Posts Tagged ‘Bus


Mass transit is an unwise place to nap

Not until the bus took off did I notice the ball rolling toward me. It was about two and a half inches in diameter, pale brown. It looked like a dusty lump of clay, a fuzzy ping pong ball. It went directly for my feet. Then there were two. Then three. I shifted my legs to avoid crushing, kicking or otherwise interacting with them.

When the bus stopped and the trio skipped along forward, I realized they were stale powdered cinnamon Munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts. They rolled too well to be soft and fresh.

(Image stolen from Maryann's Baking Company in Sacramento, California.)

(Image stolen from Maryann’s Baking Company in Sacramento, California.)

Following their trail toward the front of the bus, I saw a puddle spreading forward and backward along the ravines in the floor. It was the same color as the Munchkins. Coffee with cream. Ah, someone had been to Dunkin’ Donuts and spilled something.

I traced the coffee to its source. A woman seated near the front of the bus was reaching down to the floor, concentrating very hard on gathering up the donut holes in the clear plastic cup they came in. What is she going to do with them? I thought. Does she actually want to eat them, or is she just cleaning up after herself?

The coffee cup, on its side on the floor under her seat, rolled helplessly back and forth in a lazy half-circle. Continue reading ‘Mass transit is an unwise place to nap’


Q19 Crazy Lady

When I have the good fortune of making the Q19 bus in time to get to work at a decent hour, there is often a woman there who in equal parts amuses me and embarrasses me.

She always sits in a window seat reading a dog-eared bible. I won’t notice she’s there until she folds back a page of the Good Book and declares to the bus-folk around her, “Mmmmm… o-o-o-h boy!”

A few people turn to look where the noise comes from, including myself. I usually end up standing on this bus, so I can see her clearly. She just looks down at her bible and once or twice more loudly repeats an emphatic “O-o-o-o-oh mmmmmbo-eee!” and follows it by clicking her tongue just as loudly:

“Tck tck tck tck tck tck tck tck tck tck tck!”

It’s the sound an old person might make while digging in her teeth with a toothpick, rocking in a chair on the front porch.

On public transportation, such outbursts are disquieting but widely ignored to the best of our ability. If she knows she is startling half of the passengers around her, she doesn’t let on. If she has any notion that she is making the lady sitting next to her nervous, darting her widened eyes toward her, expecting perhaps a small forest creature to leap out of her chest cavity, she does not let on. She does not seem to realize that anyone has noticed anything at all, let alone that she has made any sort of loud, incongruous, inappropriate and inexplicable noise at all.

She turns another page of her bible and resumes reading silently. We all downshift from orange alert to yellow. And then a few minutes later: “Mmmmmmmm! Mmmmmbo-o-o-o-o-ay! Tck tck tck tck tck tck tck tck!”

She really puts some effort into it, distorting her voice, getting a little raspy, a little throaty. Like she’s out back picking tomatoes off the vine in the blazing sun, and she’s tugging at her collar and pulling her wide-brimmed straw hat back off her neck to mop her forehead with a worn bandana. One almost expects a “Would you just look at that! Hoo… lawd!

Is it something she’s read? Is she regarding the sins of mankind? Has she remembered that she left the coffee maker on back home? Is this what Tourette Syndrom looks like?

Then again: “Mmmmmmmmmbo-o-o-o-o-eeee! Tck tck tck tck tck tck tck!”

She never looks up from the book. She doesn’t shake her head. She doesn’t take notice of anyone or anything around her. She just continues reading her book and making loud exclamations to no one.

She looks so normal. Cute, tightly curled hair arching out in all directions. Flawless, mocha skin. Manicured but unpolished fingernails. Just enough makeup to bring out some contrast in her features. Nice, cool, conservative floral printed skirt and sleeveless sweater: you know… beige, black, salmon.

And, remember: She’s reading a Bible. Totally harmless. I’m not so sure.


New York Lesson No. 327: Chinatown Bus

The Chinatown bus is the best travel deal between major East Coast cities. The network runs from Chinatown to Chinatown among the cities of Boston, New York, Washington and Philadelphia — and it’s dirt cheap. It’s managed by some smart, industrious, and I have to believe successful Chinese immigrants. I made a round trip from New York to Boston this week for $30.

It worked out rather nicely. Chinatown bus vets have told me stories of varying degrees of quality. Sometimes the bus is dirty or stinky. Sometimes it’s too hot or cold. I had been warned once to expect an authentic Third World experience, but I didn’t care much about comforts. I was more interested in the price tag, and I planned to sleep on board anyway. It’s not as if this was some gritty and dusty old school bus where passengers vie for space among children with dirt-smudged faces and crates of live chickens. It’s a regular coach with soft seats and overhead lights and heat. I have no complaints.

There are certain charming qualities of the service you might not find on regular bus companies. For one, the moment you step on board, the driver shouts at you, “Please sit! Sit down! Sit down now!” and honks the horn. Similarly, when the bus arrives, the driver honks and shouts, “Hurry! Get out now!” And we can always count on the mandatory stop at Roy Rogers in Manchester, CT. My friend Henry is convinced Fung Wah gets a kickback from them for delivering so much business. Maybe. I’m intrigued by their DIY system, but honestly, I’d rather have them assemble my lettuce and tomato and pickles for me. There’s a certain pretense with trying to make fast food “nice.” Let’s not pretend, folks.

the untallied hours