Sunday, December 16, 2012

BUS STORY # 319 (E-book Reader)

Maybe it’s the day: low-hanging dark gray sky leaking water, stiff, chill breeze.  Or maybe it’s the watch cap, grizzled, unshaven face, and olive-drab car coat.  Whatever it is, the guy coming down the aisle makes me think “seaman.”  He takes the seat next to me, and I am momentarily awash in the reek of old cigarette smoke.

He’s got a covered cup of gas station coffee in his right hand, and a package in his left hand which he lays in his lap and starts to unwrap one-handedly.

His hands are weathered, and all the creases are filled in with black.  So are the edges of his fingernails.  Black and short and rough-edged.

When he’s got the package unwrapped on his lap, I see a well-worn, water-swollen spiral notebook.  Underneath is something smaller in black.

He sets the coffee down on the floor, in front of his shoe, which I take as a precaution against sudden stops. I’m skeptical about how well this will work.

He lifts the notebook up and opens it.  The edges are stained and water-wrinkled.  I don’t see any evidence of writing, but he’s opened the notebook in the middle.

He looks through some of the pages, and he does it in a way that I cannot see what is on the page.  I don’t know if this is intentional or not.

Then he closes it, slides it under the black rectangular package which he then snaps open.  At first I think it’s a tablet.  He catches me scoping it out.

“E-reader,” he says.  He tilts the screen toward me.

“Got it for twenty-seven bucks on the internet.  No mailing charges.  I couldn’t have gotten it in a store for that.”

He runs a finger down some tabs on the side of the screen and taps. Then he turns the screen toward me.

I’m looking at an old Fritz the Cat cartoon.

I tell him I didn’t realize they could do that.

He selects another tab, then turns it toward me again. I see a page of print. He tells me it came with a few books already on it, but he’s downloaded a lot more from the library.

I catch a name at the bottom of the page. Ibsen. No title.

He holds the book higher and closer to me.


I hear a woman’s voice reading, I presume, what’s on the page before me.

“Pretty cool,” I say.

He lowers the book, turns it off, wraps it back up in its black cover, then slides it under the notebook. He takes up the notebook once again, opens it somewhere in the middle. I can see the pages are blank.

He reaches inside his slicker and pulls out a ball point pen. He sits with the pen poised, looking at the blank pages.


Maybe it came with the book and his selection was just random.

Or maybe I’m sitting next to another Joseph Conrad, seaman and as yet undiscovered world class writer.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Mann im 4er Metrobus mit E-Book-Reader,” © All Rights Reserved, and is published with the permission of admit. You can see all admit’s photos on Flickr here.


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10:24 AM  

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