Bus People of Nashville Adventures

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Writing is cathartic. And I am to the age I prefer to read, and write, amusing stories. Many of them are not flattering, but they’re genuine, which tends to be what people respond to. We’re so programmed to only show the perfect, pretend we’re all the same, that someone telling their worst moments is extremely appealing. I don’t much like crying in my coffee so I prefer to mock the bad and make it tolerable. The problem with that is when I’m not in a good mood, or things just aren’t going smoothly, I don’t write because, well, it’s not fun to be not at all funny or upbeat. We all know life is hard, why say that over and over? If you read any news articles at all you have to be a bit on the “ugh” side because, really, it’s just dismal. But, the news doesn’t tell the complete story. Especially on racism. Especially on racism in the south. So here’s another episode of bus people. I can’t say the bus is fun, if I was offered a fancy ride in a helicopter I’d jump on it. Sitting in traffic for hours each day sucks. Yesterday we had the delightful, overwhelming reek of body odor and weed to marinate in for hours, with the heat on full blast because I am, apparently, the only individual with sweat glands that rides the bus. But, there are moments it is an interesting, enlightening experience. This was one of those moments.
The majority of people who ride the bus with me are of a darker skin tone (I’m so pale that could be almost anyone on the planet if we’re being really honest, but I do mean other races in this instance). The majority of that majority is black but there are plenty of Hispanic women and a few Hispanic men. Of the regular bus riders on my express route, there are a few blue collar men who sleepily sit and nod off in the morning as they hop on the earliest from their apartment complexes on the outskirts of the suburbs. Most of the bus drivers know who gets off where and stop whether the stop is requested while we rouse whoever is too deeply asleep to notice they’re at their stop. A couple younger black men work white collar jobs, suits and business casual with brief cases and spiffy, shiny shoes (I like to look at men’s shoes…I have no clue why…it’s just a thing I do). I have noticed, to my dismay that I tend to treat the two types of workers differently. I didn’t realize I do it, I absolutely did not intend to do it, but I do. The men with battered, stained sneakers and the clothes of service type job that you classically see on those who wash dishes and maintenance type positions are less confident when they walk, they don’t make eye contact or speak unless spoken to. They are withdrawn and have a tired air. But I noticed after a few months that I have a tendency to speak first in greeting to the confident, direct look of a black man in a suit, but I continue the silence between the tired black man I often sit next to. I treat them differently, and I am not, to be completely honest, sure why that is. I don’t hold any animosity toward anyone until you earn it, I don’t care what you look like. I will wake up my sleepy seat buddy and let him know he’s missing his stop. But there’s a slight difference in the way I treat different categories of people and it bugs me that I would not treat everyone the same, the way I always assumed I do. I have the same tendency with other races, I guess it’s a class distinction or bias rather than a racial thing, but since I’m pretty working class myself it makes zero sense to me. I like that interacting with so many people different than myself challenges me, but occasionally I’m confronted with my own petty instincts and assumptions about people I don’t even know. I’m trying to look at it as learning experiences and chance to change my behavior.
We do not have many teenagers that ride our bus. Most school age teens catch the bus before ours and there aren’t many older teens that appear that early. I’m fine with that. I didn’t like kids when I was one, I definitely don’t like them now (yeah, I just talked about changing my preconceived notions but on teenagers, I’m pretty set in the avoid at all costs category. Not proud of it, just what it is). One day when I pulled up to the bus, the line was starting early and it was massive. The bus before ours hadn’t shown up, and now we had way too many people for our bus to accommodate. Knowing I’d be late if I drove, I waited until the kids got on and then tried to find a space to occupy for the ride. I noticed a couple of the elderly women didn’t have seats, and while I hated they had to stand with bad knees and bad backs, I was also standing and couldn’t help them. I was crammed into the “Do Not Stand Here Or You Might Fall Off Of The Bus” area trying to give them the best access to hand holds and rails to brace