On Friday, from the headquarters of my company located in the city of Wroclaw, came the news that on Monday I have to attend the conference. My wife, as she learned that I will go to Wroclaw, gave me a big amount of money to buy a washing machine, refrigerator, and microwave oven. “You know which models…the ones we chose a week ego. With incoming supplies to our house I let them take an old refrigerator and washing machine out. The old microwave I will give to the neighbor for a small amount of money. On Monday, early in the morning, with a pocket full of money, I boarded a bus to Wroclaw. The driver, a powerfully built man, of good-natured face, took 10 zloty and gave me a ticket. I sat next to an older lady and I fell immediately asleep. I woke up right on time, as we were arriving close to the main station. I was preparing to get out from the bus, but strangely, the bus did not stop!
“Driver, why did you not stop at the station?”
“This bus is not stopping; it is just moving only.” the driver laughed.
“What are you talking about? I paid for a trip to Wroclaw, so you should stop the bus at the station in Wroclaw! Is it a joke?”
“Sir, this is not a joke, the bus will stop where I want to stop!”
I looked at the passengers. They nodded heads for confirmation, four men, three women and seven children.
“No one of you wants to get out in Wroclaw?” I asked.
But I had not received an answer.
“Where this bus will stop?”
“I am telling you again that this bus is not stopping at the stations, it will stop where I want.” said driver again.
“People, the driver is crazy, we have to restrain him!”
No answer again.
“And what is wrong to sit comfortably on the bus?” driver asked.
“I am going to work, more specifically to an important conference.”
“Why do you prefer sitting and listening to stupid speeches of your superiors? It is much better to ride and to enjoy the view from the bus.”
“But work is work, it is my responsibility to feed the family. I am not on vacation!”
“Jesus said…be as roadside flowers, they do not work, but they look pretty!” the driver smiled, not known…to me or to himself.
“And what, are you Apostle?”
“Yes, I am saint John!”
The passengers laughed. After his statement I realized that he is mentally ill, so I sat resignedly back in my place. Without the help of the passengers, I had no chance to overpower the driver. It seemed to me that they were used to the situation. The driver changed route and instead of the main road now he drove through local roads. We drove pass the wooded hills, who knew where we were. The passengers were admiring the views, looked very happy. I’ve seen mountains a long time ago; I never had time for a tourist trip, so I started watching with curiosity nice mountain scenery.
“Sit quietly, hold your nerves, admire the view, it is a rare occasion. After all, the bus has to stop somewhere and sometime!” I comforted myself.
And I was right. The driver stopped the bus at the clearing near a group of pretty rocks.
“Break for lunch!” shouted driver.
It turned out that the bus lockers were full of food, cooking pot and a stove with a gas cylinder. So, it was a picnic in the forest. In addition to the food were stored even bottled mineral water and beer. Children scattered around the area, the adults sat down to eat and drink. No one tried to escape. I turned to one of the men.
“Let’s run away!”
“Sir, who knows where we are, how can we run away? We will get lost in the forest and mountains” and he started eating with appetite.
So, I turned to another man.
“Let’s go run away!” I proposed.
“And run for what reason? Sir, I’ve had no vacation for several years, and now I have a wonderful vacation!” he answered smiling.
The food was delicious; dessert was chocolate and ice cream. Once upon a time, I ate so well.
“It is time for collection money, 50 zloty from each person!” informed the driver.
Amazingly everyone, without objection, threw the money into the driver’s hat, I did too. One of the men spread his hands helplessly:
“I do not have money…”
“I will drop you at the nearest station”.
“And how will I travel home?”
“Using the Hitchhiker’s Guide, do not be shiftless. Unfortunately, all good things…come to the end.”
So, we drove further. After the mountainous landscape, we reached flat areas, this time we did admire the views of the lakes and forests. A man without money got out on the nearest bus stop.
“Goodbye!” driver answered.
Both had tears in their eyes, and all the passengers waved heartily farewell. The removed passenger stood helpless, lost, and finally made a few steps forward towards the deporting bus, as if to chase it. We drove on. The driver chose generally wondered tourist areas avoiding big cities. It was something to admire. Successively, the passengers without money, were with regret leaving the bus, in their place came new passengers. I, with time, got a “helper” position, like a deputy driver. I got used to the new situation, forgot about buying a washing machine, refrigerator and microwave stove. I mentally rested, got sunburn and gained weight. Fortunately, I took with me a lot money, so I was traveling for a few weeks. I even had an innocent romance with one of the women. But one day even for me came the end of the travel. I finally ran out of money. For my merit, the driver dropped me close to my home, dropped me in the city of Wroclaw. When I arrived home, my wife fainted. She considered me as …dead!
Police started an investigation, questioned me…where I have been so long? Invariably I replied that I do not remember. Therefore, psychiatrists examined me for a few weeks but did not find any disease. After a few months, things had calmed down. With reluctance, I returned to work at my company.
This amazing, unusual bus, I do remember with pleasure to today, even though it has passed 40 years since.
Walerian was born in 1943. From 1946 he lived for 25 years in the city of Pieszyce in Lower Silesia in Poland. In 1967, he got Master of Science degree in structural engineering from Technical University in the city of Wroclaw. In 1980, he began his activity in “The Solidarity”, political and union movement and was chosen in 1981 to be the delegate for National Convention. He was jailed in December 1981 by regime of General Jaruzelski and immigrated to USA in December 1986. In 1994, he achieved Master of Science in geotechnical engineering from Wayne State University in Detroit. From 1977 he was known in Poland, and later known in the world, as an editorial cartoonist. After retired in 2008 he began writing short stories. One of his stories “Smoke factories” was published by International PEN Club London England in “The Magazine” in fall 2010 edition. Walerian has published collections of short stories and was awarded multiple prizes by Friends of Polish Arts in Detroit. He got enthusiastic reviews from Kirkus, Writer’s Digest and Reader’s Favorite. In 2018 he wrote two screenplays about the Holocaust in Poland; “Isaac is Looking for a New Mother” and “Stella”. Dramatic stories of the few Jews haunted by the Germans and the Poles.