Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bus Stop

I see her every morning, Monday through Friday, 7:05 A.M.—sun, rain, or snow. I'm a bus driver. The bus doors glide open with a swoosh, and she hops aboard with a bright smile, regardless of the weather. "How are you today, Mr. McCarthy?" she always asks.
"Fine, thank you, Ms. Davis."
She knows my name because I wear a nametag that says: FRANK McCARTHY.
I know hers because one day maybe six weeks ago she flat-out told me: "I'm Ann Davis. I don't think it's fair I should know my driver's name but you don't know mine. I mean, after all this time."
I wonder if she's hitting on me. Naw. Me? Frank McCarthy? Driving a bus for twenty years, since I was twenty myself. I don't think so. But with my hands on the steering wheel she sees I don't wear a wedding ring—if she's interested. And when she pays her fare I see no ring on her finger, either. She looks to be my age.
Us meeting like this every morning has been going on three months now; it's when I first took over this route. I pick her up on the corner of Grand and Locust streets. She never misses the bus, but sometimes she's late. I wait because I know she'll show. She's always apologetic and says, "Thank you, Mr. McCarthy. Thank you very much!"
"You're welcome, ma'am."
She dresses in nice skirts, blouses, and low-heeled shoes. I watch her from the big rearview mirror above the bus's windshield as she finds a seat. I don't watch everybody, but I watch her.
She jumps off ten miles later across the street from Richland Industries, a place where they design and manufacture high tech instruments for the military. I figure she's a secretary or receptionist or an engineer, maybe.
I also figure she takes the bus to work every morning because she's a persons who believes in saving the environment. Using public transportation is her way of helping. I like that.
Driving a bus, you get lots of time to think. I'm thinking all the time now how can I get to know Ms. Ann Davis better? But there is no good answer. I can't talk to her personally when she boards my bus, people behind her. I can't pass her a note with my telephone number on it. That might insult her; she might report me, and I'll lose my job. I have an idea where she lives. I could find her telephone number in the directory, but a call might get me fired, too. Besides, I'm a widower, five years now. Dating again scares me crazy.
I take a week off in the spring. I plan to do a lot of work around house. On Friday morning, my last day off, I'm out in my pickup headed for the hardware store, passing Locust and Grand streets, when I spot Ann standing on the corner, her head swiveling frantically, left to her right. I glance at my dashboard clock: 7:10 A.M.
Oh man!
She's missed her bus.
Rick, my sub, didn’t wait for her.
I swing my truck around—a U-turn in the middle of Locust—and pull up at the bus stop. I hop out and dart to the sidewalk. Ann's blue eyes nearly pop out of her head when she realizes it's me—Frank McCarthy, the bus driver. "Need a ride to work?" I ask, smiling.
"Oh, thank you, Mr. McCarthy! Yes, I do. I really do!"
She hops into my truck with me, and my heart starts pounding.
We chatter like kids about the nice weather, her job—she's a receptionist—and my job. I'm right about why she rides my bus. She's helping save the environment. She's a widow. In no time, I'm dropping her off at Richland Industries with her saying, "See you Monday, Frank!", and I realize to my sad disappointment I haven't even asked for her telephone number. I've blown my chance. Stupid!
But wait!
She called me Frank.
That means something, doesn't it?
I make a decision.
Monday morning, when she scampers aboard my bus, I'm holding my breath. I'm clutching a note in my right hand that reads, "May I call you? Please don't be offended."
To my surprise, we both extend our hands at the same time and end up—get this!—exchanging notes. My hand trembles a little. After the last person boards the bus, I quick peek at her note. "Call me," it says and includes her telephone number.
Now I'm a little breathless.
After I pull away from the bus stop, I glance at Ann in my rearview mirror. She's seated to my right, only five seats back. She's looking up into the mirror, too, smiling at me.