against. I was in full body contact with several men. We all tried to pretend none of this was happening, but I have never had as much of myself squished up against as much of a stranger, not to mention multiple strangers, as happened that day. We were so tightly pressed against one another that I felt the intake of air before the man behind me yelled over the teenage chatter to be heard. He announced that there were several young men sitting down while women were standing. He wasn’t raised that way and he knew they weren’t either. He basically announced that the young guys needed to get up, offer their seats, and act like men. It could have gone very badly. These weren’t 5 year olds, they were 15ish and very proud of themselves. The little boys had already been told to get up and let others have the seats. The older of the kids weren’t into it at first, but eventually, they begrudgingly got up and let the older women sit. I was so impressed that someone would actually do something and be willing to challenge an entire gaggle of teenage guys blaring extremely graphic rap music and talking loudly to be heard over the loud music in offensive terms about offensive topics. I wouldn’t have been that brave. Which saddens me, but there we are. I wouldn’t have tried to shame a group of teenagers of any color that I didn’t have authority over. I taught for a hot minute, I know how teenagers are. They’re vicious and gross in a pack. Nope. Not me.
The ride into the city was miserable. My little sardine-esque group had no hand holds, nothing to brace against, and we couldn’t help but get to know each other much too well. The guy who’d taken on the group of teens eventually told me to stop apologizing that every sway of the bus meant I assaulted him with my hips and rear. If I was some svelte young thing I wouldn’t have felt so bad, and also we wouldn’t have been quite so squished, so I felt bad on two fronts. That’s bizarre. I’m not going to erase it, it’s honestly how I felt, but it’s weird that you’d feel bad because you were unintentionally touching people with a less desirable body. Whatever, not examining that too closely, it’s a mind hole trap I don’t want to get stuck in.
We got toward the first stop I could reasonably walk to work and I was poised to dive through the door and get the first deep breathe since the crazy ride began when I felt my ass attack victim take another deep breath. He whistled to get everyone’s attention and when all eyes were on him (not on me mind you, but I was smashed up against him so it FELT like they were staring at me and I turned bright red and my ears caught fire and it was not fun) he bellowed that the young men who’d stood up and helped out someone else deserved a round of applause for acting with dignity and respect and we should all show our gratitude. Nothing like that had occurred to me, and from the surprised looks it hadn’t occurred to anyone else either. We got into it quickly though, and everyone was clapping and whistling and cat calling. It sounded like a party bus when we pulled up to the stop.
The gruff, annoyed faces of the teenage boys trying so hard to look tough completely broke down and the little boys that I should NOT forget are still in there shone through. They couldn’t help but start grinning and looking at their feet and flushing in embarrassment. The older women who’d gotten their seats made a huge fuss over them and if those kids don’t remember to offer their seats in the future I’ll eat my hat. My poor ass attack victim didn’t know those kids. He didn’t know the women standing. He saw an opportunity to teach a group of kids how to act like adults and took it. It occurred to me that society might be a lot different if everyone behaved that way, if we all took responsibility for how we want others to act. Not by screaming at them and expecting them to obey us, but by using social pressure and positive reinforcement.
I’m making a concerted effort to speak to everyone or speak to no one. I shouldn’t cherry pick. Especially when I don’t even understand the criteria for my picking of cherries. My ass attack scared my brave friend away from bus riding from that day forward, but I bet those kids won’t forget him. I’ve tried to make sure I act when I see something I can help with, rather than just feel bad. I have been forcing myself out of my comfort zone and have fun new friendships starting that help remind me to stop categorizing people I don’t know. I have never thought of myself as racist. I try to be politically correct with phrasing and terminology, now more so than in the past, but I sometimes fail to use the correct term or phrase. I’m learning so much from my bus people and meeting so many different types of people. I’d still take a chopper ride, but until then, that’s the latest and greatest of bus people of Nashville!

