I take the bus to work, partly because of the cost of parking, but also to avoid the nail-biting stress of rush hour traffic. In exchange for being at the right place at the right time every morning, I get a lift to the office. It isn’t quite door-to-door service, but it’s close enough.
The bus stop is on a suburban street punctuated by bursts of traffic, but relatively quiet at 7:30 in the morning when the Bus Gang assembles.
Most of us don’t know one another’s names, but we recognize one another. There are two women who are there virtually every day, and usually the first and second to arrive at the stop. One wears sandals through spring, summer and fall unless the weather is unspeakably ghastly. The other one, judging from her purse, appears to be a Disney fan.
There are usually a few younger men and women, probably heading to high school or university. The number varies, dropping to zero during summer vacation.
As bus time draws near, another woman comes down a side street and waits patiently for traffic to clear before venturing across to where we’re waiting.
And then there’s me. In the winter I’m a speed-walking penguin with a long coat and a bright red scarf, picking my way over ice floes and waddling up to the stop from a seemingly random direction every morning, crossing the avenue whenever and wherever I spy an opportunity.
The nice thing about our group is that we look out for one another. If we can see the lights of the bus down the street and one of the regulars is in sight but still a distance off, one of us will wave and gesture, exhorting them to hurry. It seems to be working, because we haven’t lost anybody yet.
A few stops later, we pick up a woman and her sons. Other familiar faces climb aboard or disembark. Finally, the bus coasts to a halt at my stop. Most mornings I don’t have to pull the bell cord because someone has already taken care of it — a high school student transferring to another bus. I smile as she hurries around the corner ahead of me to meet up with a young man of her acquaintance. They have their very own Bus Gang that starts where mine leaves off, and the comforting routine of being in the right place at the right time with familiar, friendly faces.