give a hoot

Give a hoot, don't pollute.

Today, after work, I was standing in a chilly drizzle at my bus stop, hands in my pockets, wishing I were wearing some sort of shoe with socks instead of ballet flats, when I saw an appalling display of poor parenting.  Near me, also waiting at the stop were two other young women, one with a baby on her hip, and the other with a toddler in tow.  The mom-of-toddler was juggling a couple of plastic grocery bags and talking on her cell phone. Toddler was guzzling a little plastic bottle of Kool Aid and eating Chex Mix.

Then I heard it. The kid finished the Kool Aid and didn’t just drop the bottle, she threw it on the ground, with gusto. Of course, I expected to hear the immediate “Pick that up, we don’t do that!” But no. Instead, MOT stomped on the bottle to smash it and then did the craziest thing.  She kicked it about half a block, walking, and kicking, and walking, and kicking, until she was several feet away.  Then she left the plastic bottle on the sidewalk and walked back to the stop. It was the most effort I’ve ever seen someone put into littering. I can’t understand why it wouldn’t have been easier to just reach down and pick up the bottle and put it in the plastic grocery sack, while telling the child that it’s not OK to throw trash on the street. But what do I know. I thought about going and picking up the bottle, as I’ve been known to come home with my messenger bag stuffed with the cans and bottles I find near the stop and toss them in the recycling, but I thought it might cause some sort of altercation. Some days I just don’t get people.

Southern Gentlemen?

Image via the Google Life Photo Archive.

The scene: my bus, around 8 am this morning. I am wedged between two other women in the front-area seats that face each other. To my right, the resident “church lady” is chatting about her revival, which was “awesome” in case you were wondering, and to my left, my neighbor is listening to head phones.  I’m just watching everyone, wondering if I should have brought a scarf, wishing I were still in bed. We stop at two or three more stops. Two men get on the bus, shaking hands with the bus driver and saying “Good Morning” to each of us in the front aisle-facing seats individually as they pass.  Clearly these two painters should have been politicians. Their paint-covered pants and shoes betray their real profession.  The bus moves on. We stop again. A young woman gets on. The bus is now full.  We stop again. A mom who often has her daughter with her but doesn’t this morning gets on, finds no place to sit, and takes a standing space.

The bus driver glances in the rear view mirror and sees her standing. “What, can’t none of you guys give her a seat?” He hollers this, apparently to the men of the bus. Some people shuffle around, suddenly remembering their manners. A seat materializes where two men had been taking up 3 seats between them. The mother sits down. Her face says she doesn’t want anyone making a fuss. I wonder if I’d rather be standing or wedged in between two guys who really take up 3 seats between the two of them. The bus driver, apparently satisfied that everyone is now acting like a gentleman, closes the doors and merges back into traffic.

wish i could pass this out like candy

Shapely Prose has a particularly wonderful guest post up by someone with the handle Starling on the subject of men who approach women in public.  You should go read it right now. It’s seriously so good I wish I could print out about 50 copies to carry in my bus-riding-tote and hand to every man I see on the bus.  I’ve written about my experiences being harassed both waiting for and riding public transportation.  Sometimes I wish I could wear a t-shirt with the words PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE emblazoned across the chest, but it’s probably not work appropriate.

One particularly wonderful thing about this post is the way it makes clear something I’m not sure male friends or even my husband fully understand: as a female in public, I’m constantly evaluating the threat level from others.  Starling puts it this way:

The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.“But wait! I don’t want that, either!”

Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is.

Starling notes that this may sound crazy, but she sites the statistical likelihood that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime as a major cause for concern. She also notes that based on rape statistics, 1 in 60 men is a rapist, and they don’t all look like creeps. She puts it much funnier:

These rapes are not all committed by Phillip Garrido, Brian David Mitchell, or other members of the Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion.

