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The entire bus smells like fish tacos. Must remember to carry Febreeze with me from now on.
Sat next to an old Japanese man on the bus. His phone went off in his briefcase, blaring Lil Jon’s, “Get Low.” He let it ring for an uncomfortable amount of time. It is unclear if the gentleman had his hearing aids turned off, or if he simply enjoyed the song. Eventually he answered in an unnaturally sweet voice, “Hello dear, can I pick up anything from the market on my way home?”
The bus people continue to amuse me greatly.
Observed parenting skills in action a few rows ahead of me on the bus this morning. The Parental Unit asked his son if he was paying attention, as there was apparently a lesson to be learned. The Young One sounded exasperated, as if from being over worked. He informed the Parental Unit that it was the year 2016, and, “We don’t have to remember things like you did. My generation has smart phones and the Internet. Maybe you’ve heard of it?” The Parental Unit paused for effect before retorting, “Do you really want to be the guy who has to Google, ‘How to ride a bus?’” This shut the Young One up. The rest of the bus people erupted in silent applause.
I was sneezed on today by the gentleman standing next to me on the bus. I have been contaminated. Febreeze will no longer suffice. It has become clear that if I am to continue my commute, I must now sanitize before, after, and during my rides. I will also need to find a HAZMAT suit. At least until flu season is over.
It appears that the bus people are unhappy with their commute, and are in the beginning stages of seeking other means of transportation. This was evidenced by a conversation I overheard today in the back of the bus, between two gentleman wearing Microsoft paraphernalia.
“I can’t wait till we fully develop and perfect the autonomous car. Think about it; cars moving along a grid, fully responsive and working in collaboration with one another… We could all zip to and from work at 90 miles per hour, in perfect safety.”
“What about hover cars? I thought we were working on hover cars?”
The first gentleman audibly scoffed and responded, “By the time that technology is fully developed, we will all be slaves to giant robots. Or raptured. Hover cars are a waste of time.”
These two have given me much to ponder.
The paper this morning exclaimed, “A Woman Fresh From Jail After A Nunchuk Attack Is Now Accused Of Chasing A Stranger Off A King County Metro Bus – With A Sword.” Truly, these are the times that try commuters’ souls.
The summer heat has a certain effect on bus people; the air is salty, as is the conversation. I am currently trapped on a bus that is trapped in traffic; a sort of meta prison, if you will. I, along with 75 of Seattle’s finest residents, am privy to a bit of a lovers’ spat taking place in the center isle. In pop culture terms, I would say it is a mix between Juno and Beavis And Butthead. The very pregnant girl exclaimed, “OMG. Are you serious? You have a confederate flag tattoo. I can’t believe I’m having your baby.” Her surprise was as confusing as it was convincing. It was as if she had never laid her eyes on him, which, considering the circumstances seems hard to believe. Her rage really sold it though. She put as much distance between her and her baby daddy as the bus seat would allow. That is to say, about three inches.
“Hey babe. Freedom ain’t free. That’s a fact.”
The conversation has been downhill from there. I worry that future commutes will include a racist baby, and more arguments on moral and ethical parenting.
I had a strange encounter with a biker / bus person hybrid today. I’ve seen a few of this breed before; they attach their bikes to the front of the bus, ride the bus into the city, and then ride their bikes throughout the city. From what I gather, they like the idea of biking to work, and the image of one who bikes to work, but they do not like the actual work of biking. In any case, one such hybrid stood next to my seat, and used the handrails to stretch his tired and toned biker muscles. There were plenty of open seats, but I’ve found these bus bikers really like to make a show of standing; such was the case with this one. He stretched, and jumped, and really let the rest of us lazy seated riders know that we too could have guns like his, if only we stood and biked. But pride surely comes before the fall, and this particular bus biker fell right into my lap. After gathering his muscles and shame, he decided maybe it was better for him to sit while the bus is in motion. We, the bus people, agreed.
Today was a very odd day. It started when I woke up at the announcement of Kenmore Park and Ride. I looked up and saw a little old man hobbling towards me down the aisle. One arm was curled in at the wrist, forcing his elbow to jut out at a sharp angle. He had a big red lunch box that was sure to take up more than his $2.50 bus fare allotted him, and his faded blue sweatshirt, boasting of the battle of the Alamo, probably hadn’t been washed since Texas was liberated.
I was in no mood to make friends with any of these people. I wanted to get to work. I hoped he would make his way further down the line of available seats, but instead he plopped down next to me; lunchbox, elbow, and all.
“Boy, it sure is chilly out there, isn’t it?”
I decided not to engage him, in further vain hopes that he would take the hint, and leave me alone. But he persisted.
“I said, it sure is chilly this morning, isn’t it?”
I took my right ear bud out and responded that it was indeed chilly.
“But this weekend should be nice, 60’s they say!”
I mumbled some sort of acknowledgement.
He looked around, fiddled with his lunchbox then asked, “This winter has been ridiculous don’t you think? Very abnormal indeed.”
“I guess I wouldn’t know; this is my first Seattle winter.”
