Sunday, August 29, 2010

BUS STORY # 199 (The Strike-Out Artist)

I Ride . . . 2, originally uploaded by busboy4.

We’re up on the platform, sitting across from one another on the bench seats facing the aisle.

He keeps sneaking looks at the woman sitting in the seat in the last row, directly in line with him. She’s got her feet up on the rail and is looking out the window.

He’s a big, meaty guy with a shaved head and wearing a red golf visor, backwards. Gray tank top, baggy shorts, brown sandals. Tattoo on his right calf.

She’s a pretty meaty gal herself. Shoulder-length black hair, plucked and penciled eyebrows, red, red lips. Black tank top, blue jeans, and those high-heeled platform sandals. She’s got a tattoo just above her abundant right breast. She’s not exactly spilling out of her tank top. It’s more like a grocery bag with a spray of greens pouring out the top. You can’t help but know there’s a bunch of carrots down in there. She's holding one of those smartphones that are competing with iPods for rider share these days.

He risks a longer look. She keeps looking out the window. Finally, he asks her name.

“Anna”* she replies without any enthusiasm.

He nods his head, waits a minute.

“I’m Mike.”*

She nods, looks back out the window.

He looks down at his sandals for a while. Then:

“Just get off work?”

And adds quickly, “You work at McDonalds?”

She shakes her head no. Her phone rings, and she answers it. A conversation ensues. He’s staring at his sandals again, frowning. Bad timing, that call. He looks over to his right.

A young, slim woman with two small children on either side of her is sitting quietly. Black hair down past her shoulders. Simple brown scoop neck T-shirt with blue jeans and flat-heeled shoes.

Mike says something her way. The children look over at him, but she doesn’t give any indication she’s heard him.

He tries again, louder this time.

She looks over at him. Her reply is polite, but her face says she really isn’t interested in having a conversation with him. She looks away when she’s finished answering.

He asks the little girl nearest him how old she is.

She tells him and he asks about her sister.

The woman looks down at her daughter who is enjoying this conversation, then over at him. She is clearly annoyed and at a loss at how to deal with this.

He makes the mistake of re-engaging mom and she shuts him down in a way that he understands. He hangs his head, and I feel a little sorry for the poor guy.

But when he looks left again, the first girl is off her phone. Hope surely springs eternal because he restarts a conversation.

Her phone rings again, and that’s the end of that.

He gets off the bus shortly afterwards, but not before waving to phone girl. She waves back.

When the back door closes, she puts the phone back down in her lap, no goodbye or anything else. It takes a minute to register.

The next day, I email my daughter and ask if she can make her iPhone ring when she wants it to. She has no idea. But I do.


*Real name changed.


Anonymous Brenda said...

That kinda' made me sad. As human beings we should be able to connect more easily than that.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

I think that is part of why I felt a little sorry for the guy. He wasn't saying anything inappropriate. He looked so discouraged.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I started to comment, then my thoughts went in a thousand different directions on this one. It gives me a lot to think about. My first instinct was to sympathize with the girl, but...maybe we (as girls who are tired of being hit on), are too quick to jump to an assumption.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Heather, I think your first instinct is as valid as Brenda's. In fact, that was in my mind when I chose the photo to go with this story. I can't tell you what the guy's intentions were, (although I couldn't help but notice he didn't seem interested in talking with me), but while I felt a little sorry for him, I also felt for the mom who just wanted to ride the bus with her kids in peace. It raises an interesting question about what are reasonable expectations of others' behaviors toward us in public spaces.

I, of course, treasure the moments someone has intruded into my reading space because that's where many of the bus stories come from. And I find people's stories pretty fascinating. But if I only wanted to read my book or magazine in peace, I'd probably feel differently about such intrusions.

But, for better or worse, the fact I'm a guy makes a big, big difference in my comfort level with these sorts of interactions. Even listening to all my wife's and daughter's stories, it's really hard to appreciate the everyday apprehension women have to accommodate as part of their "normal" lives. The closest I've ever come are situations where I am acutely aware I'm different or out of place, and there is a vague threat of danger for being so.

I really appreciate your and Brenda's comments.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Funny...I did a quick check and realized that the commenting Brenda is my mom. I recommended you to her and she reads too.

We've always thought a bit differently, but not in a bad way =)

4:49 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Amazing! And wonderful!

6:26 PM  

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