Riding the 82

Today’s Principle: Karma

The principle of Karma is an extension of Giving & Receiving, asking us to develop a bottomless heart, prompting us to actions of kindness and compassion, trusting that what we give comes back manifold. Call it the Boomerang Effect. Call if Paying It Forward. On Karma days I write about service.

I had the pleasure recently of riding the GMTA 82 when a new driver was in training. I was eavesdropper to the inner workings of driving a city bus. On three different occasions I listened as the trainee took notes and asked questions of three different drivers. Each time I sat back and looked out the window as we passed over the rivers and picked up and dropped off other passengers, many of whom were strangers to me. Yet they all knew the bus driver.

[Every bus is outfitted with bike racks. Photo from GMTA website]

I’m not a regular rider, since we have a car, and I like to walk whereever I need to go. My new job at the mall is further from home than I’m used to traveling, so sometimes I take the bus. It helps that the nearest stop is around the corner from my house and  it drops me off at the mall–practically door to door service! A bargain at 50-cents per trip.

During the training sessions I learned that the drivers strive to get to know their regular patrons, and deliver them on time whenever possible. Sometimes passengers are short a nickel for their fare, and are forgiven. Sometimes the driver has to deviate 1/4 mi. off the route to accommodate a pick up. Today I witnessed a driver escort a blind man through the main entrance of the hospital so he could get to his appointment. And I’m sure he also asked when he could expect to see him waiting for a ride home.

I remember that the trainee was told to try to get to know the customers, know their names. Eventually he’ll get to know the personal lives of the customers themselves. Rare is the day when there is not warm interaction between rider and driver.  That blind man, according to the driver, is a talented musician, and we should all be lucky to hear him play.

Often I have heard a rider compliment the driver on their service. As much as some folks complain, more of them are grateful for the service they are given, and are not shy in expressing it. This morning a woman sitting up front told the driver he did his deed for the day in escorting that man to the desk. He didn’t have to. “Kids these days, they would never do something like that,” she said. She was the next drop, at the nursing home, and of course, they called each other by name and expected to see one another again on a ride soon.

I should have been riding the bus long before I got this job–it’s a great, cheap way to see different parts of the city. I often rode the bus when living in San Francisco to get a lay of the land, and scope out places to visit. But I’d always associated public transit with very urban places, like New York City or Boston. I started riding the GMTA out of necessity, and found it to be an oasis of compassion.

[All  buses are equipped for wheelchair access. Photo from GMTA website]

You see, a lot of the folks riding the bus (on the route that I take) are much older than me and often physically weaker, utilizing wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and other tools. While I would never conceive of taking a four-block bus ride, I can see that in cold, wintry conditions, where a fall might mean another trip to the doctor’s office, a free bus ride is a means of independence not often afforded.

Did I say FREE? Yep. Many elderly or disabled passengers receive subsidized or free rides depending on their circumstances. I am so thankful that the GMTA exists. I can’t imagine my aging parents having to brave 10 icy blocks to get to the grocery store and back. Every time I ride the bus, I am reminded of physical limitations. I am also reminded that we can not let them limit us.

I applaud the entire GMTA team for a great system that advocates compassionate treatment of the elderly and disabled, that provides excellent customer service, and that in every way strives for excellence. GMTA is a private non-profit, and could benefit from your support.


Did you know that the GMTA also has a volunteer driver system? Volunteers drive passengers to important appointments in exchange for mileage reimbursement. In a rural area where there isn’t a bus stop on every corner, this is especially crucial for travel dependent patrons. Please consider being a volunteer driver.

[Oh the places you’ll go! Photo from GMTA website]

**Please note: GMTA has new schedule changes as of this week. Make sure to pick up a current guide.

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