In fact, most rapists don’t look like mug shots of serial killers. They look like normal guys. Maybe even like friends, or boyfriends, or coworkers, or just someone you chat with in line at the grocery store. They look like “nice guys.” And so, women in public are on their guard, looking for signs that the guy approaching them in public might be approaching them in order to do them harm, and at the same time, women are sending out signs that let those who approach them know when to back off, if the approach-er is paying attention. Continue reading “wish i could pass this out like candy”

maybe he lost his shaker of salt?

Image via Flickr user pheabear, under a Creative Commons license.

This evening, my bus was a little late, but I didn’t mind too much because the weather has cooled off enough for me to dare to call it gorgeous.  My enjoyment ended about two stops later.

He was already yelling as he got on the bus.  I am a bit sketchy on the details, because I don’t speak fluent “enraged middle aged white man,” but I gathered that he was pissed at the bus driver from before because he had tried to get on the bus when it was going the other direction, and was told by the bus driver that he’d either have to get off or pay two fares.  He seemed to believe that his particular bus pass granted him unlimited rides.  He continued to yell all the way to the back of the bus, his bristly white moustache practically blowing in the wind of his hot air as it exited his windbag of a body, as he called our bus driver a bigot.  Oh poor persecuted white man!  I bet he watches Glenn Beck, so fervently did he seem to believe that our black, female bus driver was bigoted against his white male ass, for we all know that white males are a persecuted minority group.

The bus driver attempted to say something to him, and he came yelling back up the aisle of the now-moving bus.  It was along the lines of “ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?” The man sitting next to me said, “Sir, can you please stop yelling? I’m just trying to get home here.”  The man turned to us and started yelling.  “Sir, can you please stop yelling?” I said.  I should probably not have said anything, given that this poor persecuted patriarch probably had a gun in his suitcase.  The driver told him to sit down or be quiet or he’d have to leave the bus.

He did neither.  She pulled the bus over and told him he would have to get off.  He refused.  She radioed a supervisor and we waited for a bus bouncer to arrive.  Yes, they have bus bouncers.  Within a few minutes (I think we were near the main office) a burly white man arrived, boarded the bus, and walked to the back where he asked the resolute hothead to get off the bus.  He complied, although continuing to yell about filing a complaint against the bigoted bus driver all the way off the bus.

The rest of us breathed a sigh of relief as our journey got back underway.

Still, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony that the irate fellow was wearing a Jimmy Buffet t-shirt stretched across his belly.  I think of Jimmy Buffet as mellow, beachy music for people who like to drink margaritas and smoke weed.  Clearly this dude could have used some mellowing.  But for all I know, he’d just busted a flip flop, stepped on a pop top, and cut his heel on the cruise back home, and so was pissed off.  One thing’s for sure, he seemed convinced there was a woman to blame, but *I* know, it’s his own damn fault.

a new york minute

Yeah, I'm such a tourist that I even snap photos in the subway. So sue me.
Yeah, I'm such a tourist that I even snap photos in the subway. So sue me.

I’m going to blog in more detail about my big New York weekend at some point when I have the time to sit down and detail such a whirlwind properly.  But for now I just wanted to share one perfect moment.

The subway is hot, smelly, and crowded.  It’s not a happy place, much as I love public transit (and I really love public transit!)  And yet, Saturday night, after a perfect perfect dinner at Supper, and a stroll through Times Square that ended in a downpour, we found ourselves in a subway stop and despite the heat, despite wet feet,  found ourselves lifted while simultaneously underground.

At first he seemed like any other busker, a man with a guitar in a subway.  He stood out a bit, I guess, because usually you see skinny white guys with acoustic guitars, not old black men.  But somehow, maybe everyone had, like us, had a little bit of wine with dinner and was feeling the love, maybe they were all just tourists, or maybe, in the rain, we were all just looking for some sunshine on a cloudy day, slowly everyone started singing along.  Within a couple of minutes, he had everyone at the stop singing along to “My Girl.” And not just sorta singing either.  Real, spirited, practically church singing.  I guess you say, what can make me feel this way? My girl, my girl, my girl….

