Irritated cursing, talk of lost tow trucks, strange banter about the Rockettes. This is what goes on behind the scenes every day on your bus ride.
Keeping NYC Transit’s 6,300 buses moving requires more than 400 dispatchers, communicate through walkie-talkies using the classic trucker lingo of “copy that” and “10-4.”
During hours of eavesdropping on the tight clique of dispatchers in the last two weeks, amNewYork overheard some colorful tidbits, including:
- A Bronx woman who got so infuriated that she couldn’t squeeze on the bus, she smashed one of its windows with her cane
- A drunk rider in a wheelchair who boarded at Houston Street and refused to leave, with the bus driver having to call police
- A Bronx rider who couldn’t be woken up at the end of the trip, though he didn’t appear drunk. “He is breathing though, right?” the dispatcher asked.
“Does she have any weapons? Stay and wait for the police,” a dispatcher said in response to a call about an unruly passenger.
Some of the dispatchers are matronly types, while others are tough-talking guys who sprinkle expletives into their transmissions.
“I asked you a yes or no question and I get a song and a dance,” one dispatcher griped as he argued with a bus driver.
In response to a rider who was making a stink, another dispatcher said, “He can call god if he want to.”
Dispatchers monitor buses in the depots, on the streets, and in a central command station in East New York, with buses all having a handset that they can “patch” into to report problems.
Everyday, there’s scores of snafus on the road, like broken windshield wipers, empty gas tanks and leaking oil (one driver was told to put down newspaper under the bus to prevent it from running into a sewer). Or, drivers call in things like roaches, strange smells resembling oranges or knives found on the ground.
“I’m kind of scared. I don’t want to drive this bus,” one driver said about a bus with break problems.
The dispatchers rag on bus drivers who travel too slow, fantasize about vacation and scramble to fill uncovered shifts. Sometimes things get a bit goofy.
“Listen, I want a hamburger with fried onions and French fries and a slice of carrot cake. Make it happen,” one dispatcher joked last week.
Bus dispatcher lingo
- Secure your bus: Lock it up and put on the emergency break
- The patch: The radio network
- Running hot: Driving too fast and getting ahead of schedule
- This is 11 on the sevens: The 11th trip of the day on no. 7 route in that
borough, for example
- Your payroll: A driver's badge number
- Turn it short: Put your passengers on the following bus and get back on