2-6-09 / The Old Man and the E (MX)

6 02 2009

I walk up to my stop and notice an old man. It’s somewhere around sixty degrees out, so I find it a little weird that he is eating an ice cream cone. We both say hello. I notice the bus heading down the street. “There’s ours”, I say.

He asks how much it is to ride a bus nowadays and I tell him. He pulls three dollars out of his wallet as the bus nears. I ask him where he’s heading and he tells me he’s going to the Eugene Station. I tell him he can get away with just a dollar and a half, since the EMX is free. We get on and he thanks me for the info. I tell him I’ll be taking the same bus, so I’ll show him where it is when we get there. He introduces himself, I tell him my name and shake his hand.

At the station we pull up in time to walk onto the EMX. I show him to it, we get on, and he sits a few seats behind me. As my stop nears, I stand up. He says “Thank you for the info, young man.” He’s wearing blue jeans and a blue sweatshirt, very clean, with a beanie on his head. The beanie makes him sorta look like a WWII era sailor. I tell him “No problem, see you around”, and give him a mock salute.

I walk in to talk to the same manager from the previous monday. Within two minutes of me entering the building, our conversation has shifted to books written by Ernest Hemingway.

My next destination is the mall. On the ride there, two kids are sitting to my left, talking about the best weapon to use for a particular section of a level in a videogame. One of them has a piece of paper that he has drawn a sketch of the level on, and both of the kids are looking over it, pointing out different areas. A blonde woman sitting across from them overhears and pipes in:

“I don’t mean to offend you, but there is a difference between a machine gun and an assault rifle. Machine guns are mounted to the ground, but the assault rifle you carry around with you.I have several friends in the military and I’m dating a military man, soooo.” She shrugs.
“Wow, thank you for the info.” One of the kids replies. They go back to the paper.

Later, the woman is talking to a passenger next to her about her guns, and gun control in general. I catch “If anyone came to my house, tried to take my guns, I’d be like ‘Do you want to sign your own death certificate right now?’ I grew up around guns, ain’t no one gonna take mine.”

And later, as we pull into the mall parking lot and narrowly avoid colliding into a truck who has cut in front of the bus:
“I was born and raised in California” She says, “and we got some bad drivers, but the ones around here make my state look like a Saint the way they drive.”

On the ride home we stop, and a woman gets on that I recognise. She used to work at a food business near a job I used to have. I’d see her several times a week during my lunch break. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen her. She doesn’t notice me. She does see a friend of hers a few rows behind me and sits with him. They talk for a while.
“Yup, just found out last night, I’m twelve weeks.” Then “I’ve been clean for six days.” She continues “It’s weird though, your whole mind is different. It makes me want to stay clean. When I go to the store, I don’t look at all the cars, like ‘that window’s down’ and ‘that trunk is popped up’.” She laughs. Her friend tells her he has been clean for two weeks, then says “I only relapsed once, before that I was clean for three weeks. So, I’ve been clean for five weeks.”

“That’s hella tight.” She says.





2-3-09 / I wonder how sweaty her feet are

3 02 2009

On the bus today I saw a tall woman wearing black slacks, a long black coat, and leather boots that go up her calf. It’s really hot outside. That can’t be comfortable.

A white pickup truck cuts us off and the driver brakes hard. The truck misses hitting us by a few feet and the driver mumbles something. Last year I was on a bus that rear-ended a car right next to the Eugene Station, turning into the corner where the tatoo parlor is. The car goes to turn, and the bus goes to turn behind it, the car stops, and the bus bumps the car. The car then tears off and is gone. I wonder if it was stolen or something.

At the Springfield Station we pull up just in time for me to catch the EMX. I get on, sit down, and notice a young woman who gets on carrying a life sized bust made of paper mache with a door in the chest. Another rider asks her about it. She tells him it’s a project for a class. She goes on to say that she fished all of the newspaper out of a recycling bin, and plans on recycling it again once she’s finished with the project. I think that’s pretty cool.
“Good thing it didn’t rain today” he says.
“Yeah” she replies, and laughs.

On the way home I get onto a bus and see a good looking woman with a couple of reusable grocery bags next to her, desperately clutching a box of Cheerios. She is holding the box as if the future of the world depends on her not dropping it.

Other than that, nothing happened. I guess not every ride can be an adventure.





2-2-09 / Bottles and cans, just clap your hands

2 02 2009

It’s warm out today. I’m happy to be at a bus stop with a canopy. The sun is shining and, other than a few scattered airplane contrails, there is hardly a cloud in the sky. Wearing my coat seems like it was a bad idea.

It’s a nice coat though. I got it as a gift from a beautiful girl who not a week later went on to break my heart. I wonder what she’s doing as I step onto the bus and feed three dollars into the cashbox.

