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, September 6, 2007

Watching the hunt from behind a blind on the bus

I'm watching wild game from behind a blind, observing the natural order of things, the hunt and the kill, the feeding -- all of it.

A young Sacramento State co-ed is seated just in front of my elevated position in the rear of the No. 82 bus. All of the seats have at least one rider as the bus arrives at the Watt and Wal-Mart stop.

The guy who chases co-eds boards, shows his pass to the driver and starts down the center of the coach. He walks past several seats -- past the young lady with an infant, past a guy on his way to Sac State, past another guy who will stick around until the bus arrives at the 65th Street station -- until he reaches the seat with the young co-ed.

He looks down and then he looks around, wary. He doesn't see me behind my blind. I'm still, silent as I watch. The guy then asks the co-ed if he can sit next to her.

She quickly agrees and rearranges her backpack and an open textbook on her lap so that the guy can sit.

From my position behind the blind, I'm able to hear the guy who chases co-eds for the first time.

The guy talks in a slow, awkward way. I imagine the woman has a limited choice of reactions: be insulted that this weirdo wants to chat, perhaps frightened by his obvious diminished capacity, or play along and assume he's just another harmless guy, albeit one with a valid excuse for sounding slow-witted.

He manages to get the co-ed who is reading a textbook to admit she is a student at Sac State. He tries moving the conversation to something about religion but starts getting single-word answers. Our hunter is clearly losing the game. His prey is slipping away, putting her nose deeper into the textbook to signal her displeasure.

I'll give the guy credit, he tries. It is early in the hunting season, and the summer was particularly harsh. Puzzled about where to take the conversation next, he rubs his scalp slowly. His hair is cut in a classic flattop, a fashion I thought went out of style for young men back in 1959. Still, it fits his work uniform -- black casual shoes, ecru Dockers with a black apron tied at the waist and a white, short-sleeve shirt with the collar askew. His plastic travel coffee cup is also apparently part of the uniform. The only post-1950s part of his attire are his glasses, which are a stylish widescreen model, the lenses narrower than they are wide.

The bus is standing room only by the time it nears the guy's stop on Howe Avenue. As he leaves the bus, a tall, handsome young man takes the vacant half of the seat next to the co-ed. There is no conversation between the co-ed and her new seatmate. It is all a delicate silence masked by the rattling noise of the bus and the conversations among the regular riders.

Then when the bus is stalled in the turn lane from J Street to the Sac State campus, the guy points to the cars stuck in traffic and the pair start an animated discussion, presumably about the joys of not driving to school. The co-ed has put away the distraction of her textbook. Her hands are now an active part of her communication, gesturing and cheerfully flying about.

A woman, having endured the confines of a conversation with a child, experiences the joy of adult communication.

I turn the page in my notebook and continue to scribble my observations.


Jim said...

So the dude finally had an excuse to sit next to a young woman again, eh? I'm guessing that all the regular co-ed riders will start making a point of sitting next to each other, just to make sure there are no empty seats for the creep to park in.

John said...

I feel a bit guilty about the stories I've written about the guy who chases co-eds. All I've been doing is making fun of the handicapped. I think he's harmless. But the problem is some women he tries to talk to are clearly frightened by his odd attention. It is hard for me to imagine being afraid of the guy. Annoyed, I can see, but he is just a dim-witted adolescent boy walking around in a twenty-something body.

The tale of the time the women talked around him until he disappeared is my favorite solution. But when the bus is full of students heading to Sac State, that's not likely to happen.

Hahn at Home said...

I think the continuing storyline is bring them to life...and public transit always seems so lifeless--sort of disembodied, everyone going on doing their thing as if they are alone.

John said...

Thanks, Lori. One of my motivations for maintaining this blog is to practice watching and then writing. After years of just editing, it takes work to get back to writing.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Hey John, it's actually something (as you know) that happens everywhere. Over at N Judah Chronicles, Greg is writing about the same stuff in San Francisco. I'm interested to see if there could be a creepy rider campaign to stop this from happening. Maybe you all should make stickers that have the words creepy bus rider with a red circle and slash.

John said...

Ah, a creepy rider campaign! Now there's an unending opportunity to do something that will have absolutely no effect! Sort of like promoting transit in a town ringed with suburban sprawl and served by an overpriced and inadequate bus and trolley service.

No, I think it would be much more fun to have a creepy rider day when all of the creepy riders get to ride free.

Or, better yet, a contest to pick the creepiest rider. Everyone could nominate their favorite, and the winner could be given a free monthly transit pass -- good everywhere EXCEPT on the line they regularly ride.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I like the second one.

John said...

Perhaps I should set up a separate web site where people could nominate their favorite creepy riders.

Nominations would have to be in the form of essays explaining just how creepy the rider is. (Can't use photos or names in order to avoid any real-world consequences for our misbehavior.)

Web site visitors would have an opportunity to vote for their favorite. Depending on the interest, this could be a monthly contest.

Of course raising money for the prize is problematic, but we could start with just picking the creepiest riders and then figure out how to reward them.

Jon Q. RT Driver said...

What about a website for their favorite rude/nice Driver?

Tee Hee.....

Maybe that would be my department?

John said...

Perhaps we could have a creepy driver section, but then we'd have to have creepy 321-BUSS operator and creepy RT administrator and creepy RT board member. There's be no creepy end in site.

Probably better to limit this to creepy passengers.