Amy tells more true bus stories

1. Our driver wasn't new, but she must've been having a rough day. Not only were we 15 minutes late, not only had she forgotten to stop to let passengers off, but now we were going the wrong way. And, there didn't seem to be a logical place for a U-turn, either. With the ingenuity that springs from desperation, she pulls into a Safeway parking lot and speeds through, among all the trucks, the SUVs, the meek little compacts. We turn around and get going in the correct direction. The folks putting their groceries in their trunks look alarmed, as if we were going to run them down. Or, perhaps they were asking themselves, what emergency commodity would a bus need from a supermarket?

2. I was waiting at a bus stop downtown, watching the traffic at a busy intersection. This scruffy young man with brown teeth approached me from across the street. He shook my hand and said, "I just wanted to tell you that you look so nice just sitting there. Someone should take a picture." I expected him to ask for some spare change (that sort of flattery has to be a set-up, right?), but instead, he turned around and trotted back down the street.

3. My friend and I were returning home after a visiting a bookstore downtown. I had bought a paperback copy of a hefty old classic, and so we were talking a little bit about the book- the type of writing, why memories and sensations can be so intense, how to pronounce the author's name. A stubbled and wrinkled guy sat in front of us, and was obviously paying attention, even if he didn't really understand exactly what we were saying. He asked my friend to hand him the book, "Por favor?" and then, for our entertainment, proceeded to scan the first few pages, upside down, with exaggerated thoughtfulness. He held his chin and nodded in a parody of the studious scholar. When his performance was over, he handed back the book with a "Gracias" and returned to his own weary reveries.

4. It was starting to snow, and lots of people were just starting their weekends. One guy had maybe started his a bit early, or maybe he was still celebrating last weekend. The alcohol had limited his vocabulary to "Y'know what? Y'know what?" Another variation was "No, really, y'know what?" The ride didn't start off terribly well when the drunk fell on a guy in a wheelchair, crushing his already damaged legs. He earned the indignation of the other bus passengers. But, once the bus rolled on, closer to the suburbs, the "y'know what" guy's tongue was loosened, and we were all treated to his thoughts on the "lack of stimulation" in Denver, his traitorous ex back in San Fran, his prior job. The well-coiffed senior citizens sitting across from him actually played with him like cruel kittens with a mouse, laughing at his tirade, encouraging him to say more stupid things. "Y'know what? All I want is someone to love me!" he yelled loud enough for the entire bus to hear. But even the old folks got tired of his schtick and grew quiet. "Whatever," the drunk guy concluded. Y'know what? He planned to move back to San Francisco at the first opportunity.

5. It was the end of a busy, strenuous week, and I was on my way downtown on the 52 East to meet some friends for some relaxation and conversation. And, I have to admit that I kept falling asleep over my book. I would read a little, look out the window, then fall asleep for a few minutes and then I would repeat the whole process. It's a little embarrassing, but usually when I am awake, I look around, and everyone else is sleeping, too. Nobody seems to take notice, anyway, and the nap is welcome, as long as I don't miss my stop.

Well, one day, a guy came to the back of the bus where I was and asked, "Are you okay? You look sad!" I sheepishly explained that I was merely sleepy, and that I had been up since 4 am that morning. He seemed to accept that, and then we were both a little embarrassed: me for being caught dozing, him for bothering a complete stranger. We ended up having a pleasant conversation about our work histories and schooling. I figured he must be a pretty good guy to show that sort of concern.

And, the interaction must have refreshed me; I stayed awake for the rest of the trip. Or, maybe it was a reminder that sleeping in a public place is still not an entirely acceptable thing to do.

6. Two men at the back of the bus- one scrawny with sunglasses and ball cap, one large blond fat guy- were having a conversation that I caught bits and pieces of. "That's why I don't go to McDonald's anymore," said the big one.

"Yeah, they attract cops," replied his little friend. (As if that were the only reason! And did they have a specific reason for avoiding the police? Or was it general anti-authoritarian sentiment?)

Then they talked a little about being hassled by the man and their various ailments. The fat one said "I haven't played a note in 6 months. God gave me the talent. Stevie Ray Vaughan? I can play anything he can play!" But the depression had "overtaken" him, and now he was just a guy sitting in the back of a bus. Just think, I could've been in the presence of greatness!

7. File this one under urban myth: Our bus was stopped at a railroad crossing, and the train was rolling past when a little girl at the front of the bus remembered something. She smiled, almost nostalgically, and turned to her mother, "My friend and I liked to play by the creek over there." She motioned to the tall weeds on the other side of the tracks. "But when a train would go by, he would yell 'Duck! Duck!' I asked him why and he said, 'Because if the train driver sees you, he'll shoot you!'" Suddenly, trains seem a lot more ominous to me.

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