Sunday, May 25, 2014

BUS STORY # 394 (Spell)

Photo by Busboy

I’m sitting on the bench seat facing the rear doors. You tend to track the folks who are exiting through those doors, and that is why I saw what happened.

Guy in his late 20s or early 30s, prematurely receding hairline, dressed in black nylon warmup pants, white T-shirt, and carrying a gym bag. The bus is still rolling, and he’s come up the aisle and taken a position by the exit.

He’s standing in the aisle, holding onto the pole with his left hand, the gym bag in his right, and facing the back of the bus. Staring, actually...

He starts to lean backwards, his left arm stretching out as he continues to hold onto the bar. But his face, I am realizing, is staring blankly, and I understand he is losing consciousness.

I jump up and ask if he’s OK.

He doesn’t answer, and his hand lets go of the rail. Two other co-riders are beside us in an instant. He is rigid and unresponsive, and I’m not sure I wouldn’t have gone down with him if the other two guys hadn’t’ve been there. We drag him over to the bench seat, his legs dragging stiffly. But we can’t sit him down; he’s too rigid.

We’re at the stop now because the back doors are open. The riders in front of us are aware something is going on behind them. I shout, “Call 911!”

And then he sags.

We maneuver him into a semi-sitting position on the bench seat, and watch as he slowly returns to consciousness. His face is pouring sweat. Of course it’s absurd, but we ask him anyway, “Are you OK?”

He is dazed. I think he doesn’t know where he is. And slowly, he recovers his senses. The driver is now back with us. He asks if he needs to call an ambulance.

The guy says no, no ambulance. There is emphasis in his voice.

The driver isn’t sure what to do. We suggest he really ought to go to the hospital.

No, no, he insists. He’ll be fine.

We ask if he’s diabetic.


Has this ever happened before.


Had he just finished working out.

No. He is on his way to his workout.

I tell him whatever just happened ought to be checked out. It could happen again, and he might not be so lucky the next time.

He tells us he will. He tells us he’s fine now.

And he gathers himself up, stands up. He looks for his bag, and one of the co-riders picks it up and pretty much puts the handles into our guy’s right hand. He exits under his own strength, gingerly.

The driver heads back to his seat. We watch our workout guy look down the sidewalk, then start walking that way.

Those of us in the back of the bus retell the story, rehash the details, throw out diagnoses (epilepsy, diabetes, brain tumor, etc.), for the remainder of our ride together.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

BUS STORY # 393 (Missionaries)

The Book of Mormon Bus - 1st Sighting,” © All Rights Reserved, a photograph by Neilsonabeel.

One of the bus blogs I enjoy reading is BUSNINJA. I don’t know who BUSNINJA is, but I’ve worked out from reading the blog that he lives in Utah County which includes Provo, which is where I’m guessing he lives. I know he is passionate about public transportation in general, and about the Utah Transportation Authority in particular, which serves Provo and, to the north, Salt Lake City and Ogden.

I also know he is passionate about classical music. I know he and his wife (“commutergirl”) have just had a baby (“Baby”). And I know he’s a Mormon.

This last fact accounts for how I came by this particular bus story.

I’d gotten on the 11 after picking up an onion from Sprouts on my way home from a conference. Once I sat down, I saw the two kids sitting on the bench seat behind the driver.

Mormon missionary kids for sure. It wasn’t just the uniforms -- one in black slacks, black jacket, the other in brown slacks and gray sweater, both in bright white shirts and striped ties. It was also their overwhelmingly young and wholesome and inexperienced, clean-cut look.

I figured they must not have been in the field long, because they both looked a little uneasy, a little fearful, as if they were new to using the bus, or were nervous about the kinds of folk they’d heard did use the bus, or maybe both. Or maybe they just hadn’t gotten over dreading the whole door-to-door thing yet.

They sat up straight in their seats, and looked straight ahead, and sometimes at each other. They didn’t talk to each other, and they didn’t change expressions.

We’ve all been there: far away from home and insecure about our surroundings and not sure what we should do when. I thought about that, and I thought about BUSNINJA, and I decided I should break the ice.

I moved up to the first row seat facing the bench, leaned forward, and asked if they were from Salt Lake. The guy in the gray sweater told me he was from Idaho. The guy in the black jacket said he was from Salt Lake. I told them about BUSNINJA, about how he was a Mormon who wrote a blog I liked to read about the public transportation system there.

I asked if either of them was familiar with him. They weren’t, of course. I didn’t expect them to be. I was thinking it was a nice way to link the bus with Mormon and home in a way that acknowledged them in a welcoming manner.

“What’s his name again?” the guy in the black jacket asked. He’d turned in his seat to look at me now, and his face had unlocked a bit, some curiosity showing through a mixture of confusion and apprehension.

I explained I didn’t know his real name, but only his blogger name. I told him I knew from the blog that he and his wife just had a baby, and that I thought he was smart and thoughtful and funny all at the same time.

That’s all we had time for. We reached their stop, and they got off. But we exchanged good byes and good lucks. Not exactly a phone call from home, but I thought BUSNINJA would have appreciated the gesture -- which really wouldn’t have been made had I not been a regular reader of his blog. I kind of feel like we made contact.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “The Book of Mormon Bus - 1st Sighting,” © All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the permission of Neilsonabeel. You can see all Neilsonabeel’s photos on Flickr here.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

BUS STORY # 392 (Moonstruck)

Detail from R.C. Gorman's "Earth Mother," downloaded from First People.

A Native American kid boards the bus with his mom. He looks four, maybe five. Neat and clean. Shy face, what they call “cute” hair. Blue and green striped shirt and bluejeans.

