Bus People Chronicles Continued…

Standard

I’m trying to make myself ride the bus more. My regular route with my regular bus people. I was familiar with my regular people. I knew who smelled bad on a hot day, who had the best snacks, who fell asleep and didn’t interrupt my audiobook, and who sat squished up against you given a chance. I had my seat, I had my routine, I knew exactly what would happen and when it would happen.

gudvz

Except for the guy peeing on my truck. That I didn’t anticipate.

But, for the most part, my bus route was fairly routine. And now they’re doing away with it. So, new route, new bus, new people, new experiences. Part of my fear with writing is the fact I have no stories to tell that don’t actually happen to me. Or to someone I know. But still, I have no fictional story or characters to develop. I just write what happens. Because it’s generally healthier to laugh at life than to complain. So today, despite the fact it was above 90, we were in the sun the entire ride, crammed in like sardines, and I’m pretty sure the heat was running instead of the AC…I shall tell you the funny. Because there was plenty of funny.

bus10

Side note: this isn’t enough to actually tell much about but is worth noting. A lady in front of me was scrolling through facebook and if I see a meme I have to look. It’s how I’m wired. She had post after post after post talking crap about Jamaican men. I didn’t know that was a thing? But, apparently, it is! It was hysterical. Mostly because I didn’t get it, but still.

My fave people to watch today:

Chapstick Man: A young (20ish) man got on the bus on our ride home. He was dressed in pants and a long sleeve shirt and wasn’t sweating. Which made me envious and suspicious. He was also one of those folks that make too much eye contact and moves in slow motion. A mix of sloth and reptile. You may not know what I’m talking about now but when you see someone it will click. He sat down upfront, so I had a great view, and applied ointment from a little tub. I’m assuming lip balm. Or grease. Either way, he had a routine of drinking water from his water bottle, recapping it slowly while staring at someone and not blinking. Then he’d carefully set his water bottle down, take out his little tub of slime, and while continuing to stare and not blink, he’d smear greasy stuff over the bottom half of his face. The little tub would be capped and carefully placed back in his pocket. He would pick up his water bottle, uncap it, drink water, and the process would repeat until he ran out of water. He became more interesting because of the next individual. I found the perfect representation of his blink:

tenor

Spandex Hides no Sins: An older lady (I’d guess 60s to 70s) got on the bus and sat across from Chapstick boy. He nodded at her while smearing his face for the umpteenth time. That was all the introduction she needed. She started ranting and raving about how people would rather steal than earn an honest living. Thieves were taking over the world. Conmen were buying plots of land in 500-acre increments. Etc. I was beginning to tune her out and get back into my audiobook when she yanked her shirt up over her round belly. I do not have a problem with round belly’s, mine is hardly flat. But I try to cover it. As I was getting over the shock from seeing a lot of very white belly and old lady underboob I glanced over at Chapstick to see the only reaction he had to the new events was one long, slow blink. I glanced back over to Spandex and she was now hauling the top of her strained spandex workout pants (which had seen workouts the way my yoga pants have seen yoga) down over the bottom portion of her gut. And out popped two sequined clutch-type bags.  I had not seen that coming. I did my own long slow blink. She caught them both, quick as a whip, and started rifling through them while still ranting about the sins of the lazy man. She didn’t find what she wanted so she clasped the sparkly bags back against her lower gut, hauled on the spandex until it gave up and covered her girth, and then hauled her shirt back down. Chapstick gave another blink. She continued to rant. He would nod occasionally but never spoke. Just kept drinking water and slathering more grease on. After a while, still ranting, the shirt flipped back up, pants happily rolled down, and out the sparkly bags came again. She dug through for a while, Chapstick nodding and greasing, announced she wasn’t a fool to just hand money away, and packed her bags up. She stood up, yelled at the driver to stop, and barreled over someone trying who had the audacity to try to get on the bus when it stopped. Chapstick waited until she got off the bus to yell “BYE!”. She turned around, glared at him, muttered to herself, and stomped off. He shrugged, got very still, and didn’t move until the next stop where he got off the bus. I assumed that was the end of the oddity. I was so wrong. All examples of her outfit made my head hurt so I’ll spare you those meme’s and gifs. You’re welcome.

Irish: A very sweaty older gentleman (50s to 60s would be my best guess) with a wirey build ran onto the bus after Chapstick left. He had a ton of duffel and grocery bags and it took him a while to get sorted out. I noticed he was talking and assumed he was talking to the driver or had a Bluetooth type device in the ear I couldn’t see. The next time I glanced up he was sitting facing the other direction, there was no device in either ear, and he was still talking. Now, a LOT of people on the bus talk to themselves. But something about the way he was so quiet I couldn’t hear him but gesturing and making adamant facial gestures caught my attention. He began a slow but steady increase in voice. I still couldn’t figure out what he was saying but I could hear the tone of his voice now. He seemed to be arguing with himself. He grabbed a deflated potato chip bag (one of the small sizes like you’d get in a meal from Subway) and unfolded it. He seemed to be gesturing inside it and having an intense, but quiet, debate about the bag and/or it’s contents. He angrily folded up the bag, stuffed it in his pocket, adjusted the sunglasses that he was wearing in front of his eyeglasses (they kept falling off to his increased agitation). Then he raised his fists in a classic put up your dukes pose and started the circling that you see in cartoons. Like this:

old-timey-boxing-stance

I was scared and fascinated with the idea this guy was going to fight himself. How can you even do that? But his fist circles slowed and he seemed to be calming himself down. He’d start to rile himself up, making animated faces and gestures, then he would start to calm himself down again. He kept up his continuous conversation with himself for the next 40 minutes. When I got off the bus he was still angering himself and then calming himself. It was incredibly bizarre.

