It’s always a wonder,the things you see.My last trip tonight a man,who appeared to be high on meth,twitchy and high strung boarded my bus to only give a lot of change to a little girl,about four years old,who was sitting in between her parents.The coins were in his stocking cap.He was about six feet tall,white,bald head,eyes sunken in and skinny as a pole.He was wearing a ratty faded gray jean jacket,a blue hoodie underneath,and dark blue jeans that were all very dirty.He jumped onto the bus and asked for forty seconds,told me he wasn’t riding.He had such air of urgency. He dumped all this change into this little girl’s hands while her parents watched on smiling.He screamed out “Thank you for your patience!!” as he ran off the bus.We all sat there dumbfounded for a moment before I shut the door and left the stop.
    Maybe we had stumbled upon some strange moment of self redemption for this fellow.He didn’t know these people.They seemed just as confused and shocked as the rest of us.The thing is,everyday driving the 15 you see moments of greatness,moments of despair,sometimes the worst moments of humanity…Sometimes you see kindness on a huge level.Sometimes you are just a sitting duck in the driver’s seat for people’s abuse…
  Most of my trips end at Krameria st.RTD started these short trips in 1984.The purpose of these trips is the bulk of our passengers are between downtown and Colorado blvd.Also we cannot maintain a constant ten minute service between downtown and Aurora.Financially and driver wise we cannot afford that kind of service.It would require an exponential amount of busses,drivers and funds to do so.
  My Krameria trips usually result in annoyed and angry people at the expense of not paying attention to the bus they boarded.This paticular day seemed much more than usual the amount of people who didn’t pay attention.People grumbled and made rude sarcastic remarks as they exited the bus,but this paticular man made a point to come up to me and leave his mark,and that he did….
  This elderly man,white long stringy hair,a workers smock and blue slacks came from the back of the bus towards me.There formed a line of people waiting to exit behind him.He wore dark aviator glasses.He knelt down to where his face was by my ear.He said:
“Seems like you have a lot of disappointed people here.You are a son of a bitch and a lazy asshole. There is no reason to end you’re route here you fucking asshole.I hope you get a gun and shoot yourself in the fucking head you lazy fucking asshole.”
  I looked at him in a moment of complete confusion.Mind you the 15 runs every ten minutes to Krameria,every 30 minutes to Aurora.It has since 1984.This is not something that started yesterday. We have destination signs showing our end trips and bus schedules marked with which trip goes where.These are grown adults with every capability and function to be able to decipher their ability to go where they need to.He winked at me as he exited the bus and the others followed.
  All I could think about the rest of the day was this man’s words.How easily they rolled off his tongue…How completely vile and disgusting he was.All I could see all day was his face.In all the good things I did,I just kept hearing him telling me to get a gun and shoot myself. I went home that night and sat with my family and thought about what he said.I decided he was the one that was a horrible person.I thought to myself he didn’t know me.My son told me he loved me and gave me a hug before he crawled into bed.My wife gave me kisses and affection.That man’s word faded away…The greatness you find is in moments of redemption from a junkie and not the words of an old bitter man.The greatness in humanity comes not in moments of weakness and anger,but in being brave enough and strong enough to be considered strange in the moment of giving.The greatest moments come when you give all you have to a complete stranger,even if all you have is a smile.

First of the month,First of the month….

