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Friday, January 31, 2014

Tamra’s Got the Heebie Jeebies

“There should be a protocol,” she stresses.  “There are reasonable expectations associated with the bus!”

I nod solemnly, pull out the book I keep on hand for such occurrences, and remove the cap from my pen.  “Why don’t you tell me about it?” I say.

“There’s this guy – he’s a big guy.  A really big guy.  And you know the size of those seats, right?”

I do, indeed.  Tamra rides daily on one of the city-to-suburbs buses, buses that look, for the most part, like a city bus, but are run independently.  They have Greyhound-fancy seats and, from what I understand, onboard masseuses. 

“So he sits down.  And he’s allowed that.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t sit with me.  But then he overlaps, and –“

Tamra shudders.  A slender, fashionable woman, one suspects, looking at her, that not only is her home in a visitor-ready state, but that her legs, despite it being January, have been recently shaved.

I like her anyway.

“—and you know how I feel about germs, right?  So there he is, he’s got his leg pressed – and I’m as close to the window as I can get! – against mine, I can feel his belly –“

Tamra is overcome.  I give her a moment.

“And then he pulls a newspaper out of his briefcase!  He pulls the newspaper out, snaps it open – and now I’ve got his arm clearly in my bubble –“

His arm is clearly in her bubble, I write, chuckling.

“ – and then – and then!”

I look up from my notes, reach for my coffee.  “And then?”

She closes her eyes, turns away, as if to push the memory away.  “He sneezes,” she says.  “Into the newspaper.”

I chuckle, despite myself.  I’ve watched Tamra disinfect a hallway after someone with a sniffle walks by.  Raised by a registered nurse, on a first-name basis with a number of exceedingly startling maladies, Tamra does not suffer a germ gladly.

“That’s not the worst of it,” she says, turning back, eyes haunted.  “After he sneezed into the newspaper, he – he –“

My eyes go round.  No.  My mother’s voice rises, somewhere in the back of my head; and suddenly, I know what Tamra will say next.

“No,” I say.

“Yes.”

I stare at her.

She looks away again.  “He picked his nose.  And then – “ 

I make a choking sound, but the worst is yet to come.

She looks up, troubled.  “He flicked it,” she says, wincing.  “He flicked it in the aisle.”

There is a moment’s silence as we consider this.

She turns back to her monitor, types quickly, a brief, staccato burst of sound.

“I see him all the time,” she says.  “But I keep my purse on the seat next to me.  I pretend to be digging in it until he passes.”


She turns back to look at me.  “It’s not right,” she says.  “me leaving my purse on the seat like that.  But really, there ought to be protocols.”  

27 comments:

Shelly said...

I was enjoying watching Tamara's narrative from a neutral, third person viewpoint, until...the sneeze. Then it snapped powerfully into a first person viewpoint and ugh. I had to go squeeze Germ-x into my hands just to finish it. Ugh. ugh. ugh. There should be an isolation section of the bus just for folks like him.

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

Ahhhhh!!! Noooo!! Not a flick. NOT A FLICK!!!!! Say it ain't so, Pearl, say it ain't so!

Pearl said...

I felt bad, writing it, but sometimes, things cry out to be written.

I had nothing crying out to be written, so it was this or nothin'.

:-)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go wash my hands.

Daisy said...

He FLICKED it! Neanderthal! Tamara needs something larger than her purse to set in that seat - a suitcase, or maybe a friend. I'd even pay someone to sit there.

vanilla said...

I'm sick. Now.

Pearl said...

Daisy, it would be worth the money, wouldn't it?

vanilla, sorry. :-) I owe you one.

jenny_o said...

And if there can't be protocols, there ought to be bus mothers, you know, large, business-like ladies who will cuff people like that about the ears and make 'em get down on their knees and scrub away that ... I can't even write it! ... that ... mess.

And don't get me started on verbal boogerage. Bus moms would take care of that stuff, too.

Laoch of Chicago said...

As someone who rides the bus everyday this story is pretty mild in some respects. As an example, I saw a woman last weekend throw up into the seat next to her and then, minutes later, decide to lay across both seats and take a nap.

Douglas said...

1. There oughta be a law!
and...
2. Did Tamra disinfect the aisle?


Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
.............ohmigosh, dunno whether am glad I already ate... or not... bllurrgghh.

YAM *******

Delores said...

Tamra missed an opportunity for a good scene and shaming event. All together now, at the top of your voice, "Did you SEE that? Did you SEE what this guy just did. OMG!!!!!" Gosh, I know I couldn't have let that one go.

Geo. said...

I think we should be more understanding about such behavior. We California liberals know it's passed down through generations. Big Guy probably grew up getting flicked after falling out of people's noses.

Jono said...

An adult Booger Flicker! A rare species not often seen in public, but known to frequent buses. The juvenile version is quite common, however.

Joe Pereira said...

EW...that's gross. There really ought to be protocols, poor Tamra

Diane Tolley said...

You can pick your nose. And you can pick your friends. But you can't flick your friends. Not if you want them to remain your friends!

Sioux said...

So she digs into her purse so she won't have to sit next to the nose-digger, huh?

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Gigi said...

Some humans are disgusting....and yes, there is a protocol but apparently some of these "humans" haven't been made aware of it.

The same could be said for those heathens that spit anywhere and everywhere.

I'm off to take a much needed shower.

Jen said...

The thing that makes this funny is that the person who witnessed it is like a female version of Monk.

I love Monk.

River said...

Oh dear, there I was eating my dinner, fried eggs and toast, then I read about the sneeze and nose picking, I had to stop eating. Some people just shouldn't be allowed on buses. Pity we can't stop them.

Leenie B said...

Okay, there is a very good reason to live so back in the sticks that the only buses are bright yellow and I've put in my twelve years riding them already.

Just finished a story in the latest National Geographic about the Twin Cities written by Garrison Keillor. Great read. I thought of you when he was telling about going down Hennepin Avenue.

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

I'm glad it's time for my shower. No nose flickers in there.

Launna said...


I can understand Tamara being disgusted, that is gross and people should know better than to do something like that... my purse would be on the seat too until he passed... ewww

Daisy said...

HA! Poor gal. Perhaps she should consider something other than public transportation. :D

Kymbo Whitford said...

In the big city (400km from here) they call those early morning bus services 'Cattle Cars'...and now I understand why.

The Geezers said...

Ah, the joys of metro bus rides. The other day, a woman—this is the middle of winter mind you—painted her toenails while riding the bus into downtown.

HermanTurnip said...

You made me cringe, and believe me I don't cringe easily.

Linda O'Connell said...

She should have shot him with a shot of Germ X