The Advisor #1: No Stops AheadApr 25, 2011
He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, he is a fool — shun him.
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, he is a child — teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, he is asleep — wake him.
He who knows, and knows that he knows, he is wise — follow him!
San Francisco 6:10 AM
With his tie barely knotted, Jared Golden rushed down three mountainous blocks to catch the 1 California express bus racing towards the Financial District. He ran across California Street narrowly avoiding being flattened by a black Mercedes 560SL. Buckets of unexpected rain began falling from the sky as he realized that he hadn’t brought an umbrella. There just wasn’t enough time to go back. He visualized a burnt-edged page that had been salvaged from his favorite children’s book, The Little Engine That Could.
Jared landed a half block from the yellow encircled pole marked “Bus Stop.” Two dozen cabs breezed past looking at him as they were within range. He simply couldn’t justify the fourteen-dollar cab fare when he had a Clipper card in his pocket. Money was very tight these days since his wife Michelle was finishing up her medical school studies. Briefcase in hand, Jared powered down California Street with his marathon-worthy legs moving at full throttle and caught a bus idling at a stop light. The door reluctantly opened and he jumped aboard.
“Thanks, man.” Jared panted as he felt his ice-cold sopping wet suit clinging like a second skin to his chiseled frame. He boarded the 1 California BX downtown to San Francisco’s Financial District. It was an immense double-sized bus connected at its belly by a circular hinge that was housed inside a thick black plastic accordion shell. Jared had often heard other passengers jokingly refer to the center of the bus as the “Circle of Life.”
Inside the 1 California was a virtual Who’s Who of upscale Pacific Heights business heavyweights dressed in clothes ranging from three-thousand-dollar custom made suits to jeans and navy rugby shirts worn over pressed white t-shirts. Ironically, it was those dressed casually who often had the money while those in the expensive suits were still chasing after it. As Jared looked out at the army of stockbrokers, hedge fund managers, and attorneys all hunched over their newspapers, laptops, and tablets, he spotted an open seat. It almost seemed too good to be true.
Then, Jared looked further and realized that it was one of the four seats housed in the circular hinge. The same hinge that would turn like a tea cup ride at Disneyland each and every time the bus changed direction. He decided to bite the bullet. Jared sat down facing two young blondes wearing short minis and stiletto heels. He instinctively turned his lips into his most magnetic smile as he took his seat. They smiled back for all of three seconds until their gaze landed on Jared’s gold wedding band.
The two women quickly buried themselves back into their copies of the San Francisco Examiner which were emboldened with the headline SCARF CHOKES MORE LIVES . Sudden Cardiac Arrest with Respiratory Failure — now far more feared than SARS had ever been — had taken its victims across all socioeconomic strata, ages, and races. Scientists were furiously racing to examine the victims’ habits ranging from where they worked and worked out, what they ate, and their sexual proclivities.
Traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. The bus was still well above Van Ness Avenue which divided Pacific Heights from the rest of the city. That little blonde vixen was at it again with her leg manipulations. He swore he could see her black silk garters. Then, Jared noticed a pair of rather large hands directly opposite him opening and closing–mimicking the movement of the young blonde’s legs. “Yo, Jared!” The voice tore through the air like a sudden explosion.
“Morning, Leo. I didn’t see you.” Jared rubbed the early morning’s lethargy out of his eyes.
Leo Hayes was an African-American man about five-feet-eight with a shaved head and a thick black goatee. He always wore expensive suits impeccably accessorized by brilliantly colored ties and matching silk handkerchiefs smartly stuffed into his suit jacket pocket. “Yeah. I do blend right into the woodwork on this bus, don’t I now? I was considerin’ hangin’ a silver disco ball off my nose. Would that catch your attention?”
Jared smirked at the comment. “So, how was your weekend, my friend?” Jared strategically placed his pink-tinted newspaper over his lap as he realized he was becoming aroused by the blonde’s leggy performance.
“Is that a crease in your business section or are you just happy to see me?” Leo grinned mischievously. “Weekend? Yeah it was cool. I scouted the talent. Awesome babes at Stinson Beach.” Leo lowered his voice as if to share a secret. ” But if you must know. There’s a hottie I have my eye on in the office.”
“Hottie, eh? Who is she, Leo? Is she a broker?” Jared felt as if someone was listening to their conversation.
Leo dodged Jared’s question and winked at the leggy blonde sitting next to him. She turned away. “How unfair is that? You get the Sharon Stone’s view to the kingdom of Poonietata and the sister just gives me the stone cold shoulder. Can’t cut a break in this town.”
“So you’re a broker?” It was the attractive woman sitting across from Jared in The Circle of Life.
