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I woke up on the bus. It was silent, unmoving. I was right across from the driver’s seat, so I had an unobstructed view out the windshield. I was not looking out on the expected scene of night streets of New York City. I felt a moment of dread. I must have fallen asleep and slept past my stop, and now I appeared to be in a parking garage.
It was a Friday evening, and I had had conflicting social obligations in different boroughs. One group of friends on the Upper East Side was hosting several Japanese friends whom I hadn’t seen in a year or two, and there was no way I could miss that party. The other party was a house-warmer for my former roommate, who had just moved into her own apartment near mine in the Bronx. I felt obliged to be there as well. The Express Bus was my answer: a more expensive alternative to the subway, but much safer, and a direct ride from the UES to my neighborhood in the Bronx; no train switching, no riding with weirdos in the night. Since my grandmother lived in a nursing home in the UES, I took the Express Bus at least once a week after visiting her, so I knew how great it was.
After work, I headed up to the East Side. My friends’ party was lively and fun, and I stayed longer than I intended, catching up with people. When I left, it was already late, and I was a little tipsy. I got on the bus and paid my fare, and settled down on the passenger side front seat. Likely, I fell asleep before we left Manhattan, and now I was completely lost and disoriented. This was before cellphones, and I had no idea where I was or what time it was.
Fortunately, the bus door was open, although I am still amazed that the driver exited the bus and left me sleeping there (clutching my work bag and purse even in my sleep). I got off and followed the sound of some voices to a group of workers who appeared as surprised to see me as I was to be there. I explained that I had fallen asleep and didn’t know where I was.
“You’re in Yonkers,” volunteered one man helpfully. Unfortunately, I didn’t know Yonkers, nor did I have any ideas about how I could get home. I felt like crying but tried to focus on solutions.
“Where do you live?” asked another fellow.
“Kingsbridge?” I said tentatively. “West 230th Street?”
“I go right by there on my way home. I’ll take you,” said the man.
My relief was intense. It was well after midnight when he dropped me off in front of my apartment. He even waited until I made it up the stairs and got into the building before driving off.
I ran up to the third floor (a 1920s walkup) and knocked on my friend’s new apartment door. My friend and her boyfriend were yawning, clearly waiting for me to get there since there were two guests who wouldn’t leave until I arrived. One was my best friend, who had brought a fellow he was close with in college but I barely knew, a nice guy named Papa Toad. I had recently adopted two cats, and my friend practically pushed us all out the door to head up to my apartment and meet them so she could get to bed. We went upstairs to my apartment, where I introduced them to my two new adopted cats and we hung out all night long. The nice guy and I really got along well. A little more than a year later, I married that nice guy, with our friend as our best man, and we’ve been married for 23 years now.
Thank goodness for that lovely bus driver. I thought I’d ruined my evening, but I’d hit the jackpot. I wish I’d gotten the man’s name, or contacted the bus company to thank him, but I didn’t. I bless him often, and my children and husband know that I hold him responsible for much of my life’s happiness.