We waited at the bus stop in downtown Columbus for two hours for a bus that never came, and in that time we invited four people into our van to shelter against the 14 degree weather. Logan was a student at UC, Taylor was a student at Xavier, and the young couple was moving to Florida and needed to connect to the bus to Atlanta at 10 pm. The girls sat in the back of the van, in the empty space that should be filled by the bench currently taking up real estate in the kitchen, and Isabel, who has taken to carrying around an adventure bag just like Eleanor does, produced a pack of cards and dealt Logan into the game.
The bus should have left at 6:15. At 6:14 -- I know because I was racing against time, still two exits down the highway -- my mom looked at the message that popped up on her phone and said, "Well, you don't need to rush." The bus was going to be 60 to 90 minutes late. They couldn't have figured that out earlier? But we had a full tank of gas, so we parked the huge van by the sidewalk where the bus to Cincinnati would pull over, and we waited.
And waited. And waited. And eventually, other people's rides couldn't wait anymore. First Logan with his backpack, out on the sidewalk facing down the bitter cold, an hour after the bus had been scheduled to leave. We shuffled around in the van to make room, and I ran over and invited him to sit with us and keep warm. He'd been thinking about asking if he could come in, he said, but he'd seen the car seats and thought we were full.
About ten minutes later, another car pulled off leaving the young couple. I sent the girls to the trunk space to make room and ran over to invite them in to. At first I thought they wouldn't come, and it stabbed me through to see them sitting there on their luggage, wrapped together in a thin blanket. But after a few moments they came over and tapped on the door, and we let them in as well. The card game in the back was getting into full swing, and the girls were telling Logan about their five imaginary older siblings and inducting him into that august company. I started making calculations about the latest we'd need to leave if we just decided to drive the van down to Cincinnati ourselves so that the couple could catch their bus on time. We'd be short a seat or two, but the girls could double up, or maybe people could just sit in the open space on the floor, and we'd stay the night at my mom's and drive back Saturday morning...
The 90 minutes had almost gone when another young guy walked up the block and stood waiting right in front of the van. I shoved one of the booster seats on top of the other and invited him in too. He'd heard something about a wreck, a fifteen- or twenty-car pileup on I-70 that had shut down the highway. Someone had died.
A bus finally pulled up at 8:15, ten minutes after our passengers had been scheduled to arrive in Cincinnati. It wasn't our bus, but the later one. I waited until I saw everyone safely seated before I left. On our way home we prayed a chaplet for the safety of our travelers: Grandma, Logan, Taylor, the couple, Daddy flying home from California on Sunday. It was late when we arrived home, and everyone collapsed in bed, leaving me downstairs alone in the big quiet house, thinking about those who were stuck in a bus to Columbus somewhere on I-70, and those who were never coming home this evening, and those of mine away from me.
My mom called two hours later. That last bus didn't have the students' scheduled stop at UC like the earlier bus did, and the temperature had dropped to the single digits at the parking lot in the middle of nowhere that was the Cincinnati stop. My brother, good sport that he is, was driving the guys up to their crosstown campuses before taking Mom home. "I heard one of the guys telling his friend on the phone, 'I'm riding with the same people I was waiting with earlier'," Mom said. "Anyway, just wanted to let you know that we got in safely."
May we all stay safe and warm tonight.
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