Buses are gold mines for writers.
Whenever I take the shuttle bus between Salem and Bend, my pan always finds several shiny nuggets. And Wednesday was no exception.
There are two bus drivers on the route. For my purposes, the driver I have named Mr. Grumpypants (After all, this isn't Tolstoy) is my favorite. If you were to combine Yosemite Sam with Bedford Falls' Mr. Potter, you would have the prototype. For him, life is a series of opportunities to share his pain.
And he was in fine form on this trip.
When we boarded the bus, he asked all of the passengers who were getting off at Sisters -- the first stop -- to sit up front. And the Bend passengers to sit up front right behind them.
Of course, we scattered like mercury from a broken thermometer. When he got on board, he immediately grumped: "What did I just say? I want all of you to move up front."
One guy moved up.
He stared at the rest of us and said: "Fine. Have it your way. My PA is broken, but if you don't want to hear me, it's not my loss."
He then started his lecture about rest stops, road conditions, the time we could expect to arrive, and his choice of assorted observations. All in a voice that could easily be heard in Newport -- let alone the back of the bus. The fact that the PA system did not work was not particularly relevant.
But the two young men behind me were simply ignoring his lecture.
"Hey. You two. Listen up this is important."
They weren't talking with one another, but it was obvious they were not listening to him.
"Hey. Pay attention. I am only going to tell you this stuff once."
The young men didn't even look at him.
"What are you? Deaf?"
And then I noticed why they were not paying attention. They were "talking." In American sign language.
Yup, Mr. Grumpypants. They were deaf.
And I took a bit of pleasure in wading in the shadenfreude pool when I pointed it out to him.
And then there was the very attractive young lady who was rather confused when the man across the aisle announced that he was from Vancouver, British Columbia -- in Canada. She thought British Columbia was an eastern state -- over by New York.
She turned to me and asked what the name of the state was.
How do you respond to a question like that? I thought for a moment, and asked: "Are you possibly thinking of New England?"
"Yes. That's the name of the state. Now, just where is it?"
"It's actually not a state. It's a region. Vermont. New Hampshire. Maine. Rhode Island. Connecticut. Massachusetts."
"Oh. Right. Right. And, of course, British Columbia is in Canada. We just drove through there a month ago on a trip from Alaska. I just get New England and British Columbia mixed up. All the time."
The Canadian's eyes rolled back so far he looked liked a slot machine that was not going to see a payout for quite some time.
This is the type of material that writes itself.
And it makes we wish I could speak Spanish better. I suspect these nuggets surround me every time I ride the bus in Mexico.
I just don't know it.