Sunday, February 28, 2016

BUS STORY # 486 (Sounds Like)

Downloaded from The Blaze

It’s mid-afternoon on an almost-full Rapid. I’m lost in my own thoughts and feeling a little like nodding off when I hear a woman say something from the back of the bus that jolts me awake.

I’m not the only one. I’m sitting in one of the aisle-facing bench seats just in front of the pleats, and everyone on my side and the opposite side has reacted as well, all of us turning back to where we heard what we thought we heard:

“He saw me naked, eh?”

I spot a small woman sitting in an aisle seat near the back doors. I know it’s her when I hear her laugh. She’s laughing as if whoever it was that saw her naked is the funniest thing.

She’s round and short, with orange pants, a dark gray-light gray striped shirt, and an orange hijab! Big sunglasses. She’s smiling and talking and I quickly realize two things: she’s talking into a cell phone mike on the wires which run up under her scarf; she’s speaking something other than English.

Something doesn't fit here, but that’s definitely the voice.

She continues chatting away, pausing to listen, laughing, chatting away. She’s oblivious to all the attention her co-riders in front are giving her.

I look her over once more, and I am convinced what we heard was a foreign phrase that came out sounding like “he saw me naked, eh” in English. I can see the others drawing the same conclusion now. You might say we very clearly misheard.

Too bad, because that laugh of hers afterward was wonderful.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

BUS STORY # 485 (Portrait # 32: A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day)

Downloaded from BillyPenn.

We’re waiting at the Uptown Transit Center. The Rapid is sitting in the station, but the driver is on break and waiting for the scheduled time of departure.

Standing by the front door is a tall man who commands attention. Shiny black leather porkpie hat fitted over a black do-rag that drops down the back of his neck. A square, jeweled earring on the right ear, and for what all the world appears to be a pinch of kleenex or toilet paper parked on a shaving nick just past the right corner of his mouth. It takes me a while to rule out some kind of piercing hardware.

He’s wearing a suit. Unusual enough, but this suit is one of a kind. It’s brown, with the look of linen. The fabric is shot through with darker brown threads.

The suit coat is unique. The collar is more jacket than suit, and even though there are no lapels to speak of, large black buttons run down the front double-breasted style. French cuffs with brass buttons for cufflinks.

Gray open-collar shirt with a heavy silver chain link necklace. Black dress shoes, plain-toed and well polished, A handsome and substantial walking stick.

He stands by the front door with the air of someone who’s not used to having to wait.

When we eventually board, he sits in the bench seat behind the driver, pulls a pair of sun glasses from an inside pocket, pulls a dark blue handkerchief from another inside pocket, and begins mouth-steaming and wiping the lenses. When he’s done, he puts the sun glasses on. Then he adjusts his do-rag in the front, and readjusts his hat.

Sitting across from him is a red-headed, red-mustached guy in a straw cowboy hat and a colorfully striped cowboy shirt. The cowboy says something about yesterday’s rain. The suit guy leans forward and weighs in on that rain. They talk about the weather a little more before moving into a substantial discussion about God and mankind’s relationship with God.

At first, the conversation is evenly divided, but gradually, the suit takes over more and more of the speaking time. His gestures become bolder, and I watch the cowboy shrug once or twice, then fan his hands, palm down, as if to say no argument here, brother.

But I can tell the cowboy is ready for his stop. That comes at San Mateo. He pulls the cord and stands up. The suit tells him how much he enjoyed talking with him, The cowboy extends his hand, and they shake vigorously, Then the cowboy goes to stand by the first exit door.

I get off at the next stop. I watch him as he sits silently, resting his hands on top of the walking stick.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

BUS STORY # 484 (Cute Meet)

Still from "Bittoo trying to flirt Shruti"; downloaded from YouTube

I watch the guy sitting on the aisle-facing bench seats of the Rapid watch the young woman walk past him, on back to the row of seats across the aisle from mine. She slips in, pulls out a note pad and a smart phone, and plugs in an ear piece.

