The Sunday Bus Ride
pamela spurling

For years, week after week, month after month we faithfully rode the Sunday Bus.  Every week we'd see the same riders.  We'd all pull into the "park 'n ride" at about the same time.  In fact it became noticeable over the years who would arrive early and who'd always be late.  Year after year we got to know the riders by their cars and their regular parking spots just as they had regular seats on the bus and could be expected to be seen week after week in those same seats---there'd be snickers if any dared deviate from the familiar.

Some would arrive just as the bus doors opened, and some would routinely arrive after the ride commenced---after the announcements were made and the weekly itinerary was given to each rider.  

Some would get dressed up for the weekly ride while others would wear casual clothes.  Important visitors would always be dressed in suits and so in order to honour them, the men and boys in our family wore suits and dress shirts and ties and we ladies always wore our prettiest dresses---especially the little girls.  It was imperative that we looked our best no matter how good or bad we felt---no matter what sort of situation we were facing.  It was part of the program to appear happy and well adjusted and so, the externals were given extra attention.  We all thought it was honouring to wear our best clothing each week and so no matter what, that's what we did.  Most of the other riders did the same, although there were many who seemed to be part of a trendy counter culture who dared to wear jeans on the bus.  A smile is imperative for the bus ride, though we did experience times of genuine tears.  Occasionally riders do reveal their hearts and a measure of transparency.

It's sad to me now, that we never got to know many of the riders really well.  Worse, that we were content to consider superficial knowledge as constituting "friendship" and familiarity.  But that's the nature of bus rides.  The riders don't go on the trip to get to know the other passengers, to really become family with them; they take the trip because they're programmed to do so and because they have that weekly appointment to keep.  It seems as though they're afraid they'll lose their bus passes if they don't hop on the bus every time the doors are open. 

I remember the thrill when we got a bigger bus with more seats and with more doors... double side-doors for more people to enter and exit with ease.   This enables more people to ride and to come and go virtually unnoticed.   The bigger bus is more enticing to people who don't ordinarily like bus rides or for those who have never ridden the bus before, there is a measure of anonymity in a large bus.  Plus, it seems the larger the bus, the better the sound system and new riders especially like that.

Congenial greetings satisfy the need for fellowship---for a moment, and then that familiar disillusionment---a sort of emptiness returns and the familiar longing for genuine friendship and camaraderie (or even "like-mindedness" if that were possible) returns.  But amidst the hustle and bustle of getting on the bus and into the seats each week, the intimacy needed for such fellowship is prevented by the scheduled ride and forward facing seats.

That's another part of the ride.  The bus takes off each week at 11:00 whether the riders are all on the bus or not.   There are some "core" riders and they tend to sit up close to the driver so they can  better hear the driver and watch the scenery and then there are those who invariably sit in the back of the bus and chatter through the whole excursion---though they'd never dream of staying home and chatting with those same friends on the phone or (gasp) having them over for a good long visit---that might be too intrusive to the preferred anonymity!

New fuel isn't needed each week because the bus runs on tradition---it needs little new or fresh power in order to keep the course---in fact, since one man makes most all the decisions for the ride, he can either introduce a new route or take the old one over and over and over.  And because so many of the riders are unfamiliar with the road, they don't worry about where he's taking them---it's just a bus ride after all and he's the driver: he ought to know where they're going and they don't seem to mind him just taking them there---they're not staying anyway, so they just put up with it for the sake of the ride!

The more experienced riders sort of poke fun at the familiarity of it all and they're even sort of apathetic but they don't grieve over the apathy because they just tune-in the radio on the way home from the park 'n ride and get some fresh bread from some other bus driver or they read stacks of books that give instructions they can carry out on their own.  They seldom share with the other riders the things they're learning in their lives, new roads they're discovering or blessings they've experienced.  And rarely, if ever, does any "ordinary" rider drive the bus.  Somehow, it's just not acceptable to have an ordinary, unskilled or unlicensed rider take the wheel and drive for a week or even for a brief moment, even though there are a few riders bursting with skill or zeal or insight regarding the voyage and would love an opportunity to share about the journey or even share in the direction of one of the trips.

So... week after week the riders file in and file out: never realizing the bus never actually goes anywhere; but always, deep down, longing  for more... something that will fill that void.  Deep down they know the bus ride never satisfies but they don't know what else to do---they don't know where else to go and can't imagine doing anything different than what they've... always... done. 

They wouldn't dare.


pamela spurling 2004
permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety


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