Having lived my whole life in Seattle, I appreciate the excitement of the big city and enjoy the electric atmosphere, but even I crave some time in a quieter setting on occasion. To get away from the bustling cityscape, I sometimes head to Vashon Island to experience the rural setting that’s only a stone’s throw from the Seattle city limits.
After taking the ferry from Seattle to Vashon Island one nice summer day, I caught the 119 bus to travel south on the island toward Burton to get to Point Robinson. The beach is quiet and I usually like to go there when I’m on Vashon Island to play some tunes on my guitar while looking at the beautiful scenery of Puget Sound and to hopefully get a glimpse of the Orcas that come by now and then.
On this particular day, I could see a lone elderly woman sitting on the bus as I boarded. After passing her with a polite nod and smile, I sat a few seats back from her to be taken on my journey.
Shortly after the bus started moving, the woman turned to look back in my direction.
“What kind of guitar is that?” she asked in a voice that was audible enough for me to hear clearly.
“Just an old acoustic guitar I got from a friend,” I replied, referring to the guitar inside the case that I was carrying. “I got it in exchange for some money he owed me. He said it was made in the 60s.”
The woman quickly rose from her seat and made her way back a few rows to the area where I was sitting. She promptly sat next to me and asked if I could open the case so that she could see the guitar.
“I haven’t seen one of these guitars in years,” she marveled after I showed her the guitar. “I used to play this type of guitar in my youth.”
“You play guitar?” I asked in astonishment. I was shocked that a rather meek-looking older woman would know how to play such an instrument.
“I used to play in a band back in the 60s,” she reminisced. “We used to play shows up and down the West Coast. We were even scheduled to play Woodstock until our drummer quit.”
Amazed by her revelation, I wasn’t sure whether to believe her story, but she seemed charming either way.
We sat in silence over the next few minutes while the Vashon-Maury 119 bus continued south. I looked out the window to observe the natural scenery that looked so peaceful on that autumn day. Quaint country homes and lodging facilities dotted our route, and we passed by the Peace Wall on our journey.
“Do you mind if I try playing a tune on your guitar?” the woman suddenly asked a few minutes later after I had put my guitar back in its case. “It’s been so long since I had the chance to play.”
“Sure,” I replied with a friendly smile. The request seemed rather odd to me, but who was I to judge?
I handed her a guitar pick after she placed the guitar strap around her shoulder, and she began to play a song that blew my mind. The sound of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” had never sounded sweeter on an acoustic guitar, and I was blown away by her playing abilities. Maybe she really had been good enough for Woodstock.
“Thank you,” she said after playing a few bars and handing me back my guitar. She looked so moved by the experience that I thought she might cry.
As we approached the Dockton Road along our route, the woman asked the driver to stop at the tree.
“Well, this is my stop. Thanks for letting me play your guitar for a bit,” the woman said before getting up abruptly to exit the bus.
Still somewhat stunned by my encounter, I continued sitting on the bus as I awaited to arrive at my final destination. I failed to get the woman’s name, but her unique spirit left an indelible impression on me that I won’t soon forget.
After the roughly 35-minute bus ride, I finally arrived at the stop that was within a decent walking distance of Point Robinson. I only wanted to stay at the beach for an hour or so to play some tunes in the open air.
As I strummed my first tune, I couldn’t help but think that my playing skills weren’t up to par with the abilities of the woman I’d just met on the bus. She was a true talent, and I felt honored to have met such a remarkable musician during our brief encounter.
I decided to catch the 119 bus heading north an hour later to make my way back to Seattle after a stop in Vashon’s town.
Throughout the remainder of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the encounter I had with the woman on the bus. Who knew that a simple bus ride could have such a profound effect on a person? It just goes to show that you never know who you might meet when you travel by bus.