Sunday, August 16, 2009

BUS STORY # 146 (It’s Like Six Flags Over Texas)

There are a bunch of us down at The Frontier boarding the Rapid Ride home. I find an outside seat just behind the flex. Inside the flex area are two bench seats facing the aisle. They’re bolted to a disk on the floor of the bus. Whenever the bus flexes for a corner turn, the disk rotates, and the benches go with them. Wheee.

Both disk seats are double occupancy, but the one across the aisle from me has just one occupant. He’s somewhere on the near side of middle age, thin, with long, stringy black hair. He’s wearing black jeans, a black T-shirt, and sunglasses. He scans all of us who have just gotten on and taken seats back here.

“You all students?”

His voice is slurred. No one answers. No one looks at him. His question never happened.

There is a logic to the question. The Frontier is across the street from the main entrance of UNM, and most of the riders who boarded and are sitting all around me are young enough to be students. Few of them have books, however. Most of them have iPods or cell phones they are working.

“Stoonts?” he queries again.

Again, no one acknowledges him. I look up in his direction, and he catches the movement. He points at me.

“You mus’ be the perfessor.”

And now I’m feeling in the middle of a dilemma. First, no one is acknowledging him because no one wants to encourage him. Second, no one wants anyone else to encourage him, either. Third, I’ve just encouraged him, and am now at the point where I am either going to end it or allow it to go on for as long as he is riding. Fourth, despite the sense of peer pressure to ignore him, I hear that old tyme religion calling whatever you do to the least of my brethren. Fifth, I sense he’s a friendly drunk, and I like the way he called me an old guy. And last of all, there’s that self-centered impulse to offset all the noble stuff: There might be a bus story here.

He’s still looking at me and waiting for an answer.

“Naw, I’m just a worker,” I tell him.

He gives me a big grin. I can feel the riders all around me registering their disappointment or disgust.

“I’m nodda hell raiser,” he tells me, “jus’ an American.”

I nod my head.

“I like riding in these seats,” he says, both arms held out to indicate the flex area. He’s got a half-empty bottle of Coke in his right hand. I’m wondering if it’s just Coke, or Coke and something.

He leans down and, left hand just above the floor, runs his hand around the perimeter of the disk. It’s a surprisingly graceful, fluid movement that evokes the turning of the disk.

“I like how it turns and goes back’n forth. It’s like . . . it’s like . . . you know, the rolly coasters – Six Flags Over Texas.”

He sits back up and twists the cap off the Coke bottle.

“It’s mechanical,” he says, and he nods his head sharply to emphasize the point. Then he screws the cap back on.

“Th’only trouble is this.” He reaches up for the request stop pull cord. There isn’t one there. When you’re sitting in the flex, you either have to ask someone to pull the cord or you have to get up and walk forward or backward to pull it.

“So then you have to yell – STOP!”

That would have gotten the driver’s attention if we hadn’t already stopped at the San Mateo station, and the shout hadn’t been muffled by the movement of riders off and on the bus.

He gets up and heads for the rear exit. He stops at my seat and extends his right hand. I reach up to take it. It is one flabby handshake.

“Enjoy your ride on the bus,” he says, then heads for the back door.

The photo above features last year’s Poetry On The Bus fourth place winner in the adult category. The poem is Railroad To Central, by Amanda Kooser. Click on the photo to enlarge.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story, I laughed, I cried.

6:54 AM  

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