The Broadway Bus (archive)

I wrote this several years ago, but I still like it, so it earns a place in the desk drawer.  Cleaned up a little, it might make a fun children’s book.

The Broadway Bus

There is a bus in Manhattan that runs from the UN to Columbia University, cutting across midtown on 42nd street and then stopping all up and down Broadway. This bus, for those of you who don’t know New York City bus routes (which are very confusing), is called the M104.But I call it the Broadway Bus.

Here’s why I love the Broadway Bus. By day, it’s just your typical crowded bus full of the riders who differ slightly from the underground subway crowd. These people are opting to avoid the numerous subway stairs; mainly elderly people and parents (or nannies) with young childern who sit backwards in the seat, faces pressed against the glass to watch the Midtown and Upper West Side sights go by.

But at night, Tuesday through Saturday around 10:00pm, the M104 transforms from a typical MTA bus to a magical shuttle as all the Broadway shows start to let out within a very small window of time. Double doors open and audiences spill out, glowing in the shared experience, clutching their Playbills, anxious to give their opinions of the costumes, the writing, the performances, and sometimes the music of the world they just visited. Stage doors burst open with actors and stage hands rushing to get to home after work to kiss their daughter, walk their dog or eat a late dinner. Bus stops from 42nd street to 54th street all along 8th avenue swarm with the Broadway crowd looking to return to the reality of their apartments or hotels along the M104 route. Once the bus comes, it takes forever to load and find a seat, but the wait is worth it. Once on, the audience and performers mix into one community–an audience member excitedly scanning their Playbills sitting shoulder to shoulder with actors with brightly painted stage makeup or freshly washed faces and hair that still bends in the circle from the pin curl it was held hostage in for three hours.

I love the Broadway Bus. I’ve ridden it many times as an actor, and just as often as an audience member. Last night I boarded the bus on 52nd and 8th after seeing TALK RADIO and ran into two good friends from CATS that I hadn’t seen in years. As the bus jerked and swayed it’s way to my stop, we caught up, laughed, kissed and hugged goodbye, all the while surrounded by people with Playbills from almost every show currently running on Broadway. From 10-11pm, Tuesday through Saturday, the M104 belongs to us, the Broadway community, and we press our faces to the windows, sharing the experience, watching our magical city roll by.

I think back to the yellow bus I took for years and I think wouldn’t I be thrilled as a young teased girl to know that something as magical as a Broadway Bus appears every night for an hour and that I as a grown up would have the great privilege to be on board? It’s more intoxicating than any carriage ride through Central Park could ever be.

About Sharon Wheatley

Mother of Charlotte and Beatrix. Sometimes an actress. Sometimes a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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