One of my regulars is Maybelline. I nicknamed her that because her makeup seems to be applied via Spirograph, in smears and unnatural swirls. After several searches for lipstick trends, I still can't find any which match hers. It's either lipstick emanating outward from her mouth like drunken chemtrails or a study in avant garde mascara technique by a horde of six-year-olds.
On this fair weathered winter evening, Maybelline made her usual drunken grand entrance to my bus wondering (as usual) where her bus pass was. It being my final trip and the last full-route run of the evening, I was in a time crunch so I just waved her back. Her ride didn't last long. As I came to the next service stop, a county mountie pulled in front of me with lights on. Knowing I didn't have enough time to speed, I wondered who they were after. Maybelline hadn't even sat down yet.
"I think they're coming for me," she said. Then she mumbled something else I didn't catch.
Sure enough, the deputy walked up and pointed to Maybelline. She exited to speak to the now-two deputies. Out of general interest, I hung around a minute to see if it would grow interesting. Maybelline has a history of causing a ruckus on my bus. The nosy side of me wondered what she had done. I also hesitated because the next bus wouldn't be along for over an hour. Even troublemakers need to go places. As the minute stretched into three, I grew impatient because she was visibly arguing with these deputies. That never ends up well.
I shut the door and angled the bus around the cruiser, then I floored it. Sorry Maybelline, but whatever you did is not my problem. Since I wasn't pulled over again with the deputies requesting I continue your transit roll, it seems you might have actually been in trouble... again. The rest of the folks on board weren't in similar circumstances, and needed to get home. If you happen to ride tomorrow, I'll know you squeaked out of another fine mess. Except, well... that makeup mishap.
* * * * *
Growing Wiser...), I was happy to see a man board my bus with a single rose in his hand. As one who loves to grow this wonderful flower, it's natural for me to comment when someone in the Rose City brings one or more aboard. All I saw was the rose, but had I looked, I would have seen much deeper than the bloom which held my focus.
"Nice rose!" I told him. As I said this, my eyes met his, which were moist and red.
"My baby died today," he said quietly. "It's for her."
He paid his fare and left to find a seat. I was utterly dumbfounded. It took a few moments to collect myself. I sat there in shock, painfully aware that my patented hearty greeting is no match for the level of grief this man was feeling. I couldn't even, didn't want to try, stepping into his shoes. Losing a child is a terror every parent fears most. We're supposed to watch them grow up, and have them bury us. For this poor man, the tables had overturned.
I stared ahead for what may have been half a minute. A tear fell onto my cheek. Traffic whizzed by, and I mumbled something about being early, even though I was a minute or two down. I simply didn't want to drive yet. The agony on that man's face gnawed at my aorta. My daughter floated into view, that serenely-angelic face I've adored four decades now. In the span of a few seconds, the prospect of losing her or either of my sons choked me up.
We deal with not only a vast cross-section of society, but also with the best and worst moments of their lives. Sometimes, I growl because many don't even acknowledge me as they board. I've learned though, life throws hard balls when we're not prepared. As happened to me as a nine-year-old, they hit you smack-dab betwixt the eyes. Some are not as blessed as I am, and are dealing with pain I'd rather not feel.
The road beckoned. I sighed, wiped my eyes and blew my nose. One glance in the mirror found the poor man halfway back, head bowed, likely weeping for the soul whose flower he cradled to his chest. I said a prayer and released the parking brake. The bus rolled into the night and I did my best to keep it smoothly rolling.
There were no words for this poor man when he exited. What could I say? The usual "Have a nice evening" would have bombed his hell. All I could muster was "Peace be with you," in a hushed tone as to not draw attention to his pain.