Sunday, June 24, 2012

BUS STORY # 294 (The Last 12 Hours: Rider # 4)

I board the San Mateo bus and the first thing I see is the hand dancer sitting on the bench seat behind the driver.

The bus is crowded, as usual, and I quickly figure out the place to sit is on the surprisingly empty bench seat directly across the way.

I’ve seen the hand dancer several times since that first time on the bus, but never on the bus. I’ve seen him at bus stops around town. And every time I’ve seen him, all of him is dancing. Energetically. Right out there on the sidewalk before God and everyone. He’s impossible to miss.

This morning, he’s dressed the same as always: earphones, black hand splints, tank top, shorts, boots. But either I missed all the tattoos the first time, or he’s added a whole lot more since then.

He’s effectively occupying three seats. He’s square in the middle seat, but his legs are spread wide and are moving, presumably to whatever he’s hearing in the headphones.

His arms are down by his sides, each hand on the empty seat on either side of him, but they sometimes can’t help themselves and gesture to the music before returning to the seats.

His face alternates between just listening, and contorting, sometimes ecstatically, sometimes darkly, to whatever is playing. And then I read in his face an ongoing effort to control himself until he gets to wherever he’s going. He’s barely containing himself.

The atmosphere is a bit tense up here in the front of the bus. A young woman sitting two seats away from him shoots me a meaningful look.

At a stop where several people are boarding, he surprises me by abruptly moving into the last seat on the bench and making himself compact enough to open the other two seats. One of the boarders takes the seat at the other end of the bench. She is, probably fortunately, on her cell phone and oblivious to everything else.

But he stays much quieter now until we reach his stop. He pulls the cord and leaps to his feet, shoots to the front door. When he exits, he throws both hands in the air and lifts his legs in an exaggerated march.

I don’t know if he got to where he was going, or if he just had to get off the bus and let the spirit out. 

Later, when I think about whatever he was listening to, I wish I had tracked the wires from his headphones. I’m wondering if the music really is all in his head.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “20101009 1546 - NYC - subway - breakbuster - IMG_2244,” and is posted with the kind permission of Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (Clint JCL).  You can see all Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (Clint JCL)’s photos on Flickr at:


See This Week’s Featured Link for the Rev.’s video of the same breakbuster performing on the NYC subway.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite a breath-taking story. You do wonder if he can control it. Or, is it some form of Tourette's Syndrome.
Awesome photo, BTW.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Your comment led me to google Tourette Syndrome. I learned I am among those who mistakenly characterize the syndrome with the repetition of socially unacceptable words and phrases. Apparently, this occurs in somewhere between only 10 and 15 percent of cases.

Based on what I’ve just read, I think it is possible those facial expressions are tics, and are manifestations of Tourette’s. But I’m a long way from competent at making a diagnosis. I have no first-hand experience with Tourette’s that I am aware of.

The sites I looked at all report that tics can be suppressed, but that they are difficult to suppress because they present with a compelling urgency, and their suppression leads to a build up of tension. That description reminded me of my own wondering if he got off the bus because he had reached his destination, or because he could no longer contain himself.

Re: the “Awesome photo”: yes it is, and I am grateful to have been given permission to use it.

Thank you very much for your comments.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Reagan said...


Great site! I'm trying to find an email address to contact you on to ask if you would please consider adding a link to my website. I'd really appreciate if you could email me back.

Thanks and have a great day!

8:02 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Reagan: you supplied no email address to contact you, and no link to your website. Only 36 profile views (where no information is found). I suspect spam, but I'm open to other possibilities.

8:12 PM  

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