Mom looks mid-twenties. Neat oatmeal shirt with purple undertones tucked into black jeans, not tight. Lustrous black hair pulled tightly back into a ponytail.

She takes the bench seat in front of me, and he nestles right in beside her. I look up from the kid when he looks up at his mother, and I am struck.

It takes me a few minutes to start figuring it out. It’s her eyes. What I’m seeing in them is an undistracted, relaxed, deep and transparent affection for her son. All that has spread out across her face, and that is what is making her look beautiful at this moment.

She has her right arm around him, and her small hand clasps his jeans leg outside his knee. She has managed to do this without making him, or me, feel any constriction. He radiates contentment.

The arrow pierces the heart when he looks back up at her and says something, and her face turns down to him as she responds, too softly for anyone but him to hear. I know what I am seeing, but I’ve seen it so rarely it’s hard to put into words.

I’ve seen a lot of moms, on and off the bus, paying a lot of attention to their children. And while I have no doubt whatsoever about their love and sincerity at those moments, there is often something that seems not fully natural, maybe a little disciplined, as if the moms are having to shift gears in order to be who they think they need to be in order to be loving and attentive mothers. I have seen that shift when conversation is called for.

I know something about that shift. Last summer, my wife and I spent two weeks with our grandchildren, a week on each coast, and try as I might, only on rare and fleeting occasions was I able to completely lose myself in the relationship. I think I passed the grandfather test, but even when that gap was bridged, there was still the gap.

This young woman doesn’t exhibit any of that effort at all. I have the sense she is exactly who she is, and there is absolutely no one else she’d rather be with and nothing else she’d rather be doing than being with her son on this bus.

And when I finally look around, I realize her son and I are not the only riders smitten. Two old ladies on the aisle seats across from her are grinning with the same recognition. We’re all of us in love for a few lovely moments.


The image at the top of this story is a detail from R.C Gorman's "Earth Mother," downloaded from First People.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

BUS STORY # 391 (Shorts # 35: Same Day, Same Driver)

Photo by Busboy.

Most bus rides are uneventful. A few, however, will have something happen, and sometimes what happens is interesting enough to warrant a “short,” if not a full bus story.

This particular day, however, I had a bus ride full of strange little stories, a complete set of shorts all in one day, all with the same driver.


We stop for a woman who tells the driver he needs to wait until her kids get here. They are inside the car dealership across the parking lot. He tells her he can’t wait until they show up. She turns and hollers at the kids, then starts giving the driver a bad time about his lousy customer service. The driver explains he has a bus load of customers who need to get places or make connections on time. Like most “it’s all about me” folks these days, she manages to recast her self-centeredness as his having a bad attitude. The kids finally make it to the bus (he’s waited), but she continues to bad mouth him throughout paying the fare, and after she sits down behind him.


I think it’s a woman I’m looking at across the aisle and one row forward. She’s sitting sideways, leaning against the window, with her knees pulled up and her feet in the aisle seat. She’s also got something pulled over her head and face which makes it look like there’s a giant Hostess Sno Ball covered with pastel blue coconut flakes sitting on top of her shoulders. The only thing I can think of is that she has some sort of facial disfigurement she doesn’t want shown in public. A few stops later, the driver comes back and taps her on the leg and tells her she needs to take her shoes off the seat where other people sit. She lifts up the front of her head cover and looks at him. I can’t see anything wrong with her face. Then she lets it drop back down, swings her legs off the seat, and faces forward. When she gets off the bus, she leaves her face fully covered.


At another stop, someone waiting to exit the back door yells “Back door!” The driver asks him to please pull the cord whenever he plans to exit because the driver is focused on the people boarding. Without the signal that tells him a stop has been requested, he may not notice someone at the back door and so not open it. First time I've ever heard a driver make this instructional point.


We stop for three women. They seemed a little disorganized when the door opens. Finally, one of them moves forward into the doorway. The driver tells her her friends are inebriated, and he can’t let them board. She turns around and steps back off the bus. Before the door closes, I hear her shout to one of the women, “He says you’re inebriated!”


Your classic little old lady is waiting at the stop. Short. Gray curly-permed hair, blue overcoat, low-heeled shoes. The driver kneels the bus for her. She is slow moving. She gets to the till and has her change ready but isn’t sure where to put it. He shows her. She asks him if he stops at one of the mid-block stops between the major intersections. He tells her yes, and he’ll tell her when that stop is coming up. He waits for her to find a seat. When we reach a major intersection, she rises and goes to the front to exit. The driver tells her he can get her right to where she wants to go, and to just hold on for two more stops. She does. When he kneels the bus at her stop, she thanks him, and slowly makes her way to the sidewalk.


Your not so classic old lady boards the bus. Tall. Wonderful Australian bush hat, brim unsnapped, front and back sloping downward. Blue denim jacket with brown sleeves. A small backpack. She puts her money in the till, then moves very slowly to the first row of seats. She doesn’t sit. She looks around, as if she is looking for a better seat, or maybe someone she knows. She stand there a long time. I am thinking if the bus takes off, she will take a tumble for sure. Apparently the driver thinks this, too. He waits patiently, and silently. She finally sits in the empty front row seats. The driver eases the bus back into traffic.


A rider is explaining to the driver that he has to take the bus because someone stole his car right out of his driveway. But he says it was kinda his fault because he hadn’t locked the doors. The driver tells him it’s crazy anyone should have to lock up their cars in their own driveway. The rider replies if he thinks that’s crazy, how about all that free enterprise in communist China? The driver shakes his head. I’d like to think he is not sure what to say about this bizarre right turn.


A rider he seems to know asks him if he thinks we’ll get rain or snow today. He answers he doesn’t think we’ll get either, but he does predict clouds.