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Bus Voyage

Oooooh, squeal of tires!

When a girl finds herself forced to live in a bus for a year, the least she can do is throw a fabulous going away party. Besides, one must always look for occasions to wear one’s boa.

We and the Vanture guys invited all our friends and neighbors (except for the buttheads who called the police and had us ticketed when we parked in front of our own house to pack - you know who you are. And, oh, by the way, so sorry about the college students renting our house...) as well as everyone who worked on the bus. We got plenty of snacks and even more plentiful booze (these were mostly our friends, after all). Chris and John surprised us with what I think was the sweetest, albeit shortest lasting gift we’ve ever received: a case of our own “vintage” wines complete with a picture of our bus on the label.

Tim and I were busy greeting guests at the entrance to Vanture’s wherehouse, when one of our friends came over, and a bit timidly asked to see the bus. It was clearly in an adjacent garage bay, but Tim gamely shrugged and took him over for a private tour. It was only when he got to the passenger’s side that Tim realized what the fellow’s hesitation had been: there was a line. A long one. By then, 125 people had showed up to the party. What I found even more astounding than the sheer volume of people, was that every single one of them wanted to get into the very bus that I couldn’t wait to get out of.

I, of course, regaled everyone with horror stories of what I had endured on our meltdown cruise. Judy, our otherwise lovely mailwoman, had read about my bus phobia on this blog and offered, “Well, you can always put on your tombstone, ‘She left the driving to him.’” Now I understand how the term, “going postal” came into being. In general, the rest of my friends were very supportive and tried to make me feel better, with variations of “I’m sure you’ll get used to it,” and “all the bugs are certainly worked out by now,” and “what an adventure!” But, seeing my hands shake and my lips quiver whenever the words, “bus,” “road” or for that matter, “hi there!” were uttered, they would usually resort to leaning in close and urging, sotto voce, “get Tim to hypnotize you.” Such wonderful friends, except...

For some reason, our neighbor, Jackie Thompson, seems to share my bus phobia, even though I’ve never seen anything but a perfectly lovely car parked in front of her house. When I related my fear of overpasses, rather than try to reassure me as all my other friends had, that, of course, highway bridges are all high enough to accommodate our Prevost, Jackie instead, exclaimed, “Oh, no! Of course there’s less room than the signs say! When they pave the highways, they don’t take away the asphalt that’s already there. They ADD to it!” I gave her a wide-eyed look and asked, “Did Bob make you live on a bus, too?” Of course, her husband never had, but Jackie’s Australian, so maybe that explains something.

Chris and John have their own band and play occasional gigs around town. Several months before the meltdown cruise, when I was not yet feeling homicidal about the whole bus thing, I asked if they’d be willing to back me up if I sang a song as a surprise for Tim. They were thrilled to do something nice for my husband (as I wrote in my Project Nerd entry, he has that effect on people), and they got Kirby and Manny from their shop to play keyboard and drums, respectively. John’s adorable 18 year old daughter (and, you heard it here, first; future American Idol winner) Katie, sang back up. We practiced a couple of times and it all went well, but still, I had never sung in front of anyone before.

Chris, as lead guitarist, had arranged that when his band warmed up, he’d bring Tim and me over to say a few words to the crowd. Tim started with a hysterical monologue about building the bus and then learning to operate it, in which he thanked his driving instructor, Robin Labelle, for her gentle ways. He explained, “If I did a turn properly, she’d say, ‘nice turn… you wound up in the lane in the right position,’ if I screwed up a turn, she’d say, ‘good entrance into that turn,’ and if we nearly hit a lamppost, she’d say, ‘nice application of the turn signal.’”

When Tim finished, Chris turned to me, and as arranged, I pretended to be terribly nervous speaking in front of all those people. In fact, it wasn’t so hard to pretend: I had had a terrible fear of public speaking for most of my life. In college, in fact, if a class, no matter how small, required some sort of presentation, I would simply drop it.

When my first book (of course I’m going for the shameless plug, wouldn’t you?) I Know You Really Love Me came out and I was sent on a book tour, I had no choice but to speak or squirm. After two appearances on Larry King Live (and no, that’s not a plug. Larry doesn’t need me to plug his show… and what’s with that, anyway?) and a couple of keynote addresses to thousands of people, I found that I actually liked being in the spot light. As Tim starting lamenting, “my wife, the media whore.”