“I’m a broker too.” Leo flashed an ear-to-ear grin as he turned his head up from its direction staring at the silver hatch-marked metal circle they were sitting atop.
Jared glanced up from his paper hoping everything was in place. “Is it that obvious?”
The blonde laughed just a bit too loudly for the caliber of his comment. She loved listening to Jared’s masculine voice. “It sure is. And I’ll bet you’re rather good at it. My name’s Melissa.”
Something about the way Melissa said it made him think that this beautiful young woman wasn’t referring to his ability to execute butterfly spreads. At least not in the option trading sense of the words. Oh God, she was doing the thing with her shapely black-stockinged legs again. Jared scrambled to reaffix the newspaper to his lap.
Leo realized that he was also beginning to feel an elevation. “Yo Jah-red. Hand me the sports section over here.”
Jared laughed inwardly and gave Leo an economic update column for his lap cover. “Here you go.”
Suddenly, the driver shouted frantically over the com system for everyone to hold on. It was obvious by the speed of the bus that there was a braking problem. Jared glanced out of his window. They were still on the top of a treacherously steep mountain dotted with cars on either side as they spiraled perilously downward towards the Financial District. The driver honked his horn loudly as he made a sudden right turn.
Jared, Melissa, and Leo spun around in their metallic circle at top speed as the bus changed direction flinging all of their personal belongings into the air.
Two men immediately bolted up from their seats to assist the driver. “Try the emergency!”
The driver spoke into his PA system once again. “It’s not working! I’m gonna turn again! Hold on everybody!” The two burly men standing next to the driver fell on their behinds as he turned the wheel with every bit of strength he could muster.
Jared pulled himself together and smiled across the way at his disheveled neighbor Melissa whose skirt was pulled up to her hips. “It’ll be okay.”
She screamed hysterically. “Are you freakin’ kidding me ? We’re on the 1 California without any brakes! We’re all gonna die!” Melissa looked across the way at Jared, turned, put both her hands around Leo’s shiny head and kissed him forcefully.
Leo wore the smile of a happily intoxicated man. “Damn! I guess that’s what they call projectin’. Well project away, Missy. Project away!”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” Melissa looked at Leo sheepishly.
“Don’t worry. Happens to the best of us.” Leo composed himself and looked straight at Jared. “Now, I didn’t think I was getting on the freakin’ bus from Speed this morning. But I sure as hell ain’t gonna die on it. Let’s go, Jared.”
Meanwhile, the driver was using every strategy he could think of to slow the momentum of the motorized behemoth. He turned the bus at every street. Passengers were pulling out their cell phones to tell their families that they loved them in case they didn’t make it home. Jared and Leo pushed through the passengers strewn out in the aisles of the bus and approached the driver whose hands were literally frozen to his steering wheel.
Leo braced himself next to the driver. “Try the emergency again, man!”
The driver was almost in a trance as he spoke. “It’s not working!” A river of sweat was dripping down his forehead.
Leo put his hand on the driver’s shoulder. “C’mon now, my brother. Let me help you.”
The driver stood up and looked Jared straight in the face. “You both think you can do better than me? Have at it!”
A woman in a blue linen suit shrieked as she realized that the driver had abandoned his post. Leo and Jared struggled to take over the steering wheel. “The driver’s left us!”
The bus swerved back and forth while sheets of rain splashed onto the front windshield. Jared pointed to Leo. “We’ve got to redirect this bus now!”
They both realized that the driver had steered them all the way down the Embarcadero and they were heading at top speed straight for a tractor-trailer that had stalled in the road.
Leo instinctively blurted out. “Wo De Lao Tien Yah!” An elderly Chinese woman seated near him looked startled as she heard the words.
Jared tried to remain calm as the people around him began screaming hysterically. He was surprised by Leo’s expression. “What does that mean?”
“Holy Crap!” Leo sponged a pool of sweat off of his forehead with his silk pocket square.
“Where did you learn—” Jared stopped himself as he realized that Leo’s command of Chinese was the least of their concerns right now.
“Listen, man. You ride the 1 California through Chinatown every damned day you pick things up.”
“There’s some juice in this emergency break. Work with me. One. Two. Three.” Jared and Leo both pulled the massive brake together as the bus rolled closer to the immense vehicle stalled in front of their pathway. “Don’t give up, Leo. We’ve almost got it. Come on. Uno, dos, tres.”
Leo shouted at the top of his lungs. “Ne Wan Luh!”
“What the hell does that mean?” Jared knew that whatever Leo was saying it couldn’t be encouraging.
Leo pointed out the window over at the stalled tractor trailer. “Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass good-bye!”
© Samuel Rush 2011. All Rights Reserved.