A World of Speculation

The No. 35 Macadam bus stopped outside an elementary school and picked up 27 fourth- and fifth-graders on their way to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. There were parents with them, each with six kids to keep count of, and a teacher in his mid-30s, carrying a clipboard.

They were good kids–they weren’t hitting each other or calling each other names or committing destruction. But they were excited, and they raised the bus energy by about 400 percent. Some had never ridden the city bus before. I was near the front, where the girls sat. They all wanted to ride standing up and hanging onto the straps, as they’d seen in the movies, but they weren’t quite tall enough for the straps, and so they kept jumping up to touch them. When the bus began to get crowded, a couple of the girls did stand up and found that keeping their feet while the bus was in motion was harder than it looked.

A boy came up from back of the bus after he started to get motion sick. I told him a funny story about a dog, the late Strider, who went to sleep standing up after a hiking trip, and he told me about a dog, which he’d seen on a home-video TV show, that raided the refrigerator. He said his brother had sent in a video to that show, and the show had run it. When I asked what the video was about, he told me he couldn’t say. It was a family secret. But his mom was in it, and she had just gotten out of the shower, and her hair was all messed up.

He and his family had taken a Southwest trip recently that seemed to overlap ours a little bit. He asked if I had ever been to Las Vegas. Yes, just recently, I said. Where did you stay? Well, actually the hotel didn’t honor our reservation and was going to charge us an extra $50 to stay there, so we didn’t stay. The same thing happened to his family, he said (travelers, take note; apparently your Las Vegas reservations are worthless). But they stayed anyway, and he was impressed with the sights.

Anyway, while they were on their trip, he and his mom and dad and brother were waiting for a table in a restaurant; the signal that their table was ready would be a buzzer. My seat companion made up a story for his family about a kid who farted so loud that the people in the next table over thought it was their buzzer. Just as he got to the part of the story where he was going to say the kid farted, the buzzer went off!

They all got off at the first stop downtown, my seat companion calm and cool and slow and the last one off. He went out the back door as the teacher, clipboard in hand and a worried expression on his face, popped back in the front door for one last look over the passengers’ faces to see if he’d missed any.