The Bus Driver


I had no intentions of taking the city bus when I left for work today. I would drive. Just like always. It wasn’t until my car refused to start that I remembered how I had sputtered and prayed my way home from work the night before. My gas gauge and my pocket book were both on empty, and there wouldn’t be any more gas in my tank until my next paycheck.

I briefly considered calling in sick, but quickly dismissed this idea. I couldn’t afford to miss work. Not with an empty pocket book!

I glanced up at the sky, noting the heavy cloud cover, noting the missing sun. Despite the fact that it was mid-July, a cold breeze cut through my light summer jacket, and I shivered. Heaving a resolute sigh, I picked up my purse, and an umbrella for good measure, and I set out for the sidewalk. I would simply have to walk to work today!

It had started to rain by the time I arrived at the first intersection. And it wasn’t a simply summer shower either. I was soaked before I could open my umbrella, and with the wind driving the rain nearly horizontally, I inadvertently knew it wouldn’t do me any good anyway. I kept it closed.

Traffic was particularly heavy in the intersection this morning, and before the light on the crosswalk had changed to “walk”, hail began to fall. That’s when the bus pulled up at the intersection. To wait for the light to turn green.

Or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise when the door opened. “This isn’t a bus stop!” I shouted over the wind. But I realized I must have been wrong, because an elderly lady was reaching for the handle on the open door.

A tall, muscular man with short, red hair and a freckled nose rose from the driver seat. He smiled kindly at me as he reached out his hand to assist the frail woman at my side. “Why don’t you take my bus today,” he suggested. “It’s free. Because of the storm.”

I shook my head. “No, I’ll walk!”

But just then an extra violent gust of wind nearly knocked me off my feet and an extra-sharp hailstone struck me in the forehead.

“Are you sure?” asked the driver as he supported the older lady’s elbow up the steps. “It’s a mess out there!”

He did have a point. I glanced up at the bus number. I remembered seeing this particular bus pass by my window at work. Maybe, just maybe . . .

I waited until the driver began assisting the elderly lady to the handicapped seat at the front of the bus, then I made my move: I bounded up the steps, threw myself into the driver’s seat, fastened the seat belt, pulled the lever to close the bus doors, and prepared to put the vehicle into gear.

That’s when I felt the gentle tap on my shoulder: “Excuse me ma’am, but this is my seat!”

I moved my foot from the accelerator back to the brake and looked up. “Pardon me?”

The deep blue eyes that met mine were kind, gentle, even compassionate, as if the driver didn’t really like having to do what he was doing. “I’m sorry, but you are in my seat,” he repeated. “You don’t have a license to drive this bus!”

“But, but,” I sputtered, rummaging in my purse, “I do so have a license!” I pulled out my Ontario Driver’s License and showed it to him. “See?”

His freckled cheeks drew back into a kindly smile. Somehow it reminded me of the one my father used to use when I had done something wrong. “Ma’am,” he said, “that’s a car class license.”

His voice was deep and full of emotion. I could tell he really believed what he was saying, that he genuinely cared.

“You need a bus class license to drive this bus.”

That’s when I made the mistake of looking into those eyes, and that one glance drilled through my mind, my resolve, right down to my very soul. “I . . .”

“Ma’am,” he said, “there are many seats on this bus. May I assist you in finding one?”

“But—but you don’t understand!” I cried. “You don’t even know where I want to go! You don’t know which stop I need to get off at! I can’t let YOU drive!”

The deep eyes now seemed to swim. At first I had the impression that I was looking into a clear, deep sea, then I realized that these were unshed tears I was seeing. But then the sea seemed to change, as if a storm had just blown in. Even so, the voice was still kind and polite, even patient. “I stop at all the stops, Ma’am. You don’t need to worry!”

“No!” I cried, my hand guarding the clasp on the seat belt. “If I go to the back of the bus, I won’t know when we get there! I . . .”

That’s when I felt the gentle, but firm hand on my shoulder. “Ma’am,” came the patient voice. Did I note a tiny measure of firmness to his tone this time? “Trust me! I will tell you when it’s time to get off the bus!”

He tenderly but purposefully reached down and lifted my hand off of the seatbelt latch. With a click, the belt dropped to the floor, and I felt a strong, but gentle, pressure on my elbow, lifting me from my seat.

Reluctantly I complied. What else could I do? Besides, by this time, all of the other passengers on the bus were looking at me.

“I’ll take that seat right there!” I said, slipping into the seat beside the old lady. “That way I’ll be able to see where we are going!”

The smile was still kind, but a tear dropped from the corner of the driver’s right eye. “Trust me, ma’am!” he said. “I’ll get you there!” and he slipped into his seat and snapped the seat belt shut.

I was on the edge of my seat as he shifted the gear stick into drive and pressed down on the accelerator. He was going too fast for the storm! No! Too slow to break into traffic! Oh! If only he would let me drive! I sucked in my breath as the bus eased away from the curb. My fingernails inadvertently found my teeth when a red sport's van cut in front of us. I didn’t realize I had said anything until the driver looked back at me and smiled his kind, yes, even loving, smile.

