Sunday, January 10, 2010

BUS STORY # 167 (Welcome To America)

Four school kids board and head for the platform at the back of the bus. They’re grade school kids. You can tell by their size, energy, and clothes. Those are parent-picked clothes for sure.

They look Middle Eastern, and as soon as they reach the back, they break out in animated, loud conversation in a foreign language. They remind me of some Lebanese kids I went to high school with. Whatever they are, they are having a fine old time back there.

A few stops later, an old guy boards the bus. A tall old guy, six feet and counting. He has the uniform dinginess of someone who’s been on the road a while. He’s got a long gray beard and a baseball cap with a Boston Red Socks B on the front. He’s carrying a backpack and a duffel bag.

He moves with slow deliberation down the aisle to the seats facing the rear door. He folds himself down into the seat, arranges his bags at his feet, and leans forward, elbows on knees, staring at the floor. He’s so tall his head actually blocks the aisle.

We’re moving now, the kids are jabbering away, and he’s motionless, still staring at the floor.

Then, slowly, he swings his head up toward the kids and says in a gruff, gravelly bass, “Welcome to America.”

The back of the bus goes quiet.

A few minutes later, the kids tentatively, quietly, resume their talk.

The tall guy has returned to staring at the floor. But he says something that I can’t make out. It sounds like it might have been Spanish with a Texas drawl.

Apparently the kids can’t make it out, either. One of them asks, “What?”

He doesn’t answer.

He gets off at the next stop. He takes his time gathering up his bags and exiting through the back door.

From up on the platform, a voice whispers in English, “He’s gone.”

A few minutes later, they’re back to their animated conversation. As if nothing had ever happened. Nothing at all.

The photo at the top of this story is titled NYC and is posted with the kind permission of TassiLopes. You can see this and all TassiLope’s photos on Flickr at:


Blogger Nathaniel said...

Hi, wonderful story as usual.

I'm ashamed to say I said "Welcome to America" once and I meant something not entirely kind. I think this tall, older rider was trying to say, "speak english, you're in the States now" and also to say, "be quiet, you're bothering me."

When I said it, it was to critique a particularly bad driver that didn't "look American". I'm not proud of saying it because who really looks American anyway? Everyone does because it's a melting pot.

The worst thing is what I said is not uncommon, as your story shows. However, I learned from my mistake and haven't said or thought it since.

Might shed some light on his comment.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thanks, Nathaniel. I agree with you about what was likely happening with our tall, older rider.

This will come as quite a shock to my family and friends, but I, too, have said and done things which I now look back on and feel acutely embarrassed by. Like yourself, I believe these are "growing pains."

5:21 AM  

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