I was in it for the bus driver.
After watching for three days, Saturday morning found me and my co-workers overseeing the final stages of the set up for the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert that would be held at Inn of the Mountain Gods in Ruidoso that night.
One of those co-workers happened to be my Publisher/Mother.
We had time to kill before a final brunch of a newspaper leadership conference, and decided to spend it on the fourth floor public balcony of the hotel that overlooked the concert area beside the beautiful mountain-surrounded lake.
Being a good southerner, I knew that it is required to know not only who Lynyrd Skynyrd is, but know most of the words to at least three songs including Free Bird, Sweet Home Alabama and Simple Man.
Which I do. I just have no idea what the band looks like.
While we were watching the roadies and crews efficiently and happily putting up a huge portable amphitheatre, barricades, lighting, speakers and police tape (which should be my kryptonite, but isn’t), we noticed black tour buses pulling up the length of the concert area, which was longer than a football field.
Not happy, one of the the bus drivers backed all the way back out – without taking out the fence or porta-johns. Then, they turned the bus around and backed all the way back in, successfully.
I decided right then that I had to meet that bus driver.
I’ve never been terribly shy, which serves me better than those around me.
Since people had been asked to leave the area at the back of the venue a few minutes before, the anxiety was palpable when I announced I was going down to meet the bus driver, and if there was a God in heaven, get my picture with him or her.
Some of my compadres not only believed I would get thrown in jail, but proactively refused to pay my bail.
But the woman who said she wouldn’t bust me out of jail didn’t raise no wallflower.
So, I headed down and took several pictures of nature with my iPhone when my trained eye spotted a roadie at one of the barricades continuing to guide the bus driven by my new personal hero.
I engaged him in light conversation that included first name and city exchanges, a little religion, the grueling pace of touring, the fact I thought watching the set up might be as much fun as the actual concert, and by the way, is it possible for me to meet the bus driver?
My new friend, Johnny from Florida, tells me it will be no problem to meet the bus driver and he will even take a picture of us together.
I now love Johnny, too, even though my heart is still #teambusdriver.
After 20 minutes of probably doing whatever celebratory practice one does after backing up a huge bus 120 yards twice without mayhem and death resulting, Carlo the driver stepped out.
It was then that I finally asked Johnny what his job was with the band.
“I’m the lead singer,” he said with a slight hint of a smile.
Boy, was my face red.
Pictures were taken. Johnny Van Zandt took my picture with Carlo; Carlo took my picture with Johnny, and I headed back upstairs thrilled that I met the best bus driver in the universe.
Mission accomplished #teamcarlo!
Johnny got on the elevator with me, pointed to the poster of Lynyrd Skynyrd on the wall and said, “Look! It’s me!”
“Thank you for twisting that southern knife,” I told him.
He got off on the fourth floor with me, and I asked if he would go out on the balcony to meet my Mom, even though she had planned to let me rot in jail if things had gone south.
He did, graciously, and took pictures with all of us before going to his room for a nap before the show.
After the brunch, we started the nine-hour drive back to flatland and listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd, who my Mom was not as familiar with. She really enjoyed the music and decided she might go to their concert in Irving in October.
“I wish we could have met the head guy, though” Mom said, after Simple Man finished playing.
“What head guy?”
“Lynyrd,” she said.
That is a hard picture to get.