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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Riding shotgun on the morning commute

I suppose these things happen when you have been married for nearly 20 years. Sometimes you just miss the meaning of what you hear.

The Wife walked up behind me while I was working in my office last night.

"Are you doing anything special tomorrow morning?" she asked.

I admit that I immediately considered this a trick question along the lines of "Does this dress make me look fat?" What sort of special activities can a guy who works from home claim?

I told her, No. Nothing special. Just the usual.

"I thought maybe you'd like to ride downtown with me tomorrow," she said. "You could walk down to Starbucks at 16th Street and hang out."

"Sure. Yes. Well, maybe. I guess so," I said. I really was trying to get some work done.

Later that evening the wife mentioned that someone (for those reading who are not married, that translate as "You need to") needed to fax some documents to the insurance company so we could be reimbursed for a scooter The Kid used when his leg was broken.

"OK," I said. "Why don't I ride the bus in the morning with you and then get off at Morse and Arden. I can walk across the street to the OfficeMax and fax the documents from there."

I was quite pleased with myself for combining two Honey-Do tasks in a single trip.

The almost explosive you-don't-really-love-me response to that suggestion was the first clue I had that perhaps I had been clueless to what had prompted The Wife's invitation to ride with her to work.

"I don't want you to go with me," she said, and stormed off.

Ever notice how words echo when you are in the doghouse? The effect is disconcerting. You are trying to sort out what you missed, and it gets all muddled.

Eventually I wheedled out of the wife the source of her disappointment.

Normally The Wife works in Rancho Cordova. I drive her to a bus stop about two miles from our house. From there she rides to the Starfire light rail station. She then takes the train to Mather and from there rides another bus to work. It's a ridiculously convoluted arrangement, but The Wife dislikes driving enough to accept the inconvenience.

But this week The Wife is working downtown, which makes it possible for her to ride the No. 82, which stops less than 100 yards from our front door. She can transfer at CSUS to the No. 30 and arrive across the street from her destination. It's a nearly perfect commute. Nearly.

Tuesday, The Wife had been on the No. 82 minding her own business, trying to read when a guy sat down in front of her and turned around and said, "Namaste."

The Wife was wearing a brightly colored dress and a beautiful scarf around her shoulders. The guy apparently confused her for someone from the Indian subcontinent.

He repeated "Namaste," obviously expecting this exotic creature to respond in kind, but The Wife, who is half Japanese and half European mutt, just smiled.

Failing to get satisfaction, the guy turned his attention to a pair of Muslim women across the aisle, trying out an Arabic greeting. He didn't have much better luck.

Then a guy who looked to be in his 20s took the seat across from The Wife. He sat sideways in the seat with his legs in the aisle and stared at her. She tried to ignore him. He didn't say anything. He just stared.

The Wife swears she will never wear that colorful dress to work again.

When The Wife got off the bus at CSUS, the guy got off too. The Wife went over to a bench to wait for the No. 30 and the guy followed. When the No. 30 arrived The Wife boarded and took a seat. The guy boarded and again sat across from her, facing the aisle, and stared.

The Wife was about to get up and go sit closer to the driver when the guy left the bus.

"Yes, buses are like that," I responded when the wife first told me of her adventure on the bus, recalling the guy who chases co-eds.

By the time later that night that The Wife asked that I ride to work with her today, I had completely forgotten about her day's commute.

The palm of my hand slapping my forehead when I realized my error made an appropriately empty sound.

So today the wife dressed in less colorful clothes, and I rode with her on the No. 82 and then the No. 30. She sat by the window and I sat on the aisle. Not a single annoying rider appeared during the entire trip.

When we arrived at her office I kissed her goodbye and walked on to the Starbucks at 16th and P streets. I had a coffee and yogurt, did some work and then went back to my "office."

They wife thinks she'll ride to work by herself tomorrow.


Melly/Melody/or Mel said...

Excellent post and story. Loved it! I will remember it when dressing each morning.

John said...

It occurred to me after I wrote the post that many years ago, I volunteered to work in a state mental health institution for young adults. This was before the state started closing these.

During the orientation, the women volunteers were told not to wear fur or fur-like clothing because the patients would not be able to keep their hands off them. Of course the first day this one woman showed up wearing a pink sweater made of a material that created a fur-like texture. She spent her entire time there the center of a crowd of patients -- a bright light encircled by a cloud of moths.

Since the guy who kept staring at The Wife got off on J Street, perhaps on the 5200 block, it occurred to me that perhaps this was one of the students at the McClaskey Adult Center where they offer classes for adults with developmental disabilities.

The Wife was indeed a bright, shiny object, all dressed up in her colorful dress.

Pam Martin said...

I intervened once on the light rail when I saw an older man sitting across from a young girl and putting his hands on her knees while earnestly talking to her. She looked miserable. I sat down beside her a moment, then asked, "Do you know this guy?" "No," she answered. She'd thought he was too nice to be a masher. I asked her to trade me places. Then I told the old coot, "Please go on with your story, Sir, but if you touch ME, you'll lose one of those hands." He left soon after that. Wonder why?

John said...

I've always thought Mexico City had an interesting answer.