Winter is the best time of year to sit at the back of the bus, or at least it used to be. At any time of year I like to sit at the back of the bus and just zone out on the way home, which had its upsides and its downsides. The upsides included being out of everyone else’s way, having room to stretch out a bit, and, if the bus hit something, I’d be as far away from the damage as I could get. The downsides, well, there’s only one really—I like to exit at the front of the bus and thank the driver. And in the winter there’s another upside: the back of the bus is where the engine is, so it’s hot. Oh, there’s another downside: if the engine explodes I’ll be as close to the damage as I can get, but sitting directly on a large hunk of piston-pushing metal burning flammable metal is that it generates a lot of heat so it’s a great way to stay warm, and I like to be warm. I’ve found I run a little colder than most people. Sometimes on a sunny summer day my wife will ask me why I’m wearing a long-sleeve shirt, and I’ll say, honestly, that I’m a little chilly, and she’ll say, “Fine, but what’s with the balaclava?” but that’s another story.
It’s also why when the weather gets cool I like to start the car about twenty minutes before I leave. This gives the car a chance to warm up, a lesson I learned when I was a kid when one Sunday after church an adult gave me twenty-five cents to go out and turn on the heater in his car. And I did. I turned the temperature control all the way up and the air on full blast, and the only thing I left out was that I didn’t start the engine so when he got in he got a nice cold breeze right in his face.
We also had a neighbor who would go out to her driveway and start her car and then rev the engine really hard to get it heated up, and once she drove me to school and she put the pedal to the metal the whole way and a couple of parachutes popped out of the trunk when we got to the parking lot.
At least the back of the bus used to be the warmest place to sit. Now that Nashville has upgraded its fleet of buses I’ve noticed that the back seats are about the same temperature as the seats everywhere else. The engine is still in the back, but it’s quieter and more efficient, and I’ve noticed that when following a city bus in traffic they don’t belch black smoke like they used to, all of which are upsides, but, when I’ve been standing out in the cold for twenty minutes waiting for a bus, the lack of warmth is a real downside for my backside.