I went to a conference at Virginia Military Institute this past weekend to present some papers. Papers that I wrote a year or so ago when I was an undergraduate student at the local University. I was the only alum in the group. Made me feel a little sad, but relieved at the same time to have a break from all the grind of schoolwork.
We took a bus, one of those big fancy busses with a bathroom, from Asheville to Lexington, Virginia. The bus driver was this older gentleman, probably in his seventies. He had his hair perfectly combed so that it was parted off to one side and then neatly combed back at an angle with a bit of a hump at the start of his hairline from his forehead. His hair was combed the way an older man's hair living out in Arizona and wearing a leather stringed tie with turquoise beads would be combed, if that makes sense. He had a full head of snow white hair and a big 'ol yellow smile with widely gapped teeth and a signficant underbite. From his appearance and the way that he carried himself, it seemed like maybe he was obsessed with personal tidiness. His clothes looked freshly ironed, his tie (a part of his uniform with the bus company's name imprinted on it) was tied neatly and tight. I bet he uses expensive aftershave. For some reason I got to thinking about how the job of a bus driver isn't very clean. Like something about it just seems dirty, like maybe he'd go home smelling like exhaust fumes or dusty rubber or something. Maybe pristine personal hygiene distracted him from this, or maybe I'm just creating a character in my head. I imagined this older gentleman having a perfected morning routine, timed out and everything. It probably involves showering, teethbrushing, mouth-wash shwishing, shaving...he was perfectly shaven, which can probably be atttributed to an old school shave kit from the 1940s he inherited from his father (who was also a blue collar man with a lot of pride and a big heart, a member of the republican party with a wee bit of racism but no white hood wearing extremities and a secret appreciation for poetry and pacifism, though war is entrenched romantically in his make-up, etc), putting on a good deal of musky aftershave, and dressing in a clean, ironed uniform (always ironed by him because he's on the road a good deal, and also because he's a widower....actually I don't know that, but he had a certain inconspicuous sadness to him), always wearing a white undershirt from a fruit of the loom package of 5 that he replaces every 6 months or so to avoid unwanted yellowing pit stains and eating breakfast and reading the newspaper and maybe some Bible verses from his much worn leather bond pocket size Bible he takes with him on the road, the one his son and daughter bought for him and got his named engraved in gold on when they were grown, the two children out of the 4 that keep in touch with him and care about him and gave him beautiful grandchildren that he keeps pictures of in his wallet to show the rare, personable passengers that magically take notice of his existence outside of his occupation as their bus driver (I didn;t make conversation with this man, this whole thing is just made up blabberings, looking back I wish I had). I bet he likes orange juice and bacon and eggs. He seemed like someone that appreciates a hardy breakfast.
There were dead bug guts all over the huge windshield of the bus. It was disgusting. I bet if the bus driver focused on those little mushed up ill-fated carcuses too long he'd get depressed about his life, maybe even angry. When it rained he put the windshield wipers on and the bug guts got swished away. But the wipers were out of sink, they weren't synchronized whatsoever, one moved fast and absurdly, the other more slow and consistent in it's repitition. Now that could drive a man towards insanity. The bugs and the wipers got me really wondering what this man's thoughts were like as he drove along for hours with a bus full of strangers sitting behind him who's lives he was held responsible for temporarily.
(We had to watch a safety video on the bus at the beginning of our journey. One part demonstrated how to hold onto some bars with your hands for balance while using the bathroom. A lot of us chuckled. It took me forever to take a leak when I used the bathroom, the balancing act made it so that my body couldn't relax enough to get the flow going, I had to sorta psuedo-meditate to relieve myself. Thanks for nothing video...welll I didn't fall down...so that's good I guess.)
The bus driver didn't stay at the same hotel as us...which was a fairly crappy Days Inn. He dropped us off after the first day of the conference at the hotel and picked us up the next morning bright and early. I know this b/c I heard the bus roll up at 7:30 for us to board at 7:45, it made that loud sound of relief, the airy sound like the bus yawned right before falling asleep. I wonder where he stayed. Maybe with the bad economy and high gas prices the quality of the overnight facility the company pays for has declined in recent years. I was really curious to know where he slept that night.
He was always so genial when we boarded and when we departed. He loaded and unloaded and reloaded all of our bags for us too. I felt sort of strange or spoiled or something every time I got off the bus at VMI and said "thanks!" Here's this elderly bus driver, way past the age that my dad plans to retire, dropping off a bunch of over achiever nerdy college kids with super bright futures in academia, law and medicine. Not that there's anything at all wrong with driving a bus (by me emphasizing that, I feel like I'm just coming off as someone who's closeting her own indoctrinated feelings of superiority and entitlement on the social pyramid, however, believe me that bus driver makes way more money than I do. I guess that's not the point, in the back of my mind I instinctively feel like I'm going to be successful in some snobby academic field or newspaper or something, and so me feeling sorry for the old bus driver is like premature patronization...that sucks.)...I just imagined him driving along, sometimes eavesdropping on passengers' conversations and other times daydreaming of sipping a daquiri from a coconut shell with a bright green straw on a white sanded beach with palm trees and clear blue water somewhere in the caribbean. I just hope he gets the opportunity to relax permanently until that day reaches him...you know...that one we're all scared sh*tless of...even if this relaxation involves an archaic television set and a yellow and brown floral print couch from the 60s with a plastic cover on it that he refuses to take off because his deceased wife hands placed it there. He hated that plastic protective covering until the day she died...then he loved it nostalgically, not quite remorsefully, because he never complained to her about it.
God I don't even know that guy at all...I just do far too much daydreaming for my own good.