Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Our Non-Melting Pot

The only reason I notice this next guy who gets on the bus is because he greets the bus driver in an unusually enthusiastic manner, "Good day, sir. And how are you? Looks like I owe you 75 cents more. Might I have a transfer please?" Obviously not a regular on the 22 with that kind of attitude. So I'm already scribing about my love for texting after getting my own bench on the bus, and I'm not paying too much attention to the conversation this guy has started with a lady across from him (he's sitting in priority seating, which faces the other priority bench). And then I hear this: "America is a melting pot that is NOT melting! We all speak our own language and we can't understand each other." Then he says something about how his parents grew up, one in Germany, another in England, then something about Hitler...I know I should be paying better attention at this point. But at this point, I am wishing I can't understand him. All I get after that is a bit of his opinion on how Norwegians are an extremely stubborn bunch, as he leans in and whispers it to this poor lady who is obviously annoyed by now...and needing my counsel on when to pull out the cell phone.

I Luv Text

The bus is packed today. I hate the days when I walk on the bus and every two-seater bench is already occupied by one person, therefore leaving me to decide (quickly) who is the cleanest-looking person to snuggle up with. Okay, the lady devouring her Doritos, so much so, the bag is totally ripped open so she can examine the crumbs is out. Not the guy going, "Shut up fool!" over his cell phone. Obviously not the lady who packed her groceries in the seat next to her. I end up sitting next to a guy who looks at me, smiles and says hello--but almost like he might be the chatty kind. I might be paranoid, but I smile back and then determinedly pull out my cell phone like I've got a text to attend to. I begin texting jibberish to no one (well at least I'm not talking jibberish to no one!) and burn my eyes into the screen like nothing around me could be near as important. Hope he gets the hint. People ask why I don't just bring a book. Two problems with a book: 1) Books are a great conversation piece, and can actually work against a person looking to avoid conversation. 2) A book invites the person you're literally brushing shoulders with to stare over your shoulder and read right along with you. But texting...now that's personal! No stranger is going to ask you who you are texting and what about. (Of course never say never on the 22.) Anyway, I text until an empty bench comes open and I hop to it--just as the subject of my next post walks on....

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cousin Prince Barkley

Hmmm...well? How do I accurately describe the man who just walked on the bus? My first thought was Prince. Or, Artist Formerly Known As...whatever, who cares. Prince. Mix in a little Gnarls Barkley. And finally, Cousin Itt. This guy has a funky, dark, underworld, not-sure-how-to-work-in-the-gothic-hairstyle sort of look. His hair is shoulder length and it actually covers his entire head like a helmet. I can't make out much of his face. It's mean, but Cousin Itt comes to mind. He wears a black trench coat and rocks a huge, purple cross around his neck. He's wearing multi-colored bangle bracelets. LOTS of bracelets that go halfway up his arms. I can see just the tip of his chin (and believe me, I'm not trying to stare at this guy) and it looks like there might be a goatee in there. He is sitting right next to me on the community bench seat nearest the front of the bus, formally the "Priority Seating for Disabled or Elderly People." He holds his hands, painted black fingernails, in his lap and bows his head in meditation--I think. I'm not bothered by him at all since he's not talking to me, talking thru me and he doesn't emit a funk, however--I want so badly to poke at his stiff helmet head of hair!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Nearly Normal

Today I picked the wrong seat on the bus. I sit down to find a pile of crushed peanut shells all around me, and there is a line of sticky liquid on the floor around it. Doesn't smell so I don't assume the worst--stream of juice box juice is my best guess--but maybe I don't really want to know. I just lift my flip flopped feet slightly off the ground and try my best to avoid it. For a sec, I consider moving but the bus begins to move and I relinquish the idea. After all, it's not as bad as the bloody Band Aid I found at my feet a week earlier. The rest of the ride is for the most part, uneventful and odor free and I allow myself to zone out. Then just before the bridge into downtown at the tail end of my ride, the older teenage boy sitting in front of me turns 180 and looks right at me. I swallow hard and think: Here we go.... "Excuse me. Do you know if this bus goes to Pine?" he asked. A normal question. It's the first. I've been asked if I were Hillary, would I leave Bill. I've been asked for money. And I've been asked in a threatening tone, "Who do you think you are?" Tho that last question I think was meant for someone in front of me or behind that only the lady who asked could see. She continued to ramble and cock her head in anger but I'm pretty sure she was leaving me out of it. Anyway, normal question happens. And I don't even have a good answer for it. Poor kid has to go to Pine which is a longer ride than mine, so I tell him I believe it does, but I'm not sure. All the while, I'm thinking: He knows I'm a regular on this bus. He senses it somehow. Do I really appear so comfortable on this bus? OMG! Do I smell?? I tell him people ask the bus driver questions all the time about their route, and that he should ask at the next stop. But he doesn't. I think he's a little nervous to walk to the front--maybe it's the mystery liquid on the floor that wigs him out. When my stop comes up, I tap him on the shoulder and confirm he needs Pine. I tell him I'll ask on my way out and give him the thumbs up if he should remain on the bus. Bus driver says good and I flash the kid a thumbs up just before exiting. Couple things I learned today on the 22: a) feels good to help a novice 22 commuter and b) keep your feet up.

