If I hadn’t remembered the number painted on this bus, it would have been just any other old South Bend city bus. But because I remembered this bus’s number, coming across this photo brought back a memory.
I usually remember numbers because I hear a rhythm in them. It’s kind of annoying, actually. My dad’s 1976 license plate number was 71D7140, my first girlfriend’s phone number was 234-6448, my first middle-school locker combination was 6-44-40, my first credit card (account closed for more than 20 years, so don’t get any ideas) was 4302-3801-0157-6430. So it’s typical of me that I remembered bus number 2163 from 29 years ago.
I was 12 and I sang in the school choir. Practice began at 7 am, long before school buses came through my neighborhood. My parents did not believe in shuttling their children to activities. “If you want it bad enough,” Dad said, “you will find a way to get there.” So I set aside enough money from my allowance to ride the city bus to school on choir mornings. I walked to a bus stop in the dark at 6:30 a.m. three mornings a week.
Every day, it was the same driver. Almost every day he drove the bus with the number 2163 painted over the door. Every day, he picked up the same handful of riders, all going to various jobs. Nobody spoke, at least until the last of the other riders got off at the mall. Then the driver and I were alone for the last ten minutes before we reached the school, and we took to chatting those minutes away. It turned out that he was as much an old-car buff as I was. He told me he was hot-rodding an old Model A, and it was in parts all over his garage. I found the whole thing fascinating. So one morning when he was running ahead of schedule, he stopped his bus in front of his house, which just happened to be on the route. He lifted his garage door and gave me a quick look-see at his Model A. It was pretty cool.
The next year, my brother and one of his friends joined choir, too, and the friend’s dad drove us.
Yesterday, somebody commented on a photo in my Flickr space that shows a South Bend bus that looks like a trolley. I clicked to see that fellow’s photos. He’s a bus fan (there’s a quiet but thriving group of them out there!) and had this photo of an old South Bend bus in its final resting place, a northern Indiana junkyard. And there, over the driver’s window, is its number: 2163.