Saturday, August 23, 2008

#9 in the Transit Epiphanies Series

This is going to be a multi-ride pass of bus stories I never got around to blogging:

1/20/2007--the coldest day I ever waited for a bus. There's a wild snowstorm that attacked the city around 1 pm and the Library has closed early. I am very glad I had the foresight that morning to wear my boots to work, but I'm a little irked that I felt the need to wear a skirt. Like everyone else, I exodus to the bus at 5 pm, hoping to get out of downtown within a couple of hours, traffic and snow being what it is.

I'm waiting at the bus stop and the 55 never comes. A young, cheerful guy is waiting with me. Everyone else is cranky, cold and occasionally mustering up the energy to state the bloomin' obvious, "the bus is late." It's been over 40 minutes and I begin to count the buses that go by. This is the second 38 I've seen, the third 24 and the third 71. I make a joke to my transit pal, "We're playing Texas Hold'em with buses!" He laughs and sez, "Yeah, we are! Check it out, I got two of a kind!" as a 71 whizzes past. We start taking serious note of the bus numbers. I'm up to two pair and he has five of a kind before a winner is declared. The winner is the person whose bus arrives first.

A couple of days later, I catch the last 55 heading south. We don't get more than three blocks when the bus stops abruptly in the middle of Main Street. No one pays any attention as we wait. But after about three minutes, passengers begin craning to see what the hold up is and we notice the bus driver getting agitated. Seems there's a car stopped in the middle of Main. And all the honking, yelling and obscene gestures can't get this blind, deaf, and idiotic auto-bovine to move.

Our bus driver angrily puts the bus in park and stomps off the bus. Those of us up front watch him walk to the driver's side of the stopped car and point angrily at the bus and then shake his finger in the driver's face. We watch our driver storm back to the bus, get back on and sit down heavily. He smacks his hands on the large steering wheel, then grips it tightly for a moment. His hands loosen on the wheel and the bus driver lets go. He quietly open the door again and steps off the bus. This time, he hails a cop, points to the obstinate driver and then returns to his bus.

The cop takes it from there. He saunters over to the reason for the by now cacophonous traffic jam and pleasantly addresses the driver. The driver still doesn't move. The cop leisurely pulls out his pad and issues the nuisance a ticket. The bus passengers cheer, the bus driver pastes a self-satisfied smile on his face and the inducer of road rage moves his car to the side of the road. Seems he's there to pick someone up from work and he's waiting for the person to arrive.

As the 55 starts making its way south, some of the passengers begin a conversation about evolution and road rage. I can't see the correlation myself, and go back to the book in my iPod.

8/20/08--I get the afternoon off for having worked a 14 hour day the night before. I'm boarding the 57 South Oak, which isn't a bad bus to ride and usually more interesting than the 55. Right after I board, a very strange, but nice enough man gets on. He's wearing a short sleeve shirt and khaki pants. Around his shin is tied a blue bandanna. It's a strange fashion statement, but, hey, could be seen on Project Runway next week.

The man sits down and greets the person next to him, a Metro bus driver on his way to pick up his next run, with, "Hey there Metro man, Metro Dan metro!". Loquacious Bandannaleg starts digging through his belongings, "I know it's here, I know I have it. My transfer is in my pants. My transfer is in my box. I'm on my tenth cigarette. I sit right here next to the metro bus man." The resting driver doesn't even look at his seatmate who continues the running commentary on In Search of...Bus Transfers.

"Bless yer heart. It's here, it's right here. What? Yes, sir, kind man. I'll sit down and shut up. It's in my bag. It's in my pants. There's my cigarettes! Oh, here it is. Here you are, sir." It's about five stops since Bandannaleg boarded and he holds out his bus pass to the driver and the driver points to the fare box. Bandannaleg gets up from his seat, clutching his pants and says, "Bless yer heart, man. Thank you. Thanks for your driving, Mr. Metro Driver Man, Driver Dan, Metro Man."

It's no wonder I'm not getting any reading done any more on the bus.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bus du Freak

#78 in in the Transit Epiphanies

I've been riding the bus regularly, green girl that I am, but it's a very boring bus line. Nothing interesting happens on the 55. Everybody reads, though. I spend my rides craning my neck and straining my eyeballs trying to readsdrop on my fellow passengers.

But occasionally I have to take the Max. Last Tuesday, I had to pull an unexpected 14 hour day at la libraire. The work part doesn't suk, but the not-having-anything-to-gnosh-for-dinner and having-to-take-the-bus -home-at-9:30pm parts kinda do.

I was dog tired when I climbed on the 9:22 Max at Petticoat Lane. And my mood didn't improve when I spotted the smart-mouthed Vietnam vet from a couple of bus rides ago. He's very chatty and a bit of a pushy wanker who wants to talk to everyone. He gives me the hairy eyeball and I glare back with my best "keep it to your effing self, slimebag" look.

But one of my favorite passengers is on the bus. A very large and jolly African-American man who carries a pink boom box with him and at least three pieces of luggage. He's never any trouble. Just talks to himself or any rider who'll chat back. But it's obvious he's not having a good day today. He's sitting in the seat behind the bus driver and staring at his reflection in the window. He's saying, "Talk about food. Talk about chicks. Talk about the...Not today. Gotta go. Not on the phone. Not today." He shakes his finger at his reflection and says, "Not today. Gotta go."

The mouthy vet starts bitching about how hot it is on the bus. It's about 67 degrees outside and the driver, bless her, has turned off the AC. Having just come from the Arctically-temped library I'm not interested in the vet's kvetching. But he turns to me and sez, rudely, "Hey! Ainchu hot? Ain't it hot in here? How 'bout some AC, huh?" I say, loudly, "I'm not warm." No one else says anything. It's a crowded bus, but everyone is eerily quiet, as if they're waiting for something to surface. One of the downtown CID bike officers sits in the seat behind me.

Badday Jollyman continues to stare at his reflection in the window, saying, "Not today. Hey, fella. I gotta go." The vet keeps trying to start conversation with everyone on the bus, but no one's having any. He remarks on my cons, calls them PF flyers. Continues to stare. I stare back. I have perfected the blank, don'tfuckwithme stare. Anyone who wears contact lenses can do this. We stick shit in our eyes every day. We can stare down any badass on the bus.

The Vet thinks the Badday Jollyman is talking to him since he's, well, TALKING to somebody. And the Vet starts in, "Hey, man, you're freaking me out. Do not freak me out. I don't care how big you are, don't freak me out. I'll freak you up. I'm a Vietnam vet. Don't freak me out. Don't like to be freaked out."

This is what the other passengers were afraid would happen. It's just hot enough to annoy the shit out of everyone, but not so hot anyone will throw a punch or pull a switchblade.

Then the Badday Jollyman turns to the Vet and says something about Tina Turner and Luke Skywalker. He turns back to the window, points his finger at his reflection and says, "You keep that girl to yourself. Luke Skywalker was a rapper!" The Vet pipes up and says, "No, he's a producer!" Badday Jollyman replies, "Luke is nasty. Get back, Luke, that's nasty." To the window, "I said, keep back, that's nasty. Whoever you are, you have no business coming into QuickTrip."

The mugginess of the bus overtakes the Vet and the Jollyman and they fall silent. The CID officer gets off at 39th Street and says he'll see me tomorrow. He notices I've been scribbling furiously and grins. The Vet gets off at the Plaza. He leers once more at me and my notebook. I deadstare over his shoulder as he gets off the bus. Jollyman gets off at Il Centro. I miss him already.