Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bus people

I'm in my post-workday, nearly-there fugue state when he gets on. He's wearing the standard ball cap, worn jacket, jeans and boots that identify him as a regular Spryfield guy. He perches skittishly on the edge of a seat opposite me, at the front of the bus. In spite of the fact that he's wearing the working-class, minimum wage uniform, he's noticeable.

"Hi!" he says loudly to a woman who is obviously in her own fugue state. His voice is loud. He squirms a little in the seat, looking ill at ease. "I had to ask what it cost. I didn't know the fare. Truck broke down." She nods slightly. Oh God I don't care just leave me alone. "Don't usually take the bus," he broadcasts, just in case no one else heard.

Some of us usually take the bus. Some of us don't.

Those who don't (apparently) feel a class apart, above. Those who own a vehicle, drive it every day, don't cram themselves into the uncomfortable seats of overcrowded buses driven by surly drivers. They don't know exactly whose child will end up pitching a fit before the end of the run and whose cell phone will be produced at the tinny sound of a symphony ring tone, who hasn't washed their clothes, or can be counted on to give up their seat to the older lady or the woman with a small child and six bags of groceries. The Bus is a whole new world.

Once, a woman whose hands bore enough diamond rings to finance most of us for life sat next to me on the number twenty. She asked questions. Where the bus stopped. How long did it take to get there. "I don't usually take the bus," she explained, as if I might not be getting it. Or as if her station in life was in danger of being downgraded in one trip on public transporation.

In my mind, I translate "I don't take the bus" as "Hello, Bus People. I am from another galaxy far, far away where people travel in single vehicles. I come in peace. I wish to observe and respect your customs." I figure they are thinking, Jesus Christ. I'll walk next time. I'll rent. How in hell do they stand it?"

In my mind, I consider answering: "Stranger. We have allowed you into our territory and to sit amongst us. At least have the courtesy to shut the hell up and allow us to remain semi-comatose until we can flee this vehicle, without reminding us there are more dignified modes of transportation. If you cannot perform this courtesy, we will force you to sit with the cell phone woman and her flu-infected crying child. And take warning to your leaders - you are one pay check or busted transmission away from this hell at all times."

There. Now I feel better.


9 comments:

zhoen said...

Oh, yeah. Like we don't know at a glance that they are lost and obnoxious. In Boston, they are in Red or Pink baseball gear, all summer long... and think they have the right to a seat.

LJ said...

Interesting to watch the expression when there is no seat, huh? On my bus - at a certain point in the trip - even standing room is scarce. You can always tell the difference between people who use the bus and people who don't because the people who don't have a look of shock and horror when they discover they've paid two bucks to be squeezed next to strangers on a swaying vehicle with too little access to handrails. The rest of us just look resigned.

herhimnbryn said...

I remember paying a fortune to travel by train to London from my home 40 miles away and having to STAND all the way. I was somewhat pissed off! Then I got the place at college I was after, and became used to standing most days and learnt the art of people watching!

I wonder what 'he' thought about his trip on your bus?

phlegmfatale said...

You know, sweetheart, having the wit to write that "Stranger," statement is worth more than all the diamond rings in the world. By that measure, you're rich! ;)

Darkmind said...

It is common for humans to display this type of behavior when entering a new group. Imagine being in thier shoes. I am sure you would say something to the effect of "I don't normally do this" if you were to suddenly enter some stranger's car-in addition to asking where the stops were.

LJ said...

H - I think he felt nervous and unsure of himself. Funny how much I thought about the reactions in both cases. Fear, I thought, covered by conversation and bravado, an immediate verbal attempt to find connection in an unfamiliar situation.
Thanks PF. I think I came across as insulted when I wrote this, when I was actually amused in both cases - and a little sorry for both people (as well as slightly annoyed about having my personal coma interupted).
Don't worry D - I wasn't being mean
and I do understand the discomfort level.

Minor Deity said...

Hell, I own 5 vehicles (4 of which are roadworthy), and I usually take the bus when I can. Why? 'Cause it's cheaper. Considering the fact that I work at Stalag 13, saving money is a good idea...

LJ said...

MD - See you are one of the other variety of public transit riders - the ones who do own vehicles (in your case, rather a lot of vehicles)but who actually choose to be tortured by Metro transit rather than tortured by the price of gas, parking and the visicitudes of rush hour traffic. A kind of honorary bus person. We, the vehicle-less, would not spot you as alien, however.

phlegmfatale said...

It is funny, though, LJ & Darkmind - the revealing things folks will say about themselves to absolute strangers - things they might think twice about saying to people they have to face in family/social/work situations. IN a way, it's liberating, and in a way, it's a little sad, but perhaps it's best to simply straddle the fence and just giggle at how silly we all are.