Monday, September 1, 2014

A Brief History of the Bus*

*with apologies to Stephen Hawking!

Consider the implications loaded into that one tiny word: bus.

As we learned throughout the tumultuous political campaign of Barack Obama, it was something to be "thrown under". I myself, when talking about the uncertainty of the future, sometimes tell people I could get "hit by a bus". But, then, why does it have to be a bus?? Of all the modes of transportation available to us, taxi, subway, train, plane, motorcycle or streetcar, what is our singular fascination with the bus?

Sometimes, as a metaphor of bad things happening to other people, I speak of hitting a "busload of nuns". Some speak of disaster as a "busload of nuns going over a cliff"! When some people want to express their opinion of your low intelligence, they speak of you riding on the "short" bus. What is the commonality of all these metaphors but the lowly bus?

And in pop culture, if not for the bus, how would we ever have had a "Bus Stop"? The Partridge Family drove a bus. Sandra Bullock had a close encounter with her own bus. The word "Greyhound" as in bus, is the subject of any number of jokes and songs.

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When Ray Nagin was mayor of New Orleans, he was criticized for not utilizing the fleet of buses he had to evacuate the city during hurricane Katrina. Who can forget the image of those poor drowned buses??

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Perhaps our fascination with the bus, lay in it's similarity to another short word: buss, which  means to "kiss", but in Welsh and Gaelic it is..."bus".

Could it be that part of our association of the bus with our own mortality is the proverbial "kiss of death"?  Inquiring minds want to know...

Editor's note: Virtually no thought or research has gone into this post, I merely found it interesting. And doesn't Marilyn look nice?


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