“The Voice of Buses Past”

Ron Paul Curriculum, English 1, Lesson 20

Write 500 words on this topic: “What is the story that I remember the best? Describe it from memory. What was it that grabbed me? What did he do that made it grab me?”

Jim Lehrer, bus enthusiast, news reporter and editor, and television anchor, has lots of memorable stories in his autobiography. From his time as a reporter, to the Kennedy assassination, to his heart attack, to defining and refining national television. However, the last major story in his autobiography, and likely the biggest, gives the book it’s title: A Bus of My Own. Mr. Lehrer describes how the “Voice of Buses Past” had come, to tell him to go buy a bus, and that’s just what he did.

Finding a bus to buy was actually quite simple and painless, compared to his hunts for bus signs from American, and Dixie-Sunshine. The bus in question was a 1946 Flxible Clipper, located about a six hour drive from their home in West Virginia, and at a price of $6,500. He then put together, and successfully performed a presentation for his reluctant wife. It was important to get her on board with the idea. His most compelling appeal was the it’s-for-Dad line, considering 1946 was the year of his father’s bus company. Mr. Lehrer proceeded to negotiate with the man selling the bus, and they met at the half-way mark, between Bristol and Mr. Lehrer’s house, to complete the transaction.

Then came the potentially ironic fact that Mr. Lehrer had never driven a bus before. It makes sense, but even so comes as a slight shock to someone who has read the autobiography and understands his obsession with everything bus-related. While he was learning, it seemed uncertain exactly what condition the bus would come out in, especially when Mr. Lehrer grabbed the wrong emergency brake.

The drive back to their West Virginia house was not much safer. Mr. Lehrer was very inexperienced making turns and shifting gears, often going too wide or missing the second gear. He even got pulled over by a policeman, and had to explain the lack of license plates. (The original had expired, and he had needed to get temporary papers to make it legal)

Later, he also ran out of gas and had to refuel. When he tried to start the engine again, it didn’t work. My hypothesis is that the engine didn’t have any fuel to burn (it was all in the tank and maybe half-way through the pipes to the engine), so it couldn’t start itself, or a pump (If there was one). This answer would be even more relevant because it’s much less likely that bus engineers from 43 years prior (70 as of 2016) had figured out a solution to such a problem. Eventually, Mr. Lehrer finds two truck repair men who pull the bus to jump-start it’s motor.

The remainder of his journey was relatively uneventful. No scratched paint, no arrests, no more gas stops. At the end of his journey, however, he was terrified to turn off “Betsy II”’s engine, for fear that it would not start again. Nonetheless, he did it, and immediately tested it again. It turned on, and Mr. Lehrer hasn’t figured out since, what made it fail to start.

I think the main reason this story is entertaining and sticks out is it’s slightly tedious nature, and Mr. Lehrer’s overall great writing. The reader is going to wonder if he’s actually going to follow through with buying a bus, and after a glance at the book title, it’s clear: Jim Lehrer is going to buy A Bus of His Own. Then, from his first time in the driver’s seat, all the way home, the reader is thinking about the possibility that he will get stuck in a gully, or ram something on a wide turn. I think that his writing style and high levels of detail also greatly influence the reader’s level of interest. He’s written at least five books by the time of his autobiography’s publishing date. What are the chances, if any, that he hasn’t become significantly better than average? (The answer is that it’s certain he’s gotten better)

Overall, Mr. Lehrer’s story of obtaining A Bus of His Own is a very memorable one. His use of detail and uncertainty in his storytelling, as well as the climactic setting, keep the reader interested and flipping (scrolling) through the pages.


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