Walter W. Butts, you're great. A whole lot greater than the parent or parents who caused the whole mess in the first place.
It was Friday, Oct. 26, about 8 a.m. The T-2 Metrobus was its usual crowded self as it headed east from Potomac toward Friendship Heights. Like most passengers, a reader of mine was lost in early morning thought as the bus lumbered along. Suddenly, she was brought up short.
A boy of about 6 was sitting by himself several seats away -- and he was crying his eyes out.
It turned out that he had been on his way to school, but had missed his stop. Walter Butts, the driver, asked the boy the name of his school. Then he asked his passengers if anyone knew where Wayside Elementary was.
Several passengers did. It was a couple of miles back the other way.
Walter decided that this extraordinary case required extraordinary action. He provided it. As soon as he saw a T-2 coming the other way along River Road, Walter started flashing his lights and beeping his horn. The other driver stopped.
Walter parked his bus, took the 6-year-old by the hand and marched him safely across the busy highway. He explained to his fellow driver what had happened, and asked him to be sure the boy found the correct stop this time. The other driver agreed, and off he went.
My reader/informant has no idea who the boy is. He never identified himself, and no one on the first T-2 ever asked him to. All my reader could pass on by way of identification was the name of the boy's school and the jacket the boy wore (it was fringed suede -- the sort of thing a TV cowboy would wear).
I can't guess why this boy was heading for school on a Metrobus rather than a school bus. Nor can I guess why he missed his stop, except to say that lots of suburban bus stops look very similar -- especially to a 6-year-old.
But the part I really can't figure out is why a parent would send a 6-year-old on a bus by himself under any circumstances.
I'm all for teaching responsibility to kids. I'm all for public transportation. But don't the boy's parents realize the risks? If they don't, they ought to look at a milk carton sometime.
Metro spokeswoman Beverly Silverberg agreed that Walter handled the situation beautifully. "We watch out for children; that's our policy," she said.
Asked if Metrobus drivers ever refuse to allow 6-year-olds to board buses by themselves, or ever should, Beverly said that wouldn't be practical.
"This is a public conveyance," she said. "There's no rule that a child can't travel by himself." Many children do, without getting lost, Beverly pointed out -- although most young "regulars" are a lot older than 6.
If any child becomes lost on a bus, Walter Butts-like heroics aren't the only solution. Bus drivers are instructed to notify the transit police. Officers will try to reunite a lost child with his or her family, Beverly said.
I checked with Wayside Elementary, but couldn't learn who the boy is, or whether he got to school via the second T-2 on the Friday in question. I sincerely hope he did. I hope just as sincerely that his parents will read this, recognize their son and never, never subject him to such torture again.
When you've seen many times how dreadful this world can be, you aren't likely to be hopeful when you accidentally leave your purse in the grocery. But Beatrice Anne Rindge, of Northeast Washington, has had a rebirth of faith -- even though she has also had more than her share of misery.
"Over the years," she writes, "I have been robbed once at work, twice on the street and burglarized three times. My car has been the victim of expensive hit and run damage three times, and of minor vandalism a few other times." So when Beatrice accidentally left her purse at the Super Fresh food store in Hyattsville, she was "not optimistic."
However, two days later, when she checked with the manager of the store, her purse had been turned in -- contents intact. Despite all her previous misfortunes, Beatrice says, she again believes that "honesty is alive and well in our world."
Thanks to Carl Deffner, of Alexandria, for this Great Moment in the History of Our Language.
Carl belongs to the Census Federal Credit Union. A promotional blurb appeared across the bottom of his June 30 statement. It began:
"The primary share account is your steak in the credit union."
Bob Orben wonders:
If sex is such good medicine, how come everybody always needs a refill?