The story that stuck with me the most from the entire autobiography of Jim Lehrer was the story of how he bought his first and only bus. This happened after his heart attack.
According to the story,”…the Voice of Buses Past spoke up. ‘Get a bus, Jimmy Charles,’ it said. So I got a bus.”
So he called a friend named Fred who knew somebody who had bought a certain bus that had been up for sale not so long ago. Fred gave him the number and he called the man who had bought the bus. The man had gutted the interior in preparation for making it into a portable home. It was no longer functional as a bus. But he had another bus—a 1946 Flexible Clipper. She was in great shape. Pictures were sent, and the deal was closed for sixty-five thousand dollars. The former owner brought her to Roanoke, where Lehrer picked her up. He recounts how he loved that first step into the bus, and how it smelled exactly like his father’s old buses smelled. He was given a very brief crash course on how to drive her before he said goodbye to the former owner and started to drive her home to his house in West Virginia.
He drove along the Interstate, taking the turns by rubbing the shoulders, and somehow he managed to stay on the road and keep the engine running, even though he could not find second gear. He was stopped half-way by a policeman who was attracted by the fact that there were no license plates on the bus. He glanced at the temporary registration papers taped to the windshield, smiled, and waved Lehrer on.
He stopped two thirds of the way there for gas. He could not get her started again after he had filled her up. He went across the street to a body shop. The owner of the body shop was talking with a friend of his who used to work in the bus lines. Both of them came over and started the bus. He drove on.
He drove her across the footbridge leading to the barn. He parked her in the barn. At last he was happy. At last he had a bus. But he never could find second gear.