Monday, June 13, 2016

Bus Lines: Adventures in Riding Public Transportation

I started using public transportation in the Mid-Jurassic Period. Riding a bus in a rural county was generally boring, but necessary, when I was a teenager without a driver’s license.
Now I take notes.
Buses seem to be getting more crowded, not necessarily with passengers, but definitely with their paraphernalia. I suspect that buses eventually will have to be redesigned to accommodate the many riders who board while wrestling with their walkers, personal shopping carts, and rolling suitcases the size of Montana. Baby carriages also fit this category, although they sometimes don’t fit very well on buses. Too often, passengers are offended when drivers ask them to fold their walkers, personal carts, or carriages or tell them to move their rolling suitcases to a safer spot.
Riding the bus every day can get a little expensive. The lack of cash or a bus pass often encourages people to be creative. At least a couple of times a week, I see people trying their best to convince the bus driver that they should be allowed to ride without paying. Some prospective passengers claim they forgot their bus passes. Others confess that they have no money, but tell drivers they are desperate to get somewhere because of a really, really important appointment, a job interview, or a family emergency. Then there are the passengers who climb on the bus, wave a bill around, and ask, “Does anyone have change for a twenty?” Of course, no one ever does.
Usually, the nicer bus drivers allow the non-payers to ride, but tell them not to do it again. Of course, some of them probably do.
Sometimes riding public transportation seems like a bizarre form of entertainment.
Several years ago, a woman sitting behind me announced to her seatmate, “My sister killed her husband. She shot him six times.” Well, that woke up everyone. The woman went on to elaborate on the details, which, mercifully, I’ve forgotten.
Oddly enough, on the same bus route a couple of days later, I heard a woman say, “My sister murdered her husband.” The same woman had to be telling the story again. There couldn’t be two of them, could there?
During another bus trip, I tried my best not to listen as a woman sitting in front of me gossiped on her cell phone. She neglected to use her “library voice” when she told her friend, “You’ll never guess who I slept with last night.” Apparently, he or she guessed wrong. All heads swiveled in the woman’s direction as she enlightened the friend. “No, not him. The other one.”
When she looked up, the woman realized she had shared that news with a busload of people. “Well, I guess I said that too loud.”
“Yes, you did,” the fellow sitting across from her said.
Last week, a twenty-something woman with disheveled gray and purple shoulder length hair boarded an Escondido bus at 8 a.m. She wore a low cut, purple micro-mini dress. A spaghetti strap hung off her left shoulder, and a black net stocking threatened to head south on her left leg. The black lace garter on her right leg kept that stocking from slipping.
Not wanting to be judgmental, I gave the young woman the benefit of the doubt. She carried a notebook, so I thought she might have worked all night as a hostess at a 24 hour restaurant. And now she was heading to an early morning class at the local community college.
Sometimes the things you see on the bus, or off the bus in this case, are sort of shocking and sad.
Toward the end of a long, boring ride, I was on automatic pilot when the bus stopped a block north of the County Complex campus. A few seconds later, I noticed passengers gawking out the window. They seemed captivated by something happening near the bus bench. The bus driver muttered to herself and grabbed her cell phone.
I looked, blinked, looked again, gasped, and turned away.
A woman was dancing around on the sidewalk, shedding her clothes from the waist down. I think the two fellows sitting on the bus bench were trying not to look because they were staring at the bus instead of ogling the woman. A young mother pushing her toddler in a stroller approached the area. She hesitated and then kept her eyes on the street as she raced past the stripper.
I felt embarrassed for the woman. I asked the bus driver to call the police, but she ignored me. Maybe she had called it in already. I don’t know how the performance ended. The two fellows boarded the bus, and the driver went on her way.
Maybe people disrobe in public every day in places like Los Angeles and New York City. I had never seen anything like that anywhere before, and I don’t ever want to see anything like it again.
And I hope the stripper eventually got some help. I would guess that she really needed it.