Most of my friends complain about having to take the bus. My fiancé doesn’t understand why I would choose to take it, given the choice. But there’s something about riding the bus that you can’t get from anywhere else. On the bus, I can turn off my brain, turn on my iPod, and watch the world go by through the dirty windows. There are people I notice only because I am on a bus. I can take time to look them over and study them, before they get off at their stop. I can listen to conversations of 13-year-old girls, allowing me to stay in the loop on what’s new in that realm of life. (That’s MySpace, spandex pants and the OC, by the way). There are some recurring bus characters that reinvent the way I understand people.
There is the guy who has a bouquet of flowers. He sits quietly and usually with an expressionless face. If the flowers weren’t in the picture, he would seem plain, and I wouldn’t wonder much about where he was going. But when I see the guy with the paper-wrapped bouquet, I wonder who he loves, how far he must go, what kind of flowers they are. Are they for a sick relative at the hospital? Did he make a big mistake he needs to make up to his girlfriend? Is he finally going to confess his feelings for a girl he knows? I love seeing the guy with flowers on the bus, it reminds me that beneath our plain bus faces, we’re all feeling things on a less detectable but equally moving level.
There is the crazy who sits near the front. Most people awkwardly try to avoid their gaze, fearing that they may inadvertently activate the crazy person’s desire to spout obscenities or loud conversation. The crazy person has nobody sitting around them, and looks people in the eye. I like it when the crazy person comes on the bus because it can be as entertaining as reality TV on my way home from work.
There is the stroller mom. She struggles to get the giant stroller on the bus and takes up the whole front section. She usually wears makeup and grocery shopping clothes, and sans stroller, would pass for someone you line up behind at the drug store. But with the stroller, it makes me think about how when you have a baby, you don’t get free time. If you want to go pick up a computer part, the baby comes. You have an appointment? The baby goes with you. And when you don’t have a car, you gotta lug that baby around with you on and off the bus. But the stroller moms smile back at their babies, and readjust their smothering snowsuits to make sure their baby is warm and safe.
There is the spread out guy. He sees that people are lining up, squished together in the bus aisles, but he doesn’t take his bag off the seat beside him or his newspaper out of the other one. He has just spread himself out in a little bus seat comfort station, with total disregard for the people breathing over him who don’t have seats. I like watching whether people clear their throats at him, sigh heavily, roll their eyes at him, actually say something, or “accidentally” bump him with their own huge bags they’d love to put down themselves. If you watch this scene play out on the bus, it’s almost impossible not to become emotionally invested in the outcome. It’s a little exercise in patience versus affirmation, I like to think.
Yeah, the bus smells, and if I drop my cookie I can never pick it up. Sometimes it’s hard to see out when all the people fog up the windows. But when I let it, the bus is full of little drama s and comedies to keep me entertained and give me a little insight into people who aren’t me. And we all need to know more people that aren’t us.