editors letter nov/dec 2009

Editor’s Note: Following is another chapter from BUS RIDE, A Spiritual Journey. From the previous story: …Vaguely, I recall the take-off. Next thing I knew, my ears began to plug as we descended into Grand Rapids.


A bright white-walled waiting area floored in gray carpet met me in Grand Rapids.  I trailed silent fellows from the plane and walked with the pack a few minutes to the main terminal and baggage claim. At least I know this airport.

Apparently my flight had been the only recent arrival. My luggage dropped onto a stainless steel turn-stile about the time I arrived to collect it. Fifty yards away were the car-rentals.  As I rolled the green suitcase toward Alamo, I remembered why I’d first chosen that rental: not only were their Grand Rapids rates a little better than Hertz, but they also had parking directly across the street.  Getting the car would be simple: check in, get the key, go out the nearest door, cross the street and step into the car: always new, clean and full of gas. 

            When the agent appeared from a doorway and stepped to the counter, I smiled. Thanks to the miracle of cell phones and computers I said, “I have a reservation.”

She paused over my paper work, “Sorry, we don’t have an economy car… we’ll substitute a midsize at no extra charge.”

I paused at this wrinkle and considered the extra V-6 fuel cost, but tiredly shrugged, “OK.”  The larger car had a positive side: more space for David.  My once frail son who had visited Dr. Levinson a decade earlier now stood six-foot-two and tipped the scales at hundred and ninety.

            Car key in hand, moist warm night air greeted me as I walked across the empty roadway in front of the terminal and scanned the parking places for A-28.  Half way down the first row, I opened the silvery Pontiac and slung my suitcases in the back seat. Sliding behind the wheel, I put in my key and started it. Just then I thought of Big

Voice. In my mind’s eye I saw her dozing on one of the benches in the Detroit’s brightly lit Greyhound station.  She’d been traveling farther north of Grand Rapids and her jour-ney would not end until sometime tomorrow — if there were no further delays. Bless her.

No other vehicles shared the curving outer drive until it met a four-lane boulevard at a traffic light where I followed familiar 44th Street into Grand Rapids. Out my wind-shield, stars speckled the dark sky backlit by city lights.  As I buzzed down my windows I thought of White Tuxedo Larry who had done the same with his taxi.  I shook my head, remembering how I had been mysteriously led to him in Detroit, scared when he left me at the gas station and  then thankful to him when he’d given me a second ride to the airport terminal– free.   Thank you, God.

            An image of Silk Shirt Joe came to mind, too. Detroit bound, he’d sat in front of me into Atlanta and near me again out of Cincinnati. Waiting for his ride home, he had been leaning against the brick building, one foot up behind him as he blew smoke and gazed into the night.  He’d be home now, lying between his own sheets and probably sleeping. Bless him.

Rolling down a nearly car-less four-lane toward David’s house, I thought of other passengers who’d shared my ride, What about Tan Shirt? He’d warned of coming government identity devices and carried a jug of “special” water. I still had the business card where he had scribbled a website address on the back.  I shook my head. Making pitches on a bus! Bless him.  I wish him well.   A procession of green lights eased my way as I drove a few miles west. After stopping for a major traffic light, I drove several blocks, and pulled my turn signal for the side street where David lived.

Blink, b-blink, b-blink. I rolled slowly past mostly dark houses. A street light illuminated David’s drive. As I wheeled in, I thought of my Gainesville Greyhound driver, a smiling, mustached Black man, who had steered us to Atlanta safely. His parting words had stunned us and we had applauded. I had scribbled his speech in my notebook. Shifting the Grand Prix into park, I hauled out my spiral-bound and paged back to my notes. He’d said, “This is the end of the line for this bus. If you continue on, you’ll pick up another. Whether you are continuing on or ending your trip here in Atlanta, may God bless you!”

I switched off the engine. It’s finally my end of the line! Key in hand, I sat a moment and thought of  seat mate, Kathy,  with her black cross tattoo, the blond bus driver who’d faced an unknown problem at the back of the bus barehanded, and even White T- Shirt whose trouble made me miss my Cincinnati and Detroit connections. 

May God bless them all!


            Frances Fritzie says, “The first leg of the journey to my class reunion is done… on to the trip-inspired class reunion!”


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