After I transfer buses I notice an old man who looks creepily like the guy from that X-Files episode, the one with the Life Insurance salesman who is a psychic.

After we pull into the Eugene Station I head over to the small market that adjoins it. Inside it’s packed, and waiting in line is a woman who is holding a baby in her arms, and is vainly trying to corral two other young children who are with her. They’re screaming about what candy they want and they want chips and give me those and hey those are mine and mom she took those they’re mine I want them and on and on. I don’t believe in people beating their kids (likely because I was on the business end of quite a few swipes myself until I outgrew my parents), but the longer I waited in line behind this woman and her kids, the more I grew to reconsider this. I buy my can of soda and leave.

Outside I sit down on a bench and open my soda. I notice a man with a half-cart digging through the garbage, looking for bottles and cans to return for their deposits.  Once, months previous, I watched a man walk up to a trash can at the Station, dig his way through it, pull out a crumpled TacoTime bag, fish out what looked like a half-eaten burrito, and cram it into his mouth.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for homeless people, especially the ones we have around here. What I will do, though, is put my bottles and cans in the gap between the bottom of the garbage can and the ground, beside one of the legs. This way someone who needs it can see it, but it’s one can they won’t have to dig through the garbage for.

The EMX pulls up. I finish my soda quickly and walk over to the man at the garbage can. “You want the can?” I ask, holding it out. “Yeah, thank you” he says quietly.  I notice when he reaches out to grab the can that his hand is shaking. I get on the bus.

Later, I get off of the EMX to stop into a business that probably won’t be hiring anytime soon, but it never hurts to check. Afterward I make my way out and see the EMX pull up to the stop I am walking toward. It’s across the street and down a little ways. I can probably make it if I run, but I’m not too concerned. It’s nice out, the sun is shining, and there will be another one along in ten minutes anyway. I’m in no hurry.

While I’m waiting a large pickup truck drives by pulling an electric roadsign on a trailer. The sign is still on.





1-31-09 / True Love

31 01 2009

This is a long one. I apologise.

The woman sitting on the opposite side of the bus looks familiar, but I can’t place her. Finally, I remember. I had seen her around a few downtown bars before, selling flowers. She is deaf. This makes me think to the days when I used to be able to afford to go to bars downtown with any regularity. I miss getting drunk, but I don’t miss the people I used to get drunk with.

A man gets onto the bus with a sort of “mildly clean disheveled” look. He looks like he’s in his late thirties. He is bearded, ponytailed, and is wearing a battered black leather jacket. Under his arm he is carrying a sleeping bag. There are only a couple of seats available. He picks the one next to me.

“Man, I ain’t never seen the bus this full on a Saturday” he says. The bus was filled with kids.

“It’s all kids” I say back. “It’s usually not this packed, but it’s the weekend.”

He nods his head.

A few stops later, a man and a woman who ook like they’re in their mid twenties get on. The man is wearing trackpants and a dirty sweatshirt. His hair is uncombed and he hasn’t shaved in some time. His eyes glint. The woman looks like she was beautiful once. Turns out they know the man next to me.

Surprisingly, they also know the deaf woman sitting across from us. The man immediately starts a conversation in sign language with her. After some time, the woman who got on with him turns to me.

“Isn’t that crazy? Sign language, like that. They’re talking.”

“Yeah” I reply. I tell her about how when I was in High School, I wanted to take ASL at LCC or something as my foreign language credit, but was told I could not, and had to take Spanish, French, or German at the high school. She lights up immediately.

“Oh yeah I took French.” She’s talking very quickly. “All I remember now is to count to ten”.

She holds out her hands and counts to ten, ticking off fingers as she goes.

I took French in high school. (I took it for the women – They weren’t interested) It has been a while since high school French class, so I can’t be sure, but I am mildly confident she mispronounces two or three of the numbers.

Later, she is watching the man who came on with her (who, though conversation, I have learned that he is her husband). She turns to the man in the leather coat with the sleeping bag, who, until now, had been relatively quiet.  She tells him about the new place her and her husband are going to get. They don’t plan on telling any of their friends where they are moving to.

“If they ask, we’re still homeless” she tells him. “They’ll all come over and want to start trouble and won’t want to leave… They ask I’ll tell them I sleep under a bridge”. She laughs. We ride on. Her husband is still holding a conversation in sign language. She looks at him for a long time. Then she turns to the man with the leather jacket and the sleeping bag. What she says next surprises me.

” I love him so much. I would burn in Hell forever if I knew he was going to Heaven.”

I take a sideways glance at the wife. I look at her greasy hair, and the thick makeup that isn’t covering the sores on her face. She has more on her hands. She looks at me.

“That’s true love” I offer.

“True” she replies.

