Nothing: Part 30

[Note: Possibly of no interest to anyone else]

I am an unabashed eavesdropper.  I love listening in while pretending I couldn’t care less about what’s being said around me.  There is something so thrilling about overheard conversations even if the most mundane things are being discussed.

If each stage or each day of our existence is like a single bead or gem, several of which have been strung together on a thread of memories, in an elegant necklace defining our existence, then overheard conversations certainly reside within the interstices.

I usually sit on the very first seat of my bus on the way back home because the other front seaters are usually the ones who love chatting with each other and with the driver.

A few weeks ago the front seat occupants were two women who were returning to New Jersey after a day spent in New York City.  I soon learned, from listening to their chatter, that they were school bus drivers by profession.  They were so excited at being passengers in a bus that wasn’t painted bright yellow and where they weren’t doing the driving.  Throughout the ride they kept comparing notes on the equipment, asking the driver what the various buttons and controls on his dashboard were, marveling at his cushioned seat which he was smug enough to inform them was made by the same company that supplied airlines with the seat used by the pilots.  They adored the smoothness of the turning angles; something their bright yellow tin could never achieve and the quiet passengers who never needed to be disciplined.  Of course that theory was soon blown to bits when the driver had to grab his microphone in order to silence the obnoxious cell phone chatterer in the back.  They said they were tempted to drive our bus just to see how different it felt.  I was stunned at the level of palpable excitement they were emanating.  The bus driver did have to concede a point to them: the school bus ladies had the POWER! The power to stop all other traffic short simply by extending the long arm of the bus that ends in the sign that reads “STOP”.

I never knew that a bus could have such an effect on people! But then again, I have never been a school bus driver, so how would I know, how would I even begin to grasp the sheer thrill?

Yesterday I sat with a woman who appeared to be a good friend of the driver who was taking us home.  Their conversation was a treat.  They were talking about another driver they knew who was thinking of retiring.  The woman wanted to know why he would consider the retirement option since he was young enough.  She asked the driver, “What would he do? Sit on the porch, read a book?”

Here I was thinking to myself, “Hmm, I wouldn’t mind either one of those options given how my days have been blurring into each other, retaining no distinction, no shape, leaving not a trace of having been lived.”

The driver replied, “Well he could do anything, he has enough saved up.  He could live.  He could get a girlfriend, move to Florida, anything he wants.”

The woman replied, “I don’t know what I would do if I retired.  For me the best place to retire would be New York City.  That is my dream.  Why would anyone want to retire anywhere else? No other place makes sense.  You never have to drive you can go wherever you want, walk anywhere, do anything you want, restaurants, parks, theater, movies – all within easy reach.  I would be so happy here.”

The driver concurred and said this was his dream too.

I thought of all the places I had considered for my own post-retirement days – Quebec City, San Francisco, Vancouver – specifically Victoria or Paris.  I was much younger when those choices were made.  I was seduced by the breathtaking, seductive beauty of those cities.  But now that I heard the driver and the woman discuss New York City I felt my inner voice saying, “Of course, New York is such an obvious choice, it seems like a no-brainer! Who wouldn’t want to retire here, I love it so much I even like coming back on the weekends when I don’t have to be here for work.”

The conversation then moved on to their favorite Broadway plays.  Les Miserables, Beauty and the Beast, Phantom of the Opera topped their lists.  The woman said that a close friend of hers had played both the Beast and Gaston in the B’way production, over a period of several months.  This certainly is the type of information that makes one exclaim, “oh wow, really” even if one doesn’t know the person who said this nor her friend.  We are always eager to lap up all instances of discovery when it comes to “six degrees of separation”.

The topic of theater segued into what was for me the most interesting tidbit of the evening.  The driver shared some history of the bus line that serves as a mobile shelter for me for at least a third of my day.  I won’t mention the name because every time someone wants to search for L Buses they will be directed to my blog. (These people would be searching for bus schedules or something, in a hurry, and Google would unceremoniously dump them on my blog).

So, it seems this bus line was started by someone who had a Mexican wife who was a showgirl on Broadway.  He used to drive her to Manhattan and back everyday.  Soon enough there were several women from Mexico in Dover, NJ who were showgirls who needed to commute to and from Manhattan on a daily basis and at all odd hours.  This was the spark that led to the idea of L Buses which number in the hundreds now and originate at the Dover, NJ terminal.  That’s where they are returned every night where they are cleaned inside and out and put back on the road every morning.  The operation is gigantic and is now run with supreme efficiency by the daughter of the considerate, bright and resourceful founder and his beloved showgirl wife.  She runs the bus line with her husband and her own daughter stops by to help with the paperwork although her true passion lies in becoming a veterinarian.

Interesting! At least to me.  Learnt something I never knew, never would have known if I hadn’t been so fond of eavesdropping.  Is it useful information? Maybe not, although it would make for interesting small talk with other passengers some day when we’re waiting for a bus and are chatting about nothing in particular. 

It is an enchanting interstitial event.


  1. Lovely! Had so much fun this morning, reading about all the conversations you eavesdropped on. I love listening on to other people's conversation too, and am not very good at pretending that I am not listening either. Creates some very embarrassing moments for my daughter. πŸ™‚

  2. Loved this Pragya! This is NOT nothing. This is interesting stuff narrated so well. Like the package, a lot.

  3. Eavesdroppers, ahoy! I remember being told to eavesdrop by my tutor in NZ, if I wanted to get anywhere with my writing! So, I would sit in the front seat on the bus that took me from downtown AKL to my school every morning, and a Chinese woman who was a friend of the routine bus driver would have interesting, sometimes "wow" worthy conversations with her. There were uptown girls in those stories who fell in and out of relationships, the swashbuckler "ad world" types who slept with models, and college students who had hefty pocket allowances, unlike she did in her own growing years. My "Devil Wears Liperazzi" story is loosely based on an eavesdropped conversation!So, you were wrong, it IS of great interest to other eavesdroppers and I'm glad you sat there, eavesdropped, and penned this down πŸ™‚ Great, fluid writing as always!

  4. So familiar! And I know even the exact seat! :))A pleasurable essay as always. You MUST publish that BOOK OF NOTHINGS, bestseller status guaranteed!

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