  If the 15 isn’t busy enough,every three weeks we get hit with this impending storm.All drivers know it’s coming.We see the last days of the month dwindle away…And prepare for a week of mayhem.
  People of all economic statures ride.From poverty to high wealth.We watch them intermingle through the mirror.To the homeless with their free issued bus passes and fares paid in 225 pennies (it’s happened…) to regional passes and eco-passes,discount passes,monthly passes,ride tickets,college passes,access a ride passes,lightrail tickets,transfers,expired transfers…crumbled up torn transfers…people even go as far as to try and quickly flash king soopers cards,and they try and alter transfers to make them look valid.To think of the effort someone goes through to try and tear the transfer,put scotch tape on the back and try to pass it off to us…it’s comical in a way.Such effort to avoid paying for a service that’s provided through a government commodity at a low price then turn around and try and steal a ride….wow.People just don’t realize every cent they don’t pay is the exact cause of fare increase and reduced service.It’s a severe catch-22…but anyhow….the first of the month…Holy Week.
  Every stop for a week is met with a crowd of people waiting.Every stop by a grocery store is crowded with people with carts,wanting the lift,even if they are only going to the next stop.Mind you,I understand circumstances of bad knees,old age and so on…but the first of the month means not twice the amount of people,but an exponential amount of people and the lift at once.And again,this is not an insensitive bitch session about people who need it…but when you have so many people at once needing it,you realize you are not going to get that bathroom break,that chance to eat your sandwich or just a chance to breathe and get a moment of solitude.For a week this lasts…
  I noticed today they are building a Wal-Mart at colfax and havana.To many in this area it can be exciting…To a bus driver what we see is a crowd waiting with tons of bags of groceries,waiting until we pull up to start trying to pull out a pass or transfer or whatever,and not just one person but many…We see a waiting crowd with carts and people with strollers full of groceries…and here’s the deal.Trips on the 15 going to Chambers only have a four minute recovery layover at Colfax and Chambers.This means if you’re four minutes late leaving Havana you’ll lose all layover time at Chambers.It all just adds up.This means your westbound trip will already start late by the time you get through the construction as well.
  In all summary,I guess I’m just saying the first of the month is a time for us that means little time for a break,and chaos as our ridership pretty much just blows up.And not just in groceries…but also in drunks and drug addicts.We’ll see somebody strung out,shaking and sweating the last week of the month…And come the first they are bouncing,drunk,high…Sometimes you can actually smell that smells like burnt wires that is crack or meth.
  Today I had a very very crappy day.When I get stressed out,I fight the stress with humor.If you know me,the more outgoing and silly I get,means I’m stressed as fuck.Today is over,but this will continue until Friday when finally in a way I’ve snapped and thrown my hands in the air anyways….The final cane has tapped the pavement,the final hidden beer is drank in the back corner,the final crack pipe hot with fire burns the fingertips of someone in a dank alley…I go home for a weekend to retreat,hide,listen to music and rejoice in solitude…

Horned Thug

  Once when I was eight years old I was so tired,walking down Colfax trying to get home.My home at the time was the Pace Hotel,Colfax and Billings…My parents at the time were not doing so well with their choices.Drug addiction can become an ugly monster and turn people into something they’re not…My parents cleaned up shortly after this time,about two years later.They are amazing people with the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen,but at this time in my family’s life there was a very dark cloud of addiction…
   So there I was,eight years old walking down East Colfax,I hadn’t eaten much in days.I was trying to get money for my sister and brother to eat.This entailed a foldgers can and a lie.I told people I was taking donations for a Sunday school field trip.On good days I’d get forty dollars or more.This day was nill.I managed to get four dollars.I was exhausted.I was by Havana,by the Zanzabar.I walked up to the bus stop.
I didn’t want to spend the little money I got….The bus pulled up.The bus driver was a black man,somewhat young.He had glasses and a small afro.He opened the door and looked at me.It was dusk.I just stared at him.I couldn’t  get  the courage to ask for a free ride.His eyes were fixed on me.He nodded for me to board.I looked like I was going to bust out crying.I stepped on and kept thanking him.He was very kind.He told me it was cool and just have a seat.When I was about to get off,he handed me a sandwich.I almost lost it.I wanted to weep.I told him thank you and went home and shared it with my sister and brother.
  When you’re a bus driver for awhile you learn to see into people.Often times you know what situation someone will throw on you as you’re pulling into a stop.We know when you’re telling us a story that it’s a story.We aren’t always trying to be mean or cruel,that is not all of us…Sometimes drivers lose a certain  sense of humanity in this job.I’ve been told by police the only difference in our jobs is they can arrest people.That meaning we deal with the same people they do.I try to always remember my roots.I try not to lose that connection with that side of Colfax…the poor side,the desperate side,the needing a miracle side….
  When you have a set route,you typically have regulars.They board at the same time everyday…but on the 15 your regulars are people you see all day over and over again,at different intervals.You have trouble makers.You have the Black Leprechaun …I could write books about the day to day life dealing with him in the past.He is on YouTube.Look him up…I developed an understanding  with him.He vowed never to give me a problem and he kept it.He’d sit on my bus and be still.To earn his respect required a day when someone was trying to stab him with a buck knife at Colfax and Broadway.I pulled him in by his coat collar and shut the door,hit the gas…The guy tried to stab through the door.I called dispatch and reported it.But in the meantime I made a friend of the infamous  Black Leprechaun.
  We see the same homeless and displaced people all day and night.We know them.Some of us choose to battle them,some of us work with them.Sometimes you just got to know your people.I see these two guys everyday.They are homeless.One is old and has a cane.The other is younger and watches over the older guy.Some drivers look down on them.They have bus passes.They never ever cause a problem.They ride from major stop to major stop to avoid police bothering them for loitering.I show them respect as they board.I wait until the older gentleman sits down before driving away.We talk and joke.We are all humans talking,sharing a space in life.
  I’ll never forget the driver and his sandwich that hazy evening when I was eight…I’ll never forget my roots…I’ll never forget Colfax life…then and now and forever.Everyday driving that route I see ghosts of my past,the street is old and bumpy,full of potholes and rough history,and driving down it the bus bounces…It’s like being on the back of an old drunk dragon,and you’re trying to grab it’s horns and tame it,you are trying to tell that old drunk dragon to stop fighting you,that you can work together…You are trying to tame East Colfax….That is the life of a 15 driver.

