Bus driver and triathlete Mike Milus blames his tattoos on his Coronado upbringing. A joy-riding juvenile delinquent who cleaned up his act after a night in jail at age 18, Milus worked as an iron worker and a Jamul water well driller before he began a career as a bus driver for San Diego Transit. He has been battling traffic, making friends and facing crime on city bus routes for more than 10 years. Dealing with some legal questions while on the job and training for triathlons with educated professionals, he found a desire to go back to school. He now takes morning classes at Mesa Community College and plans to go to law school. The 36-year-old father of three lives with his wife--a bus driver who followed in his footsteps--and two children in Linda Vista. Times staff writer Nancy Reed interviewed him there and Dave Gatley photographed him.
I have a reconstructed knee. It was the Fourth of July at 5th and E Street. I had 10 minutes' spot time and a brawl broke out. It was a big, nasty fight--I was trying to get back on the bus, and I slipped on somebody's vomit and came off a curb. I was out for about nine months.
Sometimes, the responsibilities, depending on the route, can turn on you. You want to keep people safe and drive the bus. I have had somebody get their throat cut on the bus while I was going down the freeway, and a young girl with her baby was sitting in the door well screaming for me to please help her.
Anxiety is the biggest problem. You have constant traffic, and people aren't always the most pleasant. One study said there is a lot more anxiety for a bus driver than a policeman because a policeman has so much authority. Bus drivers are just kind of there with the same problems and people.
I learned from experience and intuition. You learn you get more from honey than vinegar. You know if you can bluff a guy. I can talk about my martial arts background.
But then there are times you have a full-blown wacko, and you just gotta let the doors open and let everybody go for it, including yourself.
You get to know a lot of people on your route if you are friendly and say "hi." You know where they work and their dog's name, and you just get pretty much involved in their lives. . . . My last night on Route 80, they threw a party for me, brought a cake on board and presents.
An elderly lady who used to get on my bus used to pick up cans all the time. She was really sweet, polite, and she didn't smell and she didn't have anybody. She was about 83 years old. She would ride to the end of the line with me.
Some people, like Rocky said, "is feeling gaps" and need some company. You get a lot of people like that. Christmas is a heavy holiday for them, so they get on the bus, and we will go down and buy three dozen doughnuts and sit at Sunset Cliffs and throw sprinkles on each other, eat doughnuts and drink Coke.
One girl got on my bus, she was about 17 years old and she was about eight months pregnant. She just came into town and she was upset obviously, started to weep. It was toward the end of the line, and I asked her what was wrong. She came out to the West Coast, a runaway girl, a prime target for people to exploit.
She rode the bus all night with me, and I was just talking with her. I gave her my home phone number in case she got in trouble. About two nights later, I got a phone call and I was able to link her up with some people that could help her--that was the most gratifying thing.
You are a lawyer, a policeman, a psychologist--you are everything--a kind of the mediator between the law and humanitarian principles.
I was a fun type of guy as a kid who didn't think too much about the future. But when your own kids are looking you in the eye, you think about old age. At 32, I felt like I was over the hill.
But people that I train for triathlons with live in Del Mar. This is Linda Vista. Not the best neighborhood in the world. They used to kid me about picking me up in Rancho Linda Vista.
Maybe walking with the wise has been helping me think about the future. Then I found out the average age of people applying for law school is 35. I jumped out of my rut--I had been talking about getting back in school for three years.