me for years.  The song below she sings with her daughter. It is entitled "Jesus, See the Traveler."   It makes me wonder if our generation is leaving the next generation a legacy that values mercy and compassion for the traveler. Her song also makes me grateful for my job in public transportation because in my work I get to see and be part of the traveler's journey.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Tight Route

Drivers dread tight routes.  A tight route is one that is known to "run down" which means taking more time than allotted to complete.  A route can be tight for several reasons. The most obvious reasons are traffic, a great distance to travel, detours, passenger volume, or difficult passengers.

Though it was a beautiful spring day I reported shyly and more than a bit nervous for my first notoriously tight route. As a cadet making a good first impression with the senior driver was important to me. The senior driver for this tight route had the swagger and bravado of someone who revels in a challenge. I quietly consoled myself with the thought that on a weekend maybe I as a cadet could keep the route on time. Before we start the bus he quips, "This route has gotten heavy, even Saturdays." My face betrayed my concern.

He smiles and says, "I talks junk to everbody."   I grinned the rest of the day as his dry wit and obvious joy in interacting with passengers, which kept me entertained even when we were running down.  He is a tall, broad-shouldered black man who lights up when engaged in a verbal tussle.  I wanted him to like me but I came to find out he likes everybody.  It is the secret to his success.  A survival skill on a tight route that can easily frustrate passengers and drivers alike.

At 8am he drove the first run so I could see the stops and turns.  We started the route way far north of the city and had 30 minutes to get downtown on busy thoroughfares.   I took the wheel at 9am with trepidation about the demands of the day ahead.   That second run was the only run I completed on time that day.  Being a rookie is hard on my ego.  Luckily I had a good-natured and seasoned driver to help me keep things in perspective.  He at least enjoyed my anguish.

At 10am on the third run, he says "You smell something? It stinks in here."   I had yet to catch a whiff of what he was picking up on.   Not 15 minutes later a warning light comes on about the buses exhaust system.  He radios for a replacement bus.  Switching buses gets us behind just as traffic is about to pick up.  The tight run had just gotten trickier due to the bus change.  That was the first time that "P1" had to help us get back on time.  P1 is a minibus that plugs routes that are running down.

Now it is noon, we are back on time thanks to P1 and driving a new bus.  I wonder about a break and getting something to eat as the traffic builds.  This route has a left turn across a busy 2 lane thoroughfare.   The senior driver is almost jubilant to share the pain of waiting for what feels like an eternity for the traffic to clear enough for us to safely make that left turn.  Just as I think my opportunity has come, "watch those cars jumpin' or' that hill," he says as he accurately describes the traffic pattern.  We finally turn but have lost precious time.  I marvel at how well he knows this route and I am humbled by his ability to keep it on time.

At 2 o'clock I am so far behind that P1 needs to catch us up again.  This time we sit for 15 minutes while P1 works.  We sit so the schedule for our inbound trip will be correct.  While we wait I realize I finally have a chance to go to the bathroom.   I run over to a fast food place to use the facilities.  It strikes me that I am not the only hungry person on the bus so I buy 4 cheeseburgers.  The senior driver and the 2 passengers who are waylayed with us are amazed.   The food lightens the mood as we finally get underway. 

When 4:30 finally arrives I am exhausted and stunned by the difference in skill and experience between me, the cadet, and he, the senior driver.   His composure and willingness to teach impress upon me a desire to master driving skills in spite of the stress of a tight run.  It left me wondering about how easy it is to misjudge the abilities of others because of the temptation to look down on their work.   

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Get on Board


Thursday, April 25, 2019, will be a fare-free day for the following public transportation systems in the Piedmont Region on North Carolina:


I am a huge fan of fare-free systems. Check out this policy brief about fare-free systems, which we wrote two years ago.   I fell in love with the fare-free systems while studying public health in Chapel Hill.  The town is vibrant with pedestrian activity and its busses are full. 

Come ride the bus, for free, on 4/25/19 and experience the benefits of public transportation!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Earth Day Fair


Are you going to the Earth Day Fair tomorrow?  Why not consider using a green transportation option?

Did you know you can use Google Maps to plan your trip?  We are planning to ride the bus starting from Clark Campbell Transportation Center to Winston Salem Fairgrounds Annex.  Check out the options we have (https://goo.gl/maps/B1Vr2jz9Dsx) in Google Maps.

