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, January 10, 2008

Riding the bus to America

There's a new immigrant woman riding my bus to the Winterstein Adult School. Each day I have seen her this week she has been wearing the same outfit -- thin, summer-weight pants and matching jacket-like top that extends to mid-thigh. Over that she wears a puffy down jacket and a thick knit cap. She's the picture of America, a tossed salad of foreign and domestic influences.

The other morning she was displaced by the arrival of a blind rider and went looking for a new seat. Eventually she stood in the aisle next to a seat and looked at the man in the seat with a silent question. He smiled at her and nodded, inviting her to sit. She returned his nod as she sat.

The man was an Average Joe, tall, beefy -- a blue-collar type, the sort of guy I expect would be fun to share a beer with.

As the bus approached the Winterstein school, the lady asked the guy to pull the stop request. He did, and the bus immediately pulled over, several blocks short of the school.

We've been here before. Last month, another Winterstein student, this one an Asian lady who travels with a fellow student, was having a Dickens of a time. We last saw her and her companion standing by the side of the road. Too timid to admit their mistake when they pulled the stop-request cord one stop early, they got off the bus and hiked to school.

But on this occasion the tall stranger next to the woman came to her rescue.

"Sorry," the guy called to the driver. "Next one."

I could see him mouth "It's OK" to her. He even patted her on the shoulder. "Really. It's OK."

I'm a big fan of immigrants. I'm an even bigger fan of immigrants who ride my bus to the Winterstein Adult School. They are a diverse crowd -- tomorrow's Americans.

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