This morning has to be one of my top 10 morning experiences since moving here. It is the start of a cloud free 80 degree early fall masterpiece of a day. The sun was rising red over the eastern mountains while a gigantic moon was fading over the snow topped western mountains. The ferries are steadily gliding over calm waters and there are even two tug boats already hard at work. The breeze is still cool and my grande drip is still very strong. I even seem to have missed the retirement club here. On my way down here I passed one of the neighborhood bus stops where people wait dutifully for metro to carry them off to the start of a new adventure in the world of the employed. I don’t know if it was the season that inspired me or the bus stop or a combination of both, but I had a flashback to elementary school and bus stops of my own.
When I was growing up in upstate New York, I lived in a neighborhood sub-division, housing development kind of land. It was one of those places that sprung up in the 60’s with ranch style homes and 1 car garages and just enough yard. It was the burbs. In that environment, for an elementary age kid, the bus stop was a landmark. It took the form of some lucky family’s driveway. I’m sure, now that I am one, that the adults who owned the “chosen” driveway were less enthusiastic about their acquisition than the kids who resided there. It was kind of cool, in a dorky sort of way, to own the driveway where the bus stopped. This was of course in the innocent days before the school bus became more about survival than social experiment.
It seems to my memory that there were about a dozen of us at the stop in the middle of our street. It was more than waiting for the big yellow limousine with the socially graceful driver to whisk us away to public school nirvana. It was a social event. It was where we all “checked in” with each other. It was where life moments were revealed; who hated who, who loved who, who was sick, whose family was in crisis, and who was moving out or moving in. It was also the sight of some of the best amateur sporting contests that I have ever witnessed or participated in. There was the “Great Lunch Box Jump”, where we’d line up our lunch boxes, in ever increasing distances and then, with a running start, see who could clear the most. Give me a break, this was in the glory days of Evel Knievel, someone had to carry the torch. Woe to the kid whose lunch was in a brown paper bag. In the winter we had the “Great Dress Shoe Slide Off” which was similar in nature but involved icy driveway, running starts, and slick soled dress shoes….for distance of course. Being naturally gifted, I myself claimed many titles.
We were loud and obnoxious, I’m sure. Although at the time it never seemed so to us. It was a lawsuit in motion most weekdays, although it was still in the time of innocence, even for adults, where we’d never think of suing our neighbor for allowing stupid kids to do stupid kid stuff in their driveway. We just dealt with the pain, the blood, the missing teeth, and torn school clothes. It was life.
The thing I’m noticing about bus stops nowadays is that they are quite the opposite of my memories. First of all, these ones that I’m seeing have adults at them. Most of the kids I’m acquainted with either are driven to school or ride the metro. The big yellow taxis have become demilitarized zones. It’s dangerous to be a 3rd grader on the bus now. When I was in 3rd grade, the only danger was when the kid in the front of the bus threw up on the floor while we were going up a steep hill. The bus stops that I see around here, even in the middle of neighborhood streets, are not very social places. The one I passed this morning had 4 people all spaced about 10 yards from each other. Not a word or a glance was being exchanged amongst any of them, and not a lunch box in sight. They all seemed pretty self absorbed. I wonder if they saw how beautiful the day was. I wonder if they’d miss each other if one of them weren’t there. I wonder if they have memories of bus stops past.