Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Riding the City Bus


The children’s song “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round, the wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town…” played continually in my mind as I strolled to the bus stop.

It was a beautiful sunny day, the first in a long time. Spring was almost - not quite - but almost in the air. Everyone felt it. Moms and babies in strollers packed the sidewalk, along with old women dragging their grocery carts, men and women enjoying a few moments outdoors before scurrying back to work inside sterile interiors, plus a few drunks, homeless, and assorted odd fellows.

Riding the city bus is not part of my regular routine, but I was summoned for jury duty at the city Courthouse. Rather than maneuver traffic and parking problems, I opted for public transportation.

Boarding the bus homebound, I stuffed quarters in the coin box and looked around (“…the money on the bus goes clink, clink, clink…). The bus was crowded, but a couple of empty seats in the back beckoned (“…the driver on the bus says, ”Move on back…”). The bus started moving. I lurched forward and moved ahead. A woman picked up her purse, vacating a seat, and I sat down.

A girl of about four sat directly in front of me. Her grandmother spoke to her in Spanish (the Mommy on the bus says, ”shush. Shush, shush…”), and she responded in a singsong Spanglish. A heated discussion between the two involved the TV shows the girl would watch when they got home.

Everyone studiously ignored the disheveled man sitting in the middle of the back seat in his pajamas. He was silent, but must have noticed people eying him. He started talking in a low monotone. The hospital discharged him and he had no one to drive him home, and no money for a taxi. The hospital provided money for the bus trip home. Apparently he got sick in the middle of the night a couple of days earlier and had no other clothes with him.

A too loud voice behind me could not be ignored. Initially I thought a drunken passenger ranted senselessly, but quickly realized the man was regaling passengers with his busy week at the restaurant where he worked.

It was Restaurant Week, his place of employment fully booked, and he needed to get to work NOW. Unfortunately the bus plodded along, stopping at every traffic light and bus stop. People exited, others boarded (the people on the bus go up and down…) and the man kept talking, agonizing over being late unless the driver picked up speed.

After a few minutes listening I had to enter the almost one-sided conversation. I knew the restaurant of which he spoke, and cheerfully mentioned the place’s delicious Kobe burgers, salads, and Happy Hour specials.

A fairly obese woman (I am being polite) piped up, “I don’t eat meat.”

The man said, “We have the freshest fish and seafood. Right off the boat. Never fried.”

“I don’t eat fish either,” the woman stated.

“We have great pork chops and roast beef,” and before the man could continue the woman piped up, “Don’t eat pork or beef either.”

“How about chicken?” the man inquired. He was a cook and proud of his work.

“How is it prepared?”

“Half chicken rolled in a coating, baked, you would love it,” the man responded.

“How about desserts? Love desserts.”

Ah, now I understood the extra pounds on this non-meat, pork, or fish eater.

She was addicted to sugar.

The man smiled and said, “We are known for our desserts.”

I waxed poetic about the restaurant’s seasonal fresh fruit pies and gluten-free blueberry muffins.

Our plump friend was not satisfied, looking for sweeter concoctions.

The bus approached my stop. I exited (the door on the bus goes open and shut…), the man still continuing his monologue, now telling everyone about his wonderful boss and how he was going to be late because the driver was so slow….

My slice of city life ended, an eclectic group of people I will never see again riding down the highway.

The silly children’s song ceased echoing in my head.

I walked the last couple of blocks home in peaceful silence. 

5 comments:

  1. Wow--who would have thought you could experience a slice of life during a bus ride? It brought back memories of growing up in the country and riding a school bus 2 hours per day. Looking back, it's a toss up as to whether I learned more at school or on the bus...

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  2. I would have both been edgy about and felt sorry for the man in back in his pajamas. Yes, I have to admit it's been a long time since I've ridden a city bus.
    Love the "vegetarian." I remember having lunch with a co-worker who claimed to be one. We were at an Uno's and she ordered pizza plus an appetizer of a huge slab of garlic bread. I understood then that not all vegetarians are thin.

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  3. Riding the city bus is part of my everyday routine. I see the same people on the bus every day, and we get to know each other's habitual stops. Mostly these days everybody is silent, staring at a smartphone or screen of some sort. :-)

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  4. I commuted by bus and Metro for years. Early morning riders are half asleep,and late afternoon riders are comatose. Obviously he 'middle of the day crowd' is more talkative.

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  5. Nice job of making a fascinating story out of an everyday (for some) event. I rode a commuter bus to work for nearly four years, but usually read a book. Perhaps I should have spent more time becoming aware of interesting fellow passengers.

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