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

Friday, May 2, 2008

The bus boy and the old man

When the No. 82 bus pulled to a stop in the left turn lane at the intersection of Whitney and Watt, I looked up from my book. On the corner I recognized the woman with her stroller and the boy who rides alone on the bus.

I know this intersection well, and I knew there was no way the boy would catch this bus. The left turn light will send the bus on to Watt before the light will allow the boy to cross seven lanes of Watt Avenue. I looked across the street to the bus stop and could see no one waiting. The bus would be long gone before the boy could reach the stop.

The light changed and as the bus turned on to Watt I looked back at the boy and the woman with the stroller. The kid gets off at Kaiser, I said to myself. All of the buses on Watt go to Kaiser. So at most the kid might have a half-hour wait for the next bus. Not perfect, but better than nothing.

And then the bus pulled to the curb and stopped. The driver opened the door and waited. I turned and watched as the boy, weighted down by a large backpack, ran across Watt Avenue and up to the bus.

The driver welcomed the boy aboard as he paid his fare. The boy then turned and realized that his seat just inside the door was occupied by an old man who not shaved in several days. He was sitting sideways in the seat, which meant there was no room for the boy.

The boy obviously wanted to sit by the door, where he had sat alone the other day. He approached the guy and silently indicated he wanted to share the seat.

The old man glared at the boy.

The boy pointed to the seat and the old man pointed inside the bus to where other seats were available.

The boy gave up. He looked at the faces of the other riders. He was clearly unsure what to do. And then a young Asian man who attends the Winterstein Adult School stood up and motioned for the boy to take his seat. He then moved to an empty seat farther back in the bus.

When the bus arrived at Kaiser Hospital on Morse, the boy stepped off and then turned and waved to the driver. The old guy was still sitting in the front, taking up the whole seat. The Asian student got off at Winterstein.

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