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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hey, I Like A Good Rule as Much as the Next Guy…

Like the bulk of us early-morning commuters, he gets on at the same place every day. He boards the bus, arms outstretched: one hand showing his ID, the other dropping coins into the meter. Based on the showing of said ID and the use of just a couple of coins, daily, I am under the impression that his ticket has been subsidized.

He is solidly middle-aged. Not fat, but not thin. He carries an umbrella. He reads over the top of his glasses, the lines in his face insinuating a life of disappointment.

He sits in the same seat every day, the forward-most, aisle-facing seat. If someone is already sitting there, he stands in front of them, clinging to a strap hanging from the ceiling. There can be 40 or more open seats available, but he will not sit in one of them.

Those are not his seats.

His seat is the first seat. The one in the front.

I run into him downtown one day, blocks away from our normal route. The streets are busy, but the sidewalks are wide and clear. The sky seems higher than usual, the color a thin, light blue. Caught in the delicate time between fashion boots and winter boots, it is the kind of day that makes noticing just how beautiful it is, easy.

I smile at him in recognition. “Lovely day, isn’t it?”

He doesn’t answer. Instead, his face twisting with hatred and righteousness, he shoots past me, rushes toward a young man on a bike.

“There’s no riding your bike on the sidewalk! It’s against the law! There’s no riding on the sidewalk!”

The guy on the bike swerves to avoid him. “Hey!” he says. “Look out!”

“There are rules!”

The guy on the bike speeds away, looking back just once in a mixture of fright and anger.

Front of the Bus Man turns to me in anger. “I should kick him! I should jam my umbrella into his wheels so that he falls on his face and breaks his teeth in the street!”

I wince. “That seems a little harsh,” I say.

“Oh, really?” he says. “So you think anarchy is the answer, is that it? You want martial law? You think you can handle that?”

And with that, he thrusts his chest towards me, a mock-charging gesture that sends me backward several steps.

I walk away, go up the bus line a couple blocks. People like this, I don’t want to know.


There are people that we see often enough to know them on sight: the woman whose cotton-candy-colored hair never varies in its retention of two-three inches of black roots; the two immigrant women with their shiny blue-black ponytails and Hello Kitty backpacks; and the man who won’t sit anywhere but that one, magical seat.

But just because we know what they look like doesn’t mean we know them.

45 comments:

Bossy Betty said...

Pearl--Yes, this one may be one you want to stay away from. I think you should be in charge of filling YOUR bus with interesting, pleasant people. Until that day happens, take care.

bill lisleman said...

If that guy wants his voice heard he should start a blog. Anger management anyone?
Riding a bike on the sideway, now that's anarchy!

Eva Gallant said...

Wow.. You can never tell what's going on inside someone's head. He sounds rather scary!

Pearl said...

Bossy, that's an excellent idea. Bus ridership by invitation!

Bill, he looks perfectly normal -- crabby, but normal. But the way he lost it so easily might explain the bus card...

Pearl said...

Eva, would you believe I walked away, almost feeling hurt? :-) It was like, dagnabit, son, I was being friendly, ya little SOB! Now get over here and be friendly back! :-)

laughingmom said...

It's a shame that you can't fill your bus with the people of your choosing! That would be a party bus!

Joshua said...

I can't wait until I'm 60 and can start acting like that in public.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

You reached out. That was the important part. Until we reach out we don't know what's under the surface.

jabblog said...

If I were you I'd choose a different bus - that man could erupt dangerously one day.

Leenie said...

He may live by the Rule of Law. Keeps people in line. The guy on the bike: a rebelling anarchist.

Pearl's writing on the other hand RULES.

Argent said...

Your man sounds like he might be a little 'special'. I've come across such folks from time to time and they often want to talk to me for some reason, maybe I have a friendly face. Maybe he has Assberger's or something.

Pearl said...

laughingmom, a party bus. :-) Does it still have to take me to work?!

Joshua, you could start now. :-) Give people with nothing specific -- at the moment! -- to write about something to write about. :-)

Delores, I did reach out. And now I'm pulling back. :-)

jabblog, he strikes me as a little unhinged, yes. I see him every morning, but never on the afternoon bus (that particular day I had left at noon).

