Sunday, January 13, 2008

BUS STORY # 67 (Reindeer Man Is Not Alone!)

A few weeks after my encounter with Reindeer Man, the inbound Rapid Ride stops at Louisiana and Antenna Boy bounces on board. He’s a roly-poly kid with black plastic glasses and a demeanor so good-natured he can’t possibly be in high school yet. He zooms into the seat facing the aisle and starts chatting with the two older women facing him to his immediate left. They could be his aunts. Heck, maybe they are his aunts. He’s animated, and all the while, his antennae are waving around on top of his head.

The back and sides of his head are close-cropped. The antennae all come from the hair left long on the top. But there is not the randomness I saw with Reindeer Man. Antenna Boy’s hair is neatly sectioned into four rows of squares, two squares across the front of his head, followed by two rows of three squares, and ending in a row of two squares across the crown. Ten neatly arranged squares of hair with an antenna rising out of the middle of each.

For all the similarity, there are a number of differences between Reindeer Man’s antlers and Antenna Boy’s antennae. The antennae are all the same length. They all point straight up. They end in a tuft rather than a point. They are straight rather than segmented. They are tightly wrapped in some kind of black and white cloth, not dyed green. They bounce, merrily, where Reindeer Man’s antlers were rigid.

I feel inexplicably happy seeing this boy and his hair arrangement. It is later that I start wondering why. For starters, the kid himself is an enthusiastic bundle of joy. I don’t see much of that in kids his age.

He also seems utterly unselfconscious about his hair. That takes me back to the ‘60s, when I grew my own hair long and discovered the not-so-polite underbelly of my conventionally middle class neighborhood. It was impossible not to feel self-conscious then. I think how we’ve all grown: we no longer really hassle one another over hairstyles or clothes. We’ve moved on to the much more important things: politics or religion or country of origin . . .

Perhaps it’s as simple as a children’s rhyme from even further back in my life: “The world is so full of a number of things/I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” That’s from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden Of Verses, a book that enriched my imagination from a time before I could even read, when my father read to me at bedtime. Like all the things he read to my brother and me, these quaint verses with their quaint vocabulary introduced me to an even stranger and more wondrous world than the one I was discovering in my day-to-day. Now I’m thinking I’d better get my grandchildren this book so they won’t be left with just the world of Walter the Farting Dog.

But I digress. The nursery rhyme explanation means I’ve found extreme hairstyles like Reindeer Man’s and Antenna Boy’s fascinating and fun, and perhaps that is why I feel happy: I’m still young at heart!

Here’s the story: my current Garden is none other than the bus. I would be ignorant of the existence of either of these folks and their hairstyles had it not been for the bus. What else can I say? We riders should all be as happy as kings.


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