Brush with 'The Bus'

Brush with 'The Bus'


Brush with 'The Bus'

History and myth are replete with comparisons. The one about David and Goliath, wherein David, a young boy, kills the giant Goliath, with a stone, is well known. This story, however, is of a slightly different flavour.

Rewind 12 years of my life to the busy Atlanta International Airport in the US. Being an enormous airport, it required passengers of a high IQ just to solve the jigsaw puzzle that was the terminal floor-plan to find their boarding gate. Literally on the run lugging my luggage, I snaked my way through busy escalators and lifts like a video game character. Out in the countless hordes, a figure caught my attention.

He was a tall, African-American man in long shorts and a T-shirt. His biceps seemed to be fighting his sleeves, attempting to avoid suffocation, while a fairly large duffle bag rested easily on his shoulder. His calf-muscles, bigger than both of mine put together, supported a frame that weighed twice as much as mine and stood a good 10 inches taller.

We were both making our way through the terminal. Even though the crowd parted like a shoal of fish as he hurried through it, he struggled to keep pace with me. Coming to a halt at the next screen, we were ‘brothers-in-arms’ fighting the complexities of the terminal together. Turning to me and smiling, he said, “Bro, whatz up? Which flight?” It was then that we realised that we were on the same flight, and had a considerable distance to cover.

As we ran shoulder-to-shoulder, I heard myself thinking, “Why did God make you so big that you can’t move your mass with ease?”  The last 250 metres to the gate was an unspoken race, and I scored a small moral victory by I finishing first, heading straight to the gate as he collapsed into a chair! I was laughing to myself thinking, “What a loser! He needs to get back on his feet if he has to catch the flight.”

A little later, I noticed his goliath frame surrounded by a small crowd. My intrigue was relieved by a fellow passenger, who cut in saying, “Jerome is a popular NFL player. He is nicknamed The Bus.” It failed to have any impact on me and I was content just waving my large friend goodbye upon reaching our destination.

The next day, my discussion at the office coffee machine revolved around my previous night’s experience. To my surprise, my colleagues hit out in unison with a single question: “Did you get his autograph?” My answer, an unemotional negative, ensured that I was chastised by their jeers for the remainder of the day.

Jerome Bettis is considered one of the greatest ‘running backs’ to have played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the football field, he ran like a raging bull once the ‘quarter-back’ had thrown the ball into his hands. His ability to carry multiple defenders on his back, much like a bus, earned him the nickname, ‘The Bus’. And to think that I have no validation of our shared experience.