Soon after reaching my 20th year in the transit industry, back in 1993, after a draining day of addressing routine bus issues — road control, detour implementations, responding to bus breakdowns, supervisory road checks, 8 a.m. service requirements, and all the other issues that I’m sure most of you have been involved with, I would cross paths with another employee, who I always remember, seemed to be quietly “doing his own little daily gig.”
Always smiling and tugging along his routine daily equipment, which consisted of a toolbox duffel bag, equipped with a trolley brake, instructor mirror, and training bus sign that got him safely through his day. He would be followed by four of his new bus operator candidate students. As he dismissed them from that day’s training bus assignment, I would think to myself, whatever he is doing every day, I want to do.
The person that I am speaking was simply known as “Figgy.” Little did I know at that time that my entry into the Training Department would begin by being assigned to break-in with him.
I received some sad news a few days ago that Figgy had passed away. I would like to dedicate this blog to him as a thank you for his time in transit and his contribution to NYC Transit Department of Buses. Perhaps there is something that you will read that may help you as an instructor and/or your students.
During my initial break-in period as an instructor, I was assigned to be joined at the hip with Figgy. My experience began at the completion of orientation day. I watched as he introduced himself to his students, kindly but firmly emphasizing the importance of establishing good habits, beginning with having a reliable watch and arriving 15 minutes before start time for Day 1 Basic Skill Development; and every day after. He would say that if you cannot arrive on time for training, consider your career in transit already over.
Over the next 10 days, he would lay out a pattern that would follow perfectly with what the Department of Buses required to determine a pass or fail grade. After spending my time with him, it became clear that what I observed will be part of who I hoped to be as an instructor. Here are a few things I would like to share with you that I threw in the pot and mixed in with the foundation I learned from Figgy.
- Set your standards immediately as to what you will and will not tolerate from your students.
- Be the best at what you do and know your responsibilities inside out.
- Be firm but respectable.
- Always have an open ear to your students.
- Do not let on about whether they will pass or fail from training, but simply ask them to do their best.
- Keep training bus chatter focused on the task at hand.
- Never embarrass a student in front of their fellow candidates.
- As hard as it may be, don’t get personal.
- Do not qualify anyone that you would not allow your children to be a passenger on their bus.
- Operate by example, as if you are always being watched by your students.
I believe we should all take what we learned from the best, mix it in with what we feel works with what we were taught, and roll it out. I hope that I, and all those other instructors and students who went on to be bus operators, members of supervision, and management, made Figgy proud. I’m sure he would be pleased with that.
Rest in Peace, my friend.
Louie is the former director of training for the New York City Transit Dept. of Buses Safety & Training Division and 2003 NTI Fellow. Currently, he is Director, Training Services, for Transit Training Solutions.