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.

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