Sunday, April 26, 2015

BUS STORY # 442 (Bill Jarvis’s Bus Story # 4)

Nova LFX articulated bus, on trial with Codiac Transpo, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; photo by Bill Jarvis

Bill Jarvis drove a bus for 25 years in Moncton, New Brunswick. He’s shared several fine bus stories with me which have been featured in my side link, This Week’s Featured Story. I’ve saved my favorite for right here.

I stopped my bus at the United States Customs office at Houlton, Maine. After I showed my passport to the officer, he told me where to park, then came on board to instruct the passengers to go to the counter in the office. There they would show their passports and answer the routine questions one expects when crossing the border.

While the passengers were in the office, two officers with a dog searched the bus. After going through the luggage compartments, they searched the interior as I sat in the driver’s seat. One officer commented to the other, “We’re not finding any liquor or tobacco on this bus.”

“I don’t think you will,” I said. “My passengers are members of a Christian group who are going to a Gaither Brothers concert in Worcester, Massachusetts. They say grace before meals, and even say a prayer when the bus starts to move.” One officer looked me straight in the eye. “They must know who is driving!” he replied with a smile.


Bill Jarvis. Photo provided by Mr. Jarvis.


You can read Bill Jarvis’s other bus stories here, here, and here.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

BUS STORY # 441 (Game Girl)

Detail from the photo titled “child-girl-screen-time.jpg” and posted with the permission of r. nial bradhsaw.

Their boarding is a production: bags and cases of groceries, backpacks, and a suitcase come first, piled up inside the door.

The folks sitting on the bench seats up front can see what’s coming, and they bail for seats further back.

Next comes the grandmother, a thin, energetic woman in her mid-50s who starts placing the sacks and packages on or under the seats. She’s followed by two girls who can’t be much more than a year apart. “Second grader” is what sticks in my mind, but I’m not sure which girl it applies to. Both are being scooted along by mom who’s late 20s-early 30s.

Mom positions the kids on the bench seat facing the driver, then hands them packages while she helps her mother get everything arranged on or beside or under the seats. Grandma grabs the packages from the kids, sets them in the aisle, then hands them each a replacement, then moves the stuff in the aisle to the stuff under and around the seats.

Grandma and mom are a whirling dervish, but they do a nice job of quickly consolidating everything with almost no intrusion into the aisle. Mom goes up and swipes two bus passes, then takes a seat across from the kids. Grandma is in the first forward-facing row along with the backpack and the suitcase in front of it.

They are all in a remarkably good mood. Mom and grandma are laughing, the kids watching them and looking around. Then grandma hands the older girl a smart phone. The kid is instantly absorbed. Her sister looks over and watches until mom hands her a smart phone, too.

The younger girl works with it a little, then looks perplexed, then tries to hand it back. Grandma grabs it instead, looks it over, then tells her daughter she can’t figure out how to get it to go. Mom takes the phone, plays with it for a bit, then hands it back to her daughter. The kid can now play whatever game is displaying.

I don’t know if it’s the game or the kid, but she isn’t into whatever’s on the screen like her older sister is. She plays, but she spends a fair amount of time looking up from the phone and watching her mom and her grandma who are telling stories and laughing. Her expression tells me she is paying attention. Meanwhile, her older sister is oblivious to anything but her screen.

We are getting close to my stop when I realize they are either going to get off where I do or just beyond. They start marshaling their efforts, moving sacks and bags. Grandma tells the girls it’s time to hand the phones back.

The younger one hands her phone back to mom. The older one plays on as if she’s heard nothing. Grandma stands up and grabs the phone. The girl screams out and doesn’t let go. Grandma wrenches it free with her next effort. The girl’s face is full of outrage. Then, she puts both hands over her face and begins to cry, quietly, and I think maybe she is trying not to cry and failing.

Grandma tries to hand her a bag, and she pushes it away, then covers her face back up. Grandma tries again, and the girl screams “No!” and twists evasively in her seat.

And that is when we come to my stop.

I am still parsing what happened as I tote my own groceries homeward. I find no easy, tidy wrap-up. It’s disquieting.


The photo at the top of this story is a detail from the photo titled “child-girl-screen-time.jpg” and is posted with the permission of r. nial bradhsaw. You can see all r. nial bradshaw’s photos on Flickr here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

BUS STORY # 440 (Shorts 40)

Photo by Busboy


We’ve just boarded the Red Line at the Uptown Transit Center when a couple in the doorway asks the driver if this bus will take them to Central. This starts a conversation in which the driver determines where they want to go, and then tells them where to catch the buses they need. They board and take the bench seats across from him. “This is the first time we’ve ridden the bus in Albuquerque,” the woman explains. “Me, too,” says the driver brightly. Everyone laughs. Then he gos on about how some guy just walked up to him and gave him this ABQ RIDE shirt and asked him if he wanted to drive the bus. “I said sure. So we’re all in for an interesting ride.” But the couple knows he’s teasing. And once he starts up the engine, pulls out of the bay, and turns the right direction, the rest of us do, too.


