The first clue you might be getting on Boo-ya’s bus is that it actually stops for you. Lately it seems a minimum of two busses must pass you up before you actually get picked up. The scheduled says every eight minutes, the busses arrive every half hour, and if you ask the bus driver they get snappy and blame the system. Its hard to figure out where the blame lies, a system that takes a grant from the federal government and spends it on Ford F-150 ‘work vehicles’ for favored employees while bus drivers steer ships that rain inside and grind so loud you fear you may not make it to the next stop or bus drivers that stop at Church’s Chicken for a lunch while all their fumming patrons sit outside calling whomever to inform them why they will be late this time.
But then the bus door opens, and you see that smooth and bright 65% dark chocolate smiling face, uniform clean and perfect, hat covered in pins, body posed like a 1950’s tour driver, with his fist extended. “Boo-ya baby!”
I bump his fist and exclaim how good it is to see him, taking my seat quickly to make room for the other folks excited to get out of the cold. The atmosphere is relaxed and celebratory, another rider gets on with his groceries and Boo-ya exclaims “You got some goodies in that bag! Breakfast baby, Boo-ya!” Everyone laughs and the usual silent tension and one seat gap between riders doesn’t survive here.
I like to ride the bus. Its always an adventure. Sometimes it takes too long, sometimes you have a rude condescending bus driver who messes up your night by refusing you to drop you at your stop and dragging you all the way from Ferndale to the Cass Corridor even though you meant to get off at seven mile, sometimes the bus is loud and friendly, sometimes its quiet and anxious, sometimes rappers are battling in the back and drinking beers out of paper bags, and sometimes you’re on Boo-ya’s bus. Boo-ya lists off the landmarks. What other bus drivers call the Highland Park Shopping District Boo-ya calls “This Historic Model T Plant and Plaza.” At the next stop he picks up a regular. She says “What’s wrong with these Woodward buses?”
“I don’t know baby, Boo-ya’s here.”
When you get off Boo-ya’s bus he calls out “Boo-ya baby! Spread the love.”
The first time I met Boo-ya I didn’t take a seat. I stood next to him and talked to him the whole way to work. He told me about his years on these streets, how he loved his job, in spite of the system’s corruption, because he got to meet people and make them smile. I told him about my life in Detroit, my grandpa in the Packard Plant, the community garden some friends and I facilitate. I was enamored with the way he interacted with people. He said he was interested in the farm, and though I have a firm rule of never giving anyone on the bus my number, I gave it to him.
He called me a few days later, as my love and I were getting ready to leave work. I sat on the phone with him for a half hour, while he honestly poured his heart out. He said “I know you have a boyfriend but maybe if you ever think of leaving him I can take you on a date sometime.” He said he never met a white person he liked before. I was floored, I didn’t know what to think of the situation, some one I didn’t really know was on the phone confessing their love for me and their confusion about finding a white girl attractive let alone a white person being like-able. He said when I got off the bus his other patrons chastised him for chatting up “the white girl” (often times, I am the only ‘white’ person on the bus). I laughed, congratulating his honesty and bravery, thanking him for his compliments, trying to convince him to come hang out sometime and maybe he would find out there were other ‘white people’ he liked. He never called again and the next time I saw him I was boarding with my love, bundled up and unrecognizable. Its plagued me since then, the reaffirmation of the invisible wall between ‘white people’ and ‘black people’. Sometimes it seems non-existent, like when I’m sitting at the back of a bus arguing with some young kid about the quality of T-Pain’s music and an older gentleman cuts us off and says, “T-Pain ain’t got nothing on Eminem, if anyone is the greatest rapper of our time its him.” Or when a gentleman makes room for me and I thank him he says “You’re welcome Sista.” And then other times we get on the bus at Seven Mile or walk into the liquor store at the end of our street and everyone stares at us like we sprouted another head or something. Its seems on the whole I don’t see the wall nearly as much as I do, and I like to think these silly categories we’ve made out of race and sex and age are disappearing as minds open and our need for each other and community increase, and some day we will all be one tribe of Earthlings, human, animal, plants, and all one symbiotic unit aware of its togetherness and seperateness.
The truth is, of all the strangers that have ever confessed their love to me Boo-ya is the only one I would have ever taken up on the offer, and I wish all bus drivers were Boo-yas.