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.