Zuzworsky won last year's 12th annual International Bus Operators' Roadeo, a timed driving competition in which the top bussies from more than 100 transit systems in the U.S. and Canada negotiate tight mazes lined with phosphorescent orange cones. The goal is not speed, but safety and precision.
Zuzworsky drives in Brooklyn for the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority, mostly on the B-5 line from Coney Island to Kings Highway. When talking about his work, he spouts like a happy whale. Zuzworsky, 45, is a big guy, 6'1", 240 pounds. He's a cheerful fellow, friendly and easy to talk to.
"I always wanted to be a bus driver," he says. His childhood hero was Ralph Kramden, the blustering bussy of The Honeymooners. "I liked the way Ralph joked with people. Sure, he'd grouch and complain, but I took it as his way of having fun and overcoming obstacles."
On Zuzworsky's route, the biggest obstacle is open car doors. "Open doors leave me three options," he says. "I can swerve and risk sideswiping another vehicle. I can jump on the brakes and risk sending a passenger through the windshield. Or I can ram the door."
So what does he do?
"I ram the door. I've hit doors upon doors upon doors. I'm the King of Doors."
But the roadeo crown eluded him until last year. The closest he came was second in the 1982 finals and third in '85. "I wouldn't have tried again without the encouragement of my wife, Carmen," Zuzworsky says.
As a spectator sport, the roadeo is about as exciting as watching gridlock. In the 1988 finals, the action—if that's what you call it—took place in a Montreal parking lot. Zuzworsky zoomed around the course at speeds approaching 15 mph. He jogged left, backed up, stopped and eased the double back wheels through two rows of cones. Along the way Zuzworsky touched a cone, and was penalized five points. After essaying a treacherous series of slaloms, turnarounds and cul-de-sacs, he stepped on the gas, shot through a narrowing gauntlet of 55-gallon barrels and slammed on the brakes. The bus stopped five inches short of the final pylon, an inch under the limit. Zuzworsky finished with 637 points out of a possible 650, the highest score ever in the tournament finals.
Afterward, he phoned Carmen.
"How did you do?" she asked.