Bus Flight to Lawton (Excerpt from Convent to Catwalk) by Mary Jo Shaw, Author, Panorama Resident
(I was on my way to my mission to teach in Lawton, OK).
Alone and feeling self-conscious, I was dressed in my long, black and white habit in 1967, the year the popular TV show The Flying Nun was playing its first season. Because of the wacky, naïve, silly antics played by Sally Fields, I felt the public thought some real nuns were somewhat ridiculous, especially the young ones.
I chose a place to attract the least attention in the crowded Greyhound Bus station in San Antonio, Texas. My chair happened to be in the center of the large room. The hustle and bustle of travelers alternated with periods of still and quiet.
A wound up, small, five-year old boy, began running back and forth on the long, shiny floors in the wide space between my strip of seats and the row facing me. He’d pick up momentum, then slide the last few yards in his slick-soled Buster Browns. After about eight such rotations, he noticed my black garments. He continued his laps, but as he passed me, he slowed down to study my presence.
I strained not to play, entertain, or converse with him like I normally did with my students or when introduced to little ones. I was familiar with out-of-the-mouths-of-babes incidents. I didn’t want this babes’ attention, not in this place, not while I was alone, and certainly not while everyone was noticing my growing unease.
My head was down, but distracted from my book. My headpiece failed to conceal my eyeballs from the crowd as I watched his footsteps.
At his third time of pausing and staring for about fifteen seconds to ogle me from head to foot, I kept my head bent toward the pages in my lap, completely ignoring him.
The little sprinter stopped short, parked his feet firm and far apart. He stared at me with hands on his hips and blurted out for the entire station audience to hear, “CAN YOU FLY-Y-Y?”
Travelers snickered. Newspapers jerked closer to their faces. Complete silence.
I lifted my head, stared the boy down and gave him a loud and slow response, “Little fella, if I could fl-y-y-y, I wouldn’t be sitting in this bus station.”
Newspapers collapsed. Surprised at my own clever response, I smiled across the crowd to relax myself and others. Everyone laughed and applauded. “Way to go, Sister!”
That little boy didn’t know how much I detested The Flying Nun.
Mary Jo Shaw
Author, Convent to Catwalk
firstname.lastname@example.org (for more info and source for a book copy)