Life in the bus lane

“Excuse me ma’am, are you getting on the bus?” My question seems pleasant enough. What I really want to say is “Can you un-glue that phone from your ear and control your little brat long enough to make a decision?” But even to me, this seems to be a confrontational question. The type of question that might warrant an equally confrontational reply, something along the lines of oh, “Fuck you.”

So I am surprised when the reply to my pleasant question is “But is polite to wait passengers for to leave the bus” In what I imagine to be a Russian accent. I’m not sure why manners suddenly seem important now that the bus door has opened. They certainly didn’t seem to matter when she pushed her way to the front of the line and let her child perform a Bolshoi ballet on my shoes.

But to ride the bus, is to love the bus.

When I moved into the city, I gave the car to my teenage daughter in Virginia so that she could participate in demolition derby. Every month or so there would be a telephone call.

“Hi Taylor, what did you hit now? Oh OK, as long as no one was hurt.” I would say.

In the beginning, I would ask for photographs of the car so that I could survey the damage. What I received was less of an insurance adjustor’s account of the damage and more of a Seventeen magazine photo spread. Here is Taylor draped across the hood of the car. Here is Taylor with her pouty look. Here is Taylor with her palms turned up with a look of surprise on her face as if to say “What? Are you talking to me Mr. sexy officer?” The car might have been in the photographs. But clearly the focus was on Taylor. The car was simply a foil. At first I was a little frustrated. But as I looked at the photographs, I became more impressed.

“Paul, look at the extension of Taylor’s leg in this one. I think she nailed this pose, don’t you?”

“Ok Tyra. When was the last oil change?”

Leave it to Paul to kill the moment.

I suppose that sums of the difference between us. I really could care less about the care and feeding of cars while Paul assigns them human characteristics. In his eyes cars are sexy or sporty or scary. Basically, they are Spice Girls on wheels. While to me, they are a way to get from point A to point B; which is why I find myself sitting on the bus with my fellow commuters.

You would think that after a year or so of bus commuting I would get to know them. But we each travel in our own bubble. Oh, I recognize a few of them; don’t get me wrong, but not really in a way that you might say “Let’s get together for drinks" or “We must schedule a lunch”, more along the lines of being able to pick them out of a Police line-up.

Here is Mrs. Curry-coat. Her coat smells of Indian food and I imagine that the only coat hook in her home is located next to the stove. Then there is Ms. Baby-Mama-smokes. She always takes one last puff of her cigarette and flicks it to the curb while hoisting her baby carriage onto the bus steps. My, how her baby has grown! It won’t be long now before both of them spit out their cigarette butts before climbing onto the bus. Then there is Miss Awesome! Every time she enters the bus, she always asks the bus driver in the most annoyingly perky way “Hey there! How are you?” and when he grumbles back “fine, you?” her reply is always “Awesome!” While most of the people on the bus do not speak English, I see them roll their eyes when she gets on. I guess perkiness is universally despised.

Which leads me to wonder how product marketing is targeted for this bus? As I look at the advertisements above the windows I see a picture of Demi Moore dressed to the nines in an Ann Taylor advertisement. Looking at the passengers none of them scream Ann Taylor; Target maybe. The next advertisement is a sign that says “Too much Salt can lead to HEART ATTACK or STROKE!” There is a picture of soup cans with little piles of salt scattered around them. I’m pretty sure that the picture is meant to aid non-English speakers. But it seems half done. Shouldn’t there be a picture of someone clutching his heart with a look of agony on his face? Maybe he could even have X’s for eyes. If I were a foreigner, I would discard the words and think that American soup must taste better with a little pile of salt in it.

Soon I realize that the young man sitting next to me is fidgeting while looking at some papers. I discreetly look down at his paper and read the title “How has living in this country changed me?” This seems more interesting than the book I am reading so I begin to read a few lines.

“Before I came to this country I was dependent on others. This country has made me independent. I have my own job. I have my own apartment.”

Suddenly I realize that these people are not just one dimensional. They have lives and loves beyond the confines of this bus. If the lens were turned back on me, how would my fellow passengers see me? Would they only see a reasonably well-dressed middle-aged American man? Or would they look deeper? Maybe they would see my new wedding band, the contentment in my eyes and say here is a man that is happy. Here is a man that found love just when he needed it the most.

I smile to myself and stand up to get off at my stop. I choose to believe that these bus comrades see the real me: the content man, the man who sees more to life than just the surface. These are my fellow voyagers in life. I squeeze through the aisle to get to the door, and my messenger bag brushes the knee of a passenger. He makes a great display while saying “Ouch, watch your bag man!” Then I understand what my fellow passengers see in me. It is not so much of a visionary in love, but more of an annoyance.

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