"So how've you been, man?" asked the bus driver, as I once again defied gravity by galumphing up the steps.
"Pretty good, my friend," I replied, as I dropped my coins into the farebox. "Especially since you didn't raise the price of admission while I was on vacation."
"Hey, 85 cents, that's still a big-time bargain, Mr. Typist," said the bussie, as he swung out into the K Street traffic.
"You've got that right," I said, taking my customary seat behind the driver's left ear. "We just spent two weeks driving all over New England and the gas prices were incredible. But then again, the weather was incredible too. We didn't have a single drop of rain in two weeks. And half the time, we didn't even have to use the air conditioner, daytime or nighttime."
"It was beautiful here too," the bussie said. "Usually, every August, I have to bring two towels to work with me every day to catch all the sweat. This August, I only brought one towel with me most days, and most of the time, I didn't even have to use it."
"Must be that glorious, powerful air conditioning they give you on these buses. You gonna tell me that's a bargain too?"
"I won't dignify that with a comment," said the bussie, as he dodged a cab and made a right on 20th Street. "But I will say this: People were in a real good mood, a real good frame of mind this summer. I think it was all on account of the weather."
I scoffed. "You mean with the country on the brink of war, with the deficit hanging over everyone like a spider's web, with the economy on the edge of a recession, with the Barry trial, with druggie murders on the streets every night, with the Beltway a sick joke most of the time, people are actually happy in Washington, D.C.?"
"I hate to disappoint you, Mr. Typist, but I really believe it," said the bussie. "For example, I was driving the D2 a lot during August. Lot of people in a hurry always take that bus, and they're always as crabby as the Chesapeake Bay at the drop of a hat, especially in the morning, when it's already 85 degrees and it's only 7:30. But this summer, it was like we were living in Cupcake, Missouri, or something. They actually said hello. They actually said thank you. They actually said please when they asked for a transfer. I even had one lady come up and tell me she was thinking of getting engaged, and did I think she should go through with it?"
"What did you tell her?"
"I said, 'Hey, lady, it's okay with me, as long as you invite me to the reception.' " And the bussie cackled loudly.
I stared out the window at the street vendors around Dupont Circle. "Tell me this, my friend," I said after a few seconds. "Why do you think our weather was so good this summer? Was it just dumb luck?"
"It was because everything else was so bad," the bussie replied.
"Come on, man."
"No, no, I'm serious," said the bussie, as he fought his way up the long hill past the Washington Hilton hotel. "I think Mother Nature believes in equilibrium. She took one look at Washington, D.C., this summer and she said: 'They've got enough trouble down there, those poor darlings. I won't give them their usual dose of horrible heat rash and humidity.' "
"You may have something there," I said. "After all, the second Ice Age is supposed to be coming pretty soon. Maybe by the time you and I get old enough to shave, we'll have snow on Connecticut Avenue for Labor Day weekend. You won't need two towels to handle August in Washington. You'll need two mufflers."
"Bite your tongue," said the bussie, as he crossed Calvert Street and braked to pick up a bunch of zoo-bound schoolchildren. "Snow is the one thing that will get me to quit this job."
"Not traffic? Not tourists? Not the tremendous salary? Not passengers who don't have exact change and have to ask everyone on the bus to change a dollar?"
"Nope. All that I can handle. But give me a day when the white stuff is coming down, and it's all I can do not to call in sick."
My stop was approaching. But I couldn't resist a final observation.
"Speaking of snow," I said. "Have you ever thought that your equilibrium theory applies to January in Washington too?"
"What do you mean?" asked the bussie, warily.
"I mean that for every nice August, there inevitably has to be a terrible January. You know, freezing rain, blowing snow, cars spinning out in front of you, all that wonderful stuff we all love so much."
The bussie pulled to the curb and opened the door. "Funny thing," he said, as I began to galumph down the steps. "I can feel myself getting sick already."