A Bus Buddy

I am back, I am caffeinated, and the blog posts will be flying off the keys with increasing frequency and an uncharacteristic amount of zeal. This, at least, is the idea.

Early on in the summer, my laptop decided it’d had enough of me (or maybe enough of the voltage in Italian outlets – your guess is as good as mine) and refused to hold any charge for even a second. Consequently, it was annexed to the family room ottoman for two months, perpetually reliant on a power cord accessorized with a “DO NOT UNPLUG ME!!!” post-it note. A lazy excuse to not write, but sufficient for a person such as myself. I also developed the internal monologue of “I’m just taking the time to collect material, it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine” – which was true. I penned many a note, illustrated many a character. It’s fine. It’s fine. And with that and a new laptop (!!!), dear readers, I present to you a study in the joys and sorrows of public transportation: the Bus Chronicles.


I’m sure most people would agree that 7am is a great time to be alone. Personal space is kind of a 24/7 preference for me, but it is doubly so at dawn, triply so at dawn on a bus. It’s not necessarily because I am cranky – I like to think I’m pretty chipper, actually – but because the viewing of a PNW sunrise should be a very personal affair, something free of interruptions, i.e. the coughs/elbows of strangers. Being trapped in the window seat by a sleeper when I arrive at my stop has always been an additional concern. Let’s not even discuss someone actually falling asleep on me. For these reasons and several unnamed, when came a morning of especial introversion, I assumed the role of that asshole who, in the most passive-aggressive preventative measure known to man, puts her bag in the seat next to her. As we coasted into the next transit center, I pretended to be asleep so no one could ask me to move it. It seemed like a foolproof plan. I had seen other people pull the exact same moves.

But, knowing precisely where to find me, Guilt paid a visit. It was a Thursday, and for some reason that day of the week tends to draw a particularly high volume of commuters, at least from my own observation; a shortage of seats was a possibility. So with a sigh of resignation, I grabbed my backpack and opened my eyes. There stood a woman, short in stature but inordinately large in visible bitterness toward me, looking down at the spot to my right in an expectant sort of stare. A modest line, but a line nonetheless, had formed behind her. Confused, I glanced behind me – there were a few seats open. Alright then. As I pulled my bag onto my lap, she gracefully plunked herself down and looked ahead. I scowled.

Despite an obvious and acute awareness of how my sleep had inconvenienced her, she conked out within the first three minutes of sitting next to me. This woman is the director of my nightmares. She proceeded to lean, excruciatingly slow. 90 degrees, 87 degrees, 83 degrees, one centimeter from my unwelcoming shoulder. At the last possible moment, she startled herself awake. This became a cycle, countless repetitions of eyes closed, shoulders slumped, leftward tilt, groggy awakening. A dance so slow it is nearly imperceptible to humans. As is only natural, she was in the throes of sleepytime as we neared my stop. I hesitantly placed my hand upon her small shoulder and looked earnestly into the place her eyes would be when she opened them. Rather than an expression of anger or annoyance, her now-conscious face was covered in what looked like deep disappointment in my character or something, as if she’d expected more of me. “Excuse me, sorry, this is going to be my stop.” She collected her lunchbox and purse and released me into the aisle. The end.

Except it wasn’t the end. She sat next to me again. And again. This woman, who was clearly no fan of mine, took the seat next to me no less than four times – if nothing else, at least the world maintains a sense of mystery. She continued to fall asleep, getting closer and closer each time until finally my shoulder became her own bony and angular pillow. How comfy. One morning, she sat down and promptly extracted a blank sheet of paper from her bag, folded it and held it over the parts of her face which breathe in air. To clarify, the same air I breathe. It immediately took me back to the day in English class when a guy purposely sat next to me, only to throw me sideways glances of abhorrence when my SEASONAL ALLERGIES made me sniffly. He also buried his face in his sleeve for the entire hour. What is up, guys. What is up. In the moment, I always chalk this up to pro-league hypochondria and I just want to tell the person to take their damn vitamins and chill out for a second. But, even though it offends me to be skirted around like the mad dog in To Kill a Mockingbird, I do realize there could be legitimate reasons to protect your health in such a vigilant manner. Here I go again: rationalizing my way out of anger. I should run workshops on this.

To conclude this many-chaptered story, I have a few theories as to why this mysterious woman kept taking that seat to my right. First, perhaps she shares my preference for the second row of front-facing seats on the left side of the bus. After all, that specific section does have the best and most expansive window view, which is why I sit there. But she spent ample time with her eyes closed on these trips, not looking out the window at all. My second theory is that, again, like me, she has a strange affection for petty annoyance. Sometimes I am grateful when a person irritates me, because it gives me reason to be irritated, which I kind of enjoy on occasion. The fact that this woman didn’t like me was clear as crystal, especially in the inevitable, tension-filled “excuse me, sorry, this is going to be my stop” interactions. Lastly, maybe my shoulder is more comfortable than I give it credit for. But that is highly unlikely.

No matter her reason for doing so, I don’t believe my bus buddy will be sitting next to me again anytime soon. Thankfully, I am done commuting. But I do have more stories – stay tuned.

Inheritable traits & metaphors

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My sister and I, although adequately graceful in most areas of our lives, had the great misfortune of inheriting a particular trait from our father: our nose-blowing, individually but especially collectively, is a high decibel experience. On any given morning in our household, one can hear the demonstration of nasal power. And oh is it powerful. We always likened the noise to that of an elephant (whereas some people sneeze like mice – I do not trust these people). That is, until we were presented with an incredibly apt metaphor, much more accurate than our own:

“Cierra, you know what you sound like when you blow your nose? Like when you drag your suitcase across those metal things at the beginning and the end of escalators.”

Do you guys know what my 11-year-old cousin is talking about? Because she hit the nail right on the head. And instead of mourn my apparent lack of ladylikeness, I thought wow, METAPHORS! LANGUAGE! THIS STUFF IS AMAZING! An elementary schooler just brilliantly described a previously indescribable sound my nose has been making for my entire life.

And it’s just like that, whether it’s funny or gorgeous or melancholy as hell, words can not only envelop but become a feeling (or a noise, for that matter). I’ve found innumerable instances of this just in the past few days, in my second and much more successful attempt to read Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, with whom I proudly share a birthday. I started reading this book in high school and I was wildly unprepared, low in energy and consequently low in the amount of effort I put forth – I didn’t understand a thing and I was disappointed. Four years later, I’m underlining something on every page because these words give me feelings. “He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all.” Excuse me, Jonathan, that is my heart you are breaking.

Not that I’m required to have one, but what is my point? Surprise, there are three.

  1. I think words are really cool and you should think so too.
  2. People say “the right person at the wrong time is the wrong person,” and I think I believe that. But the same cannot be said for books. I’m willing to lump music in there too. The right book or song at the wrong time could still be the right book or song at the right time. And, in all likelihood, the right time will come. Books have chapters and so does life.
  3. I’m not embarrassed about the way I blow my nose. I’m not embarrassed about the way I blow my nose. I’m not embarrassed about the way I blow my nose.

Also, I got blood drawn today and it took my perfectly competent nurse three painful tries to lure anything out of my itty-bitty, impossible-to-find veins. Even my bloodways are stubborn and somewhat elusive. Cheers to perfect consistency.