by Frank LoBuono
She stands at the bus stop in the heart of town. Most days. But not every. Weather can be a factor. But most days, she steadfastly mans her post at the bus stop in the heart of Nyack, NY. Shielded by knitted hat and scarf against the cold. In simple but stylish slacks for the summer. Always immaculate, she is solitary, alone. But not lonely. Never sitting, always standing, hands folded in front, her demeanor is always upbeat. A smile or wave is available for anyone who might take the time to acknowledge her presence. Her name is Joan.
Buses come. Buses go. Passengers come and wait. Passengers board their buses and go. Still, Joan waits, never taking the bus. Joan waits, and waves, and smiles. She calls me “Al” because she thinks that I look like Al Pacino. “Hi ya’, Al,” Joan calls out to me when she sees me about to walk by on one of my frequent forays into town. “Hey, Joanie, no autographs today”, is my standard, pithy reply. “Oh, Al, you are too funny,” she says in return, a huge grin on her face. It’s a standard routine that never wears thin.
Still, on most days, she just stands and waits, never taking the bus. She is a witness, a sentinel, never deserting her post, watching the world go by. I’ve been told that Joan, like all of us, has a story to tell; a reason for her vigilance. A terrible tragedy has touched Joan, changing her to the core. As a young woman, Joan witnessed the gruesome and violent murder of a friend in Memorial Park. You can just barely see the park, located on the banks of the Hudson River, down the hill from the bus stop. The same bus stop where Joan stands and waits.
Some say that she is keeping vigil there for her lost, murdered friend, in a sense, waiting for her return. In the heat or cold, on most days, Joan is there, at the bus stop, watching and waiting. Never taking the bus. She waits for her friend. Others say that it’s the distance between the park and the bus stop that’s the key. It’s just far enough away to provide a safe, secure boundary to keep on eye on the park. Perhaps, in this way, she can prevent another terrible crime from occurring.
There’s no way for me to know if Joan’s back story is fiction or fact. What I do know is that Joan is a joy. She is pleasant and always cheery. She has a smile for anyone who has a smile for her. And she is part of the fabric of Nyack. She is a presence, a fixture. When she is not at her post, I tend to be concerned. We need her gentle vigilance. On Winter days when I take my sojourn into town, I always hope that it’s not to cold for Joan to be on “duty.” I would love to hear, “Hi, Al. howya’ doin’?!” So I could respond, “Sorry, Joanie, no autographs today” and see her smile. It has become part of the fabric of my life. .
Frank LoBuono has lived in Nyack for over 30 years writing and covering Rockland County in print, on TV and online. He works as a cameraman and an editor for a major TV News organization. You can read his blog at Talk-Frank.blogspot.com.