From Alcoholic to Workoholic

Here’s a feel-good story for the holidays. The New Jersey Journal reported on a former homeless man who turned his life around and is now recognized as one of New York City’s nicest bus drivers:

Once lost in drug haze, now ‘nicest’ bus driver
Friday, December 26, 2008

After being homeless for more than a decade, a Union City resident has found a home, love, and even an award for being one of New York City transit’s nicest bus drivers.

His employer, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, presented David Abramski, 51, who now lives in the Doric Towers in Union City and drives for the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority, with an award after 21 passengers contacted the authority in 2007 to praise him for being courteous and helpful.

He was one of four MTA workers presented with the Govan Brown Presidential Award in October. The award is named for a retired bus driver who collected 1,400 commendations for charming passengers during his 21-year-career.

Abramski chalks up his popularity to common courtesy, saying “Hello” to anyone who looks at him, announcing every stop and saying “Thank you” when passengers are departing.

“I try to treat everyone like they are my friend – like it’s a rolling party,” Abramski said. “I want everybody feel at ease.”

He also goes the extra mile with service. He has hand-delivered valuables left on his bus to their owners.

Once playing guitar for a band that landed gigs at the storied CBGB’s rock club, Abramski’s life spiraled out of control in the mid-’80s, leading to his eviction from a single room occupancy hotel. He was homeless for 10 years, living in an Amtrak tunnel below Riverside Park in New York City.

Smoking pot since his teens, he says he got hooked on crack cocaine and alcohol when he was laid off from his job as a bicycle messenger after breaking his shoulder.

“I finally hit the bottom,” he said. “You couldn’t get any lower than living in that tunnel.”
His parents took him into their home and clipped out job advertisements to help his search for a “real job.”

He became a motorbike messenger after attaching a small motor to his bike. Then he got a motorcycle. And then finally a bus, when he landed a job as a part-time bus driver with NJ Transit before being hired by the MTA in November 2000.

“I’m sorry I messed up. I was so bad as a kid,” sighed Abramski. “I was such a rebel.”
After moving from a boarding house in Union City to a condo in Jersey City, he met his wife, Barbara Alice.

He plans to retire when he is 63 years old and move with his wife to Florida, and has been working overtime to earn enough to buy a house there.

“I used to be an alcoholic, but now I’m a workaholic,” Abramski said.

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