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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All the Better to See You with, My Dear

Sometimes you get the window seat.

And sometimes you don’t.

At 6:24 on a Tuesday morning, the bus is quiet, the people on it grateful to have jobs, to be up, dressed, and well on their way to the golden light of a Friday afternoon.

At 6:24, the odds of getting a window seat are in your favor.

He sat down next to me not more than five blocks later.

There are two bars at this particular stop, one on each side of the street. Aside from the occasional shouted assertions that something or someone is “Number One!” and the year that the Pirates and the Zombies* had a drunken dance-off in the parking lot, there is little trouble in this neighborhood.

He hasn’t been to sleep, that much is clear.

He checks me out: the black leather flats, the skirt, the bracelets, the violently chartreuse bag.

Having seen enough, he turns to face the front.

“There’s no future in full-time employment,” he says.

I don’t look at him. “I suspect you’re right,” I say.

“Don’t patronize me.”

I turn to look at him. “Sorry,” I say.

“No,” he says, thoughtfully, “the smart money is on rodents.”

“Rodents?”

“Squirrels, rats, homeless dudes with great attitudes and a way of getting things.”

“Like what?”

He turns to face me, smiles. “You got a dollar?”

I look at him, smile back. “Yes, I do.”

We stare at each other.

“Don’t suppose I can talk you out of it, can I?”

I shake my head, return to facing forward. “I have exactly two dollars and 38 cents. Buys me a coffee.”

A soft puff of air escapes his lips: Pffft. “Wellll,” he says, “I suppose you have a right to that, dontcha?”

I don’t say anything.

“What about a cash card?”

I turn to look at him. I cock my head to one side and squint.

He smiles.

“Really?” I say. “Are you proposing we head to an ATM with my cash card?”

He shrugs. “You never know the answer until you ask the question.”

I shake my head: No.

I go back to looking out the window.

He stands up. I see him nod at me in the window. He heads to the back of the bus. I turn around to watch him sit next to a good-sized woman in a good-sized United Way promotional tee-shirt.

She smiles at him as he sits down.

“There’s no future in full-time employment,” I hear him say. She is already nodding as I turn to face the front.

And the bus drives on.



*Opening footage shot in the park across the street from my house. At 1:06 you can see it. Yes, this is my neighborhood…

42 comments:

ellen abbott said...

did you forget something? like the opening footage shot?

you know, his gambit probably works more often than not. you'd be surprised how many people think that because someone asks for something, they have to give it over.

Eva Gallant said...

Your are so good at saying no. I'd probably be suckered into parting with my paycheck!

Silliyak said...

A playwright searching for the best answer to a line he wrote that he loves, but can't come up with the next one.

Simply Suthern said...

They are right you never know till ya ask. And they aint afraid of asking.

He might be right about the squirrels too. I aint never seen the like of squirrels in all my life.

haphazardlife said...

Nothing like that has ever happened to me on the bus. Maybe at 6:24 people are too sleepy in Montreal.

mybabyjohn said...

Another good reason not to ride the bus.

Leenie said...

Somehow I knew you'd carry a violently chartreuse bag. As odd as the guy was he's right about-- “You never know the answer until you ask the question.”

Desperate Housemommy said...

Got to give the guy credit for gumption. But not a credit CARD.

Pearl said...

I also once had a guy tell me that in lieu of my spare change that he'd take a check...

I've gotten pretty good at saying "no". Only took me a couple months of grudgingly handing out my change...

C... said...

Reminds me of the movie Speed with stale face Keanu Reeves. There was no bomb on your bus but him. LOL

Joyful Things said...

I was at a concert and a guy was going around asking everyone for a nickle - no more, no less - he said if the 12000 concert goers all gave five cents it would be a profitable night for him. I wondered how he planned on carrying such a weight, I don't think he had a plan.

Pearl said...

Joyful, that made me laugh. I think a lot of the street people in Mpls think the same way -- except, of course, for the ones that take checks...

Joshua said...

I'm sure I've said it before, but I had a guy with an iPod (back about a year after they first premiered when they were still $300-$400) ask me for a dollar outside a grocery store back in 2002. Still sticks out as a huge WTF moment.

jenny_o said...

Wow. The gall. Did you feel threatened? Because I would have felt threatened, big time.

Pat said...

I wish I had your aplomb Pearl:)

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Absolutely loved the Pirates vs. Zombies. That looks like it was fun. You were there? Pirate or Zombie? My guess would be zombie for you....not sure why. Do they do this every year?
The guy on the bus-well,he could be a great telemarketer. Don't let a no stop you from the next question. Ya never know.......

R. Jacob said...

I think it is time to buy a bike.

Mandy_Fish said...

You make me consider riding the bus just for the blog material.

who said...

well isn't that just part of of five day creative cycle? Mean to to say, if you see someone on the west side of a street, crossing a perpendicular avenue, and heading south on say street (yesterday and every previously occurring day said street) then you might be getting a false impression their residence is further southeast then it really is.

