The 'Flying Busman' helms poetic rides to campus

Centro driver Mickey Mahan says his job provides him with inspiration and practice to be a poet.

Centro bus driver Mickey Mahan recites his poems while he drives the Route 344 bus from Syracuse University’s South Campus to the main campus every morning. He adopted his nickname, “The Flying Busman,” from “The Flying Dutchman,” a folklore about a ghost ship that sailed the ocean forever.

Mahan describes his job as a perfect fit for him because it provides him with inspiration and the space to practice his poetry. The city view gives him ideas about poetry, and he writes poems when his bus stops.

“When I started doing it, people were shocked."
- Mickey Mahan

“I like to be on the move and wind through the city,” Mahan said. “Everything that makes a city is available to a transit bus driver. It’s like being given the key to the city.”

Mahan came to SU to pursue a master’s degree in English literature jn the 1985-86 academic year from his hometown, Geneva, New York. Unsure of what he wanted to do in the future at the end of his first year at SU, he took three years off and worked at a hot dog cart during the summers. He came back to SU in 1990 and finished his master’s program a year later.

Mahan taught English literature at SU in the 1990-91 academic year, but he realized teaching was not an ideal job for him. “I’m a street person, but not a classroom-contained person,” he said. “For me, the classroom environment was too isolated and insulated from the hubbub of everyday life.”

In 1991, Mahan resigned from SU, and he has worked as a bus driver at Centro ever since. This is his fourth year driving the Route 344 bus on SU's campus and his third year reciting poems on the bus. “When I started doing it, people were shocked. But there is also a lot of appreciation and acceptance which has kept me going,” he said.

Mahan first met his wife, Deb Thorna, when they volunteered to answer phone calls for Channel 9 News for Children’s Miracle Network in 1998. They married in Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas, and Mahan described their 7-year marriage as “wonderful, challenging and inspiring.”

“You need to be a skilled lover to make a marriage work, being able to adapt to new situations, and being able to take the relationship to new places,” Mahan said.

As art lovers, Mahan and Thorna take a lot of trips to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to get ideas for their artwork at their home studio, where they take materials such as metal and feathers, glue them down to pieces of wood, and paint around them.

Mahan keeps a feather on the top of his hat. For him, the feather is a great symbol of himself as The Flying Busman. “It reminds me that I’m free. It reminds me that the sky is my limit, and it reminds me not to take myself too seriously and to be light-hearted,” he said.



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