Does anyone else think it’s funny that once you’ve fully exhausted your retinas to scan the teeny-tiny font displaying bus arrival and departure times, you land on a 7:09 or a 7:13 or a 7:22 time stamp? Most days, I found it adorably quaint that my Cambridge red line bus to Huron Avenue sent me running to make that prompt 7:07 departure time. Not 7:05, not 7:10, and certainly not 7:08 because that vehicle would be gone. I emphasize most days, because the days that I was running late made the experience a lot less charming.
I could set the scene like a perfect movie montage. Young reading specialist spends her graduate school year living by the bus schedule as the seasons pass by – the crisp fall clouds, the snow-filled winters, and the promising florals of spring. From my experience, folks on the early morning bus tend not to say too much. As for myself, I often spent the majority of my time fine tuning a lesson plan or catching up on a great book (gotta stick to my brand). We know that life gets busy, and bus riders know that their brief sojourn is often a respite from whatever debacle or chaos lies ahead in their day. So I’m not quite sure at what point I started to notice, but eventually and without any warning, the faces became familiar. Purple shirt lady – I knew she worked at the floral shop two stops before mine. Ninja Turtle lunchbox kid – the grandfather dropped him off at school on Wednesdays, but every other day was the babysitter. Tired professor guy – ok, this might have been a stretch. I never knew if he was a professor, but he had that classic one-shoulder bag! It’s practically a professor’s uniform! He did always look exhausted though. None of us ever reached full communication, strictly head nods and polite smiles through sleepy eyes. Yet I liked to imagine their stories, to think of their lives and how we’ve managed to intersect on those red plastic seats. For those 16 minutes (not 15, not 17…), we were a part of each other’s day.
The four stories that I’ve chosen (and I promise, I expanded beyond The Magic School Bus) establish the bus ride not merely as a scenery piece, but as a complementary character to a story itself. The bus provides a journey that is just as enriching as the destination, as the best stories always are. Enjoy the ride!
The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson (picture book)
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart (middle grade book)
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater (YA novel)
Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon (adult memoir)