6:42 a.m.: the heat wave in our immediate future, the one that will have me standing at the bus stop, like a rich person, in 44 glorious degrees of early Spring-time thrall, has yet to materialize.
It is a Thursday morning, cold and dark.
The bus arrives, and I climb its steps, carefully knocking the gritty snow from my boots as I do. I wave my MetroPass at the doohickey and walk to my seat of preference, a spot up the steps at the back of the bus, near the camera. I like to think that should anything untoward happen while engaged in commuting, it will be caught on tape and either a.) result in a conviction, b.) be shown on TV, or c.) lead to my finally being discovered as a runway model.
We are 15 minutes into the trip downtown when the men at the back of the bus get excited.
“Come on, man. Come On. Come ON. COME ON.”
My eyes swing to the right, to the left, spin counterclockwise before returning to their straight-ahead position.
It’s been a long time since the morning commute was this lively. I lean back in my seat, reach into my purse, pull out the book I keep for just such occasions. I switch my low-volume iPod to “off”.
“Aww, COME on, man!”
Another man laughs softly. “Shush, man. Call him later. Anyway, you be shoutin’. These good people goin’ to work, they don’t want to hear you.”
I am dying to turn around.
“Man, I don’t talk like no mouse, man,” says COME ON man. A combination of urban mush-mouth and side show barker, he’s got a baritone voice. “People hear me talk, they know they be getting’ the juicy-juice.”
“Well just keep it down, Mr. Juice, that’s all’m sayin’. Me and Earnest, we got you, right up front. Know that, man. Just know that.”
“Oh, we be right upfront, all of us. We got the earnest, and we got the frank. Man, we be earnestly frank.”
“Man, I said you gotta be quiet.”
“You know, last week he be talking about gettin’ enough for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday? It be Monday now. That’s why that man don’t be answering the phone. Come on, now! That man be detoxing.”
Both men laugh, full, open expressions of enjoyment. Heh, heh, heh. You right, you right.
The bus goes relatively silent, save for the coughing woman near the driver. We creep along the Nicollet Avenue mall, all-year cyclists scattering before us like skinny, helmeted cattle. I look out the windows at the storefronts, windows dressed, mannequins in swimwear and summer dresses.
“MMM,” grunts the COME ON man. “You know about that Joseph E. Banks? They be having buy you one, get you two.”
“Man, they got good clothes,” says the other man. “Good clothes.”
“Mm mm mmm,” the man with the juicy-juice says. “You know what? Maybe we find us Earnest, we do some shoppin’.”