The Happy Bus...Making a Difference

The Happy Bus
When I was a young professional in Chicago, I worked in a small advertising agency. One day a secretary (who was usually grumpy in the morning) came to work smiling and humming. I looked quizically at her and she laughed, “I caught the Happy Bus this morning.” I inquired as to what that was. “You don’t know the Happy Bus?” she exclaimed, her eyes flying wide open. "Oh my gosh, it’s legendary." She then explained, “One of the bus drivers who drives the 151 bus during morning rush hour calls his bus the Happy Bus, and he gets everybody in a good mood on their way to work…he is so cute and funny…today we had a group sing!” She went on to explain all the different narratives and tactics he used during his 5 AM to noon shift up and down Michigan Avenue, dealing with crabby, hungover and just plain unhappy commuters; and because there were dozens of number 151 buses, it was just good fortune if you happened to get on the Happy Bus on your way to work.

Several years later, I was running very late for work one morning (I then worked up at the Hancock Building at the “top” of Michigan Avenue). It was starting to drizzle, and I still had five more blocks to walk, so when I saw a 151 bus heading my way, I flagged it down and hopped on board. Because it was almost empty, I sat in the front across from the driver, who was humming quietly. Pretty soon he heard me humming along with him, and he turned and exclaimed, “Let’s sing a duet!” I laughed and agreed, so we sang a duet (complete with harmony) the last few blocks to the Hancock.

As he dropped me off, I thanked him for the music and started to step down, when I turned around and said, “Wait a minute…is this the Happy Bus?” He leaned his head back, gave a huge laugh and said, “One and Only, Young Lady…you come back when we’re full and you’ll have a real good time…I’m kind of plum tuckered out after six hours of driving my shift.”

As I scurried through the drizzling rain and glided quickly through the revolving doors at the Hancock, I heard him honk the bus for me and he took off up the Mag Mile. I punched my floor in the elevator, smiling to myself, just knowing I was going to have a good day…and I of course was humming.