COME RIDE!



Thursday, April 11, 2019

Melissa Rides to School

This morning I was encouraged by Melissa's example of active transportation. She commuted to school on her bike.  Watch the short vlog for action shots from her ride. 

Active communities have strong public transportation, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure.   Join the local movement to celebrate and strengthen our active transportation options. 

COME RIDE  ***Did you see that April 25 is a FARE FREE Day?*** 


Monday, April 8, 2019

Precious

Life is precious.   Driving the bus has given me new eyes to see how precious it is.  In the act of kneeling the bus for an elderly rider or counting a baby in the arms of her mother as a passenger, I get to see it.  Bus drivers are afforded a chance to know their passengers and are part of community building.

We made the short documentary film, "Bus Stop Jobs" to depict a day in the life of a passenger.  After the premiere of the film, the director said she loved how it shows how women find ways to support each other. I have shown the film many times to audiences such as policymakers and students.  In my repeated viewings I came to realize how much I admire both of its "sheroes." 

The film is a powerful 10 minute short that will inspire you.  You can imagine my joy the other day when I got to drive one of the stars.

WATCH Bus Stop Jobs on YouTube and COME RIDE with us!

SAFETY NOTE: Selfie taken while bus was secured

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Cadet



Thank you to the Safety Department and all the Bus Drivers who have taught me in the class room and on the road.  I graduated to driving on my own and I am so very grateful for your instruction.

The last two weeks have been a road trip though Winston-Salem as I shadowed and learned from senior drivers.    I was impressed by their driving skills, rapport with passengers and intimate knowledge of their routes. 

The cadet process started and ended on a high note because the routes were in my own community within our city.  My first day was with a quiet leader whose generosity and composure I look forward to emulating.   The process ended with a supportive colleague whose encouragement made the final driving test less onerous.

The routes during the past two weeks took me to new places within the city that I got to experience behind the wheel while hearing the perspectives of the person who normally drove the route.   On tight runs with heavy traffic I was amazed how the driver knew the time points and the logistics like clock work.  On countless routes I heard drivers predict who would be waiting at the stop around the corner based on the riders' routines.

I learned from drivers, some of who have more than 30 years of driving for with the company.  I drove with drivers from right here in Winston-Salem as well as from other countries like El Salvador, Ghana, and Ethiopia.   We fellowshipped together and found common ground on the highways and byways of our community.

I got good advice like "Take your time," and if a passenger is rude, "Don't take it personal."   My favorite piece of advice was: "The number 1 survival skill is bring plenty of lunch."   As a runner with a high metabolism the last thing I need is to get "hangry" on the bus.  I have not witnessed much healthy snacking and I catch a few jokes about my eating carrots.  Interacting with so many new people has really been eye opening.

I have learned about half fare passes, bus transfers, and run boards.  I have loaded wheel chairs and knelt the bus all under the watchful eye of a seasoned driver.   I have learn so much as a cadet, about myself and the logistics of driving a bus, that it is hard to put into words.


My heart is full! Thank you for coming along.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Ride Along

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood….won’t you ride along with me?” sings Daniel Tiger, on the cartoon based on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

We gathered our supplies: library books and water bottles and change for paying the bus fare (shortest kids are free) and waited at the bus station downtown. The bus station is the main artery downtown and so much life is happening! There was anxiety that we had missed him, or would we get back in time for our next activity? Finally, Phillip drove up a few minutes late on bus #88.

This would be a one-hour excursion going out to the Industries for the Blind off of University Parkway, where many visually impaired people would be getting off work. Riding the bus is a wonderful experience to learn about our community.

In this photo, you’ll see Phillip’s concentrating face in the rearview mirror. To his right is his trainer, as he is still a cadet. She double checks to ensure safety for him in these early days of driving.


Knowing his insecurities about this job, I felt proud when he successfully turned a tight corner or patiently waited for the cars that zoomed around him when he needed to change lanes to get ready to turn. Phillip had wanted to chat and visit with the kids, but this turned out to be a busy route at the time slot we chose to ride, so we just sat quietly in the back. This gave us the opportunity to just ride along and pray for him and try to feel his feels.