They both get off shortly afterward. It’s me and the man with the leather jacket and the sleeping bag. He tells me he’s from the southeast. He says he likes Eugene, but could do without “the alcoholics, the tweakers, and the heroin addicts.” I think about this for a while until he tells me his name. I tell him mine and he holds out his hand. It’s dirty but I shake it anyway.

Our conversation jumps from topic to topic, but the part I though was the most interesting was when he told me that when he misbehaved as a child, his grandmother used to beat him with orange Hot Wheels track. I had Hot Wheels tracks when I was a kid, but they were pink, and later dark blue. God Damn I used to build some absolutely epic Hot Wheels tracks. I had the piece with the spinning foam discs on the side that shot the cars forward, I had loops, I had jumps, it was awesome. I tell him this and he laughs.

We pull into the Eugene Station. “Good meeting you” he says. “Yeah, see you around” I reply.

My next stop is one of the malls. When that is through, I am sitting at the bus station outside of it. Two overweight teenage girls are talking with a guy about ten feet to the left of me. “Just do it!” one says to the other. “No way, do it yourself!” the other says. The first girl is exasperated. “I’m afraid!” she hisses. The guy with them pipes in. “What is this, third grade?” he asks. I can’t help but wonder what it is they’re arguing about.

Turns out it’s a note.

Through listening to their conversation I learn that it says “My friend in the  white coat likes you. You should call her sometime.” The girl in the white coat is trying in vain to get one of her friends to deliver it to a guy sitting on the far side of the station. A friend of hers walks up, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. It’s still freezing outside. I wonder how cold she must be as I casually glance at her boobs. She won’t deliver the note either. A bus comes and they all leave and it’s quiet.

My bus comes, and I get on. I find a seat on the opposite side of two women, one young, the other middle aged. The young girl is telling the old one about meeting up with friends downtown and smoking bowls. I think back to my first day of high school. There was a guy running around the halls with a giant grin on his face, holding a can with a picture of a pot leaf taped to it. “Smoke a Bowl Foundation?” He shouted at people passing by. “Donate a dollar to the Smoke a Bowl Foundation?”. I remember thinking that he was a dumbass. I ended up hanging out with him from time to time.

I turn my head and see the young woman giving me a weird look. I wonder if she knows I am writing about her.

get on the last bus of the day, headed home. I take a seat, and a woman gets on a few minutes later and sits down next to me. Across from us a drunk is talking to no one. I can’t get everything because he was talking extremely quickly, but what I did manage to get is as follows:

“I broke her up with her. She still calls me, religiously, every day. And I’m like ‘Move on… baby. I’ve got twenty girlfriends’. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll get a horse! I had a horse that loved me once. I didn’t marry it. Could you imagine that though? A guy, walking down the road with a horse? ‘This is my wife, man.’ I mean, serious.”

He gets off at the next stop. The woman sitting next to me starts to get up. She looks at me and asks “You write down all the crazy things you hear on the bus?”

“Actually, Yeah” I reply. “It’s been a pretty crazy day, I’ve got over four pages already.”

She laughs as she moves to an empty seat.





1-30-2009 / An old woman

30 01 2009

As I walked up to the bus stop in front of WinCo, I noticed a woman in a powerchair sitting next to the bench. It was very cold out. She was bundled up with a blanket over her legs and a scarf wrapped around the lower half of her face. I checked the time board and then walked to the other side of the bench.

She spoke:

“Human beings aren’t supposed to be out in this kind of weather, you know.”

“No m’am.” I replied. I sit down on the bench next to her.

She immediately starts telling me about DanActive yogurt. You see, she eats it every day because it helps calm her stomach. It’s good for an old lady like her, she’s seventy three years old you see. She then goes on to tell me about how she has had sotmach problems ever since she was nine, when she got Polio.

Polio.

Wow. She goes on to tell me about the Morphine Administration Device she has implanted in her spine. Her back gave out a few years ago.

As the bus pulls up, she gets onto the ramp and is lifted into the bus. I get on afterward and take a seat in the front, next to the wheelchair area so we can continue our conversation. As the bus driver comes over the strap her chair in she tells him “You can brush my leg if you like, give me a little thrill”.  I laugh.

Our conversation on the way back to the station centered around the economy. She is worried about Social Security, having to change prescription plans every year, and how she lied about her age when she was fourteen so she could get a work permit and get a job. She worked all her life until her back gave out.

I marvel at previous generations. When I was fourteen I was too busy shirking my homework and trying to figure out how to hit on girls to have cared about getting a job.

We near the station, and she tells me her name. I tell her mine and shake her hand. As I get up to leave, I tell her it was nice meeting her. She says the same and then tells me “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t enjoy.”  I smile as I get off the bus.