Riding The Bus

You meet some interesting folk on the bus, and that’s why I think more people should use public transit. See, you may do your commute by driving, and that’s fair enough—but all you’re doing is sitting and taking in information that’s been pre-processed by writers, producers, DJs, music producers, or whatever other hoops something has to go through in order to get on the air. You’re not experiencing all of the glorious, insane aspects that makes up humanity.

Take, for example, the time I was on a bus going from downtown Nashville to my home. I was sitting, reading A Dance With Dragons when a man stops in the aisle next to me. He was about 5’6”, wore what looked like a safari outfit minus the hat, and had what can only be described as a twitchy face. “Excuse me,” he said, “are you Jewish?”

Now, I’ve been living in The South long enough to know that most people who ask this don’t want to engage you in a debate about Rashi’s commentary. More often, they want to share the hilarious joke they heard on Family Guy, thinking that because it’s about Jews, you’ll find it hilarious. So, instead of saying a hearty shalom aleichem, I said, “Why?”

“Well, you look Jewish,” he said.


“Oh. I think it’s your glasses.”

I nodded. “Huh,” I said. “Okay then.” I went back to reading.

Or, take what happened to me this morning.

I was drained, right? Game 6 of the Series was a rollercoaster, and I really needed some sleepy time on the bus—alas, I did not get the sleepy time. For when the bus turned into the Park & Ride center, a woman and her three year-old son got on. Mind you, this was at about eight in the morning. For whatever reason, both of them were screaming their lungs out.

The woman was screaming because she seemed to be one of those people, I believe, who are incapable of not speaking in an inside voice. Perhaps she grew up in a large household, where the only way to get attention from parents was to shout. Or maybe she was just crazy. Or had a power breakfast, if you get what I’m saying.

Anyway, the kid was screaming because that’s what children do. It is a well-known fact that children are born screaming and, until they are fifteen, they do not stop screaming. Some cities, I’ve heard, have noise ordinances that bar children from being in public during daylight hours because Jesus Christ, some people have shit to do during the day, and they don’t want to have to hear the shrill calls of children.

I kept my head down and the Shostakovich up. I was certain that if I concentrated on the symphony, I would be able to block out the noise. Nope. That was incorrect. The woman sat down in a seat behind and to my left and immediately started screaming at the child. “I swear to Jesus, boy, you need to be quiet. There are people on this bus who probably don’t have babies and they do not want to hear you screaming no you can’t have a drink because you’re screaming you need to BE. QUIET.” The kid, of course, did not stop screaming. “I swear, boy you almost make me regret having kids, but I don’t.”

That’s when I gave a deep, rattling sigh and turned up my Metallica.

She continued addressing… I don’t know. The air, maybe. Maybe she was talking to someone, but if so, I couldn’t hear their response over my music—which was playing at full blast. I could still hear the woman, though, and this is what she said.

“I don’t know why people don’t want to have kids I looooove having kids. Think I’m gonna have a couple more when he gets too old. Just keep poppin em out. You know I look at people what make twenty million dollars a year and ain’t got but one or two kids and I say, ‘Shit, I’m gonna have more kids for you,’” she burst into laughter. “You can’t never have too many kids and you know it.”

Her child then began screaming again.

“Shut up you can’t have a drink you been drinkin too much this morning anyway. You gonna piss yourself and, what, you think I ain’t noticing that you got your pants all down your ankles. Pull them back up cause these folks don’t wanna see your butt.”

I desperately wished that my iPod could go to 110% volume, just to see if that was enough.

We were on the Interstate at this point, and she kept scream-talking to her child. I managed to zone out just a little bit until we hit the Church St. exit, where my iPod’s battery ran out of charge and I was privy to her conversation with the woman seated directly behind me:

“You a single mom?” The crazy lady asked.

“No, I don’t have children.”

“That may be good, but it’s unnatural. It’s not in God’s plan. Girl you gotta find yourself a man, cause that’s the way God wants it to be it’s only natural. Tell you what else ain’t natural: People walkin around being single all the time. You ain’t making nothing better for yourself or others when you doing that. You gotta go with God and find yourself a husband or wife and get kids.

“It’s like I know how you don’t wanna work, but you do because you ain’t got a man. Just like a man don’t wanna do dishes, you know? Girl, that’s the way it is supposed to be.” She turned her attention back to her child. “Will you shut up no one wants to hear you scream? Shit.”

Now, I told you all of that to prepare you for this:

The Horrors of Writing


You're a writer? The horror. The horror.

Don’t get me wrong, writing’s a blast. It’s one of the things that keeps me from becoming a total madman, drooling over myself in a corner somewhere, murmuring about paranoid delusions more than I already do. In that respect, it’s an incredibly important part of my life.

It’s also a way for me to entertain myself. I’m pretty sure that I’m entertaining other people with my writing,  but it would be awfully presumptuous of me to assume that everything I write results in anything more than a quick breath through the nose and maybe a nod of the head.

All of this has been brewing in my head since, oh, January of last year, when I was recuperating from Scarlett Thomas’s weekly realist lecture. (She called it tutoring in the Creative Writing M.A., but it was really just gushing about how we should all be like Tolstoy.) I started thinking, “Why did I decide to go for an M.A. in Creative Writing?” I could have done anything that wasn’t in the sciences. Fuck, anthropology’s cool. I could’ve gone into anthropology.

Anyway, I finished the degree, and the really good part about it was that I managed to get a rolling start on Cloyd, which is now finished and is in the drafting-cover-letters portion of its nascency. But the doubts keep coming, which I guess is a good thing. Overconfidence is a weakness, as Luke Skywalker said before being electrocuted by Emperor Palpatine.
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The TSA Backscatter Lottery

Sitting in the diner in Nashville’s airport, my mind is fixed on a few things. First, the task ahead of me: Get out, pay, and get to my gate—on the other side of the airport why did I choose to come here because everything’s kosher and therefore better—before my plane leaves; Second, after hearing something about a storm: Dear God, is the storm going to hit the Midwest why are they showing nothing but ESPN where I’m sitting?; and third: what will happen to my friend who touched my crotch?

See, I just won the TSA backscatter lottery. I’d spent the entire time in the winding security line watching the monsters, thinking about what I’d do if I was pulled aside to be put in one of those things. They’re about nine or ten feet tall with an electronic nest on the top and Plexiglas sides—so you can tell that no one’s being gassed inside, I guess. It’s an addition—not really an alternative—to the metal detectors we’ve been used to our entire lives. An addition that has proven to be very controversial, as you, an Informed Member of American Democracy, probably know.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. All the reading I’d done online was torn between either “This is another example of Hitler government intruding on good American lives and treating citizens like criminals!” or: “I’d rather have that than be blown to smithereens in the air!” As an aside: don’t listen to any debate taking place with exclamation points. And then the TSA agents themselves, oy, they’re talked about as if they were the Gestapo.

I figured out that, at BNA at least, the screening works on a one-at-a-time principle. If there’s someone in the machine while you’re in line, you probably won’t go in. However, if it’s empty, you’re going in the machine. It’s more of an orderly queue than a lottery, but ‘lottery’ has a better sound than ‘queue’ ever will.

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