The Wheels on the Bus.

Almost a month since my last post. Shameful. The good news is, this means I’ve been busy. The bad news is I got out of the habit. So I begin again.

“Good morning, young lady, how are you?”

This had been my greeting every morning for nearly a year now. It came from the cheerful and peppy voice of my bus driver. I was reflecting this morning about the people we see every day who become constants in the commuter routine. So constant they nearly go unnoticed–until they disappear. And the absence leaves a gaping hole.

There are two constants in my morning commute: the Mr. Miyagi-look-alike pigeon feeding homeless man who stands against the Borders between K and L and my bus driver. Route 61. I never learned his name; he never learned mine. But he created a consistency and dependability to my day that I never knew I really enjoyed.

I knew the day was coming; he gave weeks of warning.  Something about a new route, split shifts, shortened schedules, and reduced pay. I wasn’t ready, though. Not ready at all. Mr. Bus Driver had to be the friendliest, most upbeat driver in all of Virginia, if not the United States. Generally, I am skeptical of the uber-happy. Too saccharine. Too sweet. Makes me twitch. And, admittedly, the first few weeks on the route he kind of drove me crazy. But somewhere along the way I was lulled into his kind words and reliable one-liners. Quite simply, he won me over.

Perhaps it was his consistency. He was a man to be counted on. He always arrived on time, creeping away slowly if a regular had not yet boarded, fearful of leaving anyone behind. The one day he arrived too early–leaving many of us to walk–he apologized personally to each of us as we boarded the bus the next day. He broke the rules by stopping wherever you were to let you on if you flagged him down.  The value of this kind of consistency in the morning cannot be overstated.

His one-liners while easing the bus into the metro stop became my favorite part of the commute–which would he go with today?! Would it be “The weather is great out there. Let’s be great with it,” or  “Have a great day! Say hi to President Obama for me,” or his old standby, “Go out there and make the world a better place.”

New Mr. Bus Driver started today. The sadness among the 7:49am commuters was palpable. It went unspoken but understood that a key part of our commute was missing and would never be replaced. The new driver seems nice enough, but a bit quiet for my taste. I think he muffled a “have a nice day” following my “thank you” upon exit. In fairness, he doesn’t realize the legend he succeeded. He has no way of knowing the proper response to my morning thank you is: “stay beautiful, young lady.”

I said it silently to myself, but it wasn’t the same.