Where the end of the line is also the beginning of the round trip

Source: San Francisco Chronicle. Published 3 August 2003.

 

 
sfgateMany people have said to me: How do I find the Way of the Bus? I have seen the place where the bus comes, but I do not know if it will take me to the place I seek. Others say I have wanted to follow the Way of the Bus, but I have waited a long time and it seems the bus never arrives.

To all these people I say, have patience. When you no longer look at your watch, when the map no longer interests you, then you will know you have found the Way of the Bus. Like life, the way of the bus is circuitous and slow. Relax. Your stop will come.

The Way of the Bus begins, it is true, at a fixed spot. Stand at this place and clear your mind of all expectation. Sometimes you will find that many buses come, all ready to carry you to the place you desire. The Way of the Bus is offering you its teaching: Many Buses are no better than one Bus. Why then do we always crave more than we need?

At other times, the Bus seems never to come at all. Buses that take others to their destinations pass us as we wait for the Bus that is ours. Yet we are not dissuaded from our path, for we know that we do not want to go to the Transbay Terminal or the Outer Richmond. This too is a lesson of the Way: You cannot arrive at your destination by traveling another man's path.

If you are impatient, you may be tempted to begin following the Way of the Bus on foot. The Way of the Bus does not forbid this. It says, I cannot always carry you; sometimes you must make your own Way. But your heart must be committed to this path. Do not choose it unless you are wearing comfortable shoes. Many travelers have found themselves wandering the vast desert between stops whereupon the Bus has passed them by.

It is well to remember that there are many paths up the mountain. If the No.

30 does not arrive to take you from Stockton and Ellis to Pac Bell Park, you may take the No. 45 or the No. 9X. On the Way of the Bus, the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line. Sometimes we may need to travel away from our destination in order to approach it in a more harmonious manner.

Once you have boarded the bus, the novice may assume a posture that is either seated or standing. Advanced practitioners may attempt some of the variations on these postures, such as Seated While Reading Newspaper, Standing While Reading Newspaper, Pretending To Read Newspaper While Eavesdropping On Nearby Conversation, Seated So As To Enjoy A Light Sleep, and Seated So As To Sleep Off A Five-Day Bender. The latter two should not be attempted by the novice, as she will likely miss her stop.

The novice is often tempted to sit at the front of the bus, perhaps hoping to discuss her destination with the driver. This is permissible if the Bus is not crowded, although the driver is often occupied with a meditation on the Inferiority of Other Drivers and may not wish to be disturbed. But remember to relinquish these forward seats if they are needed by anyone who moves through the world on wheels. Such persons are sacred to the Bus, and the Bus kneels at the sight of them. Those who refuse to give up their seats will suffer calamitously long waits and unexpected mechanical breakdowns until they purify themselves by paying thrice the customary fare for seven consecutive journeys.

The Way of the Bus has few rules, but the novitiate must learn to follow them. Refrain from boisterous behavior and loud music as these sow discord amongst the passengers. Do not distract the driver, for the Way of the Bus will be short and painful if the Bus collides with another Bus. No eating or drinking, for the Way of the Bus will be unpleasant if it is accompanied by vermin.

As the journey unfolds, the traveler must open her senses to the Way of the Bus. Let the smells of the bus permeate your nostrils, the sensations of the bus permeate your skin. This should be easy, as the other passengers may be pressed up against your body, and some may not have bathed in many weeks. Most important, you must listen to the words exchanged around you, for these conversations are the murmurings of the Way and they may contain a message for you. If the woman at the rear of the bus shouts "Miracle? Or Mackerel?" at frequent intervals, do not hide behind the headphones of your iPod. It may be you she is reminding that a fish and a blessing can be difficult to distinguish.

At last, it will be time for you to depart the Bus. Note how even as you got off, others are getting on, how the end of the line is also the beginning of the return trip. Now, as you descend, take a last breath of its diesel perfume and contemplate how much the Bus has given you. The Way of the Car has no lessons to teach, for you are alone in the body of the car and may be fooled into believing yourself alone in the world. On the Way of the Bus you travel with others. Their Way may not be yours, but for the duration of your journey, they are your companions. Bid them a kind and a grateful farewell for you will meet again, if not on this bus, then on another.

 

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