I miss the good old days. The days when we used to take long school bus rides and sing “99 bottles of beer” until our teachers wanted to paddle us like it was their “good old days.” In my later years, the bus came to mean something different—an easy mode of transportation, always with an old, bearded man in the back who was drinking 99 bottles of beer.
Now that my friends have cars, I would never take the bus. But because I would never do it, I had to do it anyway. Last week, I rode the 22 bus, which runs along El Camino Real and is the most popular bus in the valley besides the $5-foot-long. I didn’t just ride it—I rode it long and hard, for two hours until the end of its line in San Jose.
But there were no sing-a-longs, no food fights where you get to lick the pudding off of each other when there’s no more food to throw. Instead, it was a long and arduous journey—one that seemed to take close to forty days and forty nights. I stepped on the bus at my local stop armed with nothing but an iPhone, something that surely would have steered the Israelites out of the desert in half the time.
I thought I would get to meet new people, maybe make new friends. But people on the bus seemed to know each other already, and my iPhone has Angry Birds. Sometimes those birds make me forget people exist.
But when I looked up from my phone, I began to notice that the bus was a community, a place where strangers interact and after many days of riding the bus together, soon become companions. The bus driver was much like a group therapist; people came to him to pour out their emotions and to share good news like that their wife had received breast implants. And they felt real.
I looked around and remembered having been a part of this bus-riding community. But I left that all behind when I turned 16, and now I was a stranger. I began to think about this, but a long bus ride is like a sleeping pill. I soon dozed off.
I awoke to the bus driver screaming, “End of the line!” So I hobbled off the bus and took a look around at the strange land of East San Jose. For the two hours we were together, I was in a community of trusting strangers—at least I don’t think anyone touched me while I was sleeping. The bus was a place where people came together to get where they needed to go. And it was beautiful, nearly as beautiful as putting Fritos in a burrito.
Standing at a bus stop in San Jose, I realized that there was somewhere I needed to go: home. So I crossed the street, found the 22 bus, and got on for another two-hour ride.