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, July 10, 2007

Wild Kingdom on the bus

Hunger compels the animal, and the guy who chases co-eds is hungry. He must be. Sac State's summer schedule doesn't draw the crowds of co-eds to the No. 82 bus. The drought is expected to last until fall.

But the guy's got to do what the guy's got to do.

I had noticed him in the distance. He appeared nervous as he stood alone at the Watt Avenue bus stop, the Wal-Mart and its vast parking lot as the backdrop.

The bus stops, and the guy boards. He shows his pass and starts his hunt. He looks left and then right. He advances to the first of the poles that extend to the ceiling of the bus. He looks left and then right. He moves to the next pole. Eventually he makes it to where I sit in the first row of the elevated section at the rear of the bus. He takes a seat behind me.

Every seat in front of me has at least one passenger, with a wheelchair rider taking up two seats in the front. When a woman seated directly below me gets up and exits, the guy quickly moves to take the empty seat, the blind behind which to plan his attack.

Pickings are slim. There is a certain desperation evident in his moves, a furtiveness. Then he leaps.

And without a word of greeting or a "by your leave," he drops next to a young woman.

The woman's body language is adamant. If she physically slapped him, she couldn't be more explicit. He holds his ground. Her right hand tightly grips the bar above the seat in front of her. She tries to inch closer to the wall of the bus. The guy quickly moves to fill the gap.

He waits for an opening, some invitation. The woman is rigid, eyes front, silent, all of the doors and windows closed and double-locked. A thick, silent impasse follows.

The arrival of a second wheelchair rider sends a wave of passengers into the back of the bus looking for an open seat, and the woman sees her chance to escape. She stands. He stands and moves to the aisle. She moves to the aisle. As two riders fill the vacated seat, she manages to move forward, seeking shelter in the crowd of standing passengers in the front. At the next stop she flees.

The bus is close to where the guy gets off. He takes a seat in the front and waits, downcast.

When my parents divorced, my mother used the money my father sent each month to pay women to live with us so there would always be someone at home when my brother and I returned from school. For a while, my neighbor's grandmother held that job. One of her sons was an engineer with RCA working on the development of color television. He gave his mother one of the first commercial color TVs, and she had him install it in her room at our house. We didn't have a TV.

Our neighbor's grandmother would only allow us to watch Wild Kingdom and other travel shows. It was excellent preparation for riding the bus.

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