As the world has slowly returned to work following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, we have spent much of the year talking about the future of work and subjects like hybrid workplaces and “quiet quitting,” an idea that swept across social media and advocated for doing the bare minimum at work.
At the heart of it all is often the question about what a good work-life balance looks and feels like.
In this short film, which is part of an ongoing series called Quitting Time, filmmakers Laura Coxson and Cameron Yates feature the story of Luis Jimenez, a New York City bus driver with an unexpected hobby.
TIME spoke to the filmmakers and the star of the documentary about the importance of finding your passion.
TIME: Why did you choose to focus on this subject, and how did you come up with the title, Quitting Time?
Cameron Yates: I’ve always been intrigued by how people in various professions move between work and home and what they do to release after quitting time. How do introverts in extroverted positions—where they have to interact with customers all day—recharge before another shift? Although Luis is definitely not an introvert.
TIME: Why do you think there has been so much chatter about things like quiet quitting and burnout around work lately?
Laura Coxson: I haven’t heard much specifically but definitely feel post-COVID, people want to manage their time and work ethic in a way that works best for them. After working with so many older people I can see how having a passion for what you do energizes every aspect of your life.
Yates: Most of the subjects with whom we filmed, and especially Luis, couldn’t quit quietly, because the bus wouldn’t show up at the bus stop, construction workers wouldn’t be able to build safely, and restaurant trash cans would be overflowing. I think some folks might be contemplating it, because through remote work they’ve lost a physical connection to their office and their colleagues.
TIME: What does Quitting Time mean in this context—and what are you trying to say with this film?
Coxson: I spent a lot of time thinking about bus drivers in NYC, and how many of their colleagues died during COVID, but still would go to work. I thought it was a hard job before COVID! I think seeing how close Luis’ family is and how much they support him in work and play (his daughter pushed him to try out for the team) and knowing after you sit in a bus all day you need to move… his release was just a perfect example of what we’re trying to showcase in our series.
TIME: Luis, how is your quitting-time hobby part of your work success?
Luis Jimenez: They’re intertwined together! My duty is sitting down for a certain amount of the day, driving that bus, and the hope is this: when we get together before we even start going over a routine, we warm up. Remember we’re all over 45 years old. We are from the 40s to 80s in the group [The Timeless Torches, a dance squad with the WNBA]. So when I get on the bus, even though I’m sitting down, I’m constantly stretching and doing actual moves. Sometimes, at a red light, I work out some of the moves that we do when we are performing. Sometimes with my arms, I’m doing certain moves, and people see me and they be like, ‘what are you doing?’ But they don’t know that I am doing a certain movement—to the left and the right— that we actually go ahead and do when we’re performing.
We do it so many times, over and over and over, that it’s like…all you have to do is put [on] that song that we did for the film, and right away, the movement comes up.
It’s the dancing that is helping me to go ahead and to be able to drive that bus.
TIME: Luis, can you tell us why you agreed to be the subject of this film? What do you hope people will get out of it?
Jimenez: I agreed to it because of the [subject] matter, the reason why it was being made, the whole showing of that time that we went through, a worldwide situation that even today we are dealing with.…still, it’s going to take a whole lot of time before we can actually say, “Wow, we survived this.” Wherever you might be in life, you need support. That someone you go to and lean on and to help you go ahead—and at times forget all the ugliness that you might be going through. That you need that freedom to be able to dance.
TIME: In the film we meet the Timeless Torches, a group of men and women who are cheerleaders for The New York Liberty WNBA team. Luis, is that group part of your support system?
Jimenez: It was awesome to have them. We would check on each other. “How you doing? How you doing?”
But as you already know, I was actually still on the frontline. I was still there working those twelve-hour shifts. And actually making sure that at least somewhat, we kept New York moving.
TIME: Luis, how did COVID change the way you feel about your work?
Jimenez: Was I scared of being sick? I was. I’m human. Of course. It took a lot for me to go ahead and get up and get out there and do it. But because of my faith and because of family, I was able to get up and go ahead and go on that journey. And help those that needed the help.
TIME: Are there any professional skills and talents that cut across your job and your hobby?
Jimenez: I am going to give you an example—when you come up into an avenue, you cannot just focus on one certain area. You have to open up your wide lenses to look from one sidewalk to the other sidewalk. In seconds. You’re moving a 40-foot-long bus down the avenue at 5 to 15 mph, and now you gotta add the regular vehicles that are next to you, and what are they gonna do? Then you add the bicycles, now you add the scooters, and plus you gotta add the walkers that are trying to squeeze between cars to cross the street. Anybody will come on the bus and will say “just drive the bus, bus driver.” But do you know how much it takes for me to drive this bus safely through that avenue?
When I’m dancing with the group I have to know what each and every one of them is doing at the same time as me, not forgetting what I’m doing, so we can look in sequence, so we can go ahead and know what the next step will be. Remembering what the next steps will be. We gotta go left, now we gotta lift up, we gotta kick high, we gotta kick low, we gotta kick to the left, we gotta kick to the right…these are things that help me when I’m going ahead and driving that also is helping me like “hey, this cab driver is getting ready to cut me off, this one is trying to cut me off, this one is going by me.”
TIME: Laura and Cameron, what did you learn following Luis around?
Coxson: Luis is happy! Our first time meeting, Luis had a watermelon in the windshield of the bus, and it was during that summer torrential rain (where all the subways flooded), and we got off the bus with him and took the subway and just glowed in the warmth of his oversized personality. It helped that he was holding this huge watermelon, and he has such an infectious laugh. Also learned that he is a fruit-pusher, always giving away bananas, and his wife makes the best smoothies. I was also surprised how many regulars he knew on his bus route.
Yates: As Laura says, I couldn’t believe how many people Luis knew on his bus route and on his commute home from the depot. It was incredible to see how much joy he has walking home every day, listening to music and rehearsing along the way, while greeting neighbors and colleagues on the street, grabbing an ice cream. He radiates good vibes and people around him can’t help but smile.