5 Tales of Public Transportation

I’m something of a public transportation guru. In high school, I had to take the city bus to school. Then we moved, so I had to learn a whole different route to get there. Then I played around with the bus system until I figured out how I would never need to walk. Ever. I’ve flown to other states and countries, so I’m pretty savvy when it comes to planes. While in Europe, I found subways and trams the easiest forms of traveling. In New Mexico, I had to learn train systems. I’ve taken a lot of public transportation and, since I’ve never owned a car, I’ve relied on it pretty heavily for most of my life.

As you can imagine, most days are boring. You get on the bus or the plane or the train and nothing really happens. It’s typical. But sometimes—sometimes shit happens.

Here are five tales of public transportation.

#1: Gentle Dreamers

I woke up at 5:45 a.m. in high school in order to make it to school on time. This is every morning, by the way. I consider myself a morning person and I consider myself one because I don’t straight-up murder everyone I see before the sun is up. I’d spend the whole ride listening to music or whatever. Other people, apparently not used to such horrendous schedules, would spend the bus ride semi-conscious or just plain asleep. I don’t judge.

Except for this one time. I sat on the window seat and this guy sits right next to me. There are other seats available so I already damned this guy to the deepest pits of hell—in my mind. I thought, “This guy sucks. What is he doing? Oh my gosh, what is doing?” The man’s head had started to wobble toward me. You know how when you’re really sleepy and your head falls forward and then you jerk it back up? Apparently, this guy did not have that reflex. He kept leaning over and leaning over and leaning over until I was squished against the side of the bus and his head was on my shoulder. I spent the next fifteen minutes in mute horror. Then he woke up, realized what he’d done, and we both silently vowed to never mention this anyone. Except to the Internet.

#2:  A Toe-riffic Time

I like window seats on buses, and I always pick them when I can. Not only do I like to look out the window, but it’s nice to have somewhere to lean my head if I’m tired on the way home from school. That’s exactly what I’m doing now, and I’m not really paying attention to anyone because I’m 16 and self-absorbed.

The person sitting in front of me bends over, places her foot on the wall, and there’s a click noise that reaches me even over the Britney Spears I’m blaring through my headphones. I pick up my head—and a toenail the size of my eyelid comes sailing past me and hits the glass where my head had been. I gazed in terror-stricken fascination as the toenail clipping slides down the wall and lands neatly next to my sneaker. I then promptly switch seats.

#3:  Cross-dressing Crosstown

It’s late. I stayed after school for rehearsal (for Romeo and Juliet if you’re interested) and I’m finally on my way home. I sit near the front of the bus in order to avoid the drug deals my dad told me always happen in the back of the bus. The door opens and a beautiful woman and her gaggle of friends walks in, pay their fare, and sit just in front of me. When I say a beautiful woman, what I mean is a beautiful man. She is decked out in scarlet heels, tight jeans, a leather corset, eyelashes as long as my fingers, earrings that reach her shoulders, a stunning blonde wig, and a red feather boa wrapped around her neck. The boa is what gets me every time.

Then, apropos nothing, she stands up and starts delivering a speech about equal rights and how people shouldn’t judge her for not conforming to gender roles. Someone in the back, probably dealing drugs, shouted, “Preach it girl.”

Then the bus driver said, “Sit your black ass down. I have to make a tight turn.” So she does and she spends the rest of the ride fanning herself with her feather boa.

#4: Don’t Punch Me Bro!

I don’t know what my dad was talking about. All of the action happens at the front of the bus. I’m sitting right behind the bus driver this time and see this old (fifties) Latino guy giving this tall black guy the stink eye. Like, it’s a really ugly look and I wanted to ask him, “Damn, did that guy kill your family?”

The younger man has noticed the hate-filled glare of the older gentleman and stares right back at him. Actually, he even says something. Something like, “What you lookin’ at?  Did I kill your family or something?” No, he didn’t say that last part, but definitely something like the first part.

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a sleeping woman in yellow outfit

So, sensing some tension, the older guy gets off at the next stop—and the young guy follows him. Everyone is looking (including the bus driver). We all hold our breath, waiting to see what happens next. The guys exchange some words and then—the young guy totally punches the older guy. The older guy goes down to the concrete and the young guy dashes off into the sunset.

And that was my introduction to racial violence.

#5: The Candy Man

This isn’t about the homicidal murderer of the eponymous movie. Sorry to disappoint. This is one of my earlier stories. I was 15, coming home from school, and I sat in the front (thank goodness for Rosa Parks). I’m bopping my head to old-school Christina Aguilera when an older man climbs aboard. This man doesn’t really seem suspicious and I know he’s not selling drugs because that literally only happens in the back of buses. However, he is wearing a green trench coat in the middle of Texas autumn, so that’s already sketchy as hell.

This guy starts chatting up a mom and her daughter. Then this guy pulls out some individually wrapped pieces of candy from his sketchy-ass coat. They look kind of like jawbreakers. The mom politely takes two and gives her daughter one, telling her, “Don’t eat that until we get home,” which is obviously code for, “Don’t eat that ever because it’s probably poisoned, but if we decline this man might shank us and steal our kidneys.” Then the guy offers me one right as the bus rolls up at my stop. I take one (because I like my kidneys) and immediately toss it in the trash can at the bus stop when I get off.

As a kid, I was kind of naive. But never that naive.

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