You can read Part 1 here.
|Photo by Busboy|
The driver stands outside the bus, by the bus stop sign, smoking a pipe.
His hair is gray, or rather, silver, streaked with lighter and darker silver lines. He’s got it pulled straight back into a small knot. I’m thinking prematurely gray; his face suggests he’s somewhere in his 30s, and his hairline has only just begun to retreat.
He’s wearing rimless sunglasses, lightly tinted, the tint fading as it descends. Prominent nose, large but ennobling, actually. His face is right for it. And perhaps this is what draws me to realize he’s actually a pretty big guy. Over six feet, but not so tall it’s the first thing you notice.
He’s not thin, and not thick or going to fat, either. Except for his hair, and maybe his nose, I’m not sure what it is that calls my attention.
He says something to me -- I don’t recall what -- and a conversation begins. He talks, I ask questions, he answers, talks some more, and I have a story.
He is from Argentina. (The ponytail knot made me think “tango.” But he doesn’t have the face for it. Too easy going, too content.) He met an American, they got married. They went to Cancun and ended up living there for three years. Then she told him she’d been cruising through her life for too long now, and she needed to go back home and do something real. They moved to Philadelphia, she got something real, they got divorced. He had to get away to someplace far away.
That “had to get away” is the only clue I have that this was a troubled time for him. He’s telling his story with a mild smile and an easygoing inflection, not too animated but not flat, either.
“Far away” was Texas. I ask where in Texas. San Antonio. Ah, best place in Texas, I tell him. Austin, he counters, Austin. And I understand why he’s right, too.
He was working as a tour guide, leading tours to South America. Between tours, he took motorcycle trips out west, partly because he wanted to expand his scope for tours, partly because he wanted to see the country, and a lot because he loves riding motorcycles.
Those trips took him through New Mexico and Colorado. He knew California and the Pacific Coast, too. I don’t know whether he just toured these places, or whether he lived there for a while. I suspect the latter, at least where Los Angeles is concerned.
He loves the Rockies, but Albuquerque turns out to be “the sweet spot.” Great weather, great roads for biking, like the back way up the Sandias. He likes to hike, too; climbs Cabezon once a year.
He’d lived here before, in Santa Fe. He had a job at a high end car dealership. He left after some kind of dispute, but returned when his boss asked him to reconsider. He says he got to town only to discover his boss was out of town -- in South America -- and, anyway, it’s an employer’s market these days when it comes to wages. He went to work for ABQ RIDE.
Turns out he drove a bus in the Philadelphia area as well, so this isn’t a new career move. And my sense is ABQ RIDE is not really a career move, either. It’s what he can do now.
And he seems to be just fine with that. In fact, I sense he is just fine with wherever he is and with whatever he is doing, and when he’s not, he’ll change that.
I ask him if he ever misses Argentina.
He hates Argentina. The whiniest people on the planet. Well, next to the Angelenos, anyway. Which is why I suspect he lived in, maybe even drove a bus in, LA.
I’m not watching the clock, but if we’ve spent only eight minutes at the rest stop, I’ve learned a busload of things about my driver.
I cannot get over how relaxed and easygoing he is. I see a final little portrait later on during the trip when a rider boards with a lit cigarette in his mouth. He swipes his bus pass, starts up the aisle, then suddenly realizes the cigarette. He whirls around, throws the cigarette out the still-open doors.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” he asks the driver.
The driver is smiling. It is the smile of someone who has been watching this roll out and is amused.
“I was waiting for you,” he answers, laughing
He is having a good time on the job. That
, perhaps, is what makes him stand out.