Toward the end of the song, trains pulled up on either side of the platform and the singalong dispersed with raucous applause as we all got onto our trains with smiles on our faces, many humming to ourselves.

We may not have had time to toss a dollar in his guitar case, but I wish I had.  If you ask me, that man should be on the city payroll for performing a public service– making wet, tired, foot-pained, cranky commuters stop for a few minutes and just sing along.  It’s almost like the month of May.

only freshmen

div xmlns:cc= about= rel=cc:attributionURL href=

As I got on the bus, they giggled behind a Route 30 map.  They wondered where they had gotten on, which stop was that?  How would they know when they were supposed to get off?  What if the driver didn’t stop?  Should they ask the driver?  Should they not?  Aren’t these seats itchy? Doesn’t it feel like it’s giving you a rash?

It didn’t take me long to recognize them.  They were me, about six years ago.  Two new college roommates, who barely knew a soul and had just set up camp together in a tiny room on a big campus in a strange new city.  They were clinging to each other and thinking they’d be best friends, not anticipating Cold Wars of attrition over who’d finally take out the trash, or that perhaps one of them would have an affinity for Jock Jamz while the other preferred Indie Rock, or that one might be nocturnal, and the other, well, normal.  (OK, so I’m projecting, my first college roommate didn’t work out so well!)

I wondered if they’d been having scavenger hunts and raffles.  If they’d endured an awkward sex talk with a dean.  If they’d identified a cute boy that they thought they might like to date, having no idea that by the end of the next year he’d be a best friend, but more interested in dating men. (OK, so that happened to me too.)  I wondered if there had been awkward name games.  If they’d been to that first party yet, the one where they tested those mom-will-never-know-limits.  I wondered if they’d just spent the summer meeting their true love, now left wondering what would happen next.  I wondered if they were just SURE of their major, only to later change it three times.  I wondered if they had any idea what was ahead of them.

Of course they didn’t.

But they had each other, they had a map, they were determined to make their way to Target, and they’d get there together.  I helped them figure out where they’d get off, and I went back to my reading, eavesdropping on their conversation, smiling, realizing what was only six years ago for me already seems more than a lifetime ago.

The bus could barely contain their enthusiasm.


Image via Flickr user ribena_wrath.
Image via Flickr user ribena_wrath.

Ah, Monday morning.  It always comes too soon.  Begrudgingly I forced myself out of bed, showered, dressed, and, a cup of coffee down my throat, made it out the the bus stop where I stood in the oppressive humidity wondering why I bothered to fix my hair today when the thick Southern air was just going to undo all my efforts within five minutes outside.  Soon enough the bus arrived and I found an open seat in the back, near a mom with three adorable toddlers.  I sat there, wondering what the sugar rush would look like when the three toddlers’ sugar rush hit them, delivered by the bottles of root beer each was clutching.  I wondered why anyone would give toddlers root beer at 8 a.m.  I wondered why anyone would give a toddler a root beer at all, but what do I know about parenting?

Anyway, the bus rolled along, and, sitting in the back, I heard little but the roar of the engine and the occasional DING! signalling to the driver that someone had requested a stop.  Until I suddenly heard something else.


This was shouted by a man with a ponytail, wearing a baseball cap, a neon green earbud protruding from his left ear, a cell phone held up to his right.  He was wearing jorts.  Of course he was.  One of my favorite bus ladies glared at him.  I gave the back of his head my best dirty look.  Didn’t he know there were root beer-drinking toddlers on this bus?  Won’t someone please think of the children?


If I saw these ladies, Id say Mornin!  Image via Googles Life Photo Collection.
If I saw these ladies, I'd say "Mornin'!" Image via Google's Life Photo Collection.

