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 7, 2007

The young bus and the old guy

Richard Brautigan's "The Old Bus" is a short story collected in "Revenge of the Lawn." The story tells of a 20-something man who discovers he is a fish out of water among the old people who fill a San Francisco bus. Like much of Brautigan's images from the 1960s, things look different today.

The No. 82 bus runs from American River College to the 65th Street light rail station, stopping along the way to take on and drop off students attending the Winterstein Adult School, where immigrants learn English, and Sac State, where ... who knows. The rest of the riders are working folks. Only occasionally do elderly riders join this bus.

As I'm jotting these thoughts down in a notebook, there are four ladies on the bus who will get off at the Winterstein school. One is in her 20s. She is a very attractive, slender South Asian. Two women -- one Chinese, the other Eastern European -- are middle-aged. One is of an indeterminate age, but not elderly, dressed in the traditional headscarf of Eastern Europe. These women are a wonderful illustration of the colorful additions immigration brings to America.

Seated in the front of the bus is the Hispanic gentleman wearing his ballcap and carrying his lunch in a plastic shopping bag. He will always remain famous for his transitarian chivalry. Behind the gentleman is the young guy who chases coeds in the bus. With classes over for the summer at Sac State, there isn't much game on the bus. He looks a little bewildered today.

In the back of the bus, a totally unwanted thought occurs to me. I'm the old guy in this bus. Certainly from a 20-something perspective of the 1960s, I'm ancient. But even I can see I'm older than all of the other riders today.

The creaking of the bus takes on new meaning for me.

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