The MTA’s Very Own Buster Keaton

My usual bus driver was born too late for vaudeville or silent film. That’s too bad, because she would’ve hit it big in either genre. She has mastered the long, drawn-out visual gag, and she has just the right amount of sadism to make it really work.

The bus I take to work in the morning starts its route around the corner from where I live. So people line up at the stop, waiting for said bus to arrive. The bus pulls up, and the queue inevitably shuffles closer to the curb, even though we are nowhere close to leaving yet.

The bus driver s l o w l y hoists herself out of her seat, wraps herself up in a jacket and scarf, and then opens the door–so she can go into the Dunkin Donuts right by the bus stop, use the facilities, and order herself a coffee.

After completing these tasks–which take a bare minimum of five minutes–she returns to the bus. She opens the door just wide enough to let herself in and make it clear that no one else is getting in yet. Then she takes off her jacket. Then she takes off her scarf. Then she carefully folds them up and places them in the locker behind her seat.

And just when you think she’s totally done, oh no, not even close. Because she proceeds to engage in a million little OCD- rituals before she even dares to start the bus. Adjusting her seat. Adjusting her rear view mirrors. Adjusting her seat again. Adjusting the side view mirrors. Adjusting the rear views again.

And then, just when you think she’s ready, she notices something amiss. Like the strap of her shoulder bag caught in the locker door. So she gets up from her chair s l o w l y and fixes it, and sits back down just as s l o w l y, and goes through her whole Tourette’s syndrome ritual all over again.

Then she starts up the bus. But she is so good at this routine, she knows how to start up the bus in the most fekachteh way possible. She turns the key, the bus sputters, the lights flicker, but the engine doesn’t quite catch.

Not only is she able to do this every morning, she is able to do it and look just as perplexed and annoyed every morning. Like she’s not doing it on purpose.

But after the second or third try at starting the bus, she finally gets it going. And we’re ready to roll, right? Oh no, there are more adjustments on their way before finally, finally she opens the door and lets everyone in.

And–this is the kicker–as passengers walk in, she’s totally stone-faced. Not the least bit of recognition of what has just transpired. Like she hasn’t made you needlessly wait in 15 degree weather for no good reason.

It would be completely hysterical, if I was watching it on a silent movie screen in 1923 and not about to have my ears drop off my head from the cold.