The Fax

It’s a joke among some of us to remember what we were like before we started driving.It seems ages ago that I was that person.I grew up on East Colfax.I was one of the wayward children you’d see playing with a beer bottle in front of one of the hotels.
  Before I started driving I was very much an introvert. I spoke when it was necessary, and even less around someone new.I started driving because my son was on his way and I got laid off.I worked in a film lab that processed old and outdated 8 mm,16 mm and photos.I spent most of my days in a dark lab, alone.
  Moving forward to now, I’m very ready at any moment to speak up, in the most assertive way I can.Like today for instance. I was going eastbound on Colfax, at the stop on Franklin. My back door was open and I was handling a lady who didn’t understand why I only went to Krameria.This very scruffy guy, big brown dirty canvas coat and long tangled beard tried to sneak in the back door.
  I got up, went back there and told him he had to get off.We can’t tolerate someone sneaking in for fare evasion reasons and safety reasons.People got the doors shut on them on accident when we can’t see them in the mirrors as they try to hastily jump in, sometimes getting really hurt.Just like with children, sometimes you just can’t reward bad behavior.
  As I was telling him to get off, he got a couple inches from my face, stuck his middle finger close enough to touch the tip of my nose, and said,”Fuck you, you motherfucker. If I see you again I’m going to fuck you up. “He exited the bus at the rear door, then casually walked up to the front door in a cat like saunter.I watched him as I made my way back to the driver’s seat.He approached the front door and said, “Excuse me, driver? Hey, can you help me out?”
  I didn’t know whether to start laughing at the audacity, or tell him to fuck off.I was stunned as I gave him an awkward long “Nooooo, man…” I looked at the passenger sitting across from me.They had that Wtf look too, then we all busted out laughing.He gave one more defiant middle finger and walked away.
  Sometimes I have to stand up to more threatening situations. Sometimes I miss my dark cave of a job, but I know I can never go back to that.I can not imagine working in an office setting.My day is out on the street, chauffering drug dealers back and forth, people to work and school.Taking any person and any situation and try to keep the peace.
  There was so much tension as this man started harassing these two college girls.His clothes were dirty and he had a hooded jacket on, hood over his head.Caramel skin.He shouted out “Look at me you stuck up bitch!! I said I want to fuck you.That should mean something to you.I’ll punch a fucking stuck up bitch, you understand?!?”
  I pulled into the stop at Willow St. going east on Colfax.I had both doors open.I said,”Hey, you, time to start walking.You need to go man.”He stood up, walked to me and put his face a few inches from mine.I had no doubt he has seriously hurt people. I can see and feel it.”I ain’t going nowhere, bitch ass bus driver,”he said in a eerily calm voice.
“Yes, you are, my friend.” I said matching his calmness, holding my ground.He took both his hands and pushed my chest.His hands were ready.
“Don’t fucking touch me again.”I said.
“I’ll fucking do whatever I want to you.”He said looking me in the eyes.
“You are going to get off my fucking bus right now. You are not going to bother these girls again.Get the fuck off my bus.”I said.My body felt that rush right before you fight.That urge and shaking feeling.
“When I see you out here, and I will, I am going to cut the fuck out of you.”He said and walked out the back door.I shut the doors and started driving. I was furious. Every part of me wanted him to take that first swing.
  One of the girls came up to me.She said thank you.Her eyes were watery like she was going to cry.I smiled at her.I told her everything will be ok.She nodded and left.Down the road another lady came up to me.She wasn’t part of it, but she tried to give me five dollars. She said she wished she had more to give, that I deserved so much more.I told her thank you, but I can’t take that money.She said “You guys don’t get paid enough, and you guys put up with so much.Thank you, just thank you. “And as she was stepping off the bus, she looked back at me and I told her,”It’s ok, ma’am.It’s just another day….”

