April 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Social Director

The bus is my favorite place for people-watching. Yesterday, an African-American man with white hair and no front teeth boarded the bus talking, and he never stopped. He was one of those talkers who invites others into his stream of words and creates an immediate community. That's a gift. I think of him as the bus social director

When he got on, he said, "Yesterday I went downtown on the bus. The whole trip took two hours, and in that time, it rained and snowed. The sun came out. It hailed. Spring in Seattle is crazy." I nodded in agreement. I got caught out in all of that weather.

The social director said to the young man across from him, "I've been riding buses for twenty years. When there are beeps, the driver waits for the third beep before pushing the gas. The driver can't push on the second beep. The bus will cut off. At the turn from John onto Madison, the driver has to slow way down because there's a dip. If the driver doesn't take it real easy, the front end of the bus will hit the ground. Isn't that right, driver?"

An older African-American woman boarded the bus with a cart full of groceries. "Here you are," said the social director, indicating his seat with a generous sweep of his arm, "You'll have room in this seat. I knew that was you. I'll give my seat for you every day." She nodded and said thank you.

The bus driver was training another woman who was in the front disabled seat, and the social director said to the man across from him, "This driver's a trainer. See her sheets right there?" He pointed to a pile of charts hanging from the driver's seat, and the young man said, "Yeah, I see 'em." The social director continued with his lesson, "That means this driver's been driving for at least ten years. Look at the way she holds the steering wheel. She knows how to drive this bus." Then he said, "Hey driver, how long you been drivin'?" The response: "Thirteen years." To the young man he was schooling, the social director said, "See. I knew it was more than 10 years."

He continued, "Once I got on a bus, and the driver told me he was an atheist. I said, 'Thank you, Sir, I'll be getting off right here. An hour later, that bus went off a bridge. Remember that in the news? That driver was an atheist. You don't mess with God."

"Hey, Driver, how many excuses you heard in those thirteen years?"

The driver didn't answer, but the social director, his friend, and another man starting listing excuses: "I lost my pass....My dog ate it.....My pass melted in the rain....I left my pass at church." That one got the biggest laugh.

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