Other than a shuttle bus at the airport I cannot tell you how long it’s been since I rode one of these. We queue up and a man ahead of us asks if this is the bus to Katmandu (Okay, he probably didn’t say Katmandu but since I have no idea of where we are nor where we’re going it may as well have been.) the driver says, “No, man. Gotta cross the street.” Another man asks if he can get change and the driver informs him, “Got no change.” Both men exit the bus quietly and peacefully. It seems that today many people are taking the bus that do not usually do so.
I follow my wife and Noree. They slap their passes on to the electronic reader which quickly emits a green light and then make their way down the aisle to seats near the back. I follow, pulling our large suitcase behind.
We find seats. The sisters sit together on the passenger side of the bus while I sit on the driver’s side. They are one row further back than I and face forward. I face backward. Directly in front of me is a small gap where I push our suitcases. After the gap is a man with a well-trimmed beard and a prepubescent boy. I figure the man for mid-forties and the boy for twelve. They are both wearing Chicago Cubs hats. The boy speaks.
“Are you going to the parade?”
“I beg your pardon?” I respond.
“Are you going to the Cub’s parade? Down at Wrigley?”
“Uh, no. I take it you are?”
“Yeah! Isn’t it cool?! Cubs won The Series!”
“We know,” says Noree, “congratulations.”
“Yeah! We’re going to Wrigley!”
“Did you take the day off from school?” Pat asks.
“No! Everybody has school off! It’s a holiday!”
Everything this child has said so far requires either a question mark, an exclamation mark, or both.
“Cool,” says I. “What grade are you in?”
“Sixth grade. I’m STEM.”
I know what STEM is but must fight the overwhelming urge to say, ‘Nice to meet you, Stem.’ Instead I say, “Oh, yeah? What kind?”
“Math. I love math.”
“Do you go to middle school?” Noree asks.
“Yeah. First year.”
“So, sixth grade?” I ask.
“Yeah. Sixth grade. I love math.”
“Cool. What’s the quadratic equation?” I ask.
“Pi? E? Avogadro’s number?” I inquire with a grin.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“No worries. Neither do I! Except pi. Three point one four, one five, nine two six ad infinitum,” I spit out as quickly as my fast-talking tongue will allow. “ I don’t even remember what E is and Avogadro’s number has to do with chemistry and molar values. Maybe? I’m just giving you a hard time. So, math, huh? Cool. How long you been a Cubs fan?”
“My whole life! How about you?”
“Oh, the same. My life, not yours. I grew up in Illinois. Not a huge fan but really glad they won the series.”
“Yeah. We’re going to Wrigley for the parade.”
“Yeah. My sister didn’t want to come. She stayed home with my mom. Girls don’t like sports as much.”
“Oh, yeah? See that lady over there?” I ask, nodding toward my wife. “Ex-WWF wrestler. Went by the name of Misty Meaner. Better be careful or she’ll pick you up, throw you over her shoulders, spin you around and pile drive you. Just saying.”
“Way. Gotta be careful with girls. They’ll surprise you.”
My wife has never been in the WWF. She picked up the moniker Misty- which was short hand for Miss T (Miss Tierney)- when we met back in 1980 and she was my boss. Pat was fresh out of community college with an associate’s degree in restaurant management. We were both nineteen at the time and many of the people she supervised were her age or older. The restaurant was a Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor owned by the Marriott Corporation. Marriott wanted a separation between hourly employees and management and insisted that she go by Miss Tierney rather than Pat. We unruly youngsters got around that rule by calling her Misty. Three decades latter Pat played with the idea of joining a roller derby team (Really) and decided to call herself Misty Meaner (As in misdemeanor.) After realizing that even an ultra-fit 47-year-old woman bruised way too easily for roller derby she gave up on her Jim Croce dream. She never competed on the rink but she did get a great nickname for her efforts.
“You’re talking to the wrong girls,” Noree chimed in. “We’re tough as nails.”
Luckily for him the boy didn’t laugh. If he had I’m afraid my two little Q-tip senior citizens might have tagged teamed him. The moral of this story is to be careful. You never know what kind of riff-raff is going to sit near you on a bus.