The One Who Stops: an interview with SFU’s nicest bus driver

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]FU students who take the 135 bus up to campus every morning see a lot of different bus drivers — some nice, some not so nice. Most of them tend not to make much of an impact. But Bill Laird is an exception: known for his friendly demeanor and insistence on wishing every single passenger a nice day, he’s become an honorary member of the SFU community.

Oh. And did I forget to mention that he totally looks like Walter White from Breaking Bad?

A post featuring a photo of Bill, along with the words “I am the one who stops,” exploded with popularity on the SFU Confessions page this past October, garnering over 600 Facebook likes. Then Reddit got a hold of the image, resulting in over 4,000 upvotes, 500 comments, and a brief stint on the site’s front page. “Someone has the easiest Halloween costume in the world,” one commenter quipped. “Dude, you have to post a pic of your bus driver for comparison,” joked another.

Bill’s photo has since been the subject of many Photoshop gags, including several replacing his face for Bryan Cranston’s. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether the images are Photoshopped at all.

By now, most SFU students have heard of Bill — they know him as Heisenbus, Braking Bad, the one who works for Bus Fring. But he’s also known, and beloved, for a lot more than his celebrity doppelganger. The Peak sat down with SFU’s nicest bus driver to ask him about his love for the series, his sudden Internet fame, and what inspires him to be so friendly to his passengers.

“You know, I try and treat people the way I would like them to treat me. It’s simple.” – Bill the bus driver

The Peak: So, to begin: have you ever seen Breaking Bad?

Bill: You bet. I love it. I’ve been watching it for a long time.

P: Who was the first to point out the resemblance between you and Walter White?

B: That would have been . . . damn, I don’t remember the gentleman’s name. But he came on the bus and asked if he could take my picture, and he said “you look like the guy from Breaking Bad,” and I went “oh, okay!” And my son made a comment about it, and he showed me something on the Internet — and the first gentleman, he had put it on, what the heck is it, I think he put something on SFU. . .

P: SFU Confessions.

B: Yeah! Yeah, so he put the picture on there. And actually, I ran into him just a while ago, and we sort of just looked at each other and we just smirked about it, right? Because nobody thought it would be so popular.

P: Do people point it out more often, now?

B: Yes, definitely. It’s great, I absolutely love it.

P: You’ve become something of a minor campus celebrity, in part because of that post. Do you find that a lot of students recognise you not as Walter White but as Bill the bus driver?

B: Yep. I have no problem with telling people who I am — you know, I’ve been doing this a long time. Some guys, they sort of keep stuff inside, and they try to stay a little bit distant, but I’ve never had an issue with that. That’s just not who I am. [laughs]

P: You say you’ve been doing this a long time. When did you start working as a bus driver?

B: Oh God, I’ve got 25 years in now. So it would have been, I guess, September 1990.

P: And how long have you been doing the 135 route?

B: Oh, I don’t know. How long has the university been around? [laughs] Yeah, basically on and off for about 25 years. And I absolutely love it. It’s a lot of fun — you know, it’s students, faculty, and businesspeople, and I’ve never, ever had an issue with anybody. I’ve done other routes with the company where I’ve had nothing but problems, but nothing with the 135.

P: What would you say is your favourite thing about that route?

B: SFU. Definitely SFU. The least favourite is driving through the rest of it, the downtown part of it. [laughs]

P: It’s funny, because you seem like the polar opposite of Walter White — you’re always so friendly and accommodating to everyone on the bus. What compels you to give that extra effort when most bus drivers don’t?

B: Well, that’s just me. I can’t really think of anything else. You know, I try and treat people the way I would like them to treat me. It’s simple — I wish I had something more exciting to tell you, but it is what it is, right?

P: What’s something that most SFU students probably wouldn’t guess about you?

B: Well, I’ve got a family. You know, I’ve got numerous hobbies. I ride motorcycles, I get my tail kicked on Xbox on a regular basis — probably by some 12-year-old in another country who thankfully can’t see who he’s playing against. But you know, I’m a family guy. My wife and I have been married 40 years. I’ve got two wonderful kids, and they’re all grown up and have their own families. Life’s moving along nicely.

P: Is there anything you want to share with the SFU community?

B: I just want to say thank you very much. I really appreciate the way everybody has treated me, and I’ve had a lot of fun with this. You know, I go online and look at the comments and stuff, and I absolutely love the Photoshop stuff that’s been done. My favourite one is the one with me and Walt sitting there having a beer. And apparently somebody the other day put [Vladimir Putin’s] face onto my body, and I’m looking at it and I’m going, ‘that was well done!’

Stuff like that I absolutely love. And I’m just very happy that there’s a lot of good people who are having a lot of fun with it.