Four buses to breakfast and back

Healthy food is what I've been eating lately, but there's a limit to how much 'healthy' a fat man can stand. Breakfast at Mrs Rigby's popped into my mind and wouldn't go away, and the first step is 200 steps to the bus stop, down the street from my house.

Usually I wait alone for my southbound #99, but a man was already there, and I nodded at him, to signal acknowledgment without inviting a conversation. He didn't get the signal, and started talking, telling me how much he hates riding the bus and why. I continued nodding and somewhat listened, but also peered through the hole in the fence.

I love the hole. On the other side of the street, new houses for rich people are under construction, but on our side there's a row of older houses, and where one house used to be, a tall wooden fence with a slat missing. You can't see over the fence, but through that missing slat you can see the missing house. There's only tin cans and broken bottles back there, and patchy grass, and the old foundation, and the weathered, slightly leaning shed that used to be behind the house that used to be there.

That empty lot intrigues me, and I always look through the missing slat, and wonder about the house that isn't there and the people who once lived in it.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

That talky rider shut up when the bus came, and there was only one interesting character on my first ride. He was an old man, saying something to himself so softly it was only audible when the bus was stopped at a traffic light or picking up passengers.

He was seated one row behind me on the opposite side, so at the next stop I leaned diagonally in his direction, hoping to overhear his conversation with himself. I heard it, but I'd been mistaken. He wasn't talking to himself, he was talking to God. Louder than whispering but quieter than talking, he was reciting the Lord's Prayer. 

At the next stop, I leaned his way again, as he was finishing the recitation. "…For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, amen." He took a breath, and started again, "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…"

The bus lurched forward, and his prayer disappeared into the rattles and rumbles.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

At the end of the #99 line is the transit center, where I got off the bus. Maybe you're not a bus person so I'll explain: A transit center is where several or many bus routes converge, making it easy to get off one bus and onto another if your trip requires two bus rides, like my trip to Mrs Rigby's. 

It would be a few minutes before the #560 pulled up, so I stood and waited. There are benches at a transit center, but usually they're covered with other people's trash, or trashy other people.

Again with the standard disclaimer: Most people riding the bus are mostly ordinary. There's usually a trashy person or two riding, though, and several were loitering at the transit station.

A man in a suit and carrying a Bible walked eagerly toward me, clearly intending to tell me that Christ died for my sins. I like my sins, though, and never asked anyone to die, so I assumed the Christ-on-a-cross position, stretching my arms straight out to my side, opening my mouth and tilting my head in mock agony.

Sometimes this strategy works, and it worked this morning. The preacher man slowed, then stopped, decided I wasn't worth saving and chased after someone else's soul instead.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Absolutely nothing interesting happened on the #560, riding to the diner. I paid my fare, took my seat, looked out the window, and got off at the diner.

♦ ♦ ♦

At Mrs Rigby's, there's a beggar who's always on patrol in the parking lot, across the street, or around the corner but he'll be back soon. It's a quiet part of town, and he's the neighborhood's only regular homeless guy.

I've been making a small, cheap effort to help people who need help, so I'm usually kind with the homeless, and give what I can. I've always avoided saying anything or giving anything to that guy, though.

Spend enough time in cities, and you can tell by instinct which bums are scary and which aren't, and the bum at Mrs Rigby's is not scary, not at all, but — he's the bum at Mrs Rigby's. I eat there two or three times a week, and don't want a homeless guy expecting a handout, or worse, a conversation from me, every time I'm there.

Thus, I intentionally ignored him, as I always do, and felt kinda bad about it, as always… but never bad enough to talk to him, or give him any money.

♦ ♦ ♦

At the diner, I had a glorious breakfast of minced ham and onion in scrambled eggs, with hash browns and french toast and too much coffee.

If you're checking your file on me, no, that's not my ordinary order. I've been switching things 'round, trying different things on the menu. Last week I had the shrimp and fried rice, which was marvelous. Breakfast this morning was marvelous, too, and then I walked past the diner's bum on my way to the bus stop.

♦ ♦ ♦

Someone's carry-out crumbs and plastic were on the bench, so I couldn't sit. Sometimes I've sometimes seen people tidy up a bus stop while they're waiting, so I decided to try being one of those tidy people. This was new for me. I'll always toss my trash in the bin, but never mess with someone else's mess.

Today, though, I picked up some stranger's redded ketchup and yellowed mustard packets, and put them in the greasy plastic clamshell they'd left, even grabbed their burger wrapper off the pavement, but I left the loose fries for the pigeons to eat, or for the diner's bum.

Carried the trash to the trash can, but it's of a new and improved design, sealed up tight on the top and bottom and on all sides, with only a small opening you're supposed to drop your trash through. The opening is a few inches wider than my fist, but not nearly wide enough for the plate-size plastic clamshell carry-out container I was holding.

Ah, that's why someone else's mess had been left on the bench. An idiot who's paid to make such decisions decided that the only openings to a trash can should be five inches side-to-side.

Crumpling the carry-out might've gotten grease and ketchup all over me, so I left it on top of the trash can, and sat on the bench I'd tidied. By the time my bus came mere minutes later, the trash I'd picked up had blown into the intersection.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Riding back to the transit center, two pretty young women got onto the bus at the next stop, and sat in the seat directly in front of me, and I noticed.

