BUS STORY # 441 (Game Girl)
|Detail from the photo titled “child-girl-screen-time.jpg” and posted with the permission of r. nial bradhsaw.|
Their boarding is a production: bags and cases of groceries, backpacks, and a suitcase come first, piled up inside the door.
The folks sitting on the bench seats up front can see what’s coming, and they bail for seats further back.
Next comes the grandmother, a thin, energetic woman in her mid-50s who starts placing the sacks and packages on or under the seats. She’s followed by two girls who can’t be much more than a year apart. “Second grader” is what sticks in my mind, but I’m not sure which girl it applies to. Both are being scooted along by mom who’s late 20s-early 30s.
Mom positions the kids on the bench seat facing the driver, then hands them packages while she helps her mother get everything arranged on or beside or under the seats. Grandma grabs the packages from the kids, sets them in the aisle, then hands them each a replacement, then moves the stuff in the aisle to the stuff under and around the seats.
Grandma and mom are a whirling dervish, but they do a nice job of quickly consolidating everything with almost no intrusion into the aisle. Mom goes up and swipes two bus passes, then takes a seat across from the kids. Grandma is in the first forward-facing row along with the backpack and the suitcase in front of it.
They are all in a remarkably good mood. Mom and grandma are laughing, the kids watching them and looking around. Then grandma hands the older girl a smart phone. The kid is instantly absorbed. Her sister looks over and watches until mom hands her a smart phone, too.
The younger girl works with it a little, then looks perplexed, then tries to hand it back. Grandma grabs it instead, looks it over, then tells her daughter she can’t figure out how to get it to go. Mom takes the phone, plays with it for a bit, then hands it back to her daughter. The kid can now play whatever game is displaying.
I don’t know if it’s the game or the kid, but she isn’t into whatever’s on the screen like her older sister is. She plays, but she spends a fair amount of time looking up from the phone and watching her mom and her grandma who are telling stories and laughing. Her expression tells me she is paying attention. Meanwhile, her older sister is oblivious to anything but her screen.
We are getting close to my stop when I realize they are either going to get off where I do or just beyond. They start marshaling their efforts, moving sacks and bags. Grandma tells the girls it’s time to hand the phones back.
The younger one hands her phone back to mom. The older one plays on as if she’s heard nothing. Grandma stands up and grabs the phone. The girl screams out and doesn’t let go. Grandma wrenches it free with her next effort. The girl’s face is full of outrage. Then, she puts both hands over her face and begins to cry, quietly, and I think maybe she is trying not to cry and failing.
Grandma tries to hand her a bag, and she pushes it away, then covers her face back up. Grandma tries again, and the girl screams “No!” and twists evasively in her seat.
And that is when we come to my stop.
I am still parsing what happened as I tote my own groceries homeward. I find no easy, tidy wrap-up. It’s disquieting.
The photo at the top of this story is a detail from the photo titled “child-girl-screen-time.jpg” and is posted with the permission of r. nial bradhsaw. You can see all r. nial bradshaw’s photos on Flickr here.