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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The day after a rather blustery day

We begin a day after we left off. Same route No. 82. Same newer style bus. But a different driver.

A meek young lady boards the bus. Today she is alone and takes a seat near the front. She slides to the bus wall, leaving the aisle half available for an anonymous rider who boards later.

The woman sits quietly, hardly moving, until the bus passes Hurley Way on its way down Morse Avenue to the Winterstein Adult Center at the corner of Morse and Northrop avenues. She is watching for landmarks. She isn't going to make the same mistake twice.

She looks out the window and then up at the display inside the bus that shows the date and current time and the next stop and then back out the window. Yesterday's public humiliation for pulling the "stop request" cord one stop early still stings.

Her head moves from the window to inside display to window at first slowly and then faster and faster as the bus rumbles down the street. The confession extracted by the driver has left its mark. Her anxiety is clearly evident even from my perch in the first elevated row of seats in the back of the bus.

Finally, the bus passes yesterday's fateful Amberwood stop, and she reaches for the cord. But before she can pull it, the bus announces, "Stop requested."

Across the bus from me another woman who takes classes at Winterstein, a woman more confident, more experienced, gathers up her belongings after requesting the stop.

As the bus pulls to a stop, the two women rise and exit.

The Winterstein Adult Center offers a range of entry-level career courses and classes for English learners and high school dropouts looking to earn their GED.

Most of the bus riders who get off at Winterstein appear to be immigrants. The meek woman is Asian; the more confident woman Hispanic. Several Eastern European matrons regularly ride the bus to the school. They are all part of the giant salad bowl that combines ingredients from around the world and serves up the latest iteration of what it means to be American.

These people work to fit in, even to the point of fretting about having mistakenly pulled the top request cord too soon.

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