Big, big guy boards the bus.  He’s got on a white T-shirt that looks like a tent. Black pants cut off below the knees with strings hanging down.  Buzz cut, no sideburns, a mustache.  Tattoos – crude content and crudely executed – on his calves and forearms, and script tattooed on his neck along the jugular.  He heads for the back.  Later, I offer my seat to a dad and his son, and wind up sitting to his left.  He takes up two seats and seems to be staring at the window across the aisle.  A few minutes later, I see him make a small sign of the cross, three times, quickly.


Several of us are seated on the bench, waiting for either the Blue Line, the 5, or the 11. Out and away, standing on the curb, facing the traffic, a big guy is rapping. He is rapping non-stop. I look for ear buds. There aren’t any. He puts some body English into the lyrics. His voice is loud enough to tell he’s rapping, but soft enough -- or maybe far away enough -- that I can only make out an occasional word. Is he doing something from memory or is he free-styling? I wouldn’t know if I could make out every word. When the Blue Line comes, he stays put. Same with the 5. But when the 11 comes later, he still stays where he is. It looks like he’s there to rap, not wait for the bus.


She’s standing at the front of the bus regaling a guy in a wheelchair with a story about Lady Gaga doing a performance in a wheelchair. She tells him she sees all the entertainment magazines where she works, and this was a cover story, can you believe it! As she is relating the details of how Lady Gaga used a wheelchair onstage as part of her act, we pass a Catholic church. She makes a quick sign of the cross and kisses her hand without breaking eye contact with the guy in the wheelchair, and without breaking the flow of details about how Lady Gaga ended up having to use a wheelchair for real because she injured her hip, can you believe it!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

BUS STORY # 439 (Nighthawk At The Bus Stop)

Bus stop beer, © All Rights Reserved, by Bill Morgan

We’ve been sitting on the bench waiting for the bus for a few quiet minutes, me reading, him checking out the contents of his plastic grocery bag, when a fire engine comes blaring around the corner. We watch it go by and on up the street.

“One of these days, I’m gonna call 911,” he says.

Um... “What would you be calling 911 for?” I ask.

“Well, first, I gotta get their number.”

He says this straight, still looking down the road after the fire engine. Then he turns his eyes on me and a big grin crinkles his face.

He’s got Tom Waits’ voice, like maybe he’s been gargling paint thinner for a few years. Yellow short-sleeved plaid shirt, some work khakis with what looks like Christmas tinsel hanging out of his left pocket. Whispy hair, full white mustache. He looks to be at least as old as me.

We talk about the weather (“Ain’t it glorious?”) and then lapse into silence for a bit. Then he tells me he’s been retired but is looking to get back to work.

I ask what he did.

Computers. But back in the old days, and he drops some numbers that don’t compute with me.

I ask where he worked.

He pauses, thinks this over, then says he was “in academics.” He says he’s probably gotta take some courses to catch up now. Then he sticks out his hand. “My name is Victor.”*

I shake his hand, give him my name. He asks me if I’ve ever heard of _____.

I tell him I didn’t catch that name and lean in closer.

He repeats the name and I still can’t extract it from the growl in his voice.

He’s a musician from here in New Mexico, he explains.

He is telling me what I take to be the story of this New Mexican musician, but like many of the lyrics to many a Tom Waits song, I’m not getting a lot of the words.

That’s when the bus comes.

We end up sitting together on the side bench opposite the back door where we continue talking music, this time about “Mr. Dylan.” Then he asks me if I’m old enough to know about “Mr. Seeger.”

“Pete?” I ask, then answer, “Sure do.” I tell him I never saw him perform in person, and I’m sorry I missed the chance while he was still alive.

His face changes utterly. He starts to say something, then breaks off. He looks like he’s about to cry.

He finally asks me in a hoarse whisper, “When did the Good Lord take him?”

I’m not sure, I tell him. Maybe a year ago.

Now I see tears rimming his eyes. He starts to say something, then turns away.

The only thing I can think to say is Pete must have meant something to him. He nods his head.

He gets off on the near side of the Louisiana intersection. He tells me his name again and shakes my hand. I tell him I enjoyed talking with him.

I get off on the far side of the same intersection and walk north to the Red Line stop. I’ve already taken a seat on the bench when I see him cross the intersection, then turn north toward me. He walks slowly to the stop. He’s maybe twenty yards away when he puts his hand up over his eyes, shading and squinting. Then he grins.

“I thought that was you,” he said.

I laugh, shake his hand again, and he sits down beside me on the bench.

I ask him where he’s headed.

To the International District (an area south of Central roughly between Wyoming and San Mateo). He’s got a place he eats at where he can get “a complete protein.”

Then he tells me he’s an artist. He got into art by way of the martial arts. “You’ve heard of the Samurai?”

Yes I have.

Well, they were trained in dance. And the art of dancing is what made him such a good fighter. He won some tournaments, even came in second in a state championship. That was back when he was just angry all the time.

He pulls the cord for the stop at Central. He tells me he’s got a little place nearby. As we’re pulling into the stop, he gets up and growls, “Yeah, I’m so tough when the bedbugs bite, they just crawl off and die.”

That could’ve been Mr. Waits himself, live from Rafael’s Red Line Lounge.


Real name changed.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Bus stop beer,” © All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the permission of Bill Morgan. You can see all Bill Morgan’s photos on Flickr here.