The People on the Bus
Alive! Alive! Alive!
You've just tilted three cups of murky coffee, you've fed the dogs their morning kibble, and you've shredded your gums on a bowl of jagged breakfast cereal. Then, at the bus stop, comes the eternal question: Will this morning's commute be pleasant and safe? Or am I about to board a mobile version of my first day in kindergarten? Will I meet interesting, nice people? Or will I find myself in the middle of a rolling intervention?
The bus slows to a stop. The door opens. The driver looks at you. But you don't see a bus driver. You see the creepy old sideshow carny that made you grab your mother's forearm at the carnival as a kid. You relive hearing the piercing shouts: "ALIVE ALIVE ALIVE! STEP RIGHT UP IF YOU DARE! SEE THE AMAZING HUMAN PINCUSHION! GASP AT THE BEARDED LADY! TERRIFYING ODDITIES AND THEY'RE ALL ALIVE! ALIVE! ALIVE!"
You step onto the platform, swipe your card, turn left, and with only seconds to calculate, ask yourself eternal question #2.
To Sit or To Stand?
Your brain goes into turbo. Your eyes dart back and forth. He looks alright. She seems sane. He's not dry heaving. That guy's not naked from the waist down and carrying a wok. That seat will do.
You stealthily touch the cushion to make sure its not saturated in someone's organics, sit down, remove your sun glasses, and pop in your mp3 plugs. Because your eyes may see things they can't unsee, your nose may smell something it can't unsmell, but darn it, you will protect at least one of your senses.
Am I exaggerrating? Perhaps. But I, for one, have seen some pretty crazy things in public transportation. But I don't want to focus on the less common things like the drunk guy who thinks the bike rack is a metal hammock, or the lady who prays out loud. Instead, I want to focus on the common behavior of many of daily commuters. And if you're like me, you have to admit to being guilty of at least one of these behaviors.
The Bridge Keeper
Tired from waiting at the bus stop for twenty minutes in 100 degree heat? Want to sit down? Whoa! Not so fast! First you have to answer the bridge keeper's riddle. Your comfort and relaxation lies in his inconsiderate hands. Sitting in the isle seat next to an empty window seat, And by filling the window seat with a backpack in need of rest, or a gaudy purse in need of lumbar support, bridge keepers create subtle deterrents that usually guarantee them that extra elbow room during their ride home. Bridge keepers believe that, like city bus travel, air travel, consists of first class and coach.
He is to passengers what Moses was to the Israelites. Only instead of milk and honey, the distracter will lead his people to the land of smoke and twisted metal. If his talk about the weather, high food prices, or the latest football draft pick doesn't put the bus driver to sleep. Then surely the vivid elucidation concerning his mysterious thigh warts will have the driver contemplating a fateful game of chicken with an oncoming garbage truck.
Point made, Mr. Penmanship. Your unreadable squiggly lines and swirling glass etchings are a constant reminder of your grand, omnipresent, god-like ownership of public city vehicles. With all the artistic talent of a fish out of water with a paint brush taped to it, the tagger shows us all what the local zoo orangutan cage would look like if the apes were given Sharpies. Truly, the only significant difference between the tagger and said great apes, is that the tagger, with the exception of select late night routes, has yet to dabble in their own organic, self produced mediums.
The Front Door Exiter
Squeezing past the elderly like a trout against the current, the front door exiter continues to capture our attention. Normal people may see a line of ten boarding passengers as good reason to exit through the rear door, but the front door exiter sees it as a challenge. Human beings are to the front door exiter what barrels were to Evel Knievel. Driven by a Pee Wee Hermanesque obsession with his bicycle, and with heart pounding, he has but seconds to remove his beloved velocipede from the front rack before the bus driver presses the gas. And who can blame him? With rusty mountain bikes that have milk crates bungeed to them being highly desired by bike thieves everywhere, you can't be too careful.
Its a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside of an enigma. Too much overtime? Too much vino? Too much puffer fish powder? With his head randomly toppling like a statue of Saddam Hussein, then suddenly springing back up only a split second before unknowingly headbutting the person sitting in front of them, the zombie adds a element of suspense to our morning commute. The zombie can turn a simple bus ride into a live action scene from The Serpent & the Rainbow. And if you're fortunate enough to have the zombie choose you as his seat partner, don't be surprised if you find his lifeless head on your shoulder as if you two were slowly paddling down the tunnel of love.
The Panicking Exiter
They live their lives oblivious to the extreme levels of claustrophobia bubbling deep in the nooks of their psyches. But these undiscovered fears are realized the instant the bus door doesn't open right away. You realize just how frightening the other commuters appear to the panicking exiter when they're suddenly face to face with the horrifying possibility of being trapped in a cage with them a second longer. With all the poise of a twelve year old just fell into an empty swimming pool full of clowns, the panicking exiter goes from motionless catatonic in a window seat, to Fred Flintstone beating on the door with his fat, three fingered cartoon fists. If those "Touch Here" sensors don't activate upon first pressing, you've got a panicking exiter shaped hole in your bus.
The 10,000 Decibel Phone Talker
Monopolizing airspace with personal anecdotes nobody cares about, the 10,000 decibel phone talker makes sure that your ride to work is as uncomfortable as possible. What better way to keep up on the mundane gossip of depressing lives, than to be force fed a never ending river of inane ramblings from the inconsiderate blow holes who actually live them? And electronic devices don't help much. You can listen to The Hound of the Baskervilles on audio book through your ear buds at maximum volume, and the relentless blabber of the 10,000 decibel phone talker will bleed right into the storyline. So instead of hearing "Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered: "Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound."", you would hear "Dr. Mortimer looked strangely ON MY WAY TO COSTCO! for an instant. And his voice COSTCO! to a whisper as he answered: "AW HELL NAW! Mr. Holmes, they were the LISTEN GIRL YOU BEST DUMP THAT FOOL! gigantic hound GIRL! MMM HMMM."
I humorously vent. But the blessed truth of the matter is that for every one of these personalities I witness on public transportation, I witness many more likable behaviors. The young man who gives his seat to an elderly person without being asked to first. The young woman who lets those who've been waiting longer board the bus first. Public transportation vehicles don't have to be the rolling asylums I portray them as. If the bridge keepers take their feet off of the seats, zombies work down from a case to a six pack, taggers start realizing that squiggly lines can't hide a lack of self worth, front door exiters realize that their bike is more in danger of shaking apart rather than being stolen, distracters save their thoughts for their Facebook status, panicking exiters start counting to ten, and 10,000 decibel phone talkers put a lid on their gossip geysers once in a while...then perhaps there may be less kind, considerate people slowly converting to misanthropy.