Leenie, rebellion is a funny thing, isn't it? (and THANK YOU!)

Argent, I suspected that myself, and pretty much had it confirmed that day. I'm willing to bet he's a lonely kind of guy -- then again, he may like it like that.

Joshua said...

How about if I walk up to you and just say, "Peanut butter's the answer." And then walk away. Would that be a good start?

I suppose I should stick with what I'm good at and say, "Is this the bus to Mordor?"

ellen abbott said...

I kind of feel sorry for him. His life must be miserable and it's all of his own making. A heart attack waiting to happen.

Joyful Things said...

I pity the people who have to share office space with him...... yikes!

Sush said...

Whoa...YIkes...umm yeah I think ya need to stay at the back of the bus since he's so connected to the front!

Hugs~

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

"The lines in his face insinuating a life of disappointment." Love that sentence, honey.

Doubting Thomas said...

I'm with Bossy Betty... your buses should be "invitation only!" Imagine the great stories... kind of a "soup nazi" in bus form.

Although I haven't been dependent on public transportation in years (Texans are allergic, and everything is so darn far away!), I do recall fondly the guy in his early 60's who rode my bus to high school. He felt it necessary to punctuate every sentence with "Whoop, there it is!" This was the 90's, of course. As so many things were back then... :)

Nazarina A said...

A misanthropist best be on a deserted island! I like your style of narration! I'm with "laughingmom!"

WrathofDawn said...

We have his opposite in my neighbourhood - a middle-aged woman who sits very upright as she rides a bicycle at a measured pace all around the neighbourhood... on the sidewalk... occasionally shouting instults at drivers and pedestrians. I was sitting in my car, patiently waiting until she finished crossing the driveway of a business so that I could pull out into traffic and once she was passed she turned her head and shouted, "F**k off, you sl*t!" in my direction. What the...???

I would hate for the two of them to meet. I fear fisticuffs would ensue.

Joanne said...

I have to wonder if he goes home and tells a dog or cat what rotters he encountered all day. I doubt it. Who could spout that crap to such innocent faces.

20prospect said...

No one is more miserable than an impotent bully.

jen said...

I supposed he missed the rule against threatening people when he read his rule book. I'm with Green Girl on your "the lines in his face..." sentence--I re-read it several times and smiled slightly to myself as I pictured him sitting (or standing, bum in some poor soul's face)on your bus. You certainly have a way of making your words come alive!

Jinksy said...

But aren't they great to write stories about, for fun? I'm an inveterate people watcher fantasist...

R. Jacob said...

I am getting a bit concerned about the bus and the neighborhood and your safety. Seriously.

Susan in the Boonies said...

True dat.

What a disappointed, frustrated, angry person he sounds!

Symdaddy said...

I deal with people like 'him' on a daily basis at work.

I could, if the circumstances warranted it (violence, abuse,etc.), walk away from a client like 'him', but so far I never have. I love a challenge, duntcha know!

There is always a spark of reason in them somewhere. The trick is finding it.

But they can be scary folks, can't they?

jenny_o said...

Bummer. When I get uninvited huffiness or cross/crass remarks, it feels like a bruise on my soul, and it takes awhile to go away...even if it's from a person with a mental illness. I try to connect with a friendly person as soon as possible afterward; it seems to help put the "normalcy" back in my psyche.

Be careful out there!

Glen said...

let's hope he never finds out about Dolly smoking

WrathofDawn said...

I want what Michelle's smoking.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

The bus adventures. A book in and of itself. My son has just started a new job in a new building in downtown, so now he has started to ride the bus to work. He already has stories.....I think you have him beat on this one, though.

Gigi said...

Oh wow, you always seem to come across these people, Pearl!

This one is definitely unhinged and, obviously, very unhappy.

mrwriteon said...

Scary creep. Best to be avoided. The seat thing reminds me of Sheldon on BBT.

Pearl said...

Joshua, Do you know what I would give to have someone ask me when the next time the bus to Mordor will be by?!

Ellen, He’s not a happy person, no. Lucky me, I see him every single morning.

Joyful Things, that’s one thing I’ve wondered: what do you suppose he does for a living? Where’s he going every morning?

Sush, all the cool kids are at the back of the bus anyway. :-)

Green Girl, that makes me smile!

