Ever had a story you wanted to tell but had to wait long enough to make sure no one involved gets in trouble? Well, I have one that happened 18 years ago, and it made me a die-hard Pittsburgh lover forever.
It was December 1995, a week before Christmas, and my family and I had just moved to Pittsburgh from the Northern Virginia area. We didn’t know anyone, the kids and wife were sick, and snow had been falling continually since our arrival. It was a tough move, and my spirits were down.
Getting ready for my first day at work, I had checked out the bus system, and noticed a route only about a quarter- mile from home. So the next morning I trekked off in the snow in my new suit, overcoat, boots and my trusty Redskins toboggan hat. The bus dropped me off a block from the office, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. What a commute!
At the end of the day, I walked back to the spot on the corner of 7th and Grant, and caught the same bus line back home. The bus stopped at the movie theaters in McCandless, just as it did on the route to work that morning. I then noticed that everyone but me had exited the bus. I knew I lived in a somewhat remote area of the North Hills but was surprised that no one else was travelling with me.
The snow started falling harder and it was difficult to see out the window. I managed to spot a sign that said “Route 19 South.” I didn’t know much about the area but I did know my house was north of the movie theaters. I asked the bus driver if we were headed to Bradford Woods. He looked at me quizzically and said, “No. We are going back to tahn.”
I assumed he meant Pittsburgh and immediately got alarmed. “But this bus goes to Bradford Woods! I picked it up this morning,” I exclaimed. The driver stared at me in the rear view mirror. “This is the 4:30 bus and it ends at the cinemas in the evenings. Every other bus goes on to Bradford Woods. You should have gone on the 5:30.” “But the sign doesn’t say that,” I argued. “You gotta check the schedule,” he said.
He saw my look of desperation and at the next light he flashed his lights to a northbound bus. Both buses stopped and my driver shouted out his window, “Hey, I got a stray on my bus who needs sent north!” He then opened the doors, got out and escorted me across the street to the other bus. Before I could thank him he and the bus had vanished.
The driver on the northbound bus looked at me and said, “Where you headed?” I told him Bradford Woods. He said he was going north but his last stop was Passavant Hospital. He told me I could call my wife from the hospital (no cell phones back in these days). I said thank you and we proceeded to the hospital. No others were on the bus and I told him this was my first day in Pittsburgh and how I had gotten confused with the buses, the family was sick, etc. We chatted some more and then we arrived at the hospital.
I was the only passenger on his bus. He looked at me as I started to exit, and then said, “Hell, it’s the holidays. Let’s go to Bradford Woods.” I looked at him in astonishment. He said he wasn’t supposed to do this but considering everything he would take me to the corner of 19 and I would need to walk the rest of the way, which was only about a quarter- mile. I adjusted my overcoat and hat and got back on board.
He was good to his word. As I was exiting, I thanked him profusely and asked for his name. He said no way he could divulge his name as he could be fired for what he had done. I then asked him if I could do anything for him. He smiled and said, “Get rid of the hat.” I have proudly worn Steelers gear ever since.
Dave Hatfield is a retired U.S. administrative law judge who lives in Marshall (firstname.lastname@example.org).