We are becoming more united as we try different ways to support Phillip in his new endeavor, seeing first-hand how exhausting it is to maintain concentration driving a bus. Unsolicited, the boys spent a good deal of time yesterday making a new Lego creation together: the blue and white bus, you see in the photo below!


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Exhaustion

After 4 days of driving as a cadet, I would like to recount how full my heart is.  Full of stories of human kindness and learning.  Full of learning from noble bus drivers with years of experience, who look forward to seeing their passengers.  I want to write about the thrill of safely making tight turns and the sense of accomplishment of completing a 9-hour straight shift.

But I am exhausted.   I am so very tired that all I really want to do is sleep.

Check my route calendar to see how early my days have begun.

Also, check it for a chance to COME RIDE.  You will be glad you did. And I will be more than glad to see you, a familiar face!

Editor's NOTE: if you read an earlier version of this he had been too tired to get me, his editor, to look for typos.  He should always ask me first before publishing.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Serenity Now

A vlog entry that celebrates driving my first route.  What a blessing to take the wheel as a cadet on route 86.   I commuted on route 86 when I worked in the Innovation Quarter and it is the main route for many of my neighbors to get to work.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

License to Drive


Phew!  I was nervous this morning about taking the final test for my Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Class B, with a Passenger endorsement.

The CDL exam begins with the driver providing a detailed pre-trip inspection of the bus.  It moves to the passenger compartment, then the driver compartment inspection. Next comes testing of the air-brakes.

If you pass those obstacles, you move to the driving test on a closed course which involves straight-line backing, off-set backing, and docking in an alley.  Not easy.

Then the final nerve-racking part...driving on the open road while the examiner gives you every imaginable tough situation to drive through, including a pedestrian wandering absentmindedly in front of the bus. What a relief to have passed!

I have a new appreciation and respect for how bus drivers keep the public safe.

Want to ride with me?

I will be updating my schedule on this public calendar.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Good Neighbor


Fred Rogers, followed the call to love your neighbor as your self. His example shaped my life in profound ways. Reading Maxwell King's book is helping me understand the impact of Rogers' ministry in my own life and vocation.

When I first moved to Waughtown I was afraid of my neighbors.  I overcame those fears in time by getting to know them.  One of the ways it happened was through friendships struck up while waiting at the bus stop. Over the intervening years of riding the bus, I came to realize how the bus brought us together. It brought us together though we were different in all the socio-economic variables that divide. These divisions also make us afraid of one another.

Winston-Salem, with its racial history, stark segregation, and income inequality needs ministers like Fred Rogers to help us understand how love casts out fear.   He was not afraid to love his neighbor and he worked to show the dignity that each of us possesses, just the way we are.

When he sings, "I always wanted to have a neighbor just like you" it is a beautiful message of unconditional love.  How can we see more of our neighbors from this perspective?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Sick Kids

Nothing conjures up my insecurities like a loved one being sick. Last week our 5 year old son had double pink eye.  Phillip tends to think waiting it out is the best policy for dealing with most non-emergent illnesses.  Pink eye is very contagious, and I feared waiting it out would mean many days of school and work missed!

Thankfully we have physician friends who are committed to social justice and part of our network of support, so I phoned in a request for some drops.  These magical drops I have heard about.  These drops that make you no longer contagious within 24 hours.

Walking to the Waughtown pharmacy where my husband and our physician friend know the pharmacist/owner, felt hopeful.  I swallowed my pride and said, "This is embarrassing, but we don't have any insurance currently. Is there any way you can help?"   We don't currently have insurance because bus drivers begin as part time employees without benefits.

What a blessing to hear, "We give all our customers the very best price, especially those with no insurance." I bought the drops for a very reasonable price.   Thankfully, little James and I are the only ones who needed them so far, and boy was I glad to get them.  

Learning how to communicate our need for help can be humiliating or at least humbling.  I feel grateful that friends could help us in our time of need.  How about neighbors who are without insurance? How do they feel? How can we draw more people into social support or networks that provide care?


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Behind the Wheel

This is a video of our maiden voyages behind the wheel of a bus.



Saturday, February 23, 2019

Glimpse

In the slow and often frustrating fourth week of training, I caught a  glimpse of the transformative power of public transportation.   I had high hopes of getting behind the wheel.   What I witnessed will prove to be more valuable.