So now, at our party, I found it easy to get into the moment: I hemmed and hawed so convincingly that I even had Tim fooled. (He told me later he started getting really uncomfortable for me, until he remembered, “Wait a minute. My wife… shy?”) Even Chris, who had been in on it all, felt compelled to step in front of me and helpfully comment, “Just say it like I’m the only one here.” Nice ad lib, Chris. Now, get out of my spotlight. When I determined that I was making the audience uncomfortable enough and that no matter how I sang, it would be a relief compared to what they had already endured, I grabbed the mike, turned to the band and commanded in my best gravelly voice, “Join in any time, boys.”

To the tune of the Pointer Sister’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s Fire.

I’m riding in your bus.
You turn on the radio.
You’re pulling me close.
I say I don’t like it,
But, you know, I’m a liar.
‘Cause when you brake…
Oooooh, squeal of tires.

Late at night,
You’re drivin’ us home.
I say, “Park in a Wal-Mart,”
But, you’re in the zone.
I say I don’t love bus life,
But, you know, I’m a liar.
‘Cause when you brake…
Oooooh, squeal of tires.

It had a hold on you right from the start.
How could I compete with that Series 60 tart?
Live in it a year?
I said I’d never agree,
Until those four magic words…
In motion satellite TV.

Ralph Kramden and Otto.
And now my Tim.
My new motto
Is leave the driving to him.
But, my words, they’re lies.
‘Cause when you brake…
Oooooh, squeal of tires.

Oooooh, squeal of tires.
Hot bumper over tires.
Aluminum wheels on tires.
New lug nuts with tires.
Skid marks from tires.
I like the way you’re drivin’ now… tires.
Take me home to tires.

If you’re sorry you missed our show, you can catch us soon at a Wal-Mart near you.

Obviously, after the meltdown cruise, I had considered revising the lyrics somewhat, but all of my creative energy was going toward convincing myself that it was all a bad dream, that I was not weeks away from giving up my house, my social life, the vast majority of my clothes, every one of my designer purses (well, except for the Chanel -- they're back in this year) and possibly my life to… OK. I’ve whined enough about this elsewhere, even for me.

Katie then surprised us with a song written by her father, to the tune of Amazing Grace. They even shined the lyrics on a wall so everyone could join in.

Amazing bus so tall and proud
A sight so fine to see.
It once was used to haul a crowd,
But now it breeds envy.

‘Twas not so far or long ago
that this was just a whim.
Through many high and troubled times
It came to life for Tim.

Doreen did wonder long and hard
Would this a folly be?
It proudly parks in her front yard
A sight for all to see.

Amazing bus it’s finished now
And it’s a home for them.
A wondr’ing life they’ll lead somehow
And love this rolling gem.

Toward the end of the evening we wrapped the “Name Our Bus Contest.” We had put up a bulletin board with small squares of paper at the entrance to Vanture, explaining that whoever wanted to enter said contest should write down their brilliant idea for a bus name on one side and their own on the other, tacking the bus name side up (we didn’t want the judges to be unduly influenced). After a couple of hours, Tim and I took the bulletin board down and conferred in the Vanture conference room. Names like, “Boris” and “Fred” were quickly discarded. We also disqualified “Paradocs” as too many people would share in the prize. Personally, I liked “Crosswalk Killer,” but Tim, who within nanoseconds of thinking up the idea for the contest had decreed himself head judge, demurred. Finally, it was down to my friend Sheryl’s, “Wheels of Justice (Tim’s last name – Justice, not Wheels) and the eventual winner, “Princess Lines,” by our friend, Jane Ann, a woman who, although she worked with Tim for years at the hospital, obviously knows his wife quite well. The prize? To christen the bus, of course. As Tim put it, “Christening is obviously a Christian activity, and in trying to be sensitive to my wife’s being Jewish, I decided to be culturally aware and use Mogan David wine, or as we called it when I was growing up, Mad Dog 20/20.” After a first unsuccessful attempt, (oh, Lord, please not an omen) Jane Ann was able to break the bottle on the front bumper. As the fortified wine ate slowly into the cement, Manny stared forlornly at the spot just christened and sighed, “I’m gonna have to fix that, Monday.”

Comments (2)


Great party! Thanks for the invite.


Really enjoyed the party.
Bon (or Bus?) Voyage!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 26, 2004 4:35 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Gilligan's Remix.

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