Cell phones and SUVs are anti-septic and anti-life. Party lines and Metro buses are septic and sometimes too much life. Riding Metro, especially certain routes like the 358, which I now do five days a week for my new job, alerts you to the sad fact that everyone isn't reading Conrad, mourning the recent passing of Bergman or even working feverishly on their laptop trying to perfect their five years to a bigger condo, bigger SUV, more "perfect partner" and an even "greater job" plan.
MR. SHOW BUSINESS
He gets on, early in the morning, making late-night eye contact. There's something eerily chipper about his wild-eyed hopefulness. He looks at least 50 for God's sake.
Getting no takers from passengers, he sits as close to the driver's right shoulder as one of those cheap, Asian-made-for-midgets Metro buses - where everybody over 5-foot, nine-inches has their legs bent out into the aisle - allows, and starts up:
"Bill Gates could give me a million dollars and I would still play the accordion. I love to see the smiles on people's faces. People talk about goin' to a show. I'm a show all by myself. I can dance, too."
The driver, quickly aware of what is involved here, stops nodding and grunting and watches the road. But Mr. Entertainment is rolling now. He doesn't need anything as mundane as a single listener. After all, the first five rows of seats can hear him just fine. Thank God for Nam Myoho Renge Kyo! Who says chanting doesn't work? Soon the noise inside my head drowns him out and keeps him drowned out until he climbs off the bus five stops later, still describing audience reaction to a recent polka outing.
THE DETAIL MAN
There are regulars on morning buses. Granted, most of the beautiful people on the 358 are riding into town, but we outward bounders have a couple cuties. One is blonde and always gets off in front of the big crematorium not far from Puetz's Golf Center. She's sitting on one of the wide seats ignoring all the guy looks when an old codger with ankle braces and suspenders gets on, his Hawaiian shirt flapping in the breeze. He looks very harmless, so when he smiles and says hi to her, Blondie replies in an almost enthusiastic manner. Her mistake.
"I only did one thing wrong in my whole life," the codger says.
"Only one?" Blondie chimes in.
"I was 12 and she was 18. But I was always tall for my age. At 12 I was five feet three. Then at 13 I was five-four. My sister at that time was five foot whatever... blah... blah... blah..."
Grandpa, I tell you no lie, was still detailing heights and ages when he departed. Blondie had long since put on her glazed, Metro-rider face. But to no avail. I couldn't stop smiling. I was hoping, if he hadn't gotten off before I did, to ask him how tall his mother was when he was a fetus, when he ran down. If he ever did. Gramps was sooo boring I was yearning for the previously mentioned accordion man. Imagine the two of them together.
They got on together, both carrying hard hats and lunch pails. One was tall and black; one was short, stocky and white. The short guy had a bunch of those scraggly, homemade tattoos crawling around his neck, like deranged ivy climbing up a dying vine.
Not long after they boarded, almost the entire bus saw a blond woman in a crosswalk trying to get across Aurora Avenue get hit by a truck. She flipped in the air, climbed shakily to her feet, then collapsed. The 358 didn't hit her, though, so we kept going. Maybe the driver didn't see it; maybe he had the old postal credo, neither rain, nor sleet, nor...
Anyway, most people were wearing their stunned, horrified look. But the two construction guys were whooping it up.
"Damn, did you see that?" the white guy said, beady little blue eyes alight at someone else's misfortune. "It knocked her way up in the air."
The black guy laughed and nodded. But he either sensed other people on the bus staring at him and his callous friend, or he wasn't that interested. He went back to his newspaper. The other guy started up with some red-faced loon in a Mariner's cap who smelled like the beerman at the park's undershirt, after the tray of Red Hooks exploded.
"Way up in the air," Mr. Alcohol Fumes said.
"She fell back down. I KNOW she was f...ed up," the short and stocky guy said. He then, after one more failed attempt to get his co-worker involved, started calling up friends on his cell phone.
"I'm on the bus right now and I saw this b.... get hit by a truck. Knocked her way up in the air."
Too bad she didn't land on him. But nobody who rides the bus regularly is deluded enough to think life is fair.
Hold onto your transfers until next time!