It happened on Wednesday, February 20th, which coincidentally was my 40th birthday.  That morning class didn't happen due to the extenuating circumstance of an instructor having the Flu.  In the afternoon we were told to ride bus routes to become familiar with the turns and stops.   It was a nice day but I had no idea that the miraculous power of transit would be visible.

First, we rode Bus 84 out to Hanes Mall with important stops at two of Forsyth Tech campuses.   We gave several folks rides, but nothing too noteworthy happened- maybe it was just the time of day.

Then we rode Bus 88 north to the Industries for the Blind.   It was my first trip to the apartments nestled between North Point and Reynolda.   For the first time, I saw 3 visually impaired people board a bus and safely ride to work.   It felt as if bus drivers were giving sight to the blind.  I later learned that the bus takes over 100 people a day to work there.   

Then, at the end of the day, we were told to ride Bus 86.  I thought, "I commute on 86 all the time so what I am going to learn?"  But, I have never ridden 86 to the end of the line at quitting time for when the Second Harvest Food Bank's Triad Community Kitchen (TCK) students are getting out of class.  I was thrilled to see 15 people board the bus at the stop, many of whom were TCK students.  I have several friends whose lives have been changed by Chef Bacon's ministry.

Riding those 3 bus routes might have been the best birthday present I received.  It afforded me a glimpse of the importance of connecting community assets via public transportation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Becoming a "Busologist"

My classmate came up with a new word to describe me, "bus-ologist."   In the video, he gives an explanation.

The first 3 weeks of training have flown by.   Still waiting to get behind the wheel!


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Who is Driving?

With any luck, I will drive a bus for the first time tomorrow!

I hope to video my maiden voyage. Don't worry it is on a closed course designed for practice.

I am the last orange dot in the graph below.  The new guy with no seniority...


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Defensive Driving

The tenets of defensive driving apply to life. In class, we are learning four trademarked phrases to remind bus drivers how to prevent accidents.  They are "look ahead, look around, leave room, and communicate."

To look ahead is to identify and anticipate potential hazards on the road. In life, it means to have vision for where you want to spend your time and energy while steering clear of pitfalls.

Switching jobs has prompted folks to ask about my vision.  They are quick to point out the potential hazards of driving a bus like pay, insurance, and schedule.  They see the risk of crashes and the harsh side of customer service. My heart sees something different.

My heart sees the words from Isaiah 58. Below is a sample from verse 10.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
I hope to address the other tenets of defensive driving in future posts.  Do you think looking around means checking in on loved ones?  Is leaving room about setting boundaries and creating margin in your life?

I am learning that communicating through this blog helps me understand this new season of life.  I hope to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Simple Gifts

 “It’s a gift to be simple, it’s a gift to be free.  It’s a gift to come down where we are to be,” is a beloved Shaker song in our home. 

What does it mean to live simply, or is it just a buzz word?  We constantly need to de-clutter our small house and let go of stuff. We find it therapeutic to purge making room for what is important. 

Good food is important to me so simplifying my grocery list is not so easy.  I happily research recipes and test them on my family. Does simplifying mean buying in bulk and having meals on repeat?  Frozen pizza and grilled cheese would be fine in the rotation, but I don’t want to be rid of our fruits and veggie based meals.  Why does is cost so much to eat healthy? 

How can I learn to budget for nutritious meals in the reality of my husband's drastic job change? The starting wage for a bus driver who is a head of household with 4 dependents qualifies as poverty.  

Yesterday I felt both surprisingly excited and relieved after receiving the news that our 3 kids can now get free school lunch. It is humbling and will certainly help stretch the grocery budget.  Perhaps this is a part of "coming down where we are to be," because receiving help with lunches feels like a gift.

This is a journey, or an adventure, full of gaining new perspectives.  I have taught school many years, on an off, and this is helping me stand in the shoes of many of my students who receive free lunch.

I'm beginning to wonder how we can we make eating healthy, tasty foods less about personal economic status and more about nourishing communities. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Public Servants

On lunch break, during my first week of operator training, I began drafting this post at the public library.  Libary's are a rare space where humanity is on display.  Training has felt like such a place.

The class affords perspectives and insights into classmates' lives and creates bonds through shared learning.  We are a diverse group finding a common language while discussing the training manuals we are reading. This first week offered glimpses of the vulgar and the noble aspects of public service.

