That Time a NYC Bus Driver Said %#$# It, I’m Driving This Bus to Florida

Posted On Wed, May 11, 2016 By

Posted On Wed, May 11, 2016 By In History

If you’ve ever fantasized about leaving work at lunchtime and heading for a faraway beach, you probably know you’re not alone. Though many dream, the afternoon more likely finds us stifling a yawn in that meeting instead of watching the runway grow smaller in the distance.

But collectively we love the idea enough that there are few who wouldn’t make a hero of New York City bus driver William Cimillo, a 37-year-old married father of three from the Bronx who, in 1947, drove into the pages of history by taking life by the you-know-whats and giving himself a “busman’s holiday.” The term refers to a vacation where you’re basically doing the same stuff you’d be doing at work anyway, which is just what Cimillo, a driver on the BX15 bus route, did when he drove all the way to Florida.

cimillo interview
William Cimillo, in a TV interview.

Cimillo, who, it might be noted, looked enough like Ralph Kramden (also a bus driver) to make this an even better story, had been collecting fares and navigating city traffic for 16 years, a self-described “slave to a watch and a schedule” as the Brooklyn Eagle reported at the time. Daydreaming (presumably not while driving), he wondered what would happen if he just “disobeyed the rules and forgot to look at his watch and did not get to that street corner at the right time,” he told the paper in an interview. So began the adventure that, on a March day, had Cimillo starting his shift on the BX15 route and ending up on Highway 1 bound for Hollywood, Florida, telling himself, “baby, this is it.”

“Well it’s one of those things,” Cimillo recounts in a later interview, “The same people, the same stops, day in and day out…today, I just thought I’d try something different. It was a beautiful spring morning…” Before he knew it, our friend Bill was cruising past the White House in Washington, D.C. He saw a truck with a big sign on the side, touting, “Florida…the land of sunshine.” And it suddenly seemed like a terrific idea.

Once he arrived in the Sunshine State, the errant day-tripper and father of three reportedly disappeared for two weeks, then called the bus company and asked them to wire him $50 so he could fill the tank and head back home. Then, he headed for the local racetrack (no word on how he fared there), where police arrested him and transported him back home–in his bus. Cimillo says in the same interview that when he got to Hollywood (Florida) he was out of cash, which is just as well, he adds,”or I would have ended up in Cuba or Mexico.”

Though Cimillo was indicted for grand larceny (he did, after all, leave town with a city bus), our hero didn’t do time after all; the bus company, who seemed to be on the side of good in this story, paid his bail.

cimillobusheadline

Cimillo’s tale spread, earning him heaps of attention from the press–he was even flown to California for interviews. He had a clean record, and all the positive attention helped him keep his job for 16 more years (we imagine he’d have mixed feelings about this?), and his family apparently forgave him for skipping town for two weeks. When asked if he’d do it again, Cimillo replied that that sort of thing is “never as funny the second time.”

Though the elder Cimillo died in 1975, his son, a firefighter, was fond of recounting the tale of his Dad’s “busman’s holiday,” “This American Life” even did a popular podcast about it, which you can get here.

[Via Ephemeral New York]

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Lead image via Mister Linksy/Photobucket

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