The Speaker on Wheels


Bus drivers – based on how students, including myself, view them – are invisible. Sure, we recognize them by their uniform and the yellow bus that they drive, but we leave out the significance they have in our lives. However, this traditional perspective was immediately shattered by my afterschool driver.

For bus 207, it was was no surprise to see someone other than our actual driver behind the wheel as she had been absent for a few weeks prior. By then, our bus was accustomed to keeping our conversations at a minimum with our substitutes unless they asked us about the route.

After an uneventful day, I walked onto the bus and would have never thought that the driver greeting me would have something more to share than the whereabouts of our regular driver (which are still unknown, by the way). Before we left, Mr. Bus Driver randomly got up and started joking around as if he were one of the students aboard. In a mocking tone he’d constantly repeat, “I’m a cooool driver,” followed by a vocal performance of “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).”

During his comedic act, I had no plan of paying attention and trying to find out why he was acting so childish in the first place. Then, his tone suddenly dropped. I looked up as his cheerful grin turned solemn. His intentions soon became clear to me: He was here to share stories with more depth than childish antics. He was here to teach us that:

You got to be thankful for what you got.

Overlooking the benefits from this 20-minute speech and his wage from this shift, he continued to speak to us on a level where we could understand him. Like a counselor, he cared for our sense of peace. But at the same time, he didn’t censor out information as others may have because he treated us as if we were strong and mature enough to handle it. Nearing my neighborhood, the bus driver approached the end of his speech and taught us that you don’t have to know someone long enough to change their life.

In his speech, he mentioned a student who “wore the same pair of jeans and shoes for three months straight,” and how his situation didn’t keep him from coming to the bus stop. It turned out that he went to the student and gifted him with new pairs of jeans and shoes which had bought using his limited budget and time. His short story taught me two things:

  • You don’t need to have money to affect someone’s life for the better.
  • Anyone is capable of helping others but only if they stop thinking about only himself/herself.

The journey had come to an end and his message was sent. It was time for him to move to another batch of kids and mine to spread his ideas to others and change lives as he had. The driver was gone but his principles remained. He didn’t know our names. He didn’t know our stories. Yet, he was able to move us in a way that had more impact than a couple of miles. He may have been invisible, but he could do more in 30 minutes than someone could in days.