January 31, 2011
The bus from the convention center is always a place of immediate relief. The vendors, merchants and sales people all exhale deeply when they plop down on the dusty blue seats. The day is over. Finally over. It’s quiet, save for the hum of the engine. After a ten-hour day of non-stop talk, negotiations and insincere back clapping, the attendees are pleased with the silence.
The driver is a small portly man. He looks friendly enough, non-threatening with soft, mushy features. He looks like someone who would have a lot of acquaintances but not a lot of friends. And that’s just fine by him. His job has gotten him used to saying hello and goodbye. He says it hundreds of times per day. Life is full of meetings and partings. Hellos and goodbyes. That is the way of it.
The door to the bus remains open. He’s arrived a few minutes early so he won’t have to pull off right away. A few stragglers pile onto the bus, carrying folders and boxes and duffle bags. They have important things in there, he thinks. But their cases are so flimsy. He takes his foot off the brake pedal and puts it into park. The bus, like its weary passengers, lets out a sharp sigh of relief.
“Your Driver’s Name is Martin,” reads a sign slightly below the ceiling. “Today’s Date: January 31, 2011” below it. Martin reaches forward and takes a quick swig of cold coffee out of his thermos. The day is almost over. One or two more loops should take him to eight hours on the dot. He takes the thermos and wedges it behind his seat. A few more passengers enter the bus. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hi. How’s it going? Hello.
Martin’s hand searches underneath his seat. He feels the soft leather handle of his briefcase and pulls it onto his lap. The oxblood briefcase is rigid. His eyes dart about the cabin, checking his mirrors for inquisitive faces. His thumbs whirl back and forth as the gold plated numbers on the briefcases’ lock align. 2-2-2. With a click and a flip, the suitcase opens.
While most of his passengers, business people in their own right, would have important documents, contracts, and files in such a case, Martin had a different mix. He pulled out a tortoise shell hairbrush out and gave a few gentle swipes to the side of his head. His hair was getting grey and fragile. On the inside of this briefcase there were a number of non-traditional items: nailclippers, some tea bags, and a large novelty One-Million dollar bill.
The item that was the most important to him, at least on that day was a birthday card. He reminds himself that after his shift, he needed to stop by a mailbox and deposit the card. He picked it out over two weeks ago. Now as February rounds the corner he realized that if he didn’t get it post-marked immediately it would miss his granddaughter on her 9th birthday. 2-2-2. It was a pink card with a yellow bird on the front. Despite being in the country for many years, his English, especially written, was poor. But the card was bright, and colorful and the bird seemed to be having fun.
“Remember Martin,” he thought to himself. “Remember.”
Another stream of passengers enter the bus. 5:30. Time to go. He closes the lid to his briefcase, tucking the card neatly in the top sleeve.
Hello. Hi. How are you? Hello. Hey. Hello.
He placed his foot back on the brake and felt the bus lurch forward a bit. Two more loops. Then goodbye.