The instructor explains job hazards such as of passengers wetting themselves. Course jokes belie the real concerns about the dangers of blood-borne pathogens while having to clean up vomit on the bus. Bravado is used to cover up the real concerns of driving a 39,000 lb vehicle with human cargo.

The noble is seen in our cooperation of working together towards a common goal.  A picture of chivalry is caught when discussing the kneeling function of buses to accommodate ADA passengers.  Humanity is heard in the recounting of the importance of warmly greeting passengers. My family and friends have begun to refer to me as Trolley, like the friendly character from the kids' shows Daniel Tiger and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.

I finish this post in the warmth of my home surrounded by family on my personal computer.  I wrestle with the tension of the concepts of the public versus private good.  The consumer culture tells me that my family's and my comfort should reign supreme.  Learning from and with my classmates about operating a bus is teaching me about public service.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Monday, January 28, 2019

Take 1

A brief video born out of my excitement to start bus driver training this morning.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Uniform

Bus drivers wear uniforms to show they belong.    Buying new clothes to become a bus driver has brought up my fears about fitting in.   I am afraid that my different background and experiences will cause me to stick out.  I worry that my education, race, and economic privilege will be barriers for coworkers and passengers to see my heart for the issue of mobility.    I wonder how much of this worry is grounded in reality.

Black shoes are a requirement that you wouldn't think would cause anxiety, but as a runner I am admittedly a shoe snob from way back.  I was fretting about which shoes to get and how much to spend. Would they look cool?  Thankfully, New Balance has an industrial line that has a foam model with a sweet look and feel.  I am comfortable in them.  Even more this pair of shoes represents generosity.  My friend who owns the store graciously gave me these really nice shoes as a way to support the mission of raising awareness of the importance of public transportation locally.

I also met a 70-year-old seamstress who hemmed my new black pants and does uniform work for more organizations than I could readily count. I admired the many boxes of badges from first responders to police departments lining her shop.  She told me she loves riding the bus but has concerns about the young people she sees riding. When her company closed its Greensboro store she started commuting to the Winston-Salem store and daily takes 6 buses.  She didn't want to put the miles on her car or deal with traffic. She is simply more comfortable on the bus. She was thrilled for me and prayed with me about my new job.  The black pants will remind me of how she needs a ride to work to bless others with proper fitting uniforms.

My new black shoes and pants represent these stories, make me eager to look for other points of connection, and less afraid of not fitting in.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

CDL permit

To drive a bus you need a Commerical Drivers Licence (CDL) Class B with a "P" for passenger endorsement.  To get a CDL you have to pass written, medical and skill tests.  The first stop is the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to take tests for a learners permit.

Hanging around at the DMV is quite the experience. After 3 trips I became acquainted with the staff and relieved to receive the permit.  New jobs are stressful in ways we don't expect. I witnessed test anxiety and hope others find ways to clear this written hurdle.

To prepare for the written test I read the manual, took a practice test and finally discovered the app.  After my initial failure, a DMV staff asked if I had "seen the app?" which turned out to be a Godsend.   Air brakes, combination vehicles, passenger safety is all new to me; the app is a test simulator which helped me pass on my second attempt. I took a third trip to the DMV because the second visit was too close to quitting time and didn't leave enough time for the paperwork.

At my final DMV visit,  I was left wondering whether the $64 dollars required for the permit would be a barrier for potential drivers.  While joyously leaving, an acquaintance waiting in the lobby asked me for the $2 he was short to get an ID and I easily shared it with him.  It saddens me to think of how something as simple as a $13 ID can be a roadblock for many. 

The medical test must be conducted by a licensed "medical examiner" who in my case was a Nurse Practitioner (NP) at an Occupational Medicine Clinic. Medical exams are required every 24 months to renew your CDL.  Eavesdropping in the waiting room I realized it was full of truck drivers and the nurse who took my vital signs said drivers are the bulk of their business.

The young NP who conducted my exam reassured me that the red patch in my eye was probably due to strain from the race I ran the previous week.  She was not concerned about the eye, but remarked that not many of her CDL exams are with 50k runners.  I passed the medical exam with flying colors.