An Ode to My Front Door

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I was at the front door when I realized we had library books that needed to go back today. A lot of them. I’d taken out my usual tower, and Mancandy had borrowed several for the mini candy’s recent visit. Children’s books are oddly shaped and one was massively wide. I refuse to do the multiple trips to the car thing. Instead I threw my purse on my arm, got my keys ready in one hand, grabbed all 30 books (not that many but it felt like that many and like they were multiplying) in an awkward hug with giant kid book kicked into my ribs (they should be padded enough not to notice that but alas).

Our front door does not have the normal knob turny thing. It only closes securely when you flip the deadbolt. So if you are trying to say, lock the house with an armload of books, you have to try to pull on the key hard enough to keep the door flush with the frame yet not hard enough for the key to come out. You must also maintain constant pressure while convincing the key to turn.

I live in the south. It’s beyond hot and muggy right now, and our front porch is in the full sun with the heat reflecting off of all nearby surfaces. As soon as I stepped out with my huge load and turn back the dog is trying to come with me. A stern “NofortheloveofgodIdonothavetimetodealwithyourightnowit’ssounbelieveablyhotrightnowjesusdrippingchristIammelting!!!!!” made her tilt her head and start singing the song of her people. I was already sweating. Ergo, I was already angry. I ignored the screech-yowls, pulled the door and then had to throw my knee up to stop the dog from a new rush toward freedom when the rug that Mancandy has at the front door wadded up and blocked the door.  It does this every time I’m carrying something. And every time I swear I’m setting it on fire when I get back, but by then I’ve forgotten. After readjusting the stack of books so they’d stab a new place and stop slipping in my sweaty grip, I shoved the dog back and re-entered the house. Strange dance moves got the rug flattened back down. The dog had moved back, laid down, and instead of screeching was now making a very quiet yet astonishingly annoying high pitch whine. One foot on the rug, I balanced solely on that foot to take a step like a normal flipping human, and the rug started shooting out from under me at an unnatural velocity. I spent what felt like 10 minutes fighting to stay upright. Books went everywhere. The dog was dancing around me barking. The normal cat screeched as it ran away expressing its displeasure loudly. The not at all normal cat puffed up and started spinning in circles. I said all the bad words I knew and then made up some new ones.

 

Derp cat

This was derp cats expression.

 

I gathered books up again, made sure the rug was flat and spun around the door as I pulled it behind me so the dog and I didn’t have to fight again. Unfortunately, with the momentum I had going and the fact the outside of the door was approximately 89 billion degrees when my hand came into contact with it means I slammed into the storm door which slammed into the entryway and the books went flying again and the dog came bouncing out anyway. I would not have handled this gracefully on a cool day. I had negative patience for this type of shenanigan foolishness while sweating bullets.

I was so angry I don’t really know what I screamed at the dog. Something about sucking her soul out through her eyes before drinking it down if she did not get back into the house immediately. And there was a LOT more inappropriate language in that but I’ll spare your delicate eyeballs.

I was watching my fuzzy potato in cat form spin closer to me and make trilling noises. The dog bounded over as best able with her old self and scrambled inside to avoid my wrath. The spinning derp hadn’t gotten to me yet so I pulled the door closed. The rug tried to stop me but I screamed in primal rage and shoved it back into the spinning derp and the derp thinking this was a hilaaaaarious game and I might let her out again. There was the sound of scrambling but I don’t know what happened because the door was finally shut. And yet the first 20 times I tried to lock the bolt, the key would start to come out of the lock before it turned. I had sweat running down my back, down my face, and into my eyes. My side is permanently indented from the billion books that, at this point, weighed 3 metric tons shoved into my ribcage. Eventually, I got the stupid lock turned in the stupid door and got the stupid books into the stupid truck. I was drenched in sweat and hadn’t even gotten out to the public part of being out in public.

My first stop was the liquor store. It hadn’t originally been my mission, Mancandy had requested something, but it became my goal as I knew the house had no rum and after that adventure it NEEDED rum. I stomped into the store and asked the man to direct me to the rum. Keep in mind, the liquor store is at most a 5-minute drive. I was still sweaty and obviously furious. He saw the raging Italian and stammered directions before disappearing. I gathered up my booze and stomped to the register. A man popped up from behind it and asked if I’d be interested in champagne on sale. I glared at him until he took my money and went away.

I stomped outside clutching my bottles and saw someone parked beside my truck. We were the only vehicles in the lot. The problem with that is the fact there were people in the vehicle, windows down, and if he’d stuck his face even with his window he could have kissed my truck. I moved their way slowly, giving them time to realize they were in my trucks touch bubble.

A man got out of the car and made much too much eye contact from so far away. He was going to ask me for money or one of my bottles or something. I usually try to be quick and pleasant while telling those sorts of folks no. Today I had no fear. No stress. No social anxiety. I was full of sweat and rage. I started stomping. He began walking to me and the spiel started. I didn’t let him get past “Hey lady, can you…” before I drowned him out with my “It has been a pretty crap start to this day so I’m going to need you to not ask me for anything and move that car because I’m about to get in that truck and if I have to open the door into your car and climb in through your window I will do so. Do not test me today!”

His mouth hung open and as I got close enough for him to see the sweat fueled insanity in my eyes he backpedaled. He vaulted into his car, slammed it into reverse, and left the lot with hustle. It made me no less sweaty, but it did bring me much satisfaction.