And let the journey begin….

My day begins the first three days of the week getting up at 6:30 am and getting my ten year old son ready for school.We are not morning people. We are not angry at each other by any means…We are just quiet for a while.We usually start talking once we get into the pick up truck.For now the truck is the only vehicle we have. Me and my wife share it.Me and my son start joking around and venting off the pressures of our coming day.This is usually the time he opens up to me the most.I cherish these morning drives.We live in Aurora a few blocks from Colfax but he goes to school by Brighton.He started out at that school and when his mom and I divorced we felt no need to uproot him.
The drive to school is easier.It goes opposite from rush hour traffic and it’s by far less stressful. The drive home…not so fun.I usually have an hour and a half to crawl back in bed with my wife before I have to get ready for work.I met my wife on the bus.I had a split shift with the 15 in mid – day and one trip of the 21 in the afternoon. I had been on my own for a year and getting in that mindset where I started enjoying being alone, and that’s when I met her, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.I was waiting at the light at Evans Ave. and University Blvd.She was sitting at the bus stop and my stomach just fell.As the light turned green and I started heading westward, my heart started pounding and I got sweaty…I was thinking of so many ways to say hi…and when I opened the door and smiled with excitement, she gave me a pissed off look, stuck her bus pass in my face and made her way to her seat…But maybe I’ll get more into things down the road.I get home, she is sleeping cozy away, and I crawl into bed with her, wrap my arm around her and try to catch a last nap before getting ready.Already I’ve driven across town and back.I spend so much of my time driving.
After I get ready I walk to Colfax to catch the 15L to Onieda to make relief.I drive the local 15.I prefer it over the limited.It is less hectic because people don’t expect it to rush.I also prefer my layovers at Auraria and Onieda because it gives me a moment of solitude and a chance to breathe.I have one Chambers trip, before rush hour starts, which is nice because things really start to become problems on those trips.It’s like the longer your on the 15, the more tension starts to build, the more people you start to get, the more chances our luck is running out for things to be peaceful.
After making relief things already start to happen.Other cars start fighting to be in front of me.The first passengers I get are these guys who always hang out at Monaco Pkwy that are just perpetually drunk.They are loud, excited and heading to Colorado Blvd to start panhandling there.I get them on my bus several times a day, and the more money they make the drunker and more high they are…The louder they get, the more aggressive they get, and the ticking begins…Coming from Onieda it doesn’t start getting crowded on the bus until Josephine St.That’s when every seat is taken and people start having to stand.This is also the point where I start getting more elderly and disabled passengers.Now becomes the challenge of getting college and high school kids to move for them.Usually it goes without much more than dirty looks, but sometimes you come across that douchebag that won’t move.Sometimes even the elderly won’t move when I have somebody in a wheelchair trying to get on.It becomes a situation where I have to say none of us are moving until they do.It becomes this situation where you’re battling wits with some jerk who’d rather this person in a wheelchair who has no other options to get around catch another bus before they’d give up a seat that’s obligated for the wheelchair in the first place. It’s crazy!!They stare you down with this smug look on their face.I fight back every urge to say “Look, asshole, just do the world the favor and go fuck yourself….”, but you always ALWAYS have to mind your words, use strategy and tact, and still manage to stand your ground.It’s at these moments I ask myself why this situation has to happen? Why can’t humanity just pull it together and be civil? Why can’t a bomb just drop already..?Finally the person starts screaming they’ll just get off the bus and call us in, which is fruitless because they are supposed to move in the first place and we are allowed to use our judgment to put out fires as long as we bite our tongues, and don’t start swinging at somebody.You just have to put yourself in a place where you realize this person just has bad social issues and it’s not your problem, you just have to let it go…
Now it’s on a few blocks down to High St…oh this stop…There are already fifteen people at the stop.Out of this little mob, maybe three of them have their fare ready.Each person getting on has this air that since they have nowhere to be, neither does anyone else.They finish their cigarettes, slowly get on talking on their phone or to the person behind them.They don’t make eye contact with me at all.They just slowly start digging out their pass or change,then stick their hand in your face for a transfer.As each person slowly boards, at this point the line which started out as fifteen people has grown to over twenty…finally the last person gets on, I shut the door, and wa la, two more people run up…Everyone on the bus screams in unison, I stop, as they start to board another five people come up…I start seeing my chance to use the restroom go away.Finally we are moving…
It’s at this point someone starts blasting music.I want to make something very clear.I fucking love music.All music.In actuality it’s nice to hear it, even for a moment. In my head is a blaring soundtrack all day to make things easier.I can only imagine how amazing it would be to play my route 15 soundtrack all day while driving…but…let’s say someone is blasting music and it’s annoying everyone else, we have to make the attempt to ask them to turn it off.We are babysitters on top of being bouncers, therapists,mind readers…So I ask this guy “Sir, can you please use headphones or turn off your phone?”And this is typically the respose…”Fuck you bitch!! You just don’t like music you fucking asshole!!!” Or…”Fuck you, nigga, you’re a fucking racist. This is America nigga, I can do the fuck I want bitch!!” Or…”Fuck you, if I see you on the street I’ll fucking cut you.I’ll shoot a piece of shit bus driver.You’re just a piece of shit bus driver.You ain’t shit.”and of course there’s more…but there are the rare times people actually simply say “You got it, boss.No problem.”I always make a point to show them how much I appreciate such a simple nicety. They make my day.If they end up being the only one on the bus I tell them to crank it.I think about those kind of simple acts all day.I hold onto them.I use them to remind myself that people are good.My job is good.As the day goes on and the death threats and insults fly, I hold onto to every act of kindness, no matter how small.The young guy who automatically gets up for the old lady, the old lady who not only automatically gets up but puts up the wheelchair seats for the guy in the wheelchair…The guy in the wheelchair who not only has a sense of humor about the situation, but cracks me up until he gets off and strangely I miss him as I see him turn the corner as I stow the lift…back to the next situation that ignites an assault on an innocent person….until Monday. I hope you enjoyed my rant. This is the day in the life of an E. Colfax bus driver…