“Oh? Where are you from? Probably somewhere cold – you’re not even wearing a jacket!”
“My husband and I just moved here from Iowa in September.”
His ears perked up at that. “I’ve been there a few times, where in Iowa are you from?”
“I’m originally from Ames,” I blurted out, before realizing I was exchanging personal information with a bus person. Something I vowed never to do.
“Iowa State, right?”
“Yes, the Iowa State Cyclones.”
“Oh yes. I follow football, that’s how I know. Awful team, those Cyclones. Just dreadful.”
Hating on the hometown team was something I was all too comfortable with. I had to crack a smile at that. “Yes, they are pretty bad,” I chuckled. The battle was over. I surrendered both of my ear buds to my purse, along with my phone.
“My wife and I used to go on road trips every year. We’d just pick a spot on the map and go there.”
“My husband and I have been on a few road trips as well. Where all have you been?”
“Let’s see, we went to West Virginia, Louisiana, California, Iowa, Minnesota, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, you name it, we’ve probably either camped, slept, ate, or drove through it!”
The bus announced that it was approaching Lake Forest Park, one of my favorite places on the daily commute, if not for its clever name, then for the view of the mountains.
“What was the most memorable trip you two went on?” I asked him.
“Oh, I would have to say that was in Louisiana. My wife, Donna, she’s a woman with fine tastes. You know, she likes things ritzy.” I nodded my approval. “Well, it was my turn to pick the hotel, and if there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m a cheapskate. If it has a bed and some running water, it’s good enough for me. So I found the cheapest place in the middle of BFE – are you old enough to know what that means?”
“… Yes. Are you young enough to know what that means?”
“Oh my, yes. So there we were, in this little shack, and my Donna found out the guests in the next room were… self-employed ladies, if you know what I mean. Real professionals. Let’s leave it at that. Well she didn’t like that, not one bit. Oh boy did she let me have it. I mean she really hooted and hollered. Never let me forget it. She brings it up every time we fight!”
“Oh yes. She fights dirty. She knows she has the upper hand on me, you see. I can’t cook a meal to save my life. Completely helpless. Donna always threatens to not cook me dinner if I don’t do what I’m told. I tell her, ‘woman! This is extortion!’ and she’ll say, ‘so report me, why don’t ya?’ What do you think about that?” I smiled at him. “Well? I don’t hear any objections,” He said, jokingly. “I see where you stand!” His laugh was much younger than he was. “Ah, well. More than a few times I had to sulk over to Jay’s Diner for a meal. Donna is nothing if not stubborn.”
There was a long pause. The sun was just starting to peak out from under its covers composed of mountain. The clouds glowed pink and purple around the edges, melting into blue sky. No one else on the bus paid even the slightest bit of attention to this phenomenon. I stared at the sun stretching and climbing to its rightful place among the clouds until my eyes hurt.
The bus was filled to the brim, standing room only. I guess of all the people to be stuck next to, this guy wasn’t so bad.
“It’ll probably be a while before you and your husband can afford a house around here, huh?”
“No kidding. The cost of living out here was definitely a shock.”
“I bet. What brought you kids out here in the first place?”
“I suppose we were looking for an adventure after college and Seattle looked like fun.”
“That it is,” he said, a faded memory lingered behind his smile.
I looked out the window again; we were about to hop on I-5. We’d be downtown in 10 minutes.
“So, do you and your wife have any road trips planned this year?”
He looked down at his hands for a while, fiddling with his wedding ring. Eventually he whispered, “It’s just me now,” as if saying any louder made it too real.
“My Donna passed away at 3:46 on January 5th,” he said in a trembling voice.
I was not prepared for Donna to be dead. I didn’t even know her, but hearing the way her husband carried their memories made me sad that I would never meet her, never see them together. For just a moment, we were the only two people on the bus, and we both shared the burden of a life without Donna. He was just waiting out his days here without her, possibly serving his penance for making his wife sleep in a hotel where self-employed ladies did their work.
“I’m so sorry. I can tell that you love her very much.” They were stupid, cliché, inadequate words, but they were all I had at my disposal.
“We were married for 43 years,” he announced. He said it with such pride. “Damn,” he chuckled, “43 years. We had quite a run.” He had a mischievous grin on his face, and I almost saw what he must have looked like all those years ago, when he first met his Donna.
The bus drove past the Washington State Convention Center, and headed towards 6th Avenue.
“Is this next one your stop?”
“It sure is.”
“Ok. Give me some time to stand up, it takes me longer than it used to.”
He grabbed the seat ahead of him, slowly pulled himself up, and shuffled over to the right to let me out. I handed him the red lunch box that ended up on my lap during our conversation and said, “Thanks for telling me your story today.” I scooted out of my seat and started walking down the aisle.
I realized I didn’t even know this guy’s name, but by the time I turned around to introduce myself, the bus people had closed off the isle and the only clear path was out through the back of the bus.
“You have a good day, young lady. And be careful out there. It’s a big, scary, beautiful world.”