Conversations with Strangers: ‘The Parking Spot’ Bus Driver

Courtesy: The Parking Spot


I landed at LAX with a visible sour attitude. My return flight from San Francisco was extremely delayed. I could have drove home faster than waiting for my flight. Once we landed, I walked straight to the red courtesy sign and found the yellow checkered ‘The Parking Spot’ shuttle bus waiting. Relieved, I thought I could head out of the airport quickly and get home but instead the driver hung out at the curb to continue chatting with his other fellow shuttle drivers.

The name placard at the front of the shuttle read ‘Michael B.’ Michael finally jumped onto the shuttle, took the wheel and turned his attention to now chatting me up. For some reason, I’m a magnet for strangers wanting to share all kinds of personal and random information with me. While I love to hear great stories, it can be time consuming and occasionally overwhelming.

My driver started our ride by first describing all the meals and activities he had during his recent days off, “Gumbo one night, a four piece chicken meal combined with a Law and Order Marathon the next day.” He further continued, “McDonalds extra value meal to prepare for the big day back at the job.” Michael also explained his career resume as a retired Santa Monica Big Blue Bus driver with 25+ years on the job. He took his job very seriously and responsibly. To emphasize this point, when cell phones came around, he didn’t want to get into any trouble so he would tell the nice young lady in his life that she should only call during an emergency. He couldn’t be on the phone and drive the bus at the same time (obviously).

More importantly our conversation turned to his purposeful intent to set the tone of his relationships and emphasis surrounding managing expectations. In detail, Michael next shared how his nice young lady would call him around 9pm every night after he got off his bus shift. If Michael wasn’t too tired, he would keep up the phone conversation for about 15 minutes. He always made sure to let his lady friend know that he couldn’t stay on the phone too long because he still had to make and eat his TV dinner, take a shower and set out his clothes for the next day. But on the weekends, if he wasn’t too tired, he promised his lady friend a nice night out at Black Angus. Even better, when the weather was right he stepped up his game and took the two of them out to Knott’s Berry Farm or Universal Studio.

Luckily, LAX arrival traffic can be pretty horrible so Michael had enough shuttle time to extend the words of wisdom session with me. His insightful approach to dating emphasized keeping everything direct with the woman in his life: Be honest. If you ain’t feelin’ him, let him know. No games. Equally he too would let you know if he wasn’t feelin’ you.

He emphasized, “There are too many people in the world to get stuck on one person.”

No matter age or time, Michael still remained hopeful the right woman would come along. Here this man held faith of all the opportunities life brings around. On this one night Michael offered me unsolicited needed advice to just keep moving and rolling along. I may be arriving late and the journey long and complicated, but I will get where I need to be with patience and time.

Unbeknownst to Michael, our one shuttle ride gave me a reminder that life is full of risks, disappointments, joy and hope. I’m not saying that I found the cure for a heartache or the deeper meaning of life during one parking shuttle ride. But the short distance from the airport down Century was just enough time to remind me of the endless possibilities found in a simple meal, a simple conversation with a stranger and a good day at Knott’s Berry Farm is waiting around the corner.


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