Bus Breakfast


My brother John was also inspired by John Steinbeck’s Breakfast to write the following:

A Tale of a Carless Country Gentleman by John Barr

You may have read in the newspapers that the State of Nordrhein-Westfalen had such flooding that houses washed down hillsides. You would have thought it was California! Since then there have been sudden downpours in Rosenow. I never saw so much water coming from the sky in my life. German gutters are generously sized compared to American ones, but they could not handle the rain. From the shed, I watched how the front gutter of the house spilled over for its full length, as the downspout was unable to handle it. The front of the house looked like Niagara Falls from one end to the other.

Mind you, I already had a self-built drainage system around 2/3 of the house and it all leads into a sump which is as deep as I am tall…I dug this out myself five years ago…and a sump pump at the bottom was running constantly but could not keep up with the water rising at an alarming rate. If it had risen even more, it would have gone into the 220 volt socket where the pump is plugged in at the top of the sump and caused a short-out of, maybe, my whole electrical system. At least I do not have a basement to worry about… The area between the house and shed turned into lake within minutes, even though half of this area was dug out up over a foot deep in preparation for Phase II of my overall drainage system and there was already one new pipe to carry water off…

Since that mini-flood several weeks ago, I have been working on a more elaborate system, since I believe in Climate Change, and there are two possible outcomes. Either it will rain a lot more (or more angrily), or, we will have long, hot, dry summers which will ruin the beautiful landscape and the farmland, and if our county’s 600 lakes dry up, the tourists will all stay at home. I wanted to alleviate both possibilities on my little lot. This means collecting all the rainwater I can when it comes. Heretofore I had had 700 litres of water in rainwater collection tanks, but my goal is to buy further tanks so that the holding capacity is 3,400 litres. May sound like a lot, but this is only 17 bathtubs.

This new drainage work has been exhausting and I went about it wrong, underestimating the power of clay soil. On digging out the trenches, which consist of many rocks bigger than potatoes, and heavy clay soil, I sifted out all the soil until it was as almost as fine as sand, and it looked so loose and dry that I foolishly thought I could put 15% of it back in with the rocks and gravel. But when I filled part of the trench and tested it by pouring water on top of it, no water came through the perforated pipes and drained into the new sump I had dug out. That little bit of clay soil had formed an impervious, glue-like layer. So I dug up the new trenches a second time. This was a nightmare. Every attempt to press the shovel into the soil brought it up against the rocks I was digging up for the second time. I re-sifted the soil out again, but put it all aside to be hauled away, filled the troughs again, just with rocks and gravel. Now it works.

The other day I wanted to go to the gravel quarry several villages away where I had bought gravel before. Since the last time the driver…this was five years ago…had brought me several tons of sand instead of several tons of gravel, he had to take it back and come again, because he claimed that the word I had used for “gravel” in German actually means “sand”, but this was poppycock. I know a German word when I see one and speak better German than many truck drivers. In order to know exactly what the quarry called the gravel I wanted…it is graded in size and color mix and some of it I want to use as a patio surface…it seemed wise to actually go there. Just for the hell of it, I consulted the Internet to see how long it would take me to get there in a car. I mean, a guy needs a little chuckle every once in a while. The drive to the quarry by car would take 21 minutes, that makes 42 minutes round trip, plus 20 minutes to transact the purchase at the quarry. This means a total outing time of one hour and two minutes.

Since my right leg swells up more on a long bike ride than it does sitting in three buses and then walking part of the way at the end, my self-management mode suggested a preference for the combination bus and walk. With waits at bus stops, this meant about two and a half hours each way. What the hell, I am planning on living forever. I ordered up the Call Bus from Rosenow to Boitzenburg, as the first link of the journey, and Robert was the driver that day.

Robert is a calm young man who has an outstanding characteristic for a bus driver: no matter what the condition of the bus and its moving parts, he can drive any bus so smoothly that a baby would fall asleep. It is awesome. I…and others…have complimented him on this but he does not understand the praise. His control of the brakes, the gearshift, and the gas pedal is simply an extension of his own calm soul.

That bus turned out also to be the school bus and was nearly full. Robert motioned to me to get into the front door, which is actually not allowed. Normally customers get on at the second, sliding door, which is controlled by the driver. Being invited to sit in the other front seat is like having one’s face licked by one’s favorite dog. When I told him where I was going, he was incredulous: old John heading for the gravel quarry? I already knew where to transfer and where to get off, but he gave me a tip of how to reduce the walking part of the trip by taking a short-cut through the forest. But two buses later, I never found the beginning of the short-cut so walked the longer part on the road.

Arriving at the quarry, a woman of the size and stature of Brünnhilde greeted me and explained everything anyone would ever need to know about gravel. It was worth it to have gone there. Brünnhilde even told me how to find the shortcut through the woods to go back to the nearest bus stop, but she warned that I could get lost along the way, so when I found the beginning, and the grass was a foot high and it looked like Tick Paradise to me, I walked back via the road.

When I got home, I looked at my watch. Remember that estimate of five hours plus transaction time? Or the outing time…if I had had a car…of 62 minutes? I entered my own front door exactly five hours and 17 minutes after leaving it. Sounds like more than a half-time job to me… Ironically, the trek to the quarry to buy gravel for a drainage problem on my lot has an uncanny association with the lymphological problem of drainage in my right leg. It’s surely the cosmos at work…

The bus rides home including one layover of a whole hour in Boitzenburg, where there is a lousy grocery store where the only organic products are milk and rice crackers, but by pushing the cart very slowly up and down each aisle, I managed to kill the hour. The next bus I had reserved by calling from the quarry. At mid-day, the bus route back to Rosenow is deeply flawed. It does not go directly but wanders all over through the most distant villages, on the worst roads, and if Robert is not driving, you better not have eaten too much for lunch.

There is a Happy End. The bus drivers around my village all know old Herr Barr, who lives in a shabby old house and has no car and had to pay for his cancer operation himself, so they have a protective attitude about me. Since no one except me had reserved the Call Bus for the usual midday lengthy route over hill and dale, the boss of the bus company came in his own personal car and drove me to my front door. I tried to pay him, but he said “my car doesn’t have any change”. This is one of the glories of living in the country where I do. Everyone counts.

You May Also Like


On The Road, Pittsburra: SFWA 2017 Nebula Awards Conference

All right, all right, it’s not Pittsburra, but rather Pittsburgh, but the last five letters are the same as in Edinburgh… Anyway, long ago I could have become an active member of “SIF-wuh.”  (Speaking of pronunciation, that’s how they say SFWA, which stands for Science Fiction Writers of America.)  But I…
Read More
Barnett Berger

Barnett Berger: For Losers

The poem below is by Barnett Berger. For Losers Quest for a vision The morning of awareness Dawn of the ocean The sweet, loving spaces of intimacy Whispered caresses Suntanned kisses Words calming and mirroring faith Now replaced by grunts Harmonic ostinatos Shouting through hollow bones Anger carrying stormy divisions…
Read More


For those of you curious about where I got the inspiration for my most recent book, Rococo, here’s the flash fiction from whence it came…on one of the many days in which I found myself thoroughly disgusted by self-help books. Toeing an anti-depressant wrapper, she loitered at the western edge…
Read More
Guest Posts

Wade Was Withdrawn

Democratic Dallas Prosecutor Henry Wade’s detachment may have made Jane Roe’s victory possible, but his fellow Democrats’ detachment has made overturning Roe v. Wade possible.  My friend Ina contributes some food for thought: Guest Post by Ina Bransome Women of means (white feminists and white women of means) will always…
Read More