Sunday, December 02, 2007

BUS STORY # 61 (Him Again)

I board the Rapid Ride and settle in near the front. There’s a guy sitting in the side bench behind the driver and he looks familiar. He’s talking in a loud voice to the passengers all around him. They’re all women. I finally remember where I’ve seen him before: on the Park and Ride platform at Uptown in an altercation with another passenger. It was the afternoon my friend Paul and I were going downtown to Summerfest to see Rosanne Cash perform.

His hair is a little different: short and orange-colored. But the glasses are the same. He’s wearing a polo shirt, and it looks like he’s holding court. He’s animated and loud, and he’s explaining how he took an old cell phone apart and repaired it. Well, almost repaired it. There’s this one screw he needs for the flip top.

He explains he’s got this talent. He’s never been to school, never worked with anyone else, it just comes to him. He can take any non-working cell phone apart and repair it. He launches into a technical discussion of a memorable repair, of the bartering it took to get the right pieces, of all the experiments he’d done to learn how to unlock a phone and reprogram it for use again.

The women are nodding their heads, interjecting an occasional “uh-huh” or “that’s amazing,” and asking him what he does with the phones after he repairs them. He uses them or sells them, or swaps them for other phone parts he needs to fix other phones. Where does he get all these phones? He finds them.

He tells how his son is amazed he can remember all the little details about how to fix these phones, but it’s a talent he has. He’s never been to school, never worked with anyone else . . . The story goes into a loop, and I hear the loop a couple more times. I am fascinated by the observation that the women don’t seem to lose interest.

There are four of them: one facing him across the aisle, another woman to her left and facing forward, and two in the first forward-facing seat to his right. When he gets off the bus, they all say goodbye to him. As the bus pulls away, a fifth female – the driver – says, “There’s something wrong with that boy.”

“Oh, no,” replies one of the other women, “he’s a nice boy.”

“He’s just simple, that’s all,” says another.

“He’s so polite.”

I’m wondering if this was a random encounter or a group of regulars. I’m wondering where those cell phones come from. I’m wondering about his son. Once again with this rider, I have the sense I’m on the outside of the real story here.


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