Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Wheels On The Bus

A comment on a popular social network site made me think about all of my hours spent on buses and trains and car pools and van. I have used mass transportation all over the world and I came to realize that people who use mass transport are always the same. It doesn't matter if you are in Europe, the South or in megalopolis areas like New York. We all fall into certain categories with very few, if any, exceptions.

First, and it wouldn't be a bus ride without this fine example, you have the Talker.

The Talker generally sits right behind the driver, leaning forward so that his mouth is in the closest possible proximity to the driver's ear. He rambles on and on about one of two things; Politics of which he knows nothing but thinks he knows everything, or sports, of which he knows just enough to be annoying and thinks he knows everything. The bus stops and starts, doors open and close, people talk to the driver yet none of this stops the Talker from droning on and on and on. On occasion, an Antagonist will have boarded the bus, sitting as far away from the Talker as possible and interjects a few statements that he knows will irritate the Talker no end and make sure that the ramble never ceases. At first the other passengers are always happy that the Antagonist irritates the Talker as badly as he is irritating them. If this goes on for more than a stop or two, however, the other passengers either put on headphones or yell "shut UP!" or get off 6 miles early because walking in the heat, rain, snow, chill has got to be less painful that the two annoying creatures going at each other in full voice.

Similar to the Talker is the Self Conversationalist. In the good old days people gave the Self Conversationalist wide berth because it could only mean one thing, i.e. CRAZY. A city bus is a confined space and being next to a verified lunatic is not pleasant for someone just tying to shlep their groceries home from the store. With the advent of cell phones and Blue Tooth devices the Self Conversationalist is now often confused with the Rude Asshole. I actually feel bad for the crazy people who now must wonder is the Rude Asshole hearing the same voices they are? Does everyone now hear voices? While the Self Conservationists voices are talking murder and mayhem the Rude Assholes voices seem to be saying nothing at all, just listening to the constant ramble about doctors visits and evil relatives, sort of like the bus driver. Are the voices simply passed away Talkers who feel they must leave their mouths close to someones ear and ramble on and on about sports and politics for eternity?

The Tired Mom is a fixture too. Aged looking women anywhere from 16 to 56 surrounded by wide eyed children who don't want to sit together take up several rows of seats. One is always crying, one is always sniffling and coughing, one is asking questions of the Somnolent Drunk (Another fixture. Could also be Jittery Addict, closely related and more and more common) next to them about why he isn't shaven, hey mister you smell funny, and why do your hands shake like that. Sometimes Tired Mom totally ignores her brood, glad to have them in an enclosed moving space and therefore confined giving her a short respite from constant vigilance. Sometimes Tired Mom looks on in pride as they terrorize the other passengers. Sometimes Tired Mom yells at the Self Conversationalist for terrifying her offspring but usually Tired Mom just dozes in and out and thinks about everything she has to do once she gets home and wishes, how she wishes, that she had a damn car.

What I like to call Thug Lite is next in this line of characters. Thug Lite would be really really scary except, well lets face it, he has to ride a bus. That means he isn't old enough to drive yet (Thug Lite Junior) or isn't a good enough drug dealer or burglar to afford a car. In other words he is often caught because while many people think public transportation brings a bad element to their neighborhood, it is a bad element who face thirty stops and starts on their omnibus getaway. Thug Lite is also often holding up their britches so they don't fall off in front of people they are trying to frighten. Seriously? How scary is someone who can't run without their pants sliding down and the whole world seeing their Mickey Mouse drawers? Thug Lite tend to travel in small herds and take up the back seat because even on mass transport the wanna be cool, bad kids sit in the back of the bus.

Thrill Seekers are an annoying fact for those of us that ride every day. Thrill Seekers ride a bus once, maybe twice in their life. They ride to say they have, they ride to give the kids a life lesson, they ride to prove that they are the same as Somnolent Drunk, Jittery Addict or Thug Lite, no better, no worse, all God's children after all. Thrill Seekers always look excited, sweaty palmed, red faced, benevolent shaky smiles as they clutch each other, sitting three to a bench seat and avoid eye contact with everyone except Tired Mom's kids. They ride a few stops and then hop off, relief coming off of them like a sickly sweet perfume as they hail a cab to finish their journey to wherever.

Freaking Liberal comes next. He boards jauntily after taking five minutes to hook his 2,000 dollar bike to the front of the bus. He is wearing all wrinkled cotton shorts and a defunct bands' t-shirt and shoes that are buy one, give a pair to some stranger in Africa. He has a reusable bottle of water which he clutches like a sword, waving it about as he gets into a discussion with the Talker about bicycles and the economy of road repair and the flat tax. Freaking Liberals all have facial hair, just enough to make Tired Mom want to yell at them to get a damn razor, were you raised by wolves? Freaking Liberals are doused with cologne from Abercrombie or Gap, mixing it with the sweat pouring off of them after biking through the city in the heat and the residual aroma of Starbucks. This effectively creates an envelope of odor that surrounds them, blocking out Somnolent Drunk or Thug Lite and their strange and quite uncomfortable scents compo;ed of malt liquor and cheap cigarettes  lack of soap or an abundance of cheap cologne and weed.

The Rider is another common figure. He is on when you get on and on when you get off. He is on day after day after day. He is quiet, looking out the window of nodding off, never seeming to notice anything going on inside the bus unless the Self Conservationist, Tired Mom and the Talker start going head to head. He hums on occasion, he smiles or makes faces at Tired Mom's children. He will on a rare occasion give up his well worn seat to an elderly man or woman and always to a pregnant woman, sliding quietly back into it when they depart. His description is that he is nondescript, white, brown, black or yellow he is always dressed innocuously and never interacts unless he has too. He could be a serial killer, a modern day hobo, an international spy or someone riding the bus for warmth and a few hours of protection. He is boring and intriguing at once.

Last but not least there are people like me, The Havetas. I haveta ride because I can't see well, I have friends that haveta ride because they have lost their license  they crashed their car or don't own one, sociology experiments, college students haveta ride to get to and from class because their taxi money went to beer and books. We get on, smile, wrinkle our nose at the smell, greet the Rider expecting and getting no acknowledgement, chuckle at Thug Lite, ask Tired Mom to move one of her kids and slide into our regular seat as we make our way back home.