Sunday, January 04, 2009

BUS STORY # 114 (Portrait # 1: Lady)

I’m beginning the New Year with a new subset of bus stories. I’m calling it Portraits, and like the Shorts subset, I plan to run it on a more or less regular basis.

Most stories come from goings on at the bus stop or on the bus. But sometimes all I see are people doing nothing more than riding or driving or waiting for the bus. And even though there’s no “story,” there’s always someone who somehow seems to stand out from the crowd, someone you end up watching more closely and wondering about.

Sometimes the person’s a regular, sometimes a one-timer.

Sometimes the portraits are really short:

There’s a new driver on the route this morning. Trim woman, gray hair long but neatly pinned back, glasses. I’d guess early 50s. She suggests style muted by a quaint primness. She could be a librarian, a non-profit board member, the wife of a Good Book preacher with a small congregation. Maybe all three. This morning, she’s a bus driver.
Other times, they end up story-length. Babushka is a good example.

Here’s Portrait # 1.

She’s an older woman, older than me.

I almost wrote “lady” instead of “woman” because I know that’s what she is.

She is always well dressed, but in a quietly understated way. Well, there is the hat -- a raffia hat with an upturned brim and a scarf wound round the crown.

Her makeup is like her clothes and is always perfect. So is her posture. She is unfailingly pleasant and polite. She will sometimes have conversations with the drivers, and she always thanks them when she exits.

I’ve heard stories from other riders: she takes the bus everywhere, and I’ve seen her often enough during both the commuting times and the off-hours to believe it. These same riders have also told me her son is a doctor or a lawyer or a corporate chief. So why is she riding the bus?

I find myself worrying about her walk from the bus stop to wherever home is. I imagine a small community of folks living and working and walking in that same area who have the same protective feelings I do when they see her. I imagine each of us doing our part to make sure she gets safely home.

And then, of course, I realize I am thinking about my own mother, far away, a lovely lady in so many ways dependent on the kindness of strangers.

Portrait Of A Lady by Hans Baldung Grien, 1530; Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.


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