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

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Weapons on the bus

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the printed book can only go so far to protect your personal space from a determined intruder.

The young man boarded the bus and sat down near the front. His expression and demeanor, his tentative nature, identified him. When I was a child I would have described him as retarded. He reminded me of an elementary school classmate. When he would attempt to do something and get it wrong, he would often get yelled at by the other kids. He would invariably wag his finger at his tormentors and loudly reply with a Daffy Duck lisp, "You didn't specify," spraying spittle on anyone standing too close.

Some of the "...short of a load" analogies meandered around my mind as I tried to come up with an acceptable description.

After a stop, he got up and slowly walked toward the rear of the bus. He was clearly looking for something and apparently found it in the seat immediately behind me.

He sat down next to a young woman. This bus will eventually fill to standing-room-only with Sacramento State students, but at this point of the route several vacant seats were still available. While this guy was clearly a functioning member of society, he obviously didn't understand the needs of others for personal space.

I could hear some of his attempts to start up a conversation, but not enough to lure me away from my book. But apparently the arrangement didn't work out to his liking and a few stops later the guy got up and this time moved back toward the front of the bus. He eventually settled next to a young woman seated across the aisle and in front of my seat.

The woman had a small paperback book that she focused her concentration on in a vain attempt to protect her personal space.

The young man would say something. I couldn't hear what. The woman would offer a one word reply and a polite smile, but her efforts to use her book to protect her private space were not having the desired effect.

The guy would slowly scratch at his hair, apparently in thought. The haircut looked recent. It was closely sheared on the sides, rising to a stiff flat-top. He wore wire rim glasses. He would look down and then stare at the woman. He would try a line and then return to his self-protective position with his arms tightly wrapped around his chest.

Eventually the guy's stop arrived and he got up and exited. Soon the bus was full. A Sac State student with two backpacks squeezed into my seat.

I focused my concentration on my book.

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