Heading southbound from Albany to New Paltz on the 1:30 PM (I usually take 4:30 bus) after traveling for the past couple of days between towns upstate. I look at the empty seats and notice a bus driver, wearing full uniform, with decals and all, sitting on the third row, driver side; and I immediately ask myself, puzzled, “Why didn’t he sit on the first row, behind the driver, this is typically reserved for the driver to put his stuff?” He’s well settled in, bags and gear on the side seat; gives me a look that says, “I own this spot.”
“Ah; he picked the king seat”, I immediately tell myself, I get it!
It’s the same seat that my father would have me take, when I was a kid and had to travel alone overnight to Mexico City.
I have no scientific data, or statistical information, but I am convinced; the third row, driver’s side is the safest spot on the bus, just the right place to be — not too close to the front and not too far from the back of the bus.
I sit on the second row, settle in. Two guys, regular looking, climb aboard take the first two seats across the aisle; I think nothing of it — they don’t know each other, all very routine.
The bus takes off, a conversation starts up between the two guys; difficult to understand, a kind of shorthand, with phrases and references to places I don’t know, one of them is wearing black boots, khaki pants, a sweatshirt, and a winter hat, he’s got a bag of cookies in his hands; the other, sitting in front of me, I can’t see, except for his black sneakers and khaki pants — neither have carry on luggage with them.
The conversation becomes more understandable; they are talking about where they are headed naming recognizable places, both looking for a place to stay, affordable, under $70; comparing places where they have stayed before, experiences they’ve had, last time they were out!
I understand; they just got out of prison — now it makes sense; the earlier unknown references were places they been, you know, inside.
One looks at the other and says, “I could tell who you were, the moment is saw your boots”, “It’s all I had to choose from”, the other replies. “I did a little better, I got these nice sneakers, didn’t want to wear the boots”, the first one concludes.
He continues the conversation, now in as comfortable and open a tone as you would expect between two friends that haven’t seen each other for a long time, “I was traveling south, a few years ago, was thumbing it, a trucker picks me up in Georgia, he tells me he’ll take me but I have to help him drive his Cadillac to the next town where he lives!” Can you believe it”. “He just trusted me, no questions — I loved it down south, had a great time there”.
“I know, the second guy replies”.
“It’s a whole (and before he could finish) ‘nother world, behind the walls”; the second guy completes the sentence.
The guy with the black boots, and khaki pants — rolled up because they’re to long — opens up the bag of cookies, passes it around to everyone, looks at me and says, “Take some, I can’t eat them all”.
I take one, “Thank you”, I said. The thing is, I don’t like cookies! But; I figured, this was the prudent thing to do, this time.
It’s a whole ‘nother world; on the bus!