New drivers get 8 weeks of training to pass the skill tests. I am confident that this training will afford many more humbling failures as well as the gratification of learning new skills.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know he watches me.  If you don't know this beautiful song then listen to Abigail Washburn sing it. 

Doing community engagement allows you to meet folks and hear stories that give hope in the face of hardship.  Keena's story has the grit that makes her voice as a community health educator grounded in experience. This picture of her reminds us that doing health disparity work is being part of His redemptive work.

That gives me hope as I hit setbacks like not passing my initial CDL permit test.   No one likes to fail, but how we respond to failure is what marks our life. 


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Housing and Transportation are linked

Affordable housing and transportation are linked.  Each has related structural inequalities that affect communities.

Since the 90's, when Hispanics began inhabiting the mill houses and endeavoring to set-up shop in tiendas and taco stands, Waughtown of Winston Salem has grown to be considered the prominent Hispanic Barrio of our small city.   Waughtown is in fact quite diverse, yet it sits on the wrong side of the real estate “tracks” in Winston-Salem. In 2013 and 2017 the city re-evaluated and depreciated the tax values of our homes.

The devaluation has repercussions on borrowing money from a bank.  Loans become out of reach,  even for professionals with good credit.  In 2016, I bought a quarter acre lot two blocks away from my house thinking it an opportune investment.  Buying it from Auction.com was a bit scary and I was leery that the minimum bid of $2,800 seemed too good to be true, even for a bank-cast-off, liability of land that had once been the sight of a burned down house.

I got excited envisioning how the new construction would beautify the community. I found a young couple interested in building on the lot.  This couple took a year and a half to find an architect, and then a builder willing to build the 3 bed 2 bath single story handicap-accessible house of their dreams.   The couple was trying to keep cost down because they weren’t sure how their new home value would compare to the neighbors' homes.   Their ideal house was slated to cost $157,000.

Redlining happens when banks will not invest in neighborhoods they don’t value, and most folks think it is a thing of the past.  Don’t we have a more modern way to fairly access mortgages?  There must exist a more equitable way to get new homes built, right?

But the reality is that banks don’t see neighborhoods like Waughtown as desirable or safe investments.   When the couple went to the bank to get a mortgage to build, the bank agreed to lend only a fraction of the cost.  Based on what they considered comparable values, the bank would only lend $90,000 for the construction of a new home.  That’s a loan for only 57% of the cost to build.   How can a young couple afford a $67,000 down payment? Our new construction dreams were up in smoke.

Sweat equity seems to be the only way projects happen in Waughtown.   Recently the lot sold in a cash transaction to a Hispanic couple who had family living on the same street.   I broke even on the venture and became even more grateful for industrious Hispanic neighbors who see value when others see red.



Monday, January 7, 2019

Brave and Crazy

As I have talked about changing jobs from an academic office to a bus driver, folks have had mixed reactions.  Both reactions such as, "Are you crazy?" and "You are brave."  I am accustomed to being called both, but this time it is different.

"Brave" is now laden with uncertainty about being able to safely drive such a large vehicle.  I am full of questions: Will I be safe from violence? Will I keep my passengers safe? Will other vehicles be safe? Will pedestrians be free from harm?  It feels like a big responsibility, and it's largely out of my control to determine.  I am looking forward to experiencing my role as a safe bus driver.

"Crazy" now carries the weight of being foolhardy to think that my individual efforts can change systems of inequity that have deep roots.  It is full of accusations: will anyone notice? are you doing this out of boredom? Do you really think this will make a difference? I cannot know the impact of my actions, but I look forward to witnessing what takes place.

I am also being encouraged far more than I had imagined.  Other folks are saying, "You will learn so much," and "You are made for just that job," and "I am excited for you!"  Turns out that crazy has its good side and brave has its scary side. I can't wait to see what lies around the next corner.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Background on why I am becoming a bus driver

I worked in health research for 9 years. The last 3 were doing community engagement and translational science. During the course of that work, I fell in love with the role that public transportation has in the life of our community. Follow this link to PDFs of some of the policy work that was created by the coalition that I lead.

This piece was featured at http://www.virginiapolicyreview.org/blog/analysis-of-the-winston-salem-public-transit-system.

I see the potential public transportation has to heal our legacy of segregation and inequity. I hope to be part of improving mobility in our community.