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.

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Reminder.

I figure I’m entitled to a nice little heart-to-heart post every once in awhile, so that is what I’m going to write today, pals.

As a general rule, I do my best to avoid judging others; I’d say I do about a B-/C+ job of that on a normal day. I consider myself a kind-minded person, but I’ve grown up in a culture that finds enjoyment in ragging on other people, and it would be an outright lie to say I’ve always been reluctant to participate in a good ol’ roast. I’ve flatly refused on numerous occasions, but I’ve definitely done my fair share of criticizing. Am I proud of it? No. However, I am conscious of it, which I suppose is the first step toward a solution or whatever.

I don’t know, I’ve just been thinking about it a lot the last couple of months. Despite my valiant attempts to be aware of the world around me, I’m a pretty introspective, introverted person. This, unsurprisingly, is somewhat of a visual impairment for me, one that my beloved hipster glasses can’t fix. My life, to me, is infinite, much like anyone else’s. I’ve only been alive for nineteen years, I’ve only lived in three different cities, and I only have 819 Facebook friends, but I can’t even FATHOM how huge my life is, it’s seriously all I know. And it’s incredibly complicated too. Everything is affected by something else: my teeth are straight because I had braces, and sometimes I’m sassy (aka rude) because I’m feeling small. I think it would literally take my whole life to explain my whole life. And that, friends, is why it seriously blows my mind when I think about every single person on the planet having their own infinity, their own mysterious and enormous expanse of a life.

When I think about the world that way, I feel like I should crank the “nice” up about a thousand notches. It’s so incredibly easy to sit with a group of friends and talk shit about that kid who is “asking for it anyway,” or to snap at an employee who clearly isn’t in the merriest of moods. We do it all the time. But that kind of behavior grows like a tulip out of ignorance (unpopular opinion: I hate tulips). Seriously, neither you nor I can even begin to imagine what it’s like to be someone else, so is it really our place to judge? I don’t know why my sister (or anyone, for that matter) enjoys country music. I don’t know why Miley Cyrus wants to twerk on everything. But they also don’t know why I have a weird and undying love for the 90’s Disneyland Sing-a-Long. Everyone has their own thing going on, and that thing, whatever it is, is a product of who a person is and the events that have taken place in his or her life. Everyone knows “we’re all different,” but I propose we take that knowledge and actually do something good with it.

Of course it’s easy for me or you to get caught up in our own problems, like right now, my stomach is hardcore grumbling. Which is probably why this post is semi-incoherent. I could honestly ramble on about this for weeks, but I think I can sum up what I’m trying to communicate in a few words: Empathy. Understanding. Compassion. Grace. For other people, but also for yourself.

Reminder (to myself and anyone else): everyone has the time and capacity to improve, and oh what a marvelous thing that is.

“Don’t judge people, Scout, until you’ve worn that person’s skin and walked around in it for a while.”