I’m going to ride again tomorrow and we shall see what adventures await!

Bus People

Standard

I learned to drive/drove in tiny towns in the deep south or mountains in the west until the past year. There was no public transportation. The one time I tried riding buses while visiting my aunt in NY I got on to a bus that took me to New Jersey. Eventually, we figured out the bus on one side of the road takes you to the other side of town. That’s what I should have done. Instead, I picked the wrong side of the road. There were no signs. It was just something bus people knew.

Nashville traffic is the worst, so I took a closer look at riding the bus. Less gas, no stressful driving, less wear and tear on my already old and pitiful SUV, and the bus terminal is across the street from where I work. However, I’m socially awkward at my best, so trying to figure out where to be and when to be there and where to get off and etiquette vied with nervousness about bumping elbows with potentially unsavory characters.

My first day of the riding the bus I made my first bus friend. I’d somehow taken the wrong bus into work and was packed like a sardine on a bus stopping every other block the entire way into town. It smelled bad and I was pretty sure I was not cut out for bus riding. I started out with the entire bus to myself but after a few stops, it was obvious I’d be lucky not to have someone on my lap by the end. I assumed that before 7 in the morning most people hadn’t started to churn out body odor. I was wrong. I also assumed people, even people who drank heavily, did not start before 7 am. I was also wrong in that assumption. I had also, conveniently, not thought about the fact people that are below the age of 18 might ride buses. Turns out, they do! In large numbers. Many without parental supervision.

I had decided bus riding was not for me when, arriving into the terminal dreading the ride home, a slender, colorfully dressed lady began talking to me as if we knew each other. I was too surprised to do anything other than respond in kind. She made me think of an exotic flower, lovely dark skin complimented by tropical colors in long skirt, wraps, bangles, rings, and a hair wrap. Her southern accent was charming rather than the “you sure do have a purty mouth” variety. Within 15 minutes I was given all the ins and outs of bus travel, knew how long she’d been commuting via bus, how many cats she had, and that she had an adult son. Once we got on the correct bus she immediately told the bus driver my story, explained that my vehicle was on the other side of the expansive lot and I needed a drop off closer to it (which is not how things usually work and likely against policy). She also told me where to sit in the bus itself to create the least motion sickness (I live on Dramamine), which side the sun would beat down on during the long ride home, and who else were regulars.

A stunning young lady was exceedingly pregnant and I learned her due date, her husband’s name, and that she was going to have a little boy once he finished baking. I still find her to be one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in person. Her little boy is beautiful and we all got to see pictures of him right after he was born because bus people text their bus friends life-altering moments.

Bus people are predominantly African American and female on my route. I adore them. There are a few men, mostly African American as well. Of the regulars, I’m usually the palest (and the least fashionable). My first bus friend is still my favorite. I love her enthusiasm for life, her ring-bedecked fingers, her genuine concern for everyone around her, and her sass. A gentleman from Puerto Rico started riding a few days ago. She had him laughing and at ease within the first 5 minutes. They now race each other to beat each other to the front of the line.

We all have our favorite bus drivers and our favorite traveling groups. We look out for each other. One of the riders is a tiny, elderly lady. She was proud that she’d gained weight as was now a massive 95 pounds (up from 92). She is insanely adorable and every time I see her I want to keep her in my pocket always. She’s had back surgery and walks with a distinct stoop. She uses a walker with little baskets that often hold her giant purse and occasionally other goodies. She usually has her curly white hair pulled up with bright barrettes I used to think of as children’s barrettes that will now forever make me think of my new friend. She rides the bus system alone and has trouble getting her walker into certain places. Onto and off of the bus for example. That’s never a concern on our route. We all know our assigned roles. She is never without plenty of help, even the bus drivers hug on her and fuss over her.

It is impossible to be a bus person and not feel a bit like a member of a small UN. All ages, all walks of life, customs and rules all its own, and no matter how easy it is to be discouraged with the constant ugliness that feels like it’s getting worse, I don’t think that society is falling apart. I think we’re exactly as we always have been. The loudest ones are the assholes. And the regular folks just trying to live are like my bus people. A young Hispanic man racing an energetic, gregarious black woman to the bus line. A middle-aged, quiet, unassuming black man carefully helping a tiny, frail elderly white woman off of a bus and across the bus terminal. A gathering of young and old, dark and pale, grinning and cooing at the picture of a newborn baby. We see pictures of the vacations experienced, warn about upcoming construction, and give and get tips about good sales or new businesses opening. I really thought this would be an adventure I would just endure. Maybe have a few stories about inappropriate behavior. It never crossed my mind that I would enjoy riding a bus every day. For hours. In horrible traffic. But it’s been refreshing and fun and touching. The 33X crew is a good group. I am excited to have such a fun, diverse group of folks to be inspired by. Now I just have to find time to write about this stuff, because while I absolutely understand the tragedy and horror of addiction, high people on buses are hysterical.