I hate to be a told you so, but I told you not to trust google maps. And trust me, using a daily time calender that employs the same twelve hours twice in a day and then trying to cover up such a blunder by labeling the numbers am & pm is absolutely THE stupidest thing I have EVER heard of. Unless of course you have no problem with people showing up 12 hour late or early depending on their interpretation of which number in time you meant.

Hence the reason some things were two thousand years too early, and others two thousand years late, while few arrived at the previously approved meeting time of (according to the brilliant Gregorian) year of 7 AD

now do you believe me when I say that the devil is in the details?

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I think there must surely be a movie in bus riders, somewhere! I mean I used to ride the bus to work on hot summer mornings in NYC and I had enough material in a couple of months to write a crazy movie about the crazies on the bus. YOU have about seventeen books worth by now. :)

Mamma has spoken said...

Have to say that he has balls in more ways than one.

Audubon Ron said...

That is one of the reasons I stopped riding "the bus." The main reason is there aren't any buses where I live. If Obama wants us to ride more mass transit, he better clean up the passengers first.

Cake Betch said...

That is one crafty homeless man. Assuming he's homeless and wasn't just trying to score some free cash.

Also, I vote Zombies. If I was there I'd totally be a zombie. Who wants to be a pirate? Nobody - that's who. Cause zombies are awesome. Your neighborhood looks awesome. Can I move in with you? Or just bring a tent and live in your front yard? I'll ride the bus and ask people for dollars to supplement my income. Which will be zero dollars because I'll basically be homeless. I think this sounds legit.

Pearl said...

While I RSVPed for the Zombie Pub Crawl, I actually had to be out of town that weekend and didn't get a chance to attend. On Monday, one of our renters came up to me and said, "Hey? There was a zombie here yesterday, yelled at me to 'tell Pearl: braaaaaaaiinnnnnnnns'.

So yeah. I'm big with the undead.

I do love the bus, and I hope that comes across. The majority of the time, there's not really much to say about it. I mean, sure, sometimes there are people singing along with their iPods or talking too loudly on their phones, smelling funny or, heaven help us, picking their noses, but most of the time and for most of the riders it's just people going to and from work. It only takes one person on the bus to make it memorable -- good or bad.

Douglas said...

The proper answer for Mr. Seatmate is/was "No future in unemployment either."

Kara said...

I once sat in a long line of cars waiting to turn left. A young guy stood on the traffic median holding a sign, "Money for Food". As I sat through 3 lights changes, I saw 3 different drivers give him money. Let's say each driver gave him a loony (Canada's $1.00 coin) and each light change takes 1 minute, then the guy was earning $60.00/hour!

So maybe your guy was right - the smart money is on the rodents!

Pat Tillett said...

I used to work with this an idiot who hit on every single woman who crossed his path. He said for every woman that turned him down, the meant the odds were a little bit more in his favor with the next one. Oh yeah, we eventually fired him for sexual harrassment. He actually had the nerve to pretend that he didn't understand....

The Jules said...

I used to make money out of rodents, back when I was a pest controller.

I never worked out how to turn in to some sort of protection racket. "Nice little nest you've got here Mr Rat. Be a shame if something . . . untoward . . . happened to it."

lisleman said...

asking for a dollar is one thing but asking for you to go with him to an ATM - that's just dangerous.
You didn't write anything about him smelling or not. I'll assume he didn't knock you out with street odor.
Oh I need to work on my opening line.

Gigi said...

THAT is the kind of stuff going on across the street from your house?!? I'm on my way. Of course, I'll only be able to stay for the summer; because my delicate southern blood could not withstand the unspeakable winters up there.

Cheeseboy said...

Sounds like he's got a full time job right there on the bus!

Friko said...

You get on a bus at 6.24 am? Regularly?
The chap who tried to get you to part with your money, was he at least drunk? How can you be stone cold sober if you haven't been to bed all night?

Have you got a dollar?
Sure, do you?

I'm holding on to mine for luck, what about you?

Daisy said...

Missing picture!

I've got to start riding the bus! So many interesting people!

Clipped Wings said...

Well, I'll be a monkeys auntie. It takes all kinds to make up an interesting world. Love your take on it all.

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

Man! there are stories everywhere. You're so cool, Pearl. Loved this post.
Rosemary

Tempo said...

Nice neighbors you have there Pearl... Which one is you? :-)

River said...

Cheeky bugger wasn't he? I've gotten used to saying no. Then I turn away and read my book.

the walking man said...

In Detroit we call that throwing shit against the wall to see if it sticks. I for one never liked being a wall. It's easy enough to see who really needs a buck and who has a wad from panhandling at the e-way exits.

What ATM should I meet you at Pearl?

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I found I was better at the "NO" when I lived in Madison and got propositioned that way on a regular basis. As a country gal, I'm a softie and probably would've handed him one.

Ricky Shambles said...

As always, so simple, yet vibrant; I can somehow hear him talking, almost smell him. Thanks.

Crystal Pistol said...

so true about it only taking one person to make a bus ride memorable. I once had a homeless man sans teeth blow directly in my face.

When I asked him why he said, "Because I like you."

Like you said, ...memorable.

Susan in the Boonies said...

Good grief! That's pretty brazen! I guess you never know till you ask!