Anyone who rides the Metro public transit system in Los Angeles experiences plenty of odd people and interactions that are impossible not to share with friends and family later. The ability to laugh at the frustrations encountered on the buses and trains is sometimes the only way to maintain one’s sanity — and yet there are also powerfully touching moments of forgiveness, understanding and helpfulness shared between strangers across all racial and economic demographics.
Scott Schultz is someone who notices the unusual moments more than most. As the founder and host of the “BUSted!” storytelling shows, he has featured more than 200 Angelenos and over 1,000 stories across 100 live events, another 100 videocasts, dozens more podcasts and a literary collection of the stories.
The next 10 days will feature a couple of major landmarks for Schultz, 49, a Boston native who has lived in Los Angeles for most of his adult life. On Wednesday, he’ll be hosting the second edition of his new Pasadena edition of “BUSted!” at Battery Books in Pasadena, while on March 25 he’ll be hosting the epic fourth anniversary show of the series at its primary location, Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park.
“I got into storytelling while living back in Boston again a few years back and winning that city’s biggest storytelling contest, the Big Mouth-Off,” explains Schultz. “I moved here and wanted to do a show about transit because it’s a big part of what I am. I had a surplus of stories from buses and trains even before I decided to be a storyteller.
“I put signs up at bus stops and places like bike racks, and as a result I got a good first audience who I didn’t know mostly and who like myself had a great deal of pride at not being a motorist,” he continues. “At the end of shows I invite audience members to tell their stories about not driving, and six stepped up the first time, so I instantly had a core community of tellers. From there, I doubled down on promoting and it just kept growing.”
One of Schultz’s biggest fans is Katya Duft, a Russian immigrant who started performing at “BUSted!” shows the first time she ever attended and is now a regular favorite there herself. Duft also oversees the popular Facebook blog “Tales from the Bus,” where she curates a combination of her own experiences and those of anyone who wishes to share.
“The most amazing thing about ‘BUSted!’ for me is how welcome you feel, even when you show up for the first time,” says Duft. “Taking a bus is a great source of stories because this is a city of sociable, creative, unique people, always ready to share their opinions when they are on public transit. Also, many people travel under the influence, which can be the source of many funny and absurd stories.”
Schultz has been living in Los Angeles since the early 1990s, and amazingly has never been a motorist. He has no deeper reason than simply hating to drive, but he chuckles when he points out all the money a person can save by not having a car here.
He realizes that he could have easily become jaded over the years and lost his knack for finding the unusual moments that make a terrific story. Allowing audience members to continue sharing their own anecdotes at the end of the shows has helped remind him to always keep his eyes and ears open, though he also notes that bus operators themselves have some great tales to share.
“Drivers have the best stories by far, because the experience doesn’t end for them for hours until they get in their cars to go home and so they see things unfold over many hours,” says Schultz. “Many drivers have actually attended our shows and are now storytellers, plus we have an ‘Ask the Bus Driver’ segment at most of our shows where audience members can ask them things they’re dying to know.”
The first Battery Books show drew over 20 attendees, who packed the cozy bookstore and responded with rapt attention and a range of emotions. Schultz chose the location for multiple reasons and feels that the show was an instant success, both artistically and in building upon the sense of community he strives to develop.
“I chose the Battery because it’s very close walking distance to the Memorial Park train station and there’s eight bus lines that go past there between the LA, Metro, Foothill or Pasadena transit systems, so it’s easy to get to my show for transit people,” says Schultz. “I like working with indie bookstores too, since books are really important in storytelling. Anything I can do to support bookstores or indie bookstores, I will always do. And afterwards, 80 percent of the audience walked out of the store and right onto the Gold Line with me.”
“BUSted!” takes place at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Battery Books, 26 S. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena. Admission is free. Call (626) 376-9913.
The “BUSted!” 4th Anniversary show takes place at 5 p.m. Sunday at Stories Books and Café, 1716 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. Call (213) 413-3733.
Hear Schultz on “Oh Man, That’s Awful” co-hosted by this author, visit https://www.spreaker.com/user/6733116/031018-oh-man-thats-awful-ep19-bustorywi_1