Riding the Bus with My Sister

Riding the Bus with My Sister

by

Rachel Simon

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Cliff Character Analysis

Cliff is an attractive bus driver who starts working during the year Rachel spends visiting Beth. Because he’s so “fine-looking” and spends his weekends racing his Mustang, he quickly replaces Rodolpho as Beth’s favorite driver. Practically speaking, this means that Beth develops an obsessive crush on him, but she claims that she’s really just trying to set him up with Olivia. She constantly speaks over him, and her bad behavior leads to one of her few conflicts with Rachel during the year they spend together. However, Cliff also tells Rachel about the importance of adapting to challenges—and she starts using his advice to deal with Beth. Thus, while Beth’s behavior toward Cliff embodies some of her worst characteristics, Cliff’s demonstrates how others can avoid unnecessary conflicts by responding to manipulative behavior through empathy and creativity.

Cliff Quotes in Riding the Bus with My Sister

The Riding the Bus with My Sister quotes below are all either spoken by Cliff or refer to Cliff. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grand Central Publishing edition of Riding the Bus with My Sister published in 2013.
28. October: The Hunk Quotes

I think: I wish I were a saint.

I wish I were a magnanimous sister who could feel compassion for the way that Beth is re-creating a dysfunctional family environment on the buses.
I wish I had the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

I wish I could learn the language of Maybe It’s Good Enough. Maybe it’s good enough that she can memorize seventy drivers’ schedules and stand up to racists and read. I wish I could be a realist who could accept Beth’s level of development and not long for more.

I wish I were like acquaintances who think that people with mental retardation are “God’s true angels.” I don’t want to think, “I wish she’d behave a little more appropriately today.”
I wish I could change.

Related Characters: Rachel Simon (speaker), Beth , Cliff
Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:

For a moment, as I stand halfway up the aisle in the now still bus, embarrassment courses through me. I realize how I keep turning to these drivers to help me steer my own life. But it has come to feel like a different world up here, with different rules, and, besides, I think, I am too desperate to remind myself that I should keep my mouth shut. I wait until I’ve calmed down, then slip into Beth’s seat. I face him, as she always does, until he feels my eyes on him. He peers over at me.

Related Characters: Rachel Simon (speaker), Beth , Cliff
Page Number: 269-270
Explanation and Analysis:

With a jolt, I know what scares me.

It’s not just the same old crush with a new face, or the same old song with the same wrong words. It’s not just the pattern she doesn’t see, or care about, and therefore cannot or will not change.

It’s that Beth seems to need a cataclysmic event for her to change in any way—an event like our mother’s complete abdication of her responsibility to protect her own child, Juanita’s rejection, or Rodolpho’s abandonment. This seems true whether she’s being called upon to develop resourcefulness, assertiveness, or just basic self-restraint. I look at her and feel a clutch in my throat. What will it take now?

Is this all there will ever be to her life?

Related Characters: Rachel Simon (speaker), Beth , Cliff, Jesse, Rodolpho
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Riding the Bus with My Sister LitChart as a printable PDF.
Riding the Bus with My Sister PDF

Cliff Character Timeline in Riding the Bus with My Sister

The timeline below shows where the character Cliff appears in Riding the Bus with My Sister. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
28. October: The Hunk
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
In the present, while they wait in the bus shelter, Beth tells Rachel about Cliff, a new driver who races cars in his spare time. He’s her new favorite, even... (full context)
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
...telling Beth that she ought to get a job. Beth talked about Claude’s comments with Cliff, then told Claude that Cliff doesn’t think she should have to work. Beth and Claude... (full context)
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
Chatty, good-looking Cliff tells Rachel about the “grudge” races he drives in on Saturdays. They’re like drag races,... (full context)
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
Cliff explains that his mother used to race cars and his grandfather was a mechanic, so... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
Cliff tells Beth to chill out—she stops talking for a second, then starts up again. Rachel... (full context)
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
...embarrassed to rely so much on life advice from bus drivers, but she talks to Cliff anyway. She asks how he deals with not getting something he wants. He mentions taking... (full context)
31. November: The Girlfriend
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
While Beth and Melanie talk about Cliff’s looks, Rachel gazes at her own reflection in the window. She sees failure, terror, and... (full context)
33. December: Swans and Witches
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
While Beth tells Olivia to go out with Cliff, Olivia does her monthly check-in, asking Beth if she’s happy with the services she’s receiving.... (full context)
37. A Year and a Half Later: The Miracle Maker
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
...buses with Beth. For instance, Tim had another child, Rodolpho joined the police force, and Cliff became a mechanic. Rachel has continued to support Beth through the ups and downs in... (full context)