At the Screaming Baby Library

There were a dozen people on the bus before I stepped up and tapped my card, and the driver was laughing. He was a youngish white man wearing shorts, exposing his pale, hairless legs. Ordinarily I wouldn't notice or describe a man's legs, but the legs were what one of the passengers was joking about.

April 29, 2022

Seated up front was a black man in drag, 50 or so, with purple hair in a bob, wearing a flowery blouse, and saying, "—legs so sexy I can hardly stand it, so I had to sit."

Presumably she's a regular passenger or a friend, because the driver laughed and said, "That's sexual harassment, Benjamin!"

Benjamin was saying whatever came into her mind, and more than half of it was funny. Basically doing improv. I wasn't taking notes, and all I remember is a story about walking a dog that's been trained to drop a miniature poop at every doorstep. Like the poop, it's in the delivery, but the story was funny when she told it, and I was laughing by the time I'd taken a seat.

"This guy is smiling," Benjamin said, looking at me.

"Yup. Laughing, too," I said." You're a funny dame."

"Thank you, kind sir!" she said, effusively.

She made a few more jokes, I laughed and so did the crowd, and the driver said, "You should've brought a tip jar."

She said, "Oh, is that allowed on the bus?"

"Probably not," the driver said.

I was still smiling, and Benjamin said to the driver, "I'm just trying to keep this guy entertained." Me being 'this guy'.

"You can entertain me for the next half hour," I said. "I'm riding to the end of the line."

"Half an hour?" she said, mock shocked. "Oh, honey, I don't have that much material, and anyway, I'm getting off at 35th Avenue." (six blocks)

"Well, give us your best," I said.

"My best?" She made a thoughtful face, and then burst into an aria. It was a song I'm sorry I didn't recognize, don't know the title, but joke-time was over. Benjamin sang the living soul out of that song, with a rich baritone that had depth, pitch, and resonance. Every word had pathos, every note had passion, she dinged the bus's bell in time with the next-to-last line, and finished the song just as the bus stopped.

Applause came from all aboard, earned and serious, and after Benjamin stepped off she turned and bowed to the bus. Then she danced down the sidewalk as we rolled away. It would've been a full tip jar, if tip jars were allowed on the bus.

There's still no internet access at home. Been living here for, what, two weeks now, like Robinson Crusoe, as primitive as can be. One of the flatmates (downstairs, so I haven't met him) has an internet connection, and sells wi-fi to the other flatmates for $20 a month — but every time I knock on the guy's door he's out.

Twenty bucks is lots less than Spectrum or AT&T would charge, and screw those criminals anyway. For now, though, my room remains internetless, until two things happen on the same night — my mystery flatmate is home, and I'm willing to traipse down the stairs to the other half of this boarding house and seek him out.

A week ago I asked my upstairs flatmate Robert, "What's the password?" because he pays the $20 every month. He told me the password, but told me wrong, so as yet, no access. I'm getting used to it, though.

It's kinda zen, having to go to the internet, instead of having the internet come to me. I'm becoming a regular at the coffee shop, eating their good pastries, ogling their pierced employees, and slurping their surprisingly so-so coffee. The place has a hippie vibe that I like, and the password is PEACELOVE.

Often my internetting is done at the Screaming Baby Library, where exactly that's welcome, even encouraged. Of course, babies scream sometimes and there's not much you can do about it, but in a saner age if your baby was on a screaming binge in a public place, you'd take the baby outside, wouldn't you?

Librarians used to say 'shush' but not any more. Mums and Pops share their tots' 200 decibels, and there's always noise from newborns, infants, rambunctious toddlers, crying pre-schoolers, bratty kids running wild down the aisles, and unmasked children playing cowboys & Indians between the racks.

Mere moments ago one of them, a cowboy I think, was running and stumbled on the carpet three feet from me, and started making noises like he'd been shot. At the library, you rarely see parents; they simply drop the kids off like the library is a sitter.

