Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TRIP (10/18/18)
TITLE: Front Seat Views
By Linda Germain
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Airplanes and trains were costly. Enter one lumbering, multi-passenger transport with a racing-dog painted on the side. An advertisement encouraged us to leave the driving to them.
I climbed aboard in Los Angeles, settled down with a book, and tried not to think about the three long days and nights to my destination.
Does anything interesting ever happen in bus land?
Turns out, it does.
This particular bus took the southern route across Texas. That enormous expanse of flat land with stinky oil wells, tumbleweeds, and cattle can make a trip seem interminable.
I sighed in resignation and closed my eyes. In a short while, I realized we were pulling into a bus station in San Diego. It seemed a little soon to be taking a break, but the driver told all riders to “exit the coach.”
Coach? Like Cindy’s pumpkin? Wonder what happens at midnight?
After an obligatory visit to the facilities, I heard the static-filled call for passengers to board for all points east. Off I went as directed but stopped in my tracks at the unexpected expanse of navy blue uniforms in front of me.
More sailors were in one clump than any young, single woman could imagine. There was no way I could get through that mass of maleness and claim my favorite right front seat. It made me sick to think about the possibility of sitting in the very back and inhaling diesel fumes all night.
Bewilderment must have sent an S.O.S. that I needed to be rescued. Suddenly, the middle-aged driver appeared at my side and took my arm.
“Follow me,” he commanded.
In a no-nonsense voice, he boomed, “Make way! Move aside!”
That navy blue sea immediately parted as my Moses escorted me right through the middle to return to my preferred place to sit. After I was settled, a single file of silent sailors began to board.
Finally, the driver got on and scanned a clipboard. He leaned over with a twinkle in his eye and quietly informed me, “There’s twenty-seven.”
Needless to say, that dreaded eastward trek turned into a memorable adventure. In retrospect, subtle lessons about human nature abounded. I was too young to grasp that at the time.
One girl in the midst of a busload of servicemen can trigger evidence of engrained character traits; good and bad.
From the loud whispers, I gathered there was some kind of “lottery” going on for possession of the empty seat beside me. The vigilant driver, my hero, glanced in the rearview mirror and smiled. I felt safe.
A kind of doofus looking guy strode up the aisle and asked if he could sit where the view was better.
I made another concerted stab at reading. In a while, I heard his buddies yell at him, “Give us a chance! You’re not even talking to her.”
The power of squatter’s rights took hold as he folded his arms and refused to relinquish the coveted front seat.
Another lesson about humans, especially of the man kind.
To my relief, as if this were a scripted chick-flick, an adorable fellow commandeered the situation.
“Okay Smitty, my turn.”
I don’t know what he had on Smitty, but that spot was vacated in record time, and this talkative new seatmate plopped down to entertain me.
At one point, he turned to his naval brigade and barked an order. “Hey! Watch your language. There’s a lady present!”
White hat, handsome, and a gentleman too?
At a brief rest stop, this prince charming treated me to a cola. He told a friend, “I’ll be right back. Keep the crazies away from her.”
Before he had to change buses to head for his home in Oklahoma, we exchanged addresses. Since I was in school, and he was knee-deep in military stuff, after a couple of friendly letters any tenuous connection faded.
I learned a few things from that crew of sailors about pride, jealousy, control, protection, loneliness, and serendipity.
Most of all, I was reminded there really are a few good men who, whether or not they realize it, are obeying Scripture’s admonition to protect and respect.
Years ago, as I sailed along a Texas highway on a big gray bus, I was blessed to meet two of those men. One was in the Navy.
If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
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