Last week this column turned three years old. I've lost track of how many bus or bus stop stories I've written about over this period of time — probably about 10 or so. You're about to get another one.
This happened on a Tuesday morning maybe three weeks ago. It was around 7 in the morning and I remember it being fairly warm. I usually catch the No. 17 in front of Columbia Savings on Ludlow Avenue.
As I approach the bus stop, I notice two girls talking to a guy who has pulled up in his beat-up brown Ford minivan. As I got closer, the minivan pulls into the CVS parking lot next door.
I light up a cigarette and take notice of the girls. They're young, probably high school students, I'm guessing.
Both have long, black hair and are kind of short. The girl wearing the hearing aid is thinner than the other one. I think they're Mexican.
I hear a car door slam, and in looking to my right, I see a man approaching the bus stop. I'm not sure why, but I know it's the guy who was driving the beat-up minivan.
He also appears Mexican to me and he starts talking to the two girls. I think the language he's speaking is Spanish. He's also short and he's wearing a heavy brown sweater. He has a couple teeth missing in front and needs a shave. He's talking excitedly to the girls.
He's asking them questions but I don't know what they are, because I don't understand Spanish. The girls look uncomfortable, keep looking down at the sidewalk. They're answering his questions, again I think in Spanish, but I don't think they're feeling too happy with his being there.
I keep smoking my cigarette and keep looking at them — these two girls and a guy. The guy takes notice of me every so often, but I keep staring anyway. I'm sensing he's up to no good.
Their conversation turns quiet for awhile. The man looks past the girls, looks down Ludlow Avenue where the bus should be coming from Northside. It's already two minutes late.
The man starts asking more questions but this time the girls aren't answering. They just keep looking down at the sidewalk. I put out my cigarette and step a little closer to them.
I look to my left and see the bus coming. It's picking up passengers a block up from us. The man takes notice of this, too.
The man asks the girl with the hearing aid a question. When she doesn't answer, he grabs her arm and she doesn't seem pleased about it.
"Buddy, I'm getting on the bus with these two girls," I say.
The man looks at me and I think he says something like, "This is not your business."
"I'm making it my business," I say, coming between him and the girls. "I don't think these girls want you talking to them."
The man becomes angry and his face starts to turn red.
"You want to fight?" he says with his voice raised.
"Not really," I reply. "I just want to get on this bus, and that's what these girls want, too."
The bus approaches our stop. I stand back and the bus door opens. The two girls get on and I soon follow. The redness in the man's face is gone and his mouth is open. As the bus pulls away, he's still standing there on the sidewalk.
The two girls take seats in the front, and so do I. They stare at me and I smile at them, which makes them look away quickly. I notice they say nothing to each other on the ride to downtown.
When I think about that morning waiting for the bus and those two girls being approached by the guy in the minivan, I'm thinking he wanted the girls to go with him, that there was something sexual going on. Rape comes to mind but I could be way off base here, because I don't understand Spanish. For all I know, the man could have been their brother, and maybe I was interfering in some kind of family business.
I'll probably never know the answer to this. I've been at that bus stop since then at the same time in the morning and haven't seen the girls again.
Bus stories: I gotta million of 'em.
Larry Gross' book, Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Stories, is in bookstores now or can be ordered through Amazon.com. Check out the Living Out Loud Blog at http://theoutloudblog.wordpress.com/