The bus went around the curve traveling faster than it probably should have and nearly sent me sprawling to the floor. I hung on tightly to the armrest to make sure the next curve or large pothole didn’t send me flying again. To top it off, the bus engine roared louder than a sell-out heavy metal concert, making it hard to concentrate.
My daughter has my car more than 350 miles away in another state so she can participate in a summer internship and my wife needed her car for the day, so I took the shuttle bus that my company offers to get to work. The ride lacked a certain smoothness ― or even pizzazz for that matter ― but I took away a number of positives from the trip. In particular, within a few minutes of sitting down in my seat, the shuttle bus took me back in my mind to my days as an elementary and middle school student.
I would step on the big yellow school bus early every morning at my bus stop near an old church, up the road from my house. The bus driver dressed in a flannel shirt and an old ratty John Deere hat would whisk us off to school and then return us home every evening to the same spot. I remember the ride in the mornings well, because I’d scrunch low in my seat and close myself off from the rest of the world. I’d catch a few minutes of needy sleep or, more often than not, I’d open up one of the myriad of paperback books I read as a kid.
From my youngest moments to deep into my teen years, I went everywhere with a book. I’d carry one with me at all times so that I could read on the bus or during lunchtime in the cafeteria to make the time go faster.
Pages and pages of adventure
I’d open up my book on the bus and join the Hardy Boys ― Frank and Joe Hardy ― in solving the latest mystery surrounding fictional Barmet Bay or I’d follow Buck, a large St. Bernard-Scotch Shepherd on his journey from Northern California to the Yukon Territory as a sled dog in Jack London’s Call of the Wild. In the spring, I’d read about the baseball player hitting the winning homerun or catching winning touchdown pass. Or I’d just float away reading about some far off fantasy world.
The book didn’t matter, just that it gave me an escape. If desperate for something to read, I’d resort to stealing one of my brothers’ “big people books.” I didn’t care. I’d read about the Killer Angels and the story of the Battle of Gettysburg or The Godfather or All the President’s Men. I can’t say I always understood the topic ― Goodness knows, it took everything I had to keep all the characters straight in the All the President’s Men ― but it still made the ride more interesting.
And speeding up time is exactly what the books did. I’d open my book and the 25-35 minute drive would seem to fly by in a matter of seconds. I would look up to see my school approaching in the window and shake my head surprised by the time. Where had the time gone? My story was really starting to get good. Can’t I have just ten more minutes?
Oh some kids would get on the bus and ask the bus driver to turn on music on the radio or cassette player, if the bus had one, or gab in the aisle. They would tell jokes or talk about whatever was on TV the night before. I would occasionally try to hang with the rest of the kids on my ride, but I would inevitably fall back into my old routine. I wasn’t trying to be rude, I just didn’t always have anything to add to the conversation.
Next stop’s mine
Oh the bus got old after a while, and it certainly got boring, but by then I was in high school and more interested in getting rides with my brothers or on those lucky few days, driving myself to school.
Thanks to my latest bus ride, I can’t say I’ll be giving up my car for good to take the bus to work every day, but I will be making a few minor changes. I’ve made it a goal to try to take the bus more frequently to do my part to help the environment, save a few bucks on gas, cut down on commuting hassles, and, if only for a few minutes, to remember my youth.
Now I just need to remember to bring a book or buy one for my smartphone for the trip. Got any suggestions?