Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Guy Named Chuck

After listening to a story about Sue the bus driver on NPR this afternoon, I thought about the bus driver I had back in middle school. I rode the Blue Bird bus in the afternoons during my younger days as a student at Pine Tree Middle School. The route I went on dropped me off in front of my house and I was usually one of the first few off the bus. My bus driver's name was Chuck. He was a rather large man in stature with a blonde flowing semi-mullet that looked the same day after day. He wasn't afraid to yell or assign seats, both of which happened during my stint as a keylach kid. When he got really mad, he would actually pull the bus over, unbuckle his seatbelt, and trudge through the narrow aisle to come face to face with the guilty assailant or mischievous misbehaver. Silence showered over the bus as Chuck unleashed his rule onto the individuals as well as the rest of the bunch. No, no Chuck never physically beat anyone. Beatings weren't necessary for Chuck, just his angry stare and red face were all it took for one to acknowledge that Chuck was in control.

I remember when it was the day we finished school before the summer break began. Chuck decided to drive his route backwards (not actually backwards, but started from finish to start). In doing so I was the last kid on the bus when the cheese wagon pulled up to 2504 Balsam. During those last few stops, I saw a gentle side of Chuck that not many on the bus ever encountered. He was laughing and joking with the few left riding and he was even smiling. Chuck's demeanor morphed from an authoritative yelling, always looking at you in the big rearview mirror, bus driver to a 'normal' guy. A guy who was in your church passing the collection plates; a guy in the stands cheering for the same team as you; a guy who would let you in the next lane on the interstate; a guy who, well, who's normal.

Some years back I saw him at Subway while I was home visiting from college. He looked the same than he did back in the early 90s. I wondered if he had a family, if he had friends, hobbies, where he lived, did he pull for any particular sporting team, was he still the bus driver for Blue Bird. I didn't speak to Chuck, mainly because I thought it might be awkward.
"Hey Chuck."
"Who are you?"
"I'm Clark. I rode your bus back in the early 90s."
"Uhmmmmmm.........cool. So.........you...like...Subway, eh?"
I only had one bus driver during my tenure at school and I'll always remember Chuck. Sure I'll remember his angry outbursts and horrificly low pants that showed a side (a backside) of Chuck no one should see. But I'll most remember the time I saw him as who he actually was, a 'normal' guy.