I’ll learn shortly she’s 18 (or says she is). Black, off-one-shoulder blouse, blue jeans, little black boots. He’s 27 (or will shortly say he is), in a black and gray and white striped sweater and gray pants.

He’s still watching her.

Pretty soon, he gets up and walks to the bench seats in front of the accordion pleats of the flex part of the bus, just in front of her seat. She is still looking down at her phone, but when he starts moving toward her, she smiles at the phone, a quick, little smile that says “Uh-huh.” Cracks me up.

He starts off with small talk, which consists of one question after another. You goin’ to school? Where?

She answers -- yes, CNM -- but doesn’t ask any questions back.

He goes to CNM, too. On the west side. How about her?

She’s on the main campus.

He tells her he really doesn’t spend much time there. He takes all his classes on line. He hates going to class.

And so it goes. He asks, she answers, he elaborates, then asks something new.

They bingo when they find out both their moms work at Pres. No way!

He asks how old she is. She hedges, doesn’t seem to want to answer. He tells her he’s 27. But he knows he looks younger. Then he presses her once again to tell him how old she is. 18. She says this in a little voice. He laughs. She laughs.

He tells her he was in the army for eight years, and now he’s going to school. His parents more or less kicked him out of the house when he was 17, although he explains they helped him get an apartment. He had his car and two bicycles stolen between then and going into the army.

He asks her where she’s getting off. Downtown. Hey, he is, too. Same place. That’s cool, huh? Cracks me up.

I can hear most of the conversation, but I’m sitting too close to watch either of their faces without being obvious. That’s a bummer. I can imagine his -- the persistent, optimistic earnestness is in his voice. I’d love to see hers, though, because I can’t tell exactly where she is on this. Certainly not putting him off.

I get off way before they do, but I feel buoyed up as well as amused by the old ceremony. I just might have been in on the start of something big.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

BUS STORY # 483 (Moving On)

Photo by Busboy

She’s just wrapping up a phone call when I get to the bus stop bench. I sit down and look south. I know perfectly well the bus isn’t due for another ten minutes, but being preoccupied by something in the opposite direction is my ceremonial gesture of granting the woman some privacy.

She finishes her call, puts the phone in her purse, then says, “This is a great day. I’m moving into a new apartment, and I’m really excited.”

I say something supportive, and she tells me how she had to get out of where she’s been living. She’s had spiders and cockroaches, there’ve been break-ins -- not her apartment, but all through the complex. She says she’s breaking her lease, but she doesn’t care, she’s had it. If they take her to court, she has her medical records showing all the spider bite treatments she’s needed since living there.

I ask her where “there” is. It’s a familiar name, a collection of apartments in the area with signage advertising cheap rents.

She asks me if I know when the bus is coming. She doesn’t usually ride this route, but she’s going to pick up her keys to her new place this morning.

I tell her the scheduled arrival time, and she tells me she’s enlisted her son to help her move into the new apartment next weekend. She was hoping for this weekend, but he and his wife had plans.

We talk about the weather. She says something that makes me think she hasn’t been here all that long.

In fact, she’s been here forty years. Came out here when she was 10, along with her mom and dad and a bunch of brothers and sisters and a dog and a cat.

The bus comes, but I find a seat across from her and ask her where she’d come from.

Long Island. They were on their way to Orange County, California, where her dad’s mother lived. But they ran out of money in Albuquerque.

Her dad found a job in just three days. Then they found a house, and some furniture, and here she is this morning.

She says her brothers and sisters have all gone back to visit, but she hasn’t. She doesn’t think she wants to because her family told her the school she went to is all closed up, and all the trees in her neighborhood have been cut down.

But she does have an old neighborhood friend who moved to upstate New York and who pesters her constantly about coming up to visit. But she just can’t afford a trip like that.

I ask if her friend would come out here.

No. She wants her to go up there.

Her stop comes up and she pulls the cord, wishes me well, and heads out the rear door. I wish her luck.