It feels so good to get back to the predictable routine once again. Since Spaceship’s been appearing pretty regularly , I had only a little fear on the possibility of Spaceship disappearing again.
I headed to the bus stop as usual. This time there’s no Irksomeface Grandpa (From this point onwards I’m going to stick to this name haha), there’s no random mak ciks, it’s just me, alone, feeling a bit jumpy because of yesterday’s coffee.
One good thing about this particular morning is that unlike the other mornings in the past few weeks, the sun was just glowing faintly. This was because it had rained last night. I miss this kind of weather, the kind of morning I remember having back when when I started boarding Spaceship for my morning rides to town. The past few weeks had been a bit too sunny so early in the morning.
Since it wasn’t as sunny as always, I was able to sit facing the road like how I’m supposed to actually be sitting all these while. There hasn’t been much changes in the progress of the road construction project. Nothing was noteworthy enough throughout those short minutes I spent waiting there.
And then came Spaceship at its usual time. I saw it stopping at the side of the road to pick up a passenger. That was quite a distance away from my stop, but I was very sure that it was Spaceship.
Since it seemed to be still far away, I didn’t rush to walk from the bus stop to the side of the new road. I made a mistake about this though. What I seem to have forgotten is that Ironedshirtman loves to speed.
The bus reached just right after I made my way to the side of the new road. It all happened so fast. Before I knew it, I already had a bus stopping right in front of me with its front door wide opened and now I was going to embark on a journey to town.
It was a wonderful sight, to see that the front seats were completely empty. I didn’t bother looking any farther beyond the first two seats because my Elite Passenger Club Member Seat was empty, and more importantly, the Elite Passenger Club Member Seat 2.0 was empty as well!
Without any hesitance, I took a seat at the Elite Passenger Club Member Seat 2.0, dug in the pocket of my trousers for the fare, and handed them over to Ironedshirtman who was already getting back into the lane, multitasking between driving and holding out his hand, ready to accept my money.
I’m not sure whether that seat made all the difference, but today’s ride was a thousand times more enjoyable compared to the rest. It wasn’t that anything special had happened, but I do admit that that seat makes you feel special in a way. No wonder Ping guy used to like that seat so much.
What’s even better was that no one, no one at all took that frontmost Elite Passenger Club Member Seat, the one in front of me. When I saw pak ciks approaching, I repeated the matra in my head, don’t sit near me, don’t sit near me, and quite remarkably, no pak ciks were interested in that frontmost seat. It was only until many stops later that a woman chose that seat, and when she started playing a 90’s rock ballad on her phone only then I realised I’ve seen this woman before. She was on that seat for a very brief moment though, because her stop wasn’t so far away. I didn’t mind her sitting there. Her music choice was good. She had all the rights to sit near me and blast the stereo loud.
An old man who boarded at the little town of __th Mile asked Ironedshirtman, “Berapa kali jalan?” (How many trips?) and Ironedshirtman answered him, nicely adding a brief hearty laugh at the end. This classic response ending with a brief hearty laugh is one of Ironedshirtman’s signature habits. I imagine him being 80 and replying to people with brief hearty laughs. Maybe I should start copying this type of response.
I didn’t care to listen to my own music this time. Just staring blankly ahead was enough, listening to Spaceship’s engine and how the whole bus squeaks and the windows rattle. I was on my favourite ride, the weather’s just nice, nothing else mattered.
Today it was a bit different though, the moment we were approaching the main station. Instead of sticking to his usual route, Ironedshirtman made a turn to enter the station from the front road. At this particular moment, the lady behind me asked for my help to press the bell. I did it a bit too gladly, because it’s things like this that makes me feel like I’m not just living and wasting life resources. I am a contributor to the society. The lady said thanks, and I answered ‘OK’, which made me realise that perhaps this is why bus drivers always answer ‘OK.’ It really is just an automated response, already there by default. I’d prefer to give a ‘No problem’ or a ‘You’re welcome,’ but the moment that ‘OK’ slipped out of my mouth, I swear I wasn’t thinking much.
I was the last to leave the bus again when we arrived at Jalan Masjid. This time, with a mixture of a careful thought and a larger amount of spontaneity, I stopped and just did what I’ve always wanted to do: Ask about Squeeks and Pak Cik.
“Boss,” I called out.
I hate myself for calling Ironedshirtman as Boss, I really do. I used to call him Encik. That was a thousand times better. Calling him boss makes me feel like an uneducated street kid.
Ironedshirtman seemed to know I was about to ask him something. “Pak Cik nak pukul _.__ ya, nak dari Kuching sitok ke Serian, bas -Squeeks’ plate number-, nya sikda turun Kuching gik kah?” I asked. It was actually longer than that. I couldn’t remember my own words verbatim. It felt longer than that, because Ironedshirtman was listening intently, not cutting my words, not looking elsewhere or being distracted. And he knew who I was talking about. I told you this man looks more like a teacher than a bus driver.
I got the answer that I needed. Squeeks is still alive, Pak Cik is still driving buses. It’s just that today he’s not sure whether Pak Cik could be making trips down to Kuching. I loved Capman’s answer and how he added jokes in his, but I like Ironedshirtman’s answer better. He explained to me the reason of this whole unpredictable schedule.
And he also ended it all with his signature brief hearty laugh.
I said mak seh with my little signature half bro-wave. It was surprisingly easy to ask that question, and I don’t get why on earth didn’t I just ask Ironedshirtman earlier. I’ve been dying to ask about Pak Cik and Squeeks since May. Now that I’ve known the answer, I think I can stop worrying because I’m pretty sure there will be a day when the routine will get back to normal.
And that was my one hundred and fifty-second ride of the year.
Seat: EPCM Seat 2.0
Weather: Just nice.