Muni driver: Why I decided to slow things down

67 Uphill
Photo by Telstar Logisitcs

Muni rider Brian overheard this gripping tale on the 67-Bernal Heights.

A mugger shoots and murders the parents of a young Bruce Wayne, who studies for years to become Gothamโ€™s dark knight. A space ship crashes on a farm, and inside is a baby boy wrapped in a red cape adorned with a letter โ€œSโ€ emblem; this boy grows up to be Superman. After being kidnapped by Vietnamese terrorists, scientist Tony Stark constructs a powerful iron suit to destroy his captors and escape, and Iron Man is born. Every great comic book character has a memorable origin story. But no superhero can top the story I heard about the man who drives the 67 bus.

It’s about 6 p.m. on a Tuesday when I hop on the 67-Bernal Heights to ride home to Bernal Heights. The driver says hello. He’s probably in his late 40s, donning a black baseball cap and dark sunglasses. I take a seat near the front, and I can see that the driver is cradling a crimson bible in his lap. At every stoplight he picks it up and reads a passage while he waits for the light to turn green.

At one red light, a young woman standing near the front of the bus notices his bible, too, and can’t hold back her curiosity. “Hello, sir. If you don’t mind my asking — how did you become religious?” the girl says. She sounds Dutch, and she’s holding a basket in her left hand, the bus pole in her right.

“Oh, I’m happy to tell ya,” the driver says. “God saved me when I was very young. You wanna know how he did that?”

“Of course.”

The driver looks pleased. The light turns green, and he starts his story as he hits the gas.

“So back when I was a teen, I used to always drive really fast. I’m talkin’ stupid fast, OK? I had a sports car, and I would take that thing up to maybe 120 sometimes on the freeway.”

The passengers sitting near me begin shifting their eyes in the driver’s direction, with concerned looks on their faces.

“So this one night at like 2 in the morning I’m speeding down the freeway and I hear a voice in my head.”

Slow down. Stop.

“I say to myself, that’s ridiculous, why should I stop? This is an empty freeway, it’s 2 in the morning. Ain’t no one out here. And then I hear the voice again.”

Slow down. Stop. There’s a car up ahead.

“So I hit my brakes and stop. And sure enough right in front of me there’s a car that’s been in an accident. Its headlights are shut off, and it’s sideways across the freeway. I came so close to driving straight into it!”

“Wow,” the woman says.

“So I’m stopped there on the freeway and I’m in shock, and I’m asking, how can this be? How can this be? And I started crying right there. God saved me! God saved my life that day. And so then I decided I would stop driving so stupid fast, and I would become a bus driver to take people places and keep them safe.”

He ends the story with a short sermon: “Thank the Lord. Praise Jesus.”

The bus comes to a halt at a stop. “Wow, that’s so amazing,” the woman says. “Thanks so much for sharing that with me. I’m getting off here, but would you like a date?” She takes a date out of her basket, hands it to him and hops off the bus.

The bus continues through the rest of the route, and I’m the only one left with the driver as we approach my stop. I shoot him a quick thank you as I step off.

The driver takes his right hand off the steering wheel, extends it toward me and says it again: “Thank the Lord. Praise Jesus.” The doors shut behind me, and the lights flicker off as the bus drives away.

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