I noticed so much that it took a few blocks before I noticed that a man across the aisle had noticed, too. He had his hand in his pants, and his pants were unzipped. Whether the women noticed, I'm not sure, but they kept talking as if they hadn't.

You could tell from his matted hair and ragged apparel, he was homeless and/or not altogether together in his head. He was groaning softly, which made me momentarily fear the obvious, but the evidence suggested it was pain, not arousal.

First clue, he wasn't looking at the women. Never gave them even a glance.

Second clue, his hand was down his pants, yeah, but nothing was exposed and his hand wasn't moving. Most of the fun is in the moving, you know.

Third clue, the sound of his soft groans changed when he shifted how he was sitting.

Usually I'd assume the worst, but my judgment call is that he had a pulled groin muscle or some similar medical condition, and he wasn't perving on the ladies at all. 

♦ ♦ ♦

At the transfer station, I walked over to check the schedule. My bus only runs twice an hour, and the next #99 was in 29 minutes, so I sighed and leaned on a post, and looked all around the transit center. Nothing much else to look at, at a transit center.

The preacher was still there, preaching at someone else. Perhaps fifty people were waiting for their buses, but the stops are spread out, so they were small clumps of people, not a crowd. Half a dozen people looked to be homeless or nearly, and across a wide bus driveway, another bum caught my attention. Demanded my attention, really.

He was talking to himself, but it was angry talking, and loud enough that everyone could hear. He ran his shopping cart loudly into a dumpster, then took something from the cart and disgustedly threw it onto the sidewalk. Then he banged his fist against the dumpster, so hard and so many times it had to hurt.

Again I looked at the people around me. Most were ignoring him, which is what people do in the city.

A man near me was complaining that the bum should be arrested, and I do understand people's fear of an angry muttering man. I share the fear, oh yeah. If he'd crossed the asphalt toward where we riders were waiting, I would've joined one of the clumps of people. Safety in clumps, and all that.

As I watched from a distance, across the busway, the bum paused his rant and began shaking instead, shivering, doing a dance of either withdrawal or a high I've never known and wouldn't want. On a stage in a comedy club it would've been funny, but on a sidewalk beside a dumpster it wasn't. Then his shakes stopped, and his ranting resumed.

The man near me was watching all this, still complaining, telling everyone that he's tired of seeing bums everywhere in the city. "There ought to be a law," he said, "and there is a law, and it ought to be enforced."

Do you want to call the cops, though, to have homeless people arrested and jailed? I don't. That bum was loud and sorta scary, but he was harming no-one, threatening no-one. If the cops were called, and if they actually came, they could easily make the situation worse. That's what cops do.

And you know, the angry rants of that bum were only a smidgen less coherent than the angry rants of the man complaining about the bum. About as loud, too.

We're all sick of seeing bums everywhere, but arresting them is the very last thing to do. There are so many things to try first, things never or barely tried, like giving a damn.

Like, helping people who need help.

Feeding the hungry, three meals a day.

Sheltering the homeless, someplace where they're safe and welcome.

A 'case worker' perhaps, but not a case worker so overworked and overwhelmed that everyone he or she sees is a 'case' instead of a person. 

If options like that were available, it would be rare to see a bum pounding on a dumpster and complaining to the wind. Since no options exist, it's rare not to.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

On my #99 ride back home, nothing much happened. That's what usually happens on the buses, nothing much.


← PREVIOUS          NEXT →


  1. That was a great ride!

    1. A little too long and choppy, I'd say, but thanks.

    2. Sounds like you were reviewing a Jackie Chan movie.


    3. I've not seen a Jackie Chan movie since the turn of the millennium. I enjoyed an occasional chop before that though. Sorry to hear he's an asshat. He had me fooled.


    4. I loved his 1980s and '90s movies, but he's made enough public statements of support for Totalitarian China, I just can't even any more. Can't even come close to evening.

    5. Jackie Chan is a commie? Well, it just goes to show you. . . There aren't a bunch of good guys and a bunch of bad guys; there's just a bunch of guys. Except for Putin and Trump: they're dickshots.



    6. Upon reading the evidence, Mr Chan appears to be an aspiring member of the Communist Party of China: In other words, Jackie Dickshot.


    7. In the movies he plays good guys, but in reality he'd like to have you and I arrested.

      I do try to separate the art from the artist, but I haven't seen a Jackie Chan movie in a long while, partly because all his movies for the past twenty years or so have sucked, but also because I can't separate the art from the artist.

  2. Yeah, I haven't listened to Kid Rock since. . . OK, I've never listened to Kid Rock, but if I had I wouldn't be now. Come to think about it, there are no circumstances under which I'd listen to Kid Rock. I wouldn't listen to Kid Rock had he been Obama's Secretary of State, which would have made him a one term President which wouldn't have been enough of Obama, but which would have been too much of Kid Rock.

    And is it too late to explain "Born In the USA" to Trump?


    1. Donald Trump certainly knows that "Born in the USA" is a song about kicking people out of the USA if they weren't born in the USA, and as always seems to happen, he's dead wrong about that.

      Kid Rock must be kidding when he says it's rock.


The site's software sometimes swallows comments. For less frustration, send an email and I'll post it as a comment.