In a not so desperate attempt to avoid completion of the book proposal I promised my editor last Monday (hell, i promised it in flippin' December 2004. The woman has the patience of Penelope. I'm her biblio-Odysseus, flailing around in the world and not quite getting my act together.) here's another entry for Toast in the Bus Ride Follies.
Yesterday I rode home with my favorite bus driver. She's a large black woman with the most generous laugh and body and spirit. I see her and just want to climb right into her and I know I'll be in heaven. She's the kind of person that the only thing you see when you look at her is HER. Not her body, not her face, not her color. She wears HERSELF on the outside. You'd have to be made of granite not to smile just by looking at her.
She's laughing and talking and hooting at the passengers, her friend in the front seat, other drivers, pedestrians. Some fancy white car with cheap looking gold chrome stuck its nose out a little too far in the intersection. She taps the horn, waves, and says, "Gi' bak, honey! Ah tare yo grill off! Shoo'." She steps on the gas and revs the motor and we go flying up a short hill in downtown. She stops short to let on some passengers and those of us in the back bounce in our seats. Some wacky guy gets off the bus in downtown, about three stops from where he got on. He hoists his overstuffed backpack onto his back. You can tell he's a traveling homeless. In return for the free short ride, he sat up front and told animated stories to the bus driver. When he gets off the bus, the driver cackles lovingly and says, "He strang. Look at 'im, but he goo'. He goo'." And the guy trots across the street in front of the bus and starts flapping his arms as if he's about to take off for St. Louis. The passengers watching him walk away smile and laugh.
The bus stops short again in the West Bottoms and she yells at a young teen on a skateboad. He's contemplating the rush hour traffic on Summit and how to cross the street. "Li'l boy! Li'l boy! Don' go out dere!" she hollers as we drive by. He can't hear us, but he does stop. She's that powerful.
She resumes her conversation with her friend in the front seat. She talks about picking up her paycheck and going to the boats. Her seat bounces with every little dip and rise in the poorly repaired street. The bus stops and someone tries to use the rear exit. The door doesn't open. She hollers back, "Lee' it 'lone! Lee' it 'lone! Don' brayk it. Shoo'. We lucky this bus don' brayk dayown." Everyone laughs with her and we make jokes about the metro buses. She tells a story about a driver who had one of the new buses and it broke down and he couldn't finish his route.
I put away my book the minute I saw who the driver was and moved up to listen to her talk. I think I grinned like a simpleton the entire ride. When she gets to my stop she tells me to "have a good one." I tell her she's my favorite bus driver. She laughs that big worldengulfing laugh and smiles wide enough to feed the universe. She says, "You goo', baby. You goo'."