Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why I Volunteered to Drive in the Blizzard

Feb. 2005, one Sat. night very much like tonight (near-blizzard), I had been in Winnipeg for 1 1/2 weeks, I was suffering severe sensory overload and physical exhaustion, and my housing situation had turned into an emotional nightmare. I had a meltdown and fled to my one acquaintance's house for refuge.

I struck out on foot in her direction along the bus route, with no schedule, and at each stop I would check to see that the bus wasn't coming and then walk/run/slide desperately to the next stop in 2 blocks. Winnipeg blocks can be LONG. This was a main route, and didn't stop except at posted stops. I was terrified that the bus would come when I was between stops, but it was too cold to stand still, and I might reach my destination walking before the bus went by.

Well, the bus came when I was right between stops. I swear it was a guardian angel and not a real driver. He somehow understood from my resigned walk (trying not to slip on an especially icy sidewalk) that I wanted the bus even though I was far from the stop and wasn't waving and screaming--or even looking--at him. And he stopped right there.

I climbed on, tears welling up not just with stress and cold, but mainly relief and gratitude for God's looking out for me. And then realized that I had not one bit of money nor bus ticket with me. Before I could even turn to deboard, he said, "Don't worry about it" and told me to sit down. Off we went.

When I told him my destination, down a side street in the desolate, deserted downtown, he double-triple checked that I really knew where I was going and had a safe destination near there, because it was a notorious part of the city. He checked again as I deboarded.

I never REALLY believed in guardian angels till that night. But I believe now! It was a turning point in my faith. God can even stop a speeding bus on an express route!

I have had other profound bus-related experiences since then, and other amazing drivers. But this is the one that defines me as a professional transit driver in my own right. The worse the weather...the more likely that the smallest ordinary courtesy will change someone's life for the better.

Today, in one of the worst snowstorms in memory here, I picked up frozen passengers as much as 35 minutes after the scheduled time. "Don't worry about the paperwork" I said as they boarded. "Just hurry on, sit down, and warm up... we'll figure out how to get you home...you can pay or show your pass when you get off." Gratefully, they collapsed into seats and sat like silent snowmen for awhile. Slowly they would thaw, and then they would start searching their pockets. Not one single customer left without paying. It felt like they were stuffing the farebox with gratitude, not just dollar bills.

Did I ever mention I love my job? God, thank you for letting me be a bus driver! And thank you for driving the bus with me on days like this!

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