BUS STORY # 402 (Quitting Stories)
“Did I miss the bus?”
The woman is jaywalking across Lomas, holding a plastic cup of water which I’m assuming she got from the Burger King across the street.
She’s wearing a black leotard under blue denim overalls shorts. 50-something, skinny and wrinkled the way a hard life of drinking and smoking tends to make people. She has the chronic smoker’s voice.
I tell her I just got here, and I didn’t see our bus either going or coming.
She says there was a woman sitting where I am now when she went to get water. The bus must have come when she was inside the Burger King.
She sits down. Her long brown hair is tied in a ponytail and, along with her chattiness, makes her seem younger than she probably is. I think of one of my granddaughters, actually. Then I hope I’m not looking into the future.
She tells me she’s been on the wagon for five months now. Doesn’t miss it at all. She pulls a cigarette stump out of her pocket, lights it with a red plastic lighter that misfires a couple of times.
It’s just having to have that glass in your hand, she says. Although every once in a while she’ll take a sip of an ice cold beer. Tastes so good! But that’s it, no more than a sip. It was the seizures that got her to stop. She didn’t even know she had one.
She gets up and looks westward. She thinks the bus must have come early.
I tell her that means we probably have about 20 more minutes to wait.
She talks about the drivers. She says there’s good ones and bad ones, just like the riders. We have to put up with them, but they have to put up with us, too. She tells me about the time she was trying to catch the last 157 of the night. It was at the stop when her connection arrived, and the driver waited to see if anyone was trying to make that connection. God bless you, she told the 157 driver.
And then she told me the story of how she saw another driver quit on the job.
He was on his cell phone and a rider objected to his driving and being on the phone. The driver told him it was an emergency. The rider said he didn’t want to become another emergency because the driver was driving and on the phone. Then the rider called 911. She tells me the cops came, and the driver pulled over by the Albertson’s, announced he quit, and just walked off the bus.
About that time, our bus pulls up to the light at our intersection. It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes now.
I wait for her to board first, but she waives me on; she hasn’t gotten her pass or her money out of her change purse. I take an empty seat by the back door. She takes an empty seat at the front.
We get to her stop first. As she’s leaving, she looks back my way. I smile and wave. She smiles and waves back. God bless you, sweetheart, I think, half about her, half about my granddaughter. Magical thinking, I tell myself, but this doesn’t feel like the time to quit.
The photo at the top of this story is titled “Quit-it,” © All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the permission of Alan Cottam. You can see all Alan Cottam's photos on Flickr here.