TTC riders on Mike Marges’ bus tend to break into applause and laughter when he makes an announcement.
He adds a personal touch to this part of his job: airplane pilot-style commentary.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome aboard the Air Red Rocket,” he says as he pulls out of the subway station. “Today’s destination is to StarSpray. Our approximate arrival time is set to 2:45. However, due to traffic and weather, we’ll be there a few minutes early.”
The time and destination change with each commute.
As a child, Marges was fascinated by a TTC driver who sang on the job. That driver’s enthusiasm and personable nature inspired him to join the TTC, Marges said.
“I incorporated small little things I saw as a kid and it just started snowballing into this spiel,” he said.
The 26-year-old also uses pop-culture icons and movie characters in his commentary, depending on his passengers.
“I change it up everyday,” Marges said. “If it’s mostly kids on the bus, it’ll be a kids movie and if it’s mostly adults on the bus, it’ll be an adult movie like Ghost.”
Marges, who joined the TTC two years ago, drives the 86, 116 and 54 routes in Scarborough.
“I love Scarborough,” he said. “The route is really nice and it’s relatively long, which makes the day go by quick.”
Alison McKenna, a regular TTC rider, said Marges is one of the friendliest drivers she’s come across.
“So many of them are surly, right? You ask them a question and they kind of grunt,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if this bus went past the stop I was looking for and [Marges] was like, ‘Absolutely,’ and then cracked a joke.”
Pilot-style commentary is not the only personal touch Marges adds to the job. He’s been known to sing “Happy Birthday To You”, joke with riders and play games with children.
“If a kid [sits] on a bus for a half hour or 45 minutes, that can be a little long for their attention span,” Marges said. “So I’ll get on the speaker and ask, ‘Do you want to play a game of I spy with objects inside the bus?’ ”
Marges said he hopes to one day train new TTC employees to help improve the company.
“If I can put a smile on someone’s face,” he said, “then my goal is achieved.”