Our Sunday Best

Our Sunday best: London calling sidebar

By From page A5 | January 08, 2012

Behind the wheel

“You’re going to get a workout,” said Francisco Rodriquez despite the cold, windy day. He explains that the lack of power steering and the need for a heavy foot on the brakes would soon warm me up in the exposed “cockpit” of the bus.

A few decades back when I first got behind the wheel of my mom’s Dodge pickup, I had to calibrate my sense of position on the city street. To do so, I learned to line up the hood ornament with the street curb.

Now, as I hover over the position where that truck’s carburetor might have been, I have to make an adjustment to find my happy space within the lane. Luckily for now, I’m just driving around the Unitrans parking lot with no challenging obstacles.

Sure enough, my upper body warms up on the turns and my thigh feels the heat as I hold down the brake pedal after receiving a sudden signal to stop. Someone has apparently dropped her flag.

As I reflect on this tremendously unique piece of machinery, I realize there’s not much need for it here. Since there’s a difference in population density between the U.S. and England, there is greater need for vertical space in Britain.

I also am transfixed by this vehicle because it pulls me to the English half of my life. Like an asymmetrical painting — a small red dot in a vast white space — it has a mighty presence.

There’s a pure concentration of England in that bright red vehicle. As it draws my attention, it carries me to my youth — to the first time I can remember riding any bus — as I rode a London double-decker bus with my father in the late ’70s.

It pulls me back to him, to my family there, my cousins, my brother, to a place that is familiar yet still asymmetrically foreign to me.

Fred Gladdis

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