Dedicated bus driver Mike Blair had begun the day driving his vehicle on the usual route but ended his shift as the face of a news story. This is how Blair’s act of kindness towards a passenger in need took the internet by storm.
Blair had driven the same route every day in and around Las Vegas for half a decade. Known globally for its casinos, party culture and outrageous stag dos, Blair put Vegas on the map for a very different reason: a random act of kindness that set people talking. KSNV News 3 Las Vegas subsequently caught wind of the tale and made it the evening’s top story in August 2018.
The story, reported by Kelsey Thomas, began with Blair proudly telling her that he enjoys his job. He’s one of many bus drivers who work for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, which is responsible for supervising road transport in the area. As well as attempting to minimize air pollution and congestion, the body also supports community projects. Evidently a strong believer in community values, it seems that Blair is the commission’s ideal employee.
The extreme weather meant that July 30, 2018, was already a noteworthy day. “It had to be smoking hot out there,” Blair told KSNV. “You know, it had to probably be about 110.” And as the temperatures soared, one passenger was clearly crippled by the intense heat.
A 92-year-old passenger attracted Blair’s attention when he started acting strangely at a bus stop. “This one gentleman, he didn’t board, and he seemed like he started to grasp the wall there,” Blair recalled. He immediately sprang into action and moved the passenger safely onto the bus. However, this didn’t alleviate the man’s suffering completely.
Blair wasn’t about to leave the man until he was comfortable. Then came the moment that would go on to make headlines. “I got him sat down and I said, boy I gotta do something else,” Blair explained. “I had a bottle of water I brought in my lunchbox, so I got my lunch box out and gave him the bottle of water.” Not only did Blair give up his own water in the blistering heat, but he also fed it to the man, who was clearly incapable of doing so himself.
Bending down to the old man’s level, Blair held the bottle to allow him to sip. In her report for KSNV, Thomas described the tender moment as “a random act of kindness that instantly turned two strangers into friends.” Moreover, Blair’s selfless actions didn’t go unnoticed by the other passengers. In fact, it was one of them who took the photo of the moment that subsequently caused the incident to go viral.
The image was later posted on Twitter by Brent Leabu, a fellow passenger on the bus. Alongside the now-viral photo was a caption that read, “Props to this @RTCSNV bus driver who gave a dehydrated elderly rider a water from his lunch cooler.” And the compliments didn’t stop there.
The image was swiftly retweeted by @LasVegasLocally, a popular Twitter account that posts local news focusing on interesting happenings in the Vegas Valley. The image was shared with the words, “Las Vegas bus driver gives dehydrated elderly man water from his lunch cooler during a scorching summer day.” And it had soon received hundreds of likes.
Unbeknownst to Blair, who had no idea that a photo had been taken in the first place, his instinctive actions were being discussed across the internet. Indeed, the retweet from @LasVegasLocally was attracting a stream of heartfelt comments. One read, “Random acts of kindness in LV are a dying breed. It’s nice to know they still exist. Kudos and here’s this tweet will encourage more.”
In fact, Blair only caught wind of the internet storm that he’d inadvertently caused through his boss. The bus driver explained to KSNV how he’d felt when he received an out-of-the-blue phone call from his manager, Francis Julien. Perhaps understandably, Blair’s mind went into panic mode. “I was like, ‘Oh God. What did I do now?’” he recalled. But he was greeted by a pleasant surprise.
Julien told Blair about the photo that was doing the rounds on Twitter. When he was interviewed by KSNV, Julien laughed at the idea of Blair being scared that he was in trouble. “Michael is actually a really, really good driver,” Julien explained. “Never got into any trouble, so it’s actually funny he thought he could be in any kind of trouble.” And the manager couldn’t have been happier about how Blair handled the situation.
It’s safe to say that Blair was both shocked and elated about how the story was received. “It’s amazing,” he said. “Simply amazing.” The story’s reception on Twitter was especially surprising for Blair, since he’d never used the site himself. Evidently gob-smacked by the power of social media, he added, “I guess I might have to learn how to do Twitter.”
And what about the elderly gentleman? Well, he was so touched by Blair’s selfless gesture that he made sure to thank the driver himself when he was leaving the vehicle. “As he got off the bus, he said, ‘Thank you. You know, I’m 92 years old,’” Blair recalled.
Those who’ve visited Las Vegas in high summer will probably be aware that the temperatures there can be sweltering and sometimes even lethal. In 2017 hot weather caused more than 100 fatalities in the Southern Nevada area, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. This was a 58 percent increase from 2016, and there have already been another 18 deaths in 2018 so far. With temperatures consistently reaching three figures, it’s a serious problem.
Kathryn Barker, who works for the district as an epidemiologist, told the Review-Journal that although everyone is at risk from the blazing heat, there are groups who are especially vulnerable. Those over 65 should take extra care, Barker advised, and those who don’t watch or read the news should be warned about the heat by others.
Unfortunately for the elderly gentleman on the bus, he was caught out in the hottest month on the Las Vegas calendar. Head out into a Vegas July and you will most likely come back as red as a tomato. And because of this, travel sites warn holidaymakers about what to expect from this scorcher of a month.
What’s more, the Las Vegas Valley is flooded in sunlight for 13 hours a day on average throughout July. Most people are advised to take refuge indoors in buildings with plenty of air conditioning. The symptoms of heatstroke can be really unpleasant; if the body overheats, people can experience anything from headaches to muscle spasms and in extreme cases, death.
Blair had acted selflessly in a vital moment, and he didn’t go unrewarded by his colleagues. A party was thrown in his honor at work, and he was given a present that would immortalize the moment forever: a framed version of the image that went viral on Twitter. “Well, maybe this will touch people’s hearts so they will do something kind as well,” Blair commented.
In the wake of Blair’s actions, his company is ensuring that all its bus drivers are equipped with plenty of bottles of water and are trained in how to detect and deal with dehydration. But the question still remains: has Blair succumbed to Twitter yet?