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The bus just rumbled slowly past the house, and it brought back a fun memory that I thought I’d share.

A number of years ago I’d started following in my ancestor’s footsteps and was making bread – the kind out of wheat and yeast and stuff. My family all got together and decided that Christmas would have a theme, and so that year got a bread making machine, a 50 pound bag of flour, and a monstrous bag of yeast.

So I started making – well, baking bread with the machine.

You could set it in the evening with the ingredients, and then set the timer, and in the morning, my nose would rouse me from my slumber with the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house.

There are worse ways to wake up.

So I did that for awhile, and as with anything fun, eventually I got confident enough in what I was doing to share the bounty – so I decided to take some to work.

So one Thursday night I put all the ingredients in, set the timer, and went to bed, knowing that Friday morning I’d have freshly baked bread to take to work with me on the bus.

Oh, yeah, the bus. Taking a loaf of freshly baked bread wrapped in a towel onto a bus full of sleepy commuters wakes them right up… I could see people sniffing and trying to figure out where the smell was coming from. (the loaf was in a bag, wrapped in a towel, under my seat)

I was sitting right by the regular driver who had the window beside him open, drawing air out of the bus right past his nose, and once the bus was moving, he was surrounded by the freshly baked bread smell to the point where he would look around at every stop, trying to figure out where it was coming from.

So I told him I’d made some and was taking it to work.

We talked the rest of the trip about our moms and growing up and – well, talking about fresh bread made us feel, how coming home to that smell just made the whole day better, so before I got off, I asked him if he’d like some the next time I baked a loaf. I didn’t need to ask – the answer was obvious in his eyes.

“You like homemade jam? I have some grape jam from my mom that’s pretty good.”

He had to work hard at not drooling – it was clear that the combination would make his Monday morning something to look forward to, and he took one last deep breath as I got off the bus and headed to work.

Sunday evening came, and I set everything so it would be ready just in time to have the bread ready when the bus pulled up.

And I’d know when it pulled up, because that bus had one very squeaky brake, so I knew that when I heard that brake, I had about a minute to get out of the house and down to the bus stop before it pulled away.

But I’d miscalculated by a couple of minutes the night before, and I was just getting the bread out of the bread maker when I heard the squeak.

Oh no… I’d promised – and was counting down the time he’d normally be there waiting before he took off… I might be able to catch the next bus, but most important was catching this driver.

I got the bread and jam out of the fridge.

And heard the bus engine still idling.

I cut a slice of bread, nice and soft on the inside and crusty on the outside.

I heard the air brakes hiss.

I spread the butter on the bread, and it started to melt.

I heard the door hiss closed.

The bus kept idling – then started to take off, ever so slowly.

At that moment – I knew he’d been looking forward to that bread, so I ran to the window just in time to see the bus go by at about five miles an hour, and could see the driver looking up at the house, searching.

I waved the slab of bread at him, still without jam, and he saw it and stopped the bus.

In traffic.

Blocking everyone.

I grabbed a napkin, put the bread on it, slathered the jam on, grabbed my stuff, and ran out the door. He’d stopped just barely past the house. I ran down the driveway, and he’d opened the back door. I ran in, ran all the way to the front, and went down on one knee, presenting him the freshly baked bread and jam on a napkin like a knight might present a sword to a king.

His smile was worth it – and he took it gratefully.

I stood up, turned around, and the entire bus applauded.

I took a bow, then took a seat, and another Monday began.

With many smiles.

It was a fun enough story that I sent a note to Jean Godden, then a columnist for the Seattle Times who loved little tidbits like this – and she liked it enough to put it in one of her columns.

Eventually that driver was transferred to another route, and I didn’t see him again until one day years later I was at the Seattle Center with my son, and heard a voice, “Hey! Mr. Bread Man!” –

Turns out it was my old bus driver – who remembered that story after all this time. We talked, we laughed, and reminisced a bit.

Life had moved on for us both.  He was working for the Red Cross somewhere in Seattle, and I never got to know his name.

As for me? I was Mr. Bread Man.

And you know? I’m okay with that.

So wherever you are, Mr. Bus Driver, Mr. Bread Man hopes life has treated you well.

Tom Roush

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