Wednesday, November 8, 2006

#59 in the 47 Roanoke: Transit Epiphanies series

On October 26 I rode the 47 Roanoke home for the last time. I was moving from the Roanoke neighborhood over to Brookside and would be taking a new bus to and from work.

I thought it would be an uneventful ride until I saw "handicapped seat" at the bus stop. You remember him. He's the fat, filthy, grizzed Santafreak who grumbled at me for sitting in the handicapped seat he wanted and called me "four eyes."

Since I caught sight of him in time, when I got on the bus, I bypassed his favorite seat and sat by the second door in the middle of the bus. A middle-aged woman was sitting behind "Bad Santa" when we all got on the bus. After a couple of seconds she whooshes "ooooooEEEEEE!" and moves to the back seat of the bus. Apparently Santa is smelly and it's beginning to waft across the aisle and I struggle to open my window. The bus hasn't started moving yet, we're waiting for the clock to reach the departure time. The woman who moved to the back of the bus suddenly charges up the aisle, demanding to be let off the bus, "Lemme out. Lemme out NOW! Stankin' fool." She will take the 6:05. No doubt it will be more aromatic.

I decide to take her place at the back of the bus, right next to an open window. The bus starts its slow rumble up Main and two blocks later a young Mexican woman in running shoes gets on and sits in the double seat behind "Aromatherapy Santa." One stop later she moves closer to the back of the bus and struggles to open her window. A chubby girl in a great white skirt with gold and orange sequins trimming it helps her open the window. Sequin Skirt looks at me after helping Running Shoes and we all start to giggle as we realize why we're sitting in the back.

"Santa Stank" begins to mumble to himself and Sequin Skirt pulls out a cheap bottle of Raspberry Fling roll on perfume and offers it all around telling us to take a healthy whiff. "It'll block da' smail!" Running Shoes and I do it. Sequin Skirt tells us she bought it in a gas station on Brooklyn for a dollar. I fish in my bag for my tin of Altoids and pass those around, too. We all start laughing about the unbearable stench in the bus and Sequin Skirt says, "Yeah, this'll keep you sinus clear!" as she takes two Altoids. Running Shoes says thank you politely and the guy in front of me takes the whole tin, pours a handful into his palm and gives it back. I just grin.

We continue to giggle like fifth graders at "Santa Stench" who continues to grumble to himself and turn around to shoot withering glares at us for laughing in the back of the bus. All of us have our faces pressed up to the small open spaces in the window, breathing in the cool air. Sequin Skirt says, "Man, I rather be col' than breathe dat stanky butt!" Running Shoes and I crack up at this.

When we get to Running Shoes stop, she looks at me and Sequin Skirt for a beat and says goodbye and thanks. I tell her goodbye and feel a little drop in my chest. I won't see her again. The next time I need to ride the bus, I will be on the Max, the suburbanites' bus. Two stops later, it's my turn and Stinka Claus gets off at that stop, too. I turn to Sequin Skirt and tell her her outfit is sensational. She smiles proudly and tells me she made the skirt herself. I am very impressed and again, feel a little pang. I won't see Sequin Skirt again, either. She says, "Have a good one. See ya nex' time!" I toss a grin back and get off the bus. Santa Smells is wobbling his way into D.B. Cooper's and I start walking down Bell.

It's the last time I will walk this street and I look at everything closely, to make sure I can take it all with me.

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