The bus rumbles through the intersection and I reach up to pull the cord; a loud “ding” tells the driver to let me off at the next stop.  We lurch to a halt, and I stand, stumbling, and make my way to the doors, which swing open, allowing a blast of humid air to rush onto the blessedly well-air-conditioned bus.  “Thanks!” I say to the driver with a wave as I step out into the heat for my short walk to the office.  “Have a great day!” she says as she closes the door and pulls away.  A few feet away a young mother struggles to keep two toddlers in hand and moving in the right direction.  “Good mornin'” she says as I pass, my pace quicker than that of the toddlers.  “Good mornin'” I say with a smile at the kids.  Farther down the road I pass a woman I see every morning as we walk to our respective offices.  She smiles at me.  “Good Mornin'” I say.  “How ya doin’?” she asks.  We smile at each other and keep on walking.  As I wait at the corner to cross the street, a jogger whizzes by and breathlessly says “Mornin'” as she whips past.  As I walk down King I pass two older men, who nod at me.  “Mornin’!” I say with a smile.  “Mornin’!” they reply.  In the parking lot I see a parking enforcement officer writing tickets.  I am briefly thankful that riding the bus means no parking tickets.  “Mornin’!” he says with a nod.  “Mornin’!” I reply.  I smile as I walk into my building and press the button for the elevator.

It occurred to me on my walk from bus stop to office that it must be hard being an introvert in the South.  In the short 2 block walk down George St. all the people I passed said, “Good Mornin'” to me, with a smile.  I’ve always had a habit of talking to strangers, so I love that it’s normal and acceptable and even expected here that you say “Good Morning” to people as you pass them on the street, that you will chat with the person you sit next to on the bus, that you will make small talk with the person standing behind you in the checkout line, and that you will have an ongoing rapport with the person who swipes your parking pass or cleans out the trash cans in your office.

I know about the trials and tribulations of many of the regulars on my bus.  Like the woman with diabetes and an adorable new grandbaby.  Or the lady with 17 cats and an ailing mother with dementia.  Or the church lady who has a hard time with the fact that her husband is retired and she isn’t.

I haven’t lived outside the South, but it only took one week of riding the Metro while in Washington D.C. to realize that it’s not normal or acceptable elsewhere to chat with strangers.  Not only did I stand out in a sea of black wool coats by wearing bright red, I also shocked Beltway types by daring to chat with them on the bus.  They looked at me like I had four heads.  I cut it out by the first stop.

Now I’m not saying I think Southern people are kinder or nicer or more friendly than people in other parts of the country.  You only have to get to know the proper usage of “bless her heart” or “God love him” to know that we can sugar-coat a bitter pill better than many folks.  But I do think that we have a social expectation of talkin’ to each other that others don’t, and I have to admit, I love it.  By the time I get to my office, how can I NOT have a smile on my face after saying “good mornin'” to seven different people?  As we face a possible move in the next year, one that very well may take me out of the South for the first time, I think what I’ll miss more than anything is the chit chat.

captain of the bus

It’s been a while since I regaled the Interwebz with a wacky tale from my adventures on the bus, but I’ve got a good one for you this morning!  It had been a fairly normal ride, for the most part, notable only in that for the first time in over a week, I wasn’t huddling under an umbrella and trying not to get splashed by passing cars while waiting for the bus to pick me up.  A young man sat down next to me, listening to something I wasn’t even sure existed any more: a discman.  I flipped through my Google Reader on my Blackberry.  The bus approached one of the major stops on the route.  Suddenly, Mr. Discman stood up, grabbed the bar over head with one hand, and put one knee up, foot on the seat like he had a lil Captain in him.  HE THEN PROCEEDED TO PELVIC THRUST THE AIR RIGHT NEXT TO ME, wiggling his hips side to side, front to back, and all around.  He did not say a word.  The bus stopped.  The doors opened.  He got off the bus.

“FATHER IN HEAVEN!” exclaimed the lady sitting across from me, fanning herself.  “LORD! LORD!”

I just burst out laughing from the absurdity of it all and said, “I have no idea what just happened.”  She smiled at me.  We both laughed.  The bus moved on.

%d bloggers like this: