Some bus rides

On busier Metro routes, they use bendy-buses that seat twice as many passengers as a regular bus, because they're extra long. They're almost like two buses, connected by a bending accordian-style platform.

Maybe it's shitty technology, or maybe Metro's maintenance lacks a budget for oil, but on a lot of these articulated buses, there's a horrendous screeching noise as the bus bends around corners — kinda like this only louder, especially if you're inside the bendy-bus and seated near the bend. 

When I'm on a bus that makes that gawdawful sound, my habit is to screech along with it. It amuses me, and most people don't seem to notice, because my imitation of the sound is spot on, and anyway, my mouth is hidden under a mask.

Sometimes people look around and wonder, though, and on this ride an old white man looked around, pinpointed the source of the extra sound, and stared at me for half a block.

I shrugged, then screeched again as we turned the next corner. It's affordable entertainment.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Here's some unwise wisdom in the morning, from a young bum on the bus who looked about 25 years old. Maybe he was a stoner, more than a bum. Hard to say. Stoned sounds the same as drunk, when someone's looking out the window and talking to himself.

"Do you hear what I'm saying?" he asked nobody, everybody. "The whole world isn't your mom and dad. Nobody is looking out for you. Nobody! Everyone's only looking to screw you over. Screw— you— over!"

I don't believe that's true, Mr Bum-Stoner. Not everyone's looking to screw you over. Not even most people. The truth is more boring. Most people simply don't give a damn about you or me or anything but themselves and, maybe, a few loved ones.

It's one of the few ways I'm kinda like most people.

♦ ♦ ♦  

You think he was bluetooth-enabled and actually talking to something other than the air and window? Nah, when you see it you can tell the diff between talking bluetooth and just talking crazy.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Graffiti at a bus stop: "Fuck loud whores."

I wonder what's the story behind that. Fucking is what they sell, and louder is better, you'd think, at least within reason.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

A middle-aged black woman approached me at a bus stop, and said, "Say, mister, can you spare anything for a meal?"

"Yes, I can," I answered immediately. Any bum who asks for a handout needs a handout, is my rule, and my standard handout is still $5. Usually there's a folded fiver in my coat pocket, so I don't need to pull out my wallet. I handed her the fivespot instantly.

She went wide-eyed, and said, "Thank you, mister. Really, thank you." And as she walked away, she turned around and shouted a third "Thank you!" 

It's the juxtaposition that shocked her, probably. I'm big and usually wear a scowl, so nobody expects it when I'm suddenly not an ass. It surprises me, too, to be honest.

Hers was the most enthusiastic response I've yet gotten, and it cheered my wintry soul. Certainly five dollars worth.

Exuberant thanks aren't necessary, though. Usually the recipient just mumbles a few words and walks away, and sometimes they don't say anything. Whatever the response, I frickin' love handing out five-dollar bills on request, and will continue to do so until I'm the one asking.

♦ ♦ ♦  

At the front of the bus are two long sideways seats, benches where you're facing the other side of the bus instead of the front. I call them the slideways seats, because the force of the bus moving forward slides you along the bench, into the person beside you. I hate those seats, and would rather stand.

On this particular bus, two people were sitting in the left sideways seats, and two were in the right sideways seats, and all of them were looking at their devices, just scrolling and scrolling.

The device in my hand was a small spiral notebook, briefly lost but happily found, into which I wrote, "Four people in the slideways seats, scrolling and scrolling," to remind me to write this later:

I grew up in the 1960s and '70s, and still felt at home in '80s and 90s. The 2000s were a bit much, but I was keeping up. Since about 2010, though, technologically and societally, I am a stranger in an increasingly strange land.

♦ ♦ ♦  

At the bus station again, I was waiting for the #99 to take me home. The shared house I live in is in a very dull neighborhood, so the bus only runs twice hourly, and my bus home was supposed to leave the transit center at 11:58. It was already a few minutes past noon, so the bus was late.

Unlike at a bus stop, at the bus station we could all see the bus — it was parked, idling, across the concrete. The driver was sitting in it, and seemed to be in no hurry to start his next run.

It was a little chilly waiting in the open air, but life is a cruel interlude before death, and I wasn't complaining.

A man standing ten feet from me was doing enough complaining for both of us, or a bus full of us. "Wake up, driver," the man said. "It's time." And he was right, it was time, but also, so what? 

The complainer was about 35, a white guy (of course) in a suit (of course) and he simply had to be somewhere on time.

I thought, What's your problem, dude?

"I have to be downtown by 1:00," he said, as if answering my unspoken question.

My still-silent retort was, if a bus running five minutes late is gonna implode something vital on your agenda, you should've caught an earlier bus.

I'm not as important as that man, so I simply enjoyed him being bothered, and he gave me a great show. He stood and fumed silently, then absolutely shouted, "What the fuck is this asshole driver waiting for?"

Well, perhaps traffic got our driver to the station late from his previous run — he still deserves a 15-minute break, doesn't he? Maybe he's eating his lunch. Maybe he's checking his email. It's a bus, buddy, not Greenwich Mean Time.

The man in a suit ratcheted up his hysteria over the next two or three minutes, greatly improving my mood. Was he going to walk across the bus lot and start pounding on the doors of the idling bus?

Sadly, no. The driver slowly pulled the bus around the loop, up to the first stop of the route, and we all got on. The angry stockbroker said nothing rude to the driver, simply took a seat.

As we were waiting at the first stop light, the white guy in a suit muttered, but I couldn't hear what. A few blocks later at another red light, he muttered loudly, and I could make out our Lord and Savior's name. The light turned green, the bus lumbered along, but not quickly enough for that guy, so he said, "Now we're gonna go three fucking miles an hour the whole fucking way."

Maybe it wasn't loud enough to be harassing the driver, but it was loud enough to be heard, and the driver heard it. He answered in an ordinary conversational tone of voice, "Oh, I can always go slower."

There was not another word from the angry white man, nor even any more mumbling.

♦ ♦ ♦

My flatmate Dean still wears a trilby hat from a noir movie, because sometimes old people cling to old styles. Likewise, sagging pants fell out of fashion long ago, didn't they?

In one of the sideways seats on the bus, there was a 50-something black man with low pants. He had graying hair, a necktie visible under the collar of his winter jacket, so he was definitely all grown up — and yet, his pants were belted over his thighs.

He was wearing several layers against the winter chill, so no skin was exposed at the moment. Same as thirty years ago, though, you have to marvel at the sheer impracticality. What keeps 'em up when he's walking?

♦ ♦ ♦ 

On another ride, we were on another screeching bendy-bus, so as always I joined right in, "Hrr-rrr-rrrrr."

Thought I heard something else, though, so I stopped my participation, looked around, and yes — someone in the bus's back row was pitching in with sound effects, too.

He was a homeless-looking black guy in his 40s, and after eye contact he said, "A little WD-40 will clear that right up," and we both laughed and laughed. 

Then we both looked out of our respective windows and said nothing more, as the ride and the bus's screeching continued.



  1. The last section made me smile. :)

    Because of your writing I started giving out money to people that ask for it, too. It happens very rarely, in my city/region there probably aren't that many homeless people I'd guess; I've given out a little bit to maybe 2-3 people. One of them seemed really friendly the first time, but since then he always approaches me as soon as he sees me and makes me really uncomfortable. If he would just ask for it I'd still give him some but he tries to pressure me into it and is very obviously on some drug(s).
    It's not that bad, I don't think he's a threat to me, it's maybe a small annoyance but I'm not used to that at all.

    1. Because of me? Dang. Thank you.

      Yeah, I should've mentioned, it's *not* expensive, because no matter how desperate, most people don't ask, and usually I don't give anything unless they do. At $5 a crack, it's certainly not a budget-buster.

      Sorry about the annoyance factor.

      For exactly that reason, I always become quite the Ebeneezer when I'm anywhere I'm frequently at. Nobody gets squat from me at the transit station where I'm always waiting for a bus, that's for sure.

  2. Your screech along with Doug bus ride rap got me to remembering:
    Once I was hitchhiking and the car was going too fast for me on the curvy mountain road, plus I was stoned.
    “Could you slow down?” I asked.
    “Hey, you can get out if you want,” the driver said.
    So on the next curves I howled “Wooooo!” as we went fast around them, like on a rollercoaster, kind of helped me deal with the reckless abandon I guess.
    Eel P.

    1. You scared me, dude. I thought you were about to jump out and do a bloody roll and tumble.

      Hope there wasn't a wreck and it didn't kill you!

  3. When you tell a story, I always want to read it.

    I am younger than you but also a stranger in this time and place.


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