There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Notes on the bus

I'm not a big fan of striking up conversations with strangers. I find it painful. There's no rational reason; it's just me. And yet I crave insight into these people who ride my bus each day.

There was quite a crowd on today's bus as I took a seat on the first elevated seat in the back of the new-style, split-level bus. Seated immediately in front of me was a young lady who was busy applying makeup. I've written before about the marvel of women who can apply mascara without injuring themselves as the bus jerks and bounces and stops and starts. But what I really wanted to ask her about was the compact she held in her left hand. "Playboy" was etched in the mirror. Instead I put my head in my book and read.

About halfway along the route the bus stopped for a woman and young man. The woman showed her pass as she boarded. She walked past me and sat on the bench in the back of the bus.

The young man was having a discussion with the driver that I couldn't hear. As he turned to get off the bus I went back to my book.

"Hey!" called the woman who had just boarded.

I looked up to see the young man turn and walk up the aisle. He continued past me to the back of the bus. I didn't turn around to see what happened, but the man walked back down the aisle to the driver and paid his fare.

The young man took a seat immediately in front of the side door. He wore the standard uniform of black youths, although his sagging pants weren't quite as outrageous as a youth who had boarded earlier, and his tightly wrapped dreadlocks extending from under his knit cap gave him a look of someone who cared for his appearance.

He did not acknowledge the woman who had helped him as he sat down. The woman behind me remained silent. The young lady in front of me was busy taking advantage of the stop. I went back to my book.

When we arrived at Sac State most of the passengers left the bus. The woman who had been working on her makeup waited until the other students had departed before getting up. As she crossed the aisle to the door she placed a bright pink Post-It note folded in half on the seat next to the young man and exited.

The young man was looking out the window as the woman left. He watched as new passengers boarded the bus. He looked everywhere but down at his seat where the bright pink Post-It note screamed, "Pick me up!"

Now, this presented a dilemma. Should I get up and tap the guy on the shoulder and suggest he look down? Or should I let the Fates decide?

I was of two minds about the whole note idea. My internal parent voice was yelling, "Girl! What are you thinking?! The guy doesn't have enough money for bus fare!" But my guy thing was saying, "Way cool. Dude, you got a note from a girl."

The Fates eventually intervened as the bus was coming to stop at the 65th Street station. The young man looked down and noticed the note. He examined it a moment and then looked around, a grin spreading across his face.

"The lady who got off at Sac State left it for you," I offered.

His grin had grown to a toothy smile.

"The one who was sitting here," I said, pointing to the seat in front of me.

The young man nodded and put the note in his wallet.

I followed him off the bus and headed across the street to wait for the train. I was going to make the early train. I smiled: Two lucky guys.

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