Hubbard: Riding the busWritten by Ian Hubbard | | email@example.com
The damn alarm clock refuses to desist.
“Honey, get up or you’ll be late,” murmurs my lady as she arises for her day as well.
I don’t want to but I know I have to, although it means waiting in the chill for my 20-ton chariot to come barreling down the avenue. The winter months made for a brutal wait, even under the 48 layers of clothing I threw on five days out of the week.
Sundays are the worst, with the faded echo of Saturday night pounding in my head. I can’t complain much though — I put myself there, as it seems many of those waiting with me did as well.
There is plenty of misconception about people who take the bus on a regular basis. When I tell people that it is my main mode of transportation, I tend to receive a slightly stink-eyed look and the usual: “Really? Why?”
Apparently it’s only the lower rungs on the totem pole who take the bus in a city like Toledo. In New York, L.A. or Chicago, it’s obviously understandable. But here? Why would you?
Many reasons. For one, I tend to enjoy the ride. It gives me time to mull over some thoughts before trudging in to pull another eight hours in the shit house. The scenery of my route goes from gutted midtown to the tip of Old Orchard, so I get the full, muddy scope of the city. It is more than enough to ring through my nonstop circus brain.
Second reason, there are some mighty interesting characters who come trotting on and off those buses every day. And even more waiting for the next round at the Jackson and Madison stations downtown. “Real Lifers,” I call them. The face carved out of stone, mimicking the city’s grind.
I don’t feel sorry for them. Pity is never an option. Like me, they put themselves in the situation they are in. It’s that simple. But I do witness a lot of individuals who are bruised but not beaten, undeterred to get to the next point, wherever that is.
At least there’s some enjoyment in people watching – their twitches and ticks, where they look, how they sit, even the rhythm of their speech. It adds some decent flavor to an already odd journey. If there is one thing I can say against my people is that they do not find the same little pleasures in their brief transit. I understand completely, though.
Many of them work jobs at the ass end of the food chain. They speak the language of desperation and sometimes their clothes don’t smell too good. They have kids to feed and addictions to tend to. Some are savants and others are just idiots. I don’t know a damn thing about them personally, and for some strange reason that ambiguity adds more intrigue to their character.
For instance, there is a guy I call “Philosopher.” “Philosopher” is a beast of a man: about 6-foot-4 and a very solid three bills. His frame absorbs the seat. A scraggly beard pins him as homeless, but it hides a wild resemblance to Ricky Williams. He’s usually packing several layers underneath his Carhartt, sometimes a backpack is his companion.
His gaze wonders about, as though he’s looking to make eye contact, if only to see if you’ll instantly look away. One time he caught me as I was jotting down notes for homework. He had gone on, peacefully and respectively, for a few minutes toward the bus driver about how he saw life and the meaning behind it all.
He turned his head to the left just as I looked up from my notepad. I wanted to get that quick glance at him in anticipation of where his quiet oration was going. With a Cheshire grin, he nodded at me and asked, “You writing this all down? Because I got more comin’.”
Unfortunately I wasn’t or else I may still be the man’s personal secretary. I’m sure I could have gotten enough for a series of volumes unless he suddenly went mute. It’s been a month since I’ve seen him. I’m sure he’s got a hold of someone’s ear.
Yes, there are a few unsavory jackasses who give the young mothers, students, city employees and other riders a bad name. Enough of them have stunk up the ride home something fierce. Even amongst other riders they are looked at funny, even ostracized depending if their drunken state is a nuisance. It doesn’t happen much anymore, but we’ll see what summer holds.
As much as I oddly enjoy a good bus ride, I take it for granted, believing it will always show up and save the day when everyone is too busy to be bothered. It’s the swift kick in the ass reminding me to get my shit together, executed 10 times a week. Maybe that’s the next point in line. I can think about that on the bus ride to work in an hour.
Ian Hubbard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.