A prefect record

Here in Seattle, before moving away 30+ years ago, for a while I rode the #39 bus to the end of the line five days a week.

Not many people did. For the route's final ten blocks, often it was only me and the driver, and usually it was the same driver as the day before.

With no-one else on the bus to chat at, he talked to me, and eventually we came to slightly know each other.

One afternoon I asked him what it's like driving a bus, and he filled the rest of our ride and the next ride, too, with stories of unruly passengers, and cars driven stupidly, and how to handle a bus that's skidding in the snow.

Maybe I asked or maybe he simply mentioned that he'd been driving for Metro Transit for 31 years, and had a perfect driving record.

You could hear some pride in his voice when he said it, and it is impressive. A city bus can weigh ten tons or more, and it's wide and long and not nimble in traffic, and he'd driven buses forty hours a week for, at that point, longer than I'd been alive.

Some weeks later, on another ride toward the end of the line, a Porsche cut in front of us, and the bus driver slammed on the brakes and the horn at the same time. His record remained perfect, but he swore and then he laughed, and shouted after the Porsche as it sped away, "Bud, you don't know how close you just came to being totaled."

I said something like, "And he almost ended your 31 years without a wreck."

"More like six months," the driver said, and I was puzzled.

"Didn't you tell me you have a perfect driving record?"

"Well, yeah, it's perfect," he said. "Every accident I've been in was the other guy's fault — six, so far."

Words are marvelous, aren't they? Many times I've remembered that moment of dialogue from all those years ago, and that having a perfect record isn't always the same as having a perfect record.


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