HIS WAS THE SCENE on a recent bus ride home: Corpulent, aromatic fellow seated to my left. Woman standing in aisle to my right, holding large bag full of hard pointy items poking my shoulder. Boy seated behind with cell phone, engaged in this exact conversation: "Hello? I'm on the bus. Yeah. Slow. Yeah. I gotta go. What? Yeah. I'm on the bus. Later."
Below find three more reasons why riding the bus does not exemplify following your bliss. Reasons one and two further challenge your love of humanity, reason three, your confidence that living in a developed nation is automatically a good thing.
Let us first visit:
This individual is almost always male, and drives your bus like hippies still dance to The Grateful Dead: free form and slo-mo. If you're in a hurry you can just forget it. He applies pressure to the gas pedal only to restore minimum momentum, which gives you the sensation of helplessly floating and rolling on the Nightmare Love Bus. When someone at a bus stop asks "Do you go to 53rd and Powell?" he takes this as a philosophical matter to be pondered through at least two cycles of a traffic light. Finally he informs the questioner both how we reach 53rd and Powell today, and, in a better world, how we might reach 53rd and Powell tomorrow. When at last he opens the door at your stop and says "Have a great evening, now" you really must resist the compulsion to bonk him on the head with your fist, I think for legal reasons.
And now to your co-passengers. I'll bet money that each of you has at least once run into:
Equally a he or a she, unless it's the subcategory of The Big Bad Wolf, see below. The Talker, by definition, does not heed the normal cues, which is why your reading a book, or pretending to, may actually be used against you. To the Talker a book is the perfect ice breaker. Lead-ins like "Whatcha readin' there?" or "Get to the good parts yet?" will smooth the path for one-way discussions on topics such as: TrifocalsHave We Gone Too Far? and will end (as you signal three stops early) with just some opening thoughts as to why every grade-school child should be taught by nuns. All around can be heard the little sighs of relief from your fellow passengers that for once it's you and not them. Fear grips your heart that this Talker has formed an attachment to you alone and will seek you out every day on the bus forever and ever. Thoughts of leaving the state impress you as logically infallible.
Always a man, the mashing version of the generic Talker. That you are female is his sole requirement. If you carry a book, he will only use it to grease his sleazy wheel. The best approach I have found with The Big Bad Wolf is to remain completely unresponsive, a form of stimulus denial which apparently stuns his brain for up to 20 minutes. Unless he subscribes to the I-take-every-rejection-as-a-challenge methodology. Then you must start drooling. Unless he's one of the Insane Talkers, a clinical subcategory I am not trained to discuss. Suffice it to say drool might be an attractant.
Speaking of insanity, never follow a:
If you haven't already noticed, buses roll in herds: as you're running toward your stop and see one lumbering by, you'll soon spot two others following close behind. Now another batch doesn't need to show up for a good half hour. Statistics prove that riders who randomly approach a bus stop have as great a chance of reaching their destination on time as the those who rely on schedules containing "information" like 7:16 or ***. And that "map" printed inside? Hah! You're staring at a cutaway aerial view of the gopher tunnels in your back yard. As if that weren't enough, you will never, as long as there is breath in your body, be able to refold a bus schedule back into its diabolical brochure format.
But now here I am, not promoting bus ridership. Shame on me. Forget I said anything.
© 2002 Kate Heidel