The bus driver, a cheery man in a Metropolitan Transit-issued sweater, is rotated through to the #17 on perhaps a quarterly basis. A smiling, whimsical person, he brings his whole personality to work.
In accordance with my belief that one does not simply trip about the streets completely unaware, I am wearing only one earbud.
“Approaching Central, guvnah” he calls.
I blink, grinning, into the gray dawn of a February morning in Minnesota, a single-digit affair swaddled in natural fibers and, increasingly, a layer of protective fat, and realize that the bus driver has just made an announcement in a Cockney accent.
I turn my iPod down significantly.
“Washington Avenue,” he sings. I look around the bus – is that a Carol Channing impersonation?
But unlike the day that a small child and I were the only witnesses to a full-grown elephant relieving itself outside of the Target Center onto a snow bank many years ago, I am alone in my observation.
“Approaching Marquette,” the bus driver stage-whispers, “and aiming for the Nicollet Mall. Next stop, the 3, the 14, and let us never forget the 15,” he says darkly, “transfer point.” I watch him via the rearview mirror as he shudders in horror. “Transfer point,” he intones.
A block or two later, and the bus comes to a complete stop. The front doors open as the commuting public, still struggling with varying degrees of disbelief regarding the start of a new work week, mounts the steps, waves bus passes before the card reader.
“Welcome,” the bus driver says – and is that a Boston accent now? “Welcome to yuh mawnin’ commute.”