We could sure use some smiles when snarls by those who would lead our nation have never been so swarmy and hateful. To the rescue, here’s an Irving Lepselter Cityscape cartoon. A design engineer by trade, thankfully, Irv is also a social critic by nature, and his gently satirical, wryly humorous cartoons enlightened Our Town readers for 20-plus years. Critiques, they were, of how not only our policy makers were “the problem,” but yes, how you and I could be, too - mostly for being unaware or silent.
Of course, we wouldn’t think of charging someone to help them board the bus, but the cartoon sparks thinking about giving an assist to someone who doesn’t yet need a ramp or wheel chair lift. Or it just sparks thinking about those who need some assistance and oh - to look up from those devices- devices-devices! Oh, Irv, please come out of retirement to critique about that!
Above all, the cartoon must remind us how often bus drivers don’t pull to the curb. It’s part of their “work order,” but one too often ignored. And little is said how that makes boarding or exiting stressful - and dangerous. A friend’s hip was broken when the York Avenue bus did not pull to the curb. And the pothole next to the curb where this woman was obliged to step into caused her to trip and to fall. A year later, she is still partially disabled and too often in pain. Stories, unfortunately rarely told. and bus driver infractions are rarely reported to the MTA – or to elected officials and civic and other groups concerned with citizen rights and needs.
Of course, good drivers must be commended in person, and to the MTA.
But unlike subway travel, the city bus kind gets little attention, except how to make it faster, which frankly, also makes the ride less safe. Elected officials and media only seem to know about subways. Attention must be paid.
And oh, how that greatest of bus drivers, Govan Brown, deserves all-out remembering. He should also be part of Black History month - this now long-retired Fifth and Madison Avenue bus driver whose extraordinarily thoughtful driving was heralded, not only by the New York Times, but picked up internationally. Of course. it was covered by Our Town and yours truly, who, doggone it, now cannot find those stories or my column with a photo of Brown and me. And to those so against saving “hard copy” because “everything can be found online,” it just is not true.
For 20 years, mind you, Govan Brown made bus riders smile while driving most carefully; he called out every bus stop and noted the special sights along the way. All who boarded the bus received a word and a smile, and I was providentially on board when Brown wished everyone “a very, very blessed New Year!” And everyone applauded and smiled - and at each other, too. Imagine!
Mayor Dinkins declared a Govan Brown Day when Brown was about to retire, and I wrote (in vain) how he must stay on part-time to teach drivers how to make even a crowded bus ride tolerable. Incidentally, Brown was a deacon in his church - in Queens, I believe it was. Not surprisingly, his family life was as good as his work life, and how both must be remembered, and greatly exampled!
And here’s to Irv Lepselter resuming his visual critiques, to stress how crucial now to save and restore the nabes which made the city such a great, neighborly and democratic place to live. It can be done if enough of us try.