After a long day of work, I got onto the bus and a smiling religious Ethiopian bus driver asked how I was doing. "Baruch Hashem (Thank God)," I answered, "and how are you rabbeinu (Our rabbi)?" Rabbeinu is a respectful way religious Jews refer to religious scholars, those who are older than you, or those who you want to honor with the title. The moment he heard the term, the bus driver laughed and said, "A Rabbi? Me? Look at me, I'm just a bus driver. You don't have to call me that."
When I sat down, I kept on thinking about that janitor story ... I had my response. A few minutes before my bus stop, I approached the bus driver and told him, "In Pirkei Avot (6:3), it says that if you learn one thing from a person, you should treat them with honor. It goes on to say that King David learned only two things from Ahitophel, and called him rabu (My Rabbi)." The bus driver smiled, "Go on." I continued, "I learned two things from you - firstly, you're smiling and greeting everyone who boards your bus, something Shammai recommends in Pirkei Avot (1:15). Secondly, you were humble and refused the title when I called you rabbeinu." "Hence," I said, "I should call you rabbeinu for you have taught me two things." The bus driver smiled as he slowed down to let me off, "How about you just call me achi (my brother) or chaver (friend)?" "I'll think about it," I answered with a smile as I got off the bus, "Have a good night."