There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Conversations with the bus

The sounds of laughing and cheerful conversations float to me, carried by the motion of the bus as if on a cool morning breeze.

I'm riding the No. 82 bus that leaves American River College at 7:19 a.m. I took the Transitarian Diet two-stop walk to allow the Mira Loma High School students to vacate the bus before I get on, leaving me with sole possession of the back bench.

The driver chats with a passenger seated across from him just inside the door. I can't make out more than a word or two. Sometimes the driver's voice gets magnified by the PA system microphone. It's all very casual, very relaxed. It's a nice way to start the day.

Two stops after I board, the bus turns the corner from Mission onto Whitney and makes an unscheduled stop. Everyone in the front of the bus is laughing. A young girl cradling a collapsible scooter scurries off the bus with a pat on the back from the driver.

" 'Oh, yeah, I've got to get off,' she must have realized," the driver chuckles.

Outside, the smiling girl scoots by on the sidewalk as the bus pulls away.

"We must have all been asleep when that girl wanted to get off," the driver says. Nearby passengers answer with laughter. Someone mentions they got nine hours of sleep last night. I don't catch the rest.

* * *
A sudden increase in the volume of the conversations coming from the front of the bus announced the arrival of another passenger. A young woman has boarded. I marvel as she manages to pay her fare with one arm wrapped around a toddler on her hip, her other arm wrapped around a collapsible stroller, and a diaper bag over her shoulder. The woman is dressed in a loose-fitting dress with leopard-spot pattern. The toddler is dressed in a matching leopard pattern. An outward representation of the inner genetic inheritance.

There's something of a high-wire act, or perhaps the gymnast's beam walking, as the woman makes her way into the coach. The toddler, having slipped off her mother's hip, dangles now, clutched in her mother's encircling arm and bumping into the seats. The collapsible stroller marks the other side of the aisle as if a blind man's cane. Finally, the mother settles into a seat and proceeds with the unwrapping of her burden -- child here, bag there, stroller over here.

"Are you ready?" the driver cheerfully asks. It's only then that I notice the bus has been waiting as I watched.

"All ready," the mother replies.

Off we go.
* * *
The conversations continue. They fill the bus, a euphonious mix of laughter, the toddler's cheerful babbling and the ubiquitous creaks and rattles of the bouncing bus.

"Fulton Avenue," the driver announces just to remind everyone that we are on a bus.

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