The Johnny Barnes Way

9 Feb

There’s one main road into Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda, and it’s the one that’s crammed with traffic during the morning rush hour. The pink buses chug along with a growl, cars crawl with their fans whirring, and packs of scooters buzz in and out of the lanes like lazy irritated flies. It’s no different to most people’s commute to work.

Except for one thing. Or rather one person. Mr Johnny Barnes. Every morning from 4am – 10am this man, in his eighties, stands at the side of the road and waves and blows kisses to all the commuters as they pass by. He is there every weekday, without fail, dressed in a shirt and a straw hat and a big smile. Once I came into town when the rain was pouring down in huge sheets, the sky dark, threatening a big thunderstorm. But Johnny was there, in a bright yellow mac, as cheery as ever.

Johnny Barnes greets Hamilton commuters from 4am!

He has been at the side of the road for almost 40 years – ever since he decided one morning that it might be nice to greet people as they began their workdays. People liked him, so he did it again the next day for an hour, before he started his own workday as a bus driver. When he retired around 25 years ago, he extended his “shift” to start at 4am so he could catch all of the commuters.

If Johnny were in the UK, he probably would have been jeered at, or carted off by the police, or turned into a Banksy piece of art. In Bermuda however he is (rightly) celebrated – commuters toot their horns and wave and smile and cheer as he showers them with air kisses and tells them he loves them. He even has his own statue, just a little further down the road, entitled The Spirit of Bermuda.

Johnny poses by his statue for a postcard

He emanates warmth and happiness, and it is infectious. When I chatted to a colleague about him, she said that he does it simply to make people smile. He is an extremely spiritual man, and it is his religious enthusiasm which causes him to go to bed at 6.30pm, so he can have breakfast at 2am before he begins greeting commuters. To the average commuter, it’s a happier few seconds of their day, but for Johnny it’s his life.

Bermuda may not have a Starbucks to start the day with, but if it did, Johnny would still be preferable to a Frappuccino and a blueberry muffin any day of the week. How lucky are we that we can start our day the Johnny Barnes way!


5 Responses to “The Johnny Barnes Way”

  1. Hugga Mumma 9 February, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    How lucky you all are to have someone start your day with a smile and how rewarding for Johnny to know he makes so many people happy. Enjoy!!

  2. Samantha Sparrow 9 February, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Absolutely inspirational. Perhaps I will try and do a bit of Johnny Barnes work in my own way on my tube commute, by smiling at some of the scowling passengers I share my daily journey with. I’m sure it would brighten my day, even if I get carted off for crimes against morning misery!

    • suscatty 9 February, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

      Sally – You’re right, we are very lucky to have Johnny – he’s an absolute joy to see every day, no matter how grey the sky! x

      Sam – I think it’s worth a shot, although I’m not sure if the hard nosed Londoners will be quite so receptive! 🙂 x


  1. Tweets that mention The Johnny Barnes Way « Dog or Affair -- - 9 February, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by christopher suffield, Su Scatliffe. Su Scatliffe said: Today's blog is about a truly unique person! […]

  2. Everyday « Dog or Affair - 10 March, 2011

    […] beauty, even on the work commute. As my bus pulls into Hamilton, just past the wonderful Johnny Barnes, I see […]

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