“I study up on countries that I plan to visit,” responds a boarding passenger. Toting a stack of books. He appears slightly out of his element. He sits quietly in the seat directly behind me. I’ve come go know him as Bob, we remain on first name basis. He daily boards for a brief trip to the library, then home. The Pubic Library is the computer source for many of my riders, seeing Bob board with books under his arm is a relatively rare occurrence sight, since most simply surf the internet or check their email.
Bob, a gentleman of distinguished older age, usually sits quietly half way back as to not invite conversation from the driver. Having, at one time, also been a bus driver, he knows how distracting a simple conversation can be along a busy route. Mine is one of the busiest. Today, however, the bus relatively empty, and the traffic less complex, Bob decides to talk. He re-positions himself within earshot.
Usually wearing a baseball cap, gentleman’s khaki shorts and calf length athletic socks, Bob appears to be more sophiticated than most. I see him daily boarding from the library or the university travelling to a stop that serves small appartments and prebuilt homes.
“In the fall you would call this ‘Indian Summer’,” he offers.
“Certainly unseasonably warm,” I affirm. “Not like February.”
“What country you researching now?” getting back to his books in hand.
“France. Going to Paris in April … spend a month.”
“Wow,” short response being best. I do have to drive.
“Been to Rome, Vietnam, Thailand, and India.”
“You researched each?”
“Yes, gives me a project and makes the experience richer. Vietnam was the country I have liked best so far … spectacular country, everything is so green … lush.”
I have been Bob’s driver for two years, and have learned that he has been a baseball scout in the minor league, and in more recent years a tour bus driver before settling in Grand Junction. He is an avid reader (over 100 plus books a year, if you can believe it), has completed two novels but not attempted publication. Bob is single and lives alone, does not own a car, does not dine out. He has no local family and draws a meager retirement income which he saves to invest in travel.
Don’t expect to see Bob on your expensive group tour to Paris. He will travel frugally, baseball cap and Bermuda shorts, investing only in those things that will create the experience he desires. He will be finding an apartment off the beaten path in the center of the historic city. He will be the tourist you meet standing quitely in museums for hours actually reading the exhibits and displays. Should you be fortunate enough to encounter him, a simply smile and a cheerful “hello” may illicit a thoughtful round of questions that will happily embellish your appreciation of what you experience. He will then turn and vanish into the crowd having contributed a few moments of delight in your busy itinerary.
Do I sound enamoured with Bob’s approach to life, well maybe a little. His focus on simplicity has enabled him to experience moments deeply. I would more accurately say, I resonate with Bob in many ways, but my interest is really a celebration of the array of passengers that people my life daily. I don’t have time to sit at length with a cappuccino or linger over a latte, but I appreciate the repeated brief encounters and how they enrich the lingering moments of each day.
One day in early September Bob boarded late in the day. The bus was empty and he sat close behind me. “They have found Pancreatic Cancer,” he announced. “I’m considering the options for treatment,” he continued in sober direct tone.
“What are they offering,” I asked.
“The usual,” he replied,
“Radiation or Chemo.”
“What are your chances for full recovery?”
“It may extend my life a few months, but they will make me sick and miserable for much of it.”
“Lot to think about, huh.”
“Big decision Bob.” I replied.
” good with it,” he went to his seat.
Fall months flowed slowly. Bob would board now and again. Some days he would be waiting for another bus and would cast a knowing glance my direction. Others, he would wave me on waiting for the next bus. As the weather changed he seemed more susceptible to cold and wet. I found him shivering on a bench waiting for another on more than one occasion. His face gradually began to betray weight loss gradually growing more gaunt with each passing day. He, however continued living life much as he had. Ever the sports enthusiast, he would join into conversations about the Mavericks, or the Broncos. Well versed in professional sports, since his years as a baseball scout, others listened to his well studied opinions. Boarding with a hand load of books or his familiar folded Daily Sentinel tucked under his arm, he never flagged in interest of national and world events.