Doubting Thomas, ha! You just made me remember a guy who used to stand on the corner by the light rail and yell “Who let the dogs out?!” every time the train disgorged is passengers…

Nazarina A, thank you! I’m glad you stopped in!

WrathofDawn, ooooh! As we say in Minnesota, that’s pretty icky! I actually would like to see the two of them meet, though. But that’s just the weirdo in ME. :-)

Joanne, yeah, I don’t see him with a pet, really. Who could be that sour and own a pet?

20prospect, I like that. I think you nailed it.

Jen, thank you! You know, every time he just stands there in front of someone rather than sit somewhere else – and honestly, at 6:390 in the morning this rarely happens – but every time he just stands there in front of someone I find myself hoping that the bus driver will tell him to go sit down. But the bus drivers rarely say anything to anyone…

Jinksy, I make up the things I imagine others to think/say/do all day long. :-) I just prefer my version of reality most of the time.

R. Jacob, my neighborhood is quite nice actually. The funny thing is that you can go weeks and weeks and not see anything truly interesting on the bus and then suddenly someone shows up carrying a shovel or wearing a ball gown.

Susan, yes. He’s an unbending sort of guy, and I wish I knew more about him.

Sym, I think you’re right. I don’t know if I’m the person to be able to find the spark in him, but I do hope he has people like that in his life. He can be a bit off-putting!

Jenny_o, I felt that same way, exactly. It hurt, as if he had meant it personally, which my rational mind knew was not true. Still, it was on my mind for quite a while after it happened.

Glen, I’m sure he would not tolerate pets smoking. :-) “That cat’s not old enough to buy cigarettes!!”

WrathofDawn, “Michelle” forced me to reports “her” as Spam quite often. I’m pretty sure whatever’s in “her” pipe can be found within carpet fibers or similar…

Alwaysinthebackrow, my next book is all bus stories because people are just plain good fun. :-)

Gigi, I agree that he’s a very unhappy man. I think I run into a lot of different kinds of people because I SEE so many different people in a day. I don’t read on the bus (makes me nauseous!) so I just take note of the people around me. There’s a lot of weirdos out there, Geej!!

Mrwriteon, BBT? :-) I don’t find him scary so much as I find him “icky”. I avoid people that I can’t understand, and I don’t have the capacity for this guy.

Holly Anton said...

I'm thinking "special". Maybe even Asperger syndrome. On thing I know about Autism Spectrum Disorders-rules are very important!! ; )

The Jules said...

I have often said, to those haranguing me in similar accusing tones, that "Rules are made for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of the stupid. Your honour."

Cost me a fortune in fines.

The Elephant's Child said...

Scary. Take care of yourself. You anarchist you.

Tempo said...

There are 'plenty of weirdos in the world' Pearl...at least thats what everyone keeps yelling at me...

Crystal Pistol said...

You want anarchy? You want marshal law? EWWWWWW! Man do I hate whistle blowers and horn honkers. stay away from that guy fo sho!

River said...

At first I was smiling, wondering if the man's name might be Sheldon. The Big Bang Theory, "that's my spot".
But then he was pretty scary....

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Hey, that was a really nice post.

Do you know what I'd do? I'd sit in his magical seat every day. I know that's kind of cruel -- obviously there's something wrong with him and it'd be like kicking a cripple -- but there's a part of me that just couldn't resist.

Deborah said...

Holy hannah. This was so beautifully written I teared up a bit.

. . . and I realize every day that life is just great. I don't want to shove any umbrella into any spokes and that's alright with me.

Douglas said...

Three letters... OCD. Sounds like the guy has it. He needs an ordered life, the bus seat of choice and that "there are rules" give him stability. Yes, it's sad. But not the way you write it.

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl, as you know, I'm not a fan of Rules, but only because they're not needed when people use their brains and disengage their Selfish Gland. If they did, we'd have Order, which is a far more desirable state of affairs. That said, some folks will be dicks BECAUSE they're in the right, as old Sheldon on your bus proves. Damn, now I feel all grumpy. Indigo

Pat said...

You can keep rules and be a nice person and vice versa. In this house we have both a respecter of rules and a disrespecter of rules. Makes life interesting.