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:

When I Grow Up…

It shouldn’t surprise you that I was a kind of weird kid. Sure, I loved playing games and watching movies along with all of my other friends. I was even in the Cub Scouts. (NOTE: I didn’t make it further than the bear badge, because I got really bored of knots and racing wooden blocks–and I think my Dad was getting weirded out by having to take me to a church immediately after Hebrew lessons every week.)

But there was one thing that made me different from the rest of my friends: my ambitions later in life.

See, the normal kids among us wanted to be police officers, firefighters, soldiers, or murderers–like every well-balanced fie year old. They’d talk about it all, discussing the pros and cons of each profession. “I get to have a gun!” said one. “Yeah, well I get to play with fire!” another would respond. “Yeah?” said the weird kid who sniffed only black markers, “Well, I get to bathe in the warm blood of those who cross me.”

We’d laugh, then ostracise him by not letting him play hide-and-seek or foursquare with us. Truly, those were the halcyon days, there in the frozen tundra of Canton, Ohio. We knew not what life had in store for us, and the worst dilemmas we had to face were rushing home from school to get back in time for Power Rangers.

But I was different. Where all of my friends wanted to be something that would allow them to act out their innate, childhood fantasies of firing a gun or playing with fire when their parents had spent years telling them not to, I wanted to be a psychiatrist. And no, before you ask, it wasn’t because I knew it would make me a lot of money.

I wanted to help people. I didn’t know why, but I felt that everyone around me was flawed in some way, and that I could help make them feel better. Now, with the power of hindsight, I look back and I know why I wanted to be a psychiatrist: Bob Newhart.

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Wherein I Apologize for My Actions

So, this is awkward.

I guess I’d better apologize for everything in chronological order. First off: Barton, I’m sorry for calling your girlfriend “a sub-mental troglodyte who advocates the sexual assault of women who hang around in bars.” I was really keyed up to see the Steelers lose, and she was the only person in the apartment wearing Steelers gear. Something in me snapped, and I’m not proud of it, so… well, sorry.

Sorry, Dana, that was really horrible of me. I’m sure you don’t support rape, since that would be absurd–even if you defended the Black-Eyed Peas, which we’ll get to later, I’m sure. Still, you are a troglodyte for watching Jersey Shore instead of, say, well, anything that takes half a brain to enjoy. Just calling the shots as I see ’em.

And, once again, sorry to Barton. Calling you “dickless” for not having buffalo wings at your party was a jerk thing to say. I’m sure you had a good reason for replacing the usual buffalo wings with a ball of cheddar cheese–cause hey, that was pretty good, even if it got awkward when Steph said she was lactose intolerant and we looked at each other because I dropped some cheese in her Coke, which she drank. (Sorry, Steph. My fault you spent the night in the hospital.) Referring to you for the rest of the night as Barton the Fairy might have been off-color as well.
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