Monday, July 21, 2008

International 22

Took a little vacation this past week from riding the bus. I took Thursday and Friday off work to go with friends to Vancouver and Whistler, B.C. for a long weekend. Two whole days I didn't ride the bus. That's four trips and about an hour and a half worth of bus ride avoided. (Not to mention 7 bucks saved.) Still, I was haunted by the 22, after passing it twice near Gastown in Vancouver. The second time around, my eagle vision spotted it just early enough to prepare my camera and snap this photo. Luckily, I didn't have to ride this intl version 22, and the only wildlife I encountered was a real, live brown bear from a safe distance on Whistler mountain. Though somewhat mangy, he appeared to be sober.

Monday, July 14, 2008

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem

Why some people ride the bus without shirts, I don't know. How they have the confidence to pull off such a daring look in a public place, I have no idea. Why they think they look good shirtless, is beyond me. Why she walked on with a neon green bra and jean shorts, I cannot even begin to fathom....

Preach On, Preacher

We've got another live one today, a talker who talks to no one--we can see, anyway. When I walked on the bus, he was already talking to a younger gal, who was leaning into him, apparently involved. So I thought nothing of it, except that he was animated and obviously passionate about this discussion. Next thing I know, the girl walks off the bus mid-his speech and he just went on talking. Did I miss something? I guess I did, however, he did not miss a beat. He kept going, talking, pointing and gesturing and raising eyebrows like he were a lecture hall professor, or a preacher. All this, and yet he was just whispering to himself. I have to admit, I was strangely intrigued by his intensity, and I would not have minded a dose of his sermon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hemp Cologne?

Two stops after mine, a younger guy walks on the bus. Instantly I'm overcome with the familiar odor of an illegal substance. POWERFULLY potent, this guy is. So much so, I have no doubt he's packing in one of his coat pockets. He happens to sit across from another young guy, who stares at him for a sec before letting out a low, stoner laugh. Then, with a big grin, laugher reaches inside his coat and half pulls out a glass pipe to show the guy he is in good company, and as if to ask: Wanna share?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The "Regular"

A very drunk man got on the bus this afternoon. He doesn't have money to pay the driver and he slurs something to him that I don't understand. Bus driver actually says, "I don't understand." So the guy sways a little with obvious annoyance and manages to spit out, "I lost my bus transfer!" (I think, anyway.) Bus driver waves him back, not wanting to deal with him. Drunk man proceeds to go in and out of consciousness, while I avoid any waking eye contact since we are the only two on the bus. A woman gets on, and naive to the situation, she sits directly across from drunky. He is suddenly intrigued by her and he tries several times to get her attention. "Hey." "Hey." "Hey!" "You!" "Scu-me!" "Hey!" And then I think he said, "Nice shirt" but I can't be certain. She ignores him, and rightly so but finally the driver has to butt in and says, "Where you goin' sir?" Drunky slurs something incomprehensible and I watch his eyes flutter around in a half-dazed state. More than half-dazed, actually. A few minutes later before going over the bridge and crossing into downtown, the bus driver pulls over at an empty stop, gets out of his seat and walks over to drunky, who by now is completely passed out. Bus driver shakes drunky for a minute and wakes him, telling him he's gotta get off the bus before they head downtown. Drunk man is completely confused and unaware of where he's at, and probably how he got on the bus. He hesitates to go and bus driver probes him to leave. Drunky gives a frustrated, "Don't mess with me!" and he evaluates the bus stop before he stumbles off.

The interesting thing to me is the fact that I saw this same, extremely intoxicated man sitting at my bus stop a few months back, surrounded by firefighters. I asked if I should keep going to the next stop and they said I'd be fine here--they just needed to coax him into the ambulance so they could take him to a shelter. They told me he had passed out at the bus stop from a day of heavy drinking (it was 4 p.m.). I actually feel sorry for this guy and something tells me I'll be seeing him again.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Smile at the Rain

There is a man sitting in front of me wearing a garbage bag. It's pretty rainy outside so I can understand this. What I don't understand is who he is talking to when he looks toward the window. I don't see anyone out there--but he is smiling--so I'm just glad it's a nice conversation.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Short Story

I began riding the 22 bus just over a year ago. My trip is about 20-25 minutes, once in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Not too long, right? WRONG. 20-25 minutes is just enough time to get a glimpse into the dark world of downtown commuters. It's just enough time to sit next to people with urine and poop stains; to avoid eye contact with people who talk jibberish to no one; to stare at old men looking comatose, hoping they will wake up eventually; to witness my bus driver threaten more fortunate car commuters; to cower from vampires (seriously, lots of vampires on the 22); to hear very loud phone conversations like this one: No I did NOT steal a line dude! Why would I even care about .0004 grams of cocaine anyway!? 20-25 minutes is just enough time to jot down a few good stories that I will share here in this blog. Unfortunately for me and the rest of the minority who choose to shower daily, 20-25 minutes is just too much time to hold our breath.