Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Big Ten Bus

 I was a commuter student during my years at The Ohio State University. I longed to live on campus.  I wanted the dorm experience, making new friends, having easy access to classes and getting involved in student life. I got to school by riding the city bus, forty minutes one way.  Occasionally, my father would take me on his way to work.

Riding the bus was always an adventure. The buses were not air conditioned in the mid-sixties. Summer travel was often miserable because of the heat. 

Eventually, I grew to cherish my time on the bus. I saw different kinds of people. The bus went through impoverished areas of Columbus unfamiliar to me. Even though I never spoke to anyone, I developed a silent kinship with fellow riders. Looking at the structure of  buildings and store fronts opened my mind to wonder and reflection. 

"What would it be like to live in the inner city?" "Would I have freedom to roam the streets and visit neighborhood stores with friends or by myself?" 

I wondered if I could find a family to adopt me so I could see what life was like in another part of town. Living within walking distance to friends and stores was appealing. 

Eventually I did get to be in the area where the bus gathered most of its occupants when I chose to student teach for a quarter in a school filled with poverty. I loved the children and we had the best time working together.

I recently wrote a poem, "The Big Ten Bus" based on those many miles I rode in the city transit system. I was grateful for safe transportation to multiple lectures, labs, and tests.

                       The Big Ten Bus

I deemed my life deprived

Having to ride the city bus

To college each day, class of 1970,

Forty- minutes one way

Twice the time it would take by car.

Accordian doors opened.

I grabbed the side bar

Lunged up three large steps,

Walked the narrow aisle between seats.

The bus in gear,

Standing, I jerked off balance

Getting to my seat. 

Quarters and dimes

Clinked through the zig zag metal maze

To the bottom of the glass coin deposit.

Sweat on my forehead

Heavy smell of diesel fuel

Waved through the open windows.

Patched, ragged shirts and jackets

Frayed hems of men's pants,

Large bags slung over shoulders

Bulging with groceries,

Books or an occasional

Newspaper sticking out the top.

No others dress for school

Just me with the aching heart,

And the stack of textbooks

Resting on my lap.

Fellow travelers,

Sat like chewing gum stuck to the plastic seats.

No conversation, not even about the weather.

Only my thoughts like whispers echoing in an empty church.

High Street approached,

I tugged the string above my head,

To ring the bell.

Tires slowed.

The door opened.

Down the three large steps,

I balanced my books

Anchoring myself for the day

At the Big Ten school.

Center of campus,

The oval, crisscrossed paths leading to 

Old brick buildings

Wooden desks

Space for me to learn and grow.

Heels on hardwood

Announce the arrival

Behind the lecturn,

A woman

In a navy blue suit

Ruffled white blouse

A vision of what I could become.

Back on the bus

A container of safety

And hope

Carrying me to and from class

Carrying me to freedom. 

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