William Cimillo (Screen Capture via Vimeo)
You probably recall the story of the JetBlue flight attendant who grabbed two beers, pulled the emergency slide, and left his job in a blaze of glory. Well, this story takes that up another notch. One morning in 1947 William Cimillo, a married man with two children in New York City, decided to do something very different. According to a story on this week’s This American Life (re-airing a segment from the podcast Radio Diaries), Cimillo headed to work for the Surface Transportation Company, a company he had worked for 17 years. He picked up his bus and instead of driving left, into the Bronx to pick up the men and women of his route; he decided to take a right and cross the George Washington Bridge. Once in Jersey, Cimillo had breakfast but instead of heading back to work, he had other plans.
For two weeks no one heard from Cimillo, not his company nor his wife and two children. Speculation that his bus was hijacked (by someone other than Cimillo) or he has an unreported accident was in the minds of his employers and family. After two weeks, The SFC finally got word from Cimillo in the form of a Western Union telegram requesting $50. The request came from Hollywood, Florida. For two whole weeks Cimillo had been driving down the eastern side of the United States, actually making a stop outside The White House. The STC decided to send a pair of police officers instead of the $50 and a mechanic to Florida to apprehend Cimillo and bring him back to New York City. Cimillo never notified his family. Instead his oldest son Richard saw his father on-screen in a matinee newsreel in the movie theater.
The story should have ended there, with Cimillo being arrested for his misdeed and never allowed behind a NYC bus again. But this is where the story gets truly hilarious. The mechanic, brought in because Cimillo was not to be trusted behind the wheel of a bus, could not handle the bus he was suppose to send back. The solution to this problem came in the form of Cimillo being released from his handcuffs to drive the bus as far as New Jersey, only to have the mechanic drive the final few miles to the police station.
End of story right? Wrong. Cimillo not only had the help of his fellow bus drivers, who helped pay for his defense, but had the charges against him dropped. The SFC was under pressure–the bus driver had become popular since news broke of his adventure. And, in one last shocking turn of events, Cimillo not only avoided jail time and stayed married to his wife, but also got to keep his job. He drove the bus for another 16 years. During one of those rides through the Bronx, a reporter asked Cimillo if he would ever consider taking a risk like that again. Cimillo answers that he certainly had thoughts about doing it again however, a story like that is “never as funny the second time.”
Read more crazy facts from our Daily What?! series.
Wanna runaway to Florida before it gets cold? Then contact the author @ChrisLInoa