I've ridden a lot of buses in my time. There was the one in India that was so crowded, I had to climb onto the top just to breathe. And then there was the bus ride in Italy when I was harassed by a couple of ornery chickens and an incontinent goat. I also will never forget the bus in South Africa that was practically commandeered by monkeys.
No matter how entertaining they were at the time, none can compare to my first ride on what I now call the Leisure Village Local.
In November, when I moved into Leisure Village, a 1,500-unit senior housing development in Ridge, I didn't even know bus transportation was provided to its residents. I was too busy renovating my condo, and the day after all the work was completed, I underwent surgery to repair a torn tendon in my left foot.
I was given a heavy hard cast that practically tethered me to the ground. I suddenly realized I was stranded. I couldn't drive because my car has a manual transmission, and I didn't want to keep imposing on friends to shop for me. So, I decided to try out the Leisure Village Local. A neighbor came and told me all about it.
"The bus will take you practically anywhere you would like to go," he said with confidence. He went to his condo and returned with a schedule.
"I'll be going to Walmart tomorrow," he said. "Why don't you come along to see what it is like?"
But, the next morning, my neighbor was not at the bus stop.
Undaunted, I stood with the support of my crutches and waited. Suddenly, the bus arrived. As I began to board, I discovered I was all by myself.
"Where is everybody?" I asked the driver.
"Oh don't worry," he responded. "Your help is on the way."
For some reason, he smiled as he said it. I didn't quite know what he meant. Then the bus approached another stop at the complex, and four women climbed aboard. They sat next to me and introduced themselves.
For the next 10 minutes, we told each other the stories of our lives. I felt like a fledgling emerging from its nest, with mother birds intent on protecting me at all costs.
A few minutes later, we arrived at the Walmart in Middle Island. As soon as we entered, one of my new friends showed me how to operate the motorized shopping cart. Another walked alongside the entire time, waiting to help if something was out of reach. One hour later, another insisted on carrying my bags onto the bus.
And the fourth woman carried my bags to my front door when we got back.
I thanked them all for their help, and told them I would see them soon.
I put away my groceries and took a nap to rest my foot. Two hours later, the doorbell rang. Hoisting myself out of bed, I grabbed my crutches and went to the front door. I found a brown paper bag. Inside was a giant bowl of chicken soup, and a note.
"Get well soon." It was signed, "Your guardian angels."
I rode the LVL two more times after my cast was removed, but didn't see any of my guardian angels. Maybe they're helping someone else, I thought. Or, maybe they flew south for the winter.
Reader Lou DeCaro lives in Ridge.