Face Time: Mickey Mahan


By Andrea Reindl

You’ve probably heard him or at least heard of him singing each stop into the South Campus route microphone. His hat, his feathers, his beard—what’s not to like? He makes your day—or at the least, your bus ride—that much more pleasant. Jerk sat down with the campus-famous “Flying Busman,” Mickey Mahan to talk music, Kate Winslet, and flying saucers.

What makes you so happy? I get up every morning and put my feet on the cold floor and decide it’s going to be a happy day. I make that decision.

Who is your favorite band/musician? I have two actually. Frank Zappa who formed The Mothers of Invention, a kind of avant-garde classical ensemble. He was a tremendous voice in contemporary American music. The other one is Larry Coryell. He was a jazz musician and a big part of fusion jazz. He actually performed at the old Jabberwocky back in the 70s. I didn’t get to see him, though.

What is at the top of your bucket list? I don’t have a bucket list. I just make a habit of kicking ass at whatever I’m doing, so I don’t have a bucket list, so to speak.

Do you only drive the South Campus route? Currently, yes. The time of this particular run fit my schedule. But, I’ve been driving for 20 years and most of it I spent in the city.

Do you have any siblings? I do. I’m the oldest of five. I have two brothers and two sisters. One of my brothers, Stephen Mahan, runs the photography and literacy program out of the Warehouse. My other brother is a cabaret singer in New York City.

Where did you grow up? Geneva, N.Y. It’s a town midway between Syracuse and Rochester. It is famously known as the lake trout capital of the world. There’s a lake trout derby there every year. If you’re a lake trout-fisher-person, check it out.

What is your favorite thing about Syracuse? There are a lot of things I love about Syracuse. The people are my favorite thing, however. They’re very helpful, friendly, courteous, interesting. It's a real mixed bag with a lot of ethnic neighborhoods and it’s changing all the time. It’s just a wonderful community and a wonderful place.

Which celebrity would you like to punch in the face? I’m not a big face-puncher. I don’t get annoyed really easy. I can’t think of anyone in the world I’d like to punch in the face, to be honest with you.

If you could have dinner with someone dead or alive, who would it be? Henry Miller. He’s my very favorite writer and he was a real lover of the “good life.” He wrote The Tropic of Cancer.

What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you while driving this bus around? I have to say, the most exciting thing has been in the last couple months. I’ve had two documentaries made about me by groups of students—one radio interview, and two articles. I’ve met a number of lovely, marvelous people, and I’ve had a chance to strut my stuff.

What do you feel about reality television? Never seen it. I’ve never watched a reality show in my life. If you think about it, the concept is interesting. The fact that you can peek in on someone else’s life—assuming that it’s real—is interesting for what it says about our society and what we value. I feel like I live in my own reality TV show, though. I don’t have time to tune into anyone else’s.

Cats or dogs? I love them both. I think I’m more of a dog person. There’s doggishness about me. My buddy calls me C-dog. But, I do admire cats’ self-confidence and selfishness. I find that inspiring. I also like their sense of humor.

What’s your best advice for dealing with Syracuse winters? Get yourself a flying saucer.

What was your first job? I worked on a tent crew in my home town during the summer in high school. We would travel around New York state and put up tents for carnivals and county fairs.

What’s your favorite food? Pizza, I guess. I have a lot of foods that I love, though.

How long have you been a bus driver? Twenty years. I’ve only been up here [on the South Campus route] since Labor Day. So, just a few months.

Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie? Oh, boy. I’ll be honest with you. Neither one of them does a whole lot for me. If I had to pick one it would probably be Angelina Jolie because she has sort of an edge. But, Kate Winslet would be my first choice.

What’s the story behind your hat? Of all my years at Centro, I’ve worn a number of different funky, non-regulation hats and they would repeatedly write me up in uniform regulation. So I said, enough of this, and I chose this blue hat I’m wearing. It’s not exactly company stock, but it’s close. I like to roll it up and give it a European/French tinge. As for the feather, I collect feathers. I typically find them on the garage floor in the bus station. One day I looked in the mirror, and I thought, this is a sorry sight. So I took this feather I found and stuck it in my hat, I said “Voila! That’s pretty spiffy.” So there it is, and there it stays—and so far they haven’t written me up. It keeps me light hearted—I can’t help but chuckle at myself that every time I look in the mirror. It also reminds me that sky’s the limit. But, the short answer is: I’m bald.

What’s your favorite thing about driving a bus around? I like to be in motion—I like to feel like I’m moving—like I’m on a little bit of an adventure. Everything’s always a little different. Driving a bus is like being given a key to the city. It opens up your world for you in ways other occupations wouldn’t.

What is something people don’t know about you? I’m inherently a shy individual and I think most people would be surprised to hear that. I’m not inhibited anymore, but I still have to stretch my edge every time my shyness rears its head.

What is the last song stuck in your head? I have a manuscript of poems here called The Flying Busman. I’ve been rehearsing it, so the last song stuck in my head is “The Ballad of the Flying Busman.” I’m going to sing it for the students tomorrow, whether they want to hear it or not.

When did you start using the speaker to announce each bus stop? It’s actually a federal law under the Disabilities Act to announce certain stops for the seeing-impaired. I just started singing the stops two months ago.

If you were an animal, what would you be? A monkey.

How do you feel about Greek life at Syracuse? I think it’s probably a wonderful thing. The Greeks historically have been very inspiring people. They liked to party. If the Greek community here embodies these high (and low)-minded things, then it’s probably a good thing. It sounds like a hoot.

Describe yourself in one sentence. Mickey the Flying Busman is one bottle of piss and vinegar.