“Trust me,” he repeated. “I’ve driven a bus before!”

“I do trust you!” I said. “I just don’t trust those other drivers out there!” And to prove my point, I forced myself to sit back onto the bench.

But not for long. Through the driving rain on the windshield, I was sure I could see that the traffic light at the next intersection had been green for an awfully long time! The bus driver wasn’t slowing down! What if it turned red before we got to the intersection? What if he couldn’t stop in time? What if . . .

That’s when those drilling blue eyes again caught mine. “Sit down, ma’am,” he said.

“Sit down? But I’m not standing!” My hands went to my hips in defiance, then a warmth spread up my checks as I realized that I was, indeed, standing up. I dropped back onto the bench, but leaned forward. “Slow down!” I said. “We’re going to be in the middle of the intersection when the light changes!”

There was a shuffle from the back of the bus, and I self-consciously forced myself to scoot to the back of my bench.

The older lady leaned over and smiled at me. Reaching out a shaking, wrinkled hand, she patted mine reassuringly. “It’s okay!” Her voice quavered a little. “I take this bus every day, and the driver has never failed to get me home safely! Just trust him, dear!”

I tried not to be too deliberate in pulling my hand away, but when I glanced towards the back of the bus, I was slightly embarrassed to see that every eye was on me. “I . . . Don’t you all care about how this bus is being driven?” I cried.

There were several smiles in response, another gentle hand, this time patting my back. It was quite obvious they didn’t!

I wanted to cry out again, but I restrained myself, because I was sure that was my stop up there. Soon I would be off this awful bus!

But wait! The bus wasn’t slowing down!

“Stop!” I cried. “I need to get off here!”

A grim looked came over the driver’s face as his foot pushed down heavier on the accelerator. “Ma’am,” he said, his voice shaking slightly with emotion, “you have to trust me!”

“But . . .” I choked off my words, trying to calm the rising fear in my chest. Never had I felt so out of control, so vulnerable. Oh, why had I ever gotten on this bus?

But the rain and hail pounding on the metal roof reminded me. Yes. The storm. I sighed. Why did life have to be so complicated???

The bus was slowing down now. Why? I looked out the window. “This isn’t where I’m supposed to get off!” I yelled. “My stop was back there!”

The driver didn’t answer, didn’t even look my way until the bus had come to a complete halt. Then he grimly opened the door, loosened his seat belt and stood to his full height.

I didn’t realize until that moment just how tall he was. In fact, he seemed to be growing before my very eyes! His head was scraping . . . Wait! His body was expanding . . . The entire bus was now filled with his presence! And the voice . . . It spoke into my soul, it opened my heart, it screamed to be obeyed, yet it was kind: “Ma’am, this is where you get off!”

“But . . . I . . . I . . .”

A strong hand reached out and took me by the elbow, and soon I found myself being escorted down the bus steps and onto the curb.

The rain hit my face as the bus door closed behind me. It wasn’t a driving rain anymore, however. In fact, the storm seemed to be blowing itself out. I turned back to look at the driver, but the bus was already pulling away. I did manage to catch a glimpse of his face. He was smiling and pointing at something just steps from where I stood . . . I followed his finger to . . . To . . . The front door of my office building? But . . . How . . .

I stumbled to my desk, dropped my purse and the unused umbrella on the floor and slipped into my chair. But I stood right back up. Charging to my office door, I banged it closed, and then I depressed the intercom button on my phone. “No calls for the next hour!” I said to my secretary. “I’m working on something!” Then I released the button and slumped back into my chair.

I was exhausted, thoroughly exhausted. Yet I was at work, and when I checked my watch, I realized that I was even about 10 minutes early. Without even telling the driver where I was going, he had stopped right in front of my office building. In fact, he had taken a more direct route to get here than I usually took when I drove! I . . .

Scenes from the trip on the bus now flitted across my memory . . . That driver . . . He struck me as being familiar . . . Like I’d met him before . . .

A horn sounded in the street. I idly glanced up to see what the commotion was all about, surprised that I now had to squint against the bright morning sunshine. There, just outside my window, was the bus. The same one that had brought me to work. The door was open, and I could clearly see the driver strapped in his seat.

He looked me straight in the eye as his mouth spread into a beautiful smile. He began to speak, and though there was a window between us, I could hear his words clearly: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30 NIV)

Then he raised one hand from the wheel and held it, palm-up, towards me.

I gasped!

He winked, closed the bus door, and the bus was gone.

Tears began streaming down my face as the image of that upraised palm filled my mind, and the realization slowly dawned on me. That palm contained one gruesome scar . . . Right in the middle . . . A nail print . . .

I closed my eyes right then and there. “Father,” I whispered through my tears, “if you are still willing to drive my bus, I promise to sit in the back and enjoy the ride!”

Lyn Chaffart

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