saw that this bus driver was an urban peacemaker
of sorts, wizardlike in his power to transmute the sullen irritability
that seethed in his passengers."
Daniel Goleman, Emotional
Intelligence, Part 1
It was an unbearably steamy August afternoon in New York City, the
kind of sweaty day that makes people sullen with discomfort. I was
heading back to a hotel, and as I stepped onto a bus up Madison Avenue I
was startled by the driver, a middle-aged black man with an enthusiastic
smile, who welcomed me with a friendly, "Hi! How you doing?"
as I got on, a greeting he proffered to everyone else who entered as the
bus wormed through the thick midtown traffic. Each passenger was as
startled as I, and, locked into the morose mood of the day, few returned
But as the bus crawled uptown through the gridlock, a slow, rather
magical transformation occurred. The driver gave a running monologue for
our benefit, a lively commentary on the passing scene around us: there
was a terrific sale at that store, a wonderful exhibit at this museum,
did you hear about the new movie that just opened at that cinema down
the block? His delight in the rich possibilities the city offered was
infectious. By the time people got off the bus, each in turn had shaken
off the sullen shell they had entered with, and when the driver shouted
out a "So long, have a great day!" each gave a smiling
The memory of that encounter has stayed with me for close to twenty
years. When I rode that Madison Avenue bus, I had just finished my own
doctorate in psychology - but there was scant attention paid in the
psychology of the day to just how such a transformation could happen.
Psychological science knew little or nothing of the mechanics of
emotion. And yet, imagining the spreading virus of good feeling that
must have rippled through the city, starting from passengers on his bus,
I saw that this bus driver was an urban peacemaker of sorts, wizardlike
in his power to transmute the sullen irritability that seethed in his
passengers, to soften and open their hearts a bit.