Jim Lehrer’s A Bus of My Own is an excellent autobiography, complete with suspense, humor, and near tragedy.
In this essay, I will describe from memory (for the most part. Quotations excluded), my favorite part of his autobiography: His near tragedy – his heart attack.
But first, some background:
For most men, their job is one of the most important things to them. Jim is a News Reporter/TV Journalist for PBS Television. However, over and over, throughout the book, Jim brings up this theme of buses. We can see that his job is, in fact, important to him, but certainly not as important as his obsession with busses and bus antiquity. This obsession appears to have originated from his childhood, when his father ran a bus line for a few years until he went bankrupt. Jim appears to have thoroughly enjoyed those years – perhaps more than any other in his life. Those years shaped him.
So, then he grew up to be a Newsman. His father began to show some sort of symptoms that prompted his family to take him to the hospital. There were some operations done, but eventually his father died. It was suggested that perhaps he would not have died had he not have gone to the hospital.
Then his mother began to show some symptoms, that again, prompted her family to take her to the hospital. There were some operations done, but eventually she died. It was strongly suggested that Jim’s mom would not have died had she not been taken to the hospital.
So twice, two Lehers walked into a hospital with symptoms but well enough; and twice, neither of them walked out. Jim didn’t blame the doctors of any form of intentional negligence, but he decided that hospitals didn’t like Lehers and he warned everyone that, as best as it was able to them, to not enter hospitals. He began to have a fear of hospitals. He called it the Reaper.
That brings you up to speed. One day, he woke up to fell a tightness in his chest. He ignored it for a time, but eventually he called a doctor. His doctor declined to even speak to him. The next doctor they called urged them to go quickly to a nearby hospital. So they did.
At the time, Jim had a terrible diet. He described it as “a diet of a pimply faced 15 year old.” Judge for yourself. Here are some screenshots of the book:
Then there was smoking. His wife wished him to quit. In reference to this, he said,
“…I simply continued to cheat and lie about it. It also created a lot more tension between Kate and me than either of us realized at the time. I always wanted a cigarette when I was around her, and she was the one who was keeping me from getting it. At the time of my heart attack, I was in a standard double-life routine – pipe at home or with the family, cigarettes everywhere else. I kept cigarettes under the seat of my car, in my office desk drawers. They were everywhere except at home.”
Even on the way to the hospital, he decided to draw on one last cigarette. This was certainly a killer diet.
They had just arrived at the hospital when he began to feel like a truck was rolling over top of his chest: Back and forth. Back and forth. Nurses rushed around him trying to help.
Eventually, it ended. He was told that he had indeed survived a heart attack.
Of course, from the hospital “trauma” he had incurred as a result of his parents’ deaths, he wanted to get right out of there. But he was told that he needed to have a by-pass operation done on his heart. This involved open heart surgery. This made him all the more uncomfortable. He was told that there was a 98% chance that he would live. In response to this he said,
“I did not believe for one second that I would be in the 98%…We Lehers died in hospitals. They’d missed me the first time (the heart attack), but now they’d get me.”
Jim and his wife discussed it, and he eventually agreed to have the by-pass. They took a vein from his leg and cut his chest open to insert it.
After a couple weeks, he went home and starting some new habits:
I started a nap routine. It was Kenny Kent who suggested it. Every day, he said. Do it. It will help you mentally as well as physically. A physical feeling of tiredness can lead to a psychic feeling of depression, he said. A smart man.
He also started a new diet. Just as long as the first, but this time healthier. And to him, a drudgery:
He also began to exercise regularly.
These were all good things that came out of his having a heart attack. He began to recover, and he found happiness in hobbies that he had not taken the time to enjoy before. Such as collecting bus memorabilia.
The rest of the book was good. He has both a humorous and interesting style of writing, complete with interesting grammatical originality. If you have some extra time on your hands, I would definitely suggest reading it.