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, July 12, 2007

It takes a village

As I boarded the No. 82 bus and walked to my customary seat in the back I recognized the woman near the front with her hair covered in a blue bandana. Across from where I sat was the man forever immortalized as The Gentleman on the bus. Two strangers held the bench at the back. The start of just another commute.

At Watt, a woman carrying a toddler boarded, followed by another woman. They took seats in the front. Soon two more women joined them and then another. The women chatted among themselves -- back to forward, forward to back, across the aisle, diagonally -- weaving the conversation together. I couldn't hear more than a word here and a phrase there. The women's voices merged with the creaks and groans of the bus and the traffic outside to create the sounds of the mechanical village, a transitarian community created on the fly as the bus bounded along its route.

At one point a woman got out a picture of her daughter to show the woman with the toddler.

"She looks just like you," a woman across the aisle interjected.

The woman with the photo explained that the other three children in the picture are hers too.

"You have four children?" the woman across the aisle said, as if trying out her math skills.

"Seven," the woman corrected. She then produced another photo and held it with the first -- seven smiling children.

"Oh, they all look like you," the women across the aisle said.

Another woman asked, "Twins?"

"No twins," the woman replied.

Seven pregnancies. Seven deliveries. Seven birth stories to tell. Such a feat silenced the other women. Seven and no twins. Wow!

It was during the silence that followed that the guy who chases co-eds boarded. He had no trouble picking his target. He wanted nothing to do with the mother and her toddler or, worse yet, the mother of seven kids and no twins. He ignored the woman with the blue bandana and instead descended on a woman alone just in front of the side exit.

The guy asked her to move over so he could sit down.

"There's an open seat over there," she tartly replied. She pointed to the seat across the aisle and slightly behind her.

He examined the vacant seat as if puzzled at its sudden existence. Then he admitted the facts of the situation and sat down. But he was not defeated. Not yet.

I didn't hear what he said to the woman, but he leaned across the aisle and the two awkwardly shook hands with their left hands. It was a deal of some sort more than a greeting.

Apparently not happy with his progress, the guy jumped forward one seat and landed next to the woman with the blue bandana. She was noticeably surprised but didn't openly object.

The guy, who was now forward of his target, turned and tried to get a conversation going. I heard him explain that he works at La Bou on Howe. But soon the woman with the bandana and the object of the guy's desire were talking about a conference or something. As I watched, the guy slowly became invisible.

Eventually, he realized he was invisible and moved his invisible body back to the empty seat. He invisibly slouched in his visible disappointment.

From the front of the bus I heard the toddler tell her mother, "Do it again."

The toddler shrieked in laughter.

"Do it again."

She laughed.

"Do it again."

People got off the bus. People got on the bus.

The toddler merrily laughed.


Queen of Dysfunction said...

I loved this post! You captured the conversation perfectly, it was like I was there.

John said...

Thanks. I make no guarantee of word-for-word accuracy in any of this, but I do try to capture the moment.