A moment can be eternity….

I have been a city bus driver in Denver for almost 12 years now.For those of you in Colorado you know of the infamous E. Colfax and it’s day to day hustle…For those of you who do not, I hope my daily musings shed some interest on what it’s like to operate a bus down one of the seediest streets in America.
First I will begin with a brief history of E. Colfax.At one time it was home to a stretch of luxurious homes and mansions, a trolley transporting the rich and working class from downtown Denver to what was then known as Fletcher, now known as Aurora…A city in it’s own right, not necessarily a suburb, with a population and crime rate that almost surpasses Denver…
You can still see hints of the once mansions, now converted to apartments along the outer east neighborhood of Capitol Hill.Capitol Hill is on the south side of colfax, while Uptown is on the north side.Interesting fact…Capitol Hill has majority of the artsy, eccentric, elderly and college student residents, while Uptown has more of the blue collar and down trodden residents. This is a factor in the drug use.Not to say the drugs don’t intermingle, but each side has a more dominant drugs of choice.Capitol Hill has a larger use of weed, shrooms, acid, ecstasy….While Uptown has a larger use of crack, heroin and meth.As a bus driver you start to notice the neighborhoods you drive in and you start to see who you are taking where.It’s really weird at first but you find yourself deeply aware of world’s you either never been in or escaped.Everything comes down to the people….your whole day is revolved around what situation they throw on you.One finds themselves constantly at the mercy of some asshole and their choices…and it’s all up to you how you deal with it….
So anyways E. Colfax hit some huge transitional changes in the 70’s.This is the time where things started getting shady.Store fronts started popping up, economies changed and life got tough. The glory days of hatted gentlemen and charming women on trolleys was gone and enter the new age of prostitutes, drug dealers and just modern city life in general.
Fast forward to now….sorry to skip around here, but I just want to open a seg way into an image of E. Colfax.Day to day life is fast, each moment is a hustle, and as a bus driver you learn quick not only when to pick your fights, but how to deal with the growing criminal and working class population. How to see as many moves ahead of them as you can…How to just get through the day.
This first blog is meant to introduce to you as a reader that there will be many stories to come through the eyes of a 15 driver.My intentions will not be to
judge the people and situations I face, but to rather showcase what life is like for my passengers, my family, and myself of us all trying to figure it all out of how to survive each other.I hope you all enjoy the stories to come.I will try to share day to day, but it might become every two days here and there.Please follow if you are interested!!!

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