Loud teenagers and adults are welcome, too, at the Screaming Baby Library. It's is a modern-era phone booth, where you can make half-hour calls to your ex, or argue with City Light about your electric bill. Come visit the library, and bring your outside voice with you. There's no need to whisper, and 'shush' is so 1950s.

Yesterday someone's mother carried the world's loudest screaming baby into the non-fiction section, and spent twenty minutes deciding which bullshit biography of which stupid celebrity she'd be checking out, while the tot screamed all the time. Not ordinary screams, either — every shriek was of absolute terror, as if the monsters from under every bed in the world had come together to capture, cook, and eat this one baby.

There were no monsters, though, except another womb-fruit being ignored in her mother's arms — for twenty minutes — and then five more minutes, as the woman struggled with the self-checkout machine.

Tonight, yeah, I'm going downstairs to knock on my mystery flatmate's door again.

Had an early lunch at Ezell's Famous Chicken. It's a chicken so famous I've heard of it, but I'd never eaten there before, and sadly, it sucked. The chicken was hot, tender, juicy, but amazingly bland — very nearly without any flavor at all. Fried chicken is already unhealthy; you shouldn't have to triple-sprinkle it with salt and pepper to make it palatable. 

Service was quick, though, and the biscuit tasted buttery without me having to add butter, and the many-tattooed woman at the counter was cordial, and the receipt says she gave me a dollar off for being old, though I hadn't asked for a senior discount and she hadn't mentioned it. Gray hair? That's a dollar off automatically, at Ezell's.

But my, how they've perfected the science of complete taste extraction. The chicken had the right texture and appearance, with steam rising like an ad for delicious fried chicken, but the taste could've been cauliflower or tofu or margarine or lard. I've had vegetarian fake-chicken that tasted more like chicken than Ezell's chicken. The grease came through, more than the meat.

While I was eating, though, a postal truck parked in the lot, and the mailman got out, came in, got in line, handed the worker Ezell's morning mail, and paid for what must've been his usual order — they'd started prepping it when he walked in, and had it ready when he reached the register.

So maybe my taste-free chicken was out of the ordinary, because if Ezell's is good enough for the local mailman to have a standing order, it must be better than whatever they served me for a dollar off.

Recycling is better than landfills, but I am skeptical of it all, and not just because of John Oliver. 

Of course I recycle, and I recycle by the rules. I'm not a monster. But jeez, I hate rinsing out every can. And I'm supposed to 'rinse' an empty jar of peanut butter, or a can of corned beef? That stuff doesn't rinse. You want it clean, you gotta scrub.

Tell me I'm wrong, but by the time I've washed the cat food out of the can, and then washed the smelly cat food out of the sink, the environmental cost of the water probably exceeds the can's recycling value.

A mean-looking homeless man at the bus stop was muttering to himself, a long-running commentary on the world, but softly, and I couldn't make out most of it. Then he dropped one of his plastic bags, picked it up again and snarled more clearly, "You think you're better than me?"

He hadn't looked at me, so I wasn't sure he was talking to me, but I fingered the mace in my pocket, and answered nice and easy, "I don't know you, man, but there aren't many people I'm better than."

He thought about that, messed with his bags some more, and gave me a serious look. "Good answer," he finally said. "Got any spare change?"

I shook my head no, and he said, "Bad answer." Then we both got onto a bus, and said nothing more.

At the Screaming Baby Library, there's a sign that says, "Children's biographies." Of course, they're not biographies of children, they're biographies of famous people, dumbed down for kids to read, but the sign makes it sound like Greta Thunberg has written her life story.

Which would be an interesting book. That kid's led a more interesting life than mine, and I'd check out her biography, maybe even read it.

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And now, fresh from my internet history…  

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The 9th Circuit just breezily said your internet data has no 4th Amendment protections 

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Kansas's first trans legislator isn't going anywhere 

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US egg factory roasts alive 5.3m chickens in avian flu cull – then fires almost every worker 

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Clogged pipes? 

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One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time...

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The End
Johnnie A Jones Jr
Guy LaFleur
Sid Mark
Cynthia Plaster Caster

Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to All Hat No Cattle, Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S., and always Stephanie...

Cranky Old Fart
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