Public transportation is a crap shoot. You have little control over what you experience. Buses are late, they break down, anyone can ride the bus and sit down next to you. You stand at bus stops somewhat helplessly waiting for your ride. You are a sitting duck.
But, buses can also be entertaining, if you like to people watch. You see the same people every day, connecting with them through their schedule, which happens to coincide with your schedule. You share that ten or twenty minutes every day. In a very miniscule way, you are part of each others lives.
The 134 runs past two courthouses, a district and a federal court. So besides the people just going to their jobs, you get people reporting for jury duty and people going to the courthouse for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes they talk about them….loudly. Either on cell phones or to other riders.
People feel the need to share a lot about their lives, sometimes to total strangers. My theory is that it’s a desperate attempt to connect. It can be tedious, scary, sad or sometimes just plain awesome.
I carry a small notebook and will jot down some of the conversations I hear or just things I observe on bus #134. It helps pass the time and reading back, it can be pretty damn funny.
I think my most memorable encounter (so far) was with a woman I will call Manic Lady. My bus going home was late and I was waiting with the two landscapers who catch the same bus as me. I don’t know much about them because their English is limited and my Portuguese is non-existent. One of them lives in Chelsea and they work for a man down the street from the stop. We do a lot of smiling and nodding.
So we’re waiting and this woman I’ll call ML comes around the corner and spots me. She just launches into this monologue that left little room for response or escape. She was around 5’4, a bit on the heavy side, her hair pulled back and she stood as close as she could get to me. ML wasn’t much on personal space. Her eyes tended to dart from side to side and she quite easily could have pounded me into the pavement. This is the gist of our encounter.
“Oh, you like chips? (I was eating a bag) I LOVE those chips. But, I can’t eat them without a drink. I just got off the phone with my boyfriend’s boss. He’s riding his mountain bike to meet me. God, his boss is so rude. Such an asshole. I don’t understand why people act that way. So he’s riding to meet me. He lives around the corner. He just got out of jail. 10 years. He got mixed up with the wrong people. It happens. I was loyal to him. Visited him every week. That’s when my house burned down. I lost everything. Came home and it was just gone. I called my parents, asked if they were watching the news. They didn’t believe it was my house. I said, did you look at the address?”
“So this charity got me a place. In Charlestown. They got me furniture, dishes, clothes. Thank god for them, it’s been four years and I need my own place. But I heard Charlestown people don’t like outsiders. They got a special word for them.” I mentioned that this had more to do with yuppies invading and driving the rent up and she would probably be okay.
“Yeah, I was visiting my ex in prison when it happened. Came home to no house. But, it’s all working out.”
Her phone rings and she glances at it. “Ah, that’s my ex. He’s pissed about something. I was seeing him when my boyfriend was in jail. What can I do, he won’t leave me alone now even though my boyfriend is out. My boyfriend is hot. Shaved head and all those prison muscles.”
“I was in jail. 4 months. I missed 42 court dates and they threw me in jail.” I was stunned by the number of court dates and remarked that it must be a new record. Luckily she thought it was funny and laughed. “Traffic stuff. I just didn’t bother. They locked me up. Let me tell you, jail is full of freaks. I hate it. Can’t stand being locked up. I’m manic and bipolar and it sets me off. I don’t take meds. I don’t believe in them. I keep myself level other ways.”
I didn’t ask what these ways were.
“Yeah, I get crazy in jail. I was glad to get out. I’m having a good day. I’ve met all these people, spent the whole day talking to people. I love talking to people. I’ll talk to anyone.”
I should mention that during this encounter, the two landscapers had kind of edged away and were hiding behind the corner of the building. She did have kind of a frantic, angry vibe. I saw the bus coming and so did she.
“There’s your bus! I can’t get the hang of the schedule. Keep missing it. My boyfriend will be here soon. We’ll go get something to eat or I’ll fix him something. Probably tuna. We both like tuna.” I said goodbye and hopped on the bus, leaving her to wait for her ex-con boyfriend with his prison tattoos and mountain bike (DUI maybe?).
Follow up. I’ve seen the ex-con boyfriend twice. A heavily muscled bald guy on a mountain bike once. I also saw him on the bus with another woman who was definitely not just a friend. Hopefully ML never finds out.