Saturday, December 30, 2006

A bus named Norma...

One of the most common modes of public transportation from one city to the next in and around the Panchoy Valley is the "Chicken Bus". Actually this is a term used pimarily by those that don't live here. The common name for Guatamaltecos is "bus". It took a while to figure why they had names like Esmerelda, Oellana, California, etc. The names reflect the different franchises for the "Chicken Bus" industry.

These vehicles are recycled school buses that take on a different life in Central America. In the Antigua area it is common to see the familiar yellow, Superior or Blue Birds still retaining their personal banner of which school system used to own them. Just recently I saw an old Hillsborough County School System bus blazing across the Antiguan cobblestone. At some point in time, these low tech mechanical marvels get an exterior face lift. A paint job which is nothing short of a cross between a tragic accident from "Pimp my Ride" and "The Partridge Family" road coach.

If you have been reading some of the
earlier blogs, you know that my primary mode of transportation is a motorcycle. I was taken by surprise one day. I had become familiar as to which side these rolling pieces of American history blew out their exhaust. I am convinced if these units will start, they qualify as mint condition, highly tuned Nascar buses; as such the cloud of black diesel soot has become the trademark of pride for their respective mechanics or the lack there of. These reminders of my childhood school memories typically exhaust to the right side of the bus. But not this day. Not this bus. Not this moment in time that I happened to be following behind a bus named Norma.

If I were a betting man, which I am not, I would say that she lured me into a false sense of security. Those mysterious short starts and stops. Each one drawing me closer, seeing my reflection in the chrome ladies on the mud flaps grow larger, only to find the entrapment. She stopped and I was closer than what was a good idea. Let's just say the four inch exhaust was now bigger than life on the left side of the bus, my side of the bus. I was pinned, no option, no ventilation mask.

Upon this reality, Norma made her move. To say these vintage modes of transportation take time to ramp up to speed is inaccurate. On this day, Norma was shooting for a land speed record; quick like a bunny, free like the wind. Have you ever seen the result of a big diesel engine flexing its horse power to fulfill the demand of an under payed driver scrambling to make quota? I have. It's not pretty. There was a specific balance in the relationship to the burning of my eyes and lungs relative to the density of the black cloud of exhaust encompassing myself and my motorcycle.

Not long ago I gave a message one Sunday that this little bit of insight became a real life example. Yet another lesson in humility. In Matthew 5:11 Jesus reminds us, "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "

As I was wiping my eyes to see if she had actually moved, this sick diesel aftertaste came over me. In that moment I understood in a regretful manner just what Christ was talking about. If any one was within the sound of my voice, they would have caught a glimpse of the darkness I learned about that day. It is times like this that can be either a time for deep self evaluation or a total embarrassment. For me it was both. As a result, I have a new sensitivity for the scent of diesel and a respect for keeping my distance from a bus named Norma.

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