My new bus route, in terms of characters, is headed by the bus driver herself. A sturdy person with a blond crew cut, she is a woman for whom the world holds many friends.
“Good morning,” she beams at me. “Oooh, I love that shirt.”
And I, as untethered as I feel in the morning, beam back. “Thank you,” I croak. These are my first words of the day, and I smile as I take a seat.
“Barb!” the bus driver shouts into her rear-view mirror. “Where were we when I had to back up that articulated bus?”
Barb, up there in one of the side-ways facing seats, chuckles appreciatively. “That was at Ridgedale. What a mess! ‘Member that? Cuz I ‘member that! Lord, but you did a lot of backing up that year! Huh! Huh! Huh!”
The bus driver, whose name I have not caught, smiles up into the mirror. “A lot of backing up? What in the world are you talking – ooh, you’re right. There was that time they blocked off Nicollet a block into the run –“
“ – and the time that drunk woman laid down in the street –“
“ – and that one time – well, we never did find out what all those cop cars were about, did we?”
Barb shakes her head. “No, ma’am, we did not.”
The ladies at the front of the bus, all of whom seem to have ridden together for years, nod knowingly, and Barb, playing to her audience, lights up. “That was the year of the backing up! Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Baby, we was all backin’ up!”
The other women join in: We was all backin’ up! That’s right! She can handle herself, yes she can! Backed that baby right up!
The bus driver grins, her attention in front of her as she maneuvers through the downtown transit station. “Oh, you hush now! Nobody wants to hear about how we got all backed up!”
The front of the bus laughs, and I suddenly realize, my bus ride, having gone from 20 minutes to seven, is already over.
I stand and walk to the front.
The bus driver, her face a study in warmth, looks up, beams at me. “You have a good day now!”
“Thank you,” I say, for the second time that day. “Thank you. I will.”