Chapter 1 The Bus Driver October 25, 2000 Simon Imagine your life as a championship football game. If you pick up a yard and scamper into the end zone, that gleaming Super Bowl trophy is yours. You're going to Disney World! That picture on the Wheaties box, it's yours! And most important, besides a trip to the White House and a downtown tickertape parade, you'll get the girl. All it takes is a yard. Thirty-six measly inches. And your life will be forever changed. But the linebacker on the other side of the ball isn't having it. He could care less about the trophy. He hates parades. And as far as he's concerned, Disney World is an overblown Florida swamp inhabited by a cartoon rat with size-nineteen feet. You and he couldn't be more different. You're playing for the whole bag of chips, but his purpose is single-minded. He wants the girl. The whistle blows, the fans in the packed stadium roar and, in an instant, there's a collision on the field that's so loud, it scares the guys stealing cars all the way out in the parking lot. A pile of grossly overdeveloped guys in grossly oversized pads will tell the final tale. The linebacker motions wildly and drives the crowd to a frenzy. A sack has ended the game, and you can hardly wait for the dust to clear. You're anxious because you know it's over. And because at the bottom of that pile is a man gasping for air and hoping that John Madden and the folks at Fox have cut to commercial. The guy at the bottom is you. You never made the Wheaties box. The invite to Disney World must have gotten lost in the mail. And you absolutely didn't get the girl. She was too busy posing with the linebacker at what was supposed to be your parade. I can relate to your dilemma. I feel your pain. Because like you, I've been sacked. That's my life. We were knee-deep into a new millennium and I had nothing to show for it. No wife. No girlfriend. I didn't even have the ever-present "girl you call in a pinch." The one thing I did have was a job. I was a mass transit operator. You'd probably have called me a bus driver. And I probably wouldn't have answered. I didn't drive a bus. I operated a vehicle. I didn't grow up thinking I'd one day be a major cog in the nation's capitol's mass transit system, but over the years, my career choice had grown on me. I was proud of what I did and I was good at it. Sometimes career choices fall into your lap. That's how it worked for me. Literally. It happened eight years ago on the F-14 route, which connects D.C. to the Maryland suburb I called home, Capitol Heights. I was a slim and trim twenty-one-year-old stud and had just finished a game with my flag football team. My teammates all had cars or rides with their girlfriends to ensure their ways home. All I had was a beat-up pair of cleats and a bus token. Thankfully, I located a stop about a block from the field, and when a vehicle pulled up, I wearily climbed on board and made my way toward the dreaded "back of the bus." I was dead tired and reasoned that sitting away from the other passengers would afford me a bit of privacy and a well-deserved nap. As we rolled down Benning Road and slowly crept past one of D.C.'s old-school culinary landmarks, the Shrimp Boat, I had no idea my life would soon change in ways I never imagined. I was on my way to the Super Bowl! When we stopped at Texas Avenue, a woman stepped aboard, and I immediately felt I was in the throes of a medical calamity. She was so thoroughly beautiful that I first thought I was paralyzed. Seconds later, my heart was racing so fast I could have sworn I was having a heart attack. And immediately thereafter, I worried I'd been struck with lockjaw, because I literally felt I couldn't speak. A fact that was plainly evident when she smiled at me and asked, "Is that seat taken?" "S-s-seat?" I nervoWhitfield, Van is the author of 'Guys in Suits A Novel' with ISBN 9780385498470 and ISBN 0385498470.