The glass doors open and in comes this man of Hispanic descent. 
“Who is going to San Francisco?” he asked, his stentorian voice booming in the lobby of Quality Inn and Suites in Walnut City, weaving through the people milling near the entrance and the dining room where several were mid-way through their breakfast. He would stop at a table whose occupants raised their hands earlier on and countercheck their names on his list. The scene continued until he was sure he had ticked off all the names.

“The bus is just outside. Don’t rush – am just early,” he remarked before exiting to load several pieces of luggage.

Ernesto was a breath of fresh air that glided into the hotel that Wednesday morning. There was joviality in his step, a vitality that emanated from his entire being compared to the one behind the reception desk whose sombre mien was like a fluff of dark cloud over your head. Ernesto’s sunny disposition dispelled the tenebrific ambience with his smile that reached up to his eyes. He had vim. He was back in a few minutes and accosted me. Perhaps I had that lost-look on my face.  

“Where are you going?”

“I am going to Disneyland.”

He muttered Disneyland under his breath while perusing his list. I looked at the list, too.

“There’s my name,” I remarked.

“Ah, you join this bus. We go to head office then you transfer to another bus to Disneyland,” he explained.

I never got to engage him in a long conversation except for the usual greetings in Spanish – Hola, Buenos dias – and thanking him for dropping us off at every venue. The longest conversation we had was about the weather.

During the trip to Vegas, he found Jeanne de Kock, my bus mate-turned-friend, and I seeking shade at the side of the bus that was against the sun after we returned from the buffet lunch en route to Vegas.

“You ladies are lucky. It is not that hot today,” he pointed out, running tissue up and down his white shirt. He had spilled coffee earlier on.

“A few days ago it was very hot. The temperature reached up to 110 degrees.”

Our exchanges were always brief, but he was always pleasant. Jeanne managed to talk to him when she was on a three-day trip to San Francisco; Ernesto did the LA-San Fo-LA tour and LA-Vegas-Arizona-Vegas-LA tours regularly. But she was admonished against it.

“He drives slower when you talk to him,” said Angela Lin, the tour guide, tapping her on the arm.


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