The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round
Riding the city bus is a kind of adventure. There’s great people watching. There is also the element of danger in getting lost. The first few times I rode the bus I got on bus routes that were going the opposite direction from where I wanted to go. The bus number was the same. I just caught the bus on the wrong leg of its total journey. This can even happen to you if you catch the bus every day at the same time and place, like, for instance, a transit center. Sometimes the bus signs are even misleading and will say it’s going north when it’s actually going south, for example. It’s always best to ask the driver before getting on.
As for the people watching, there is, of course, the standard fare of the homeless persons or trying to guess which people are homeless. That’s not very challenging because you can usually tell by looking at the amount of baggage someone is carrying, the quality of their clothing, and their hygiene. Every once in a while, though, someone will surprise you. For about a week the same guy got on the bus with me every morning with one single bag. He had obviously showered and had clean clothes. He was clean cut and polite. As we talked he admitted to having lost his job after moving here from Louisiana. Right now, he said, he was temping in Leander. He had already re-enlisted in the Marines and was expecting to go back in soon. One day he didn’t ride the bus with me. I was on my way home, looking out the window and saw this man standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign, begging for money.
In the mornings, on one of the buses I ride to get to work there is a group of African American men that I like to think of as the Rolling Coffee Shop. There’s about four or five of them, with a middle-aged woman who occasionally pipes in. They all know one another and one another’s families. Just about any weekday morning you can get on that bus and find them laughing and carrying on and gossiping. They all sit in the front section near the driver. A big drug raid was a topic of conversation one day. They were talking about how they knew all the men who had been arrested. You know, like this:
“Darnell done gone to school with my son Vernon. Graduated from LBJ in ’93. That boy was trouble back then. Gangs and such.”
Everyone will nod in understanding. “Uh-huh. Darnell always was trouble.”
There are endearing people, like the guy I like to think of as Old Guy. He’s probably in his 80s or 90s, a slight and skinny old man who wears a t-shirt with a windbreaker, khaki shorts, and sneakers with tube socks. He gets on every morning at the bus stop outside a Randalls, always holding a copy of the daily newspaper covered in a plastic Randalls shopping bag. I like to imagine that he meets his other retired friends there every morning for coffee and a discussion of current events in the news.
There are less endearing people such as the man whom I like to call OCD Sound Effects Guy. OCD Sound Effects Guy is a guy who likes to get on my bus in the morning usually. He sits in the front. Every time the bus slows or stops he imitates the sound of the air brakes.
I would describe what he looks like, but I still haven’t figured out who it is…yet. He’s like a ventriloquist. We need to find him a dummy so he can have a creative outlet. He’s really very talented. You never see his lips move.
But the best by far would be Hospital Dude, a man I only saw once. He got on the bus wearing blue paper scrubs and those beige rubber socks with the white rubber pads on them that they give you in hospitals to prevent you from slipping. When he got out I could see that he was carrying a small yellow plastic sack and limping. I mean it just begs questions. Was he escaped from a hospital mental ward? Had he been in an accident…naked? I’m pretty sure he wasn’t homeless. He used hair product.