On the bus (5)

February 12, 2007

tension springsAs I’ve said, the bus I ride is normally at least half-full of college students. Since the university is flanked by two working class neighborhoods, and the bus runs from one to the other through the campus, the other half of the riders are lower middle class or poor people.

Today the bus was fairly full. Near the front was an old Native American woman accompanied by a young white man with a long black beard. They were dirty and talking loudly. The young man started telling loud and uncouth stories and jokes. Many of the college students started laughing–a few even turned off their iPods to hear better. Some started asking him questions. The man was obviously drunk, high, or in some other manner unstable, but he was amusing the students. When his and his woman friend’s stop came up, he stood up quickly and knocked the woman in the face with his backpack, by accident, and he didn’t even notice. This caused even more laughter, and the woman acted surprised and sort of mimed that she was not hurt and that her companion was a little crazy.

Normally people don’t talk to each other on the bus. But after these two clowns got off, the students huddled up to talk and laugh and repeat lines that the funny man had said. I thought the students had been laughing nervously about the outbursts of a loose cannon while the man and woman were on the bus, but now I realized that they actually thought he was funny, or at least laughable. I had felt distinctly uncomfortable about the situation: a poor white man, down and out, possibly impaired by drugs, unusually accompanied by an older Native American woman, cracking jokes for a privileged bunch of students. To me, this felt very raw and potentially explosive. But, after they got off the bus, the students cut up and laughed like it was all in good fun–those homeless types sure are funny!


5 Responses to “On the bus (5)”

  1. Alex Says:

    On the bus is sad today. I’m sorry.

  2. Liz Says:

    That sounds like a scene froma movie, and scene II was not was expected. Don’t moments like that seem surreal? It gives me goosebumps. Why do you think the students acted as they did? I will have to think on that. What if it was actually a set up? Would that be possible? Mmmmmmm.

  3. Evonne Says:

    I love following your bus series and how you view the world. Keep it up.

  4. Lori Witzel Says:

    Ah…I’ve experienced a few things like that, and was equally left uncomfortable.

    But the best “happy bus story?” When I lived in NYC, I took a bus back to my apartment late one Christmas eve, and a bunch of theater students in the back of the bus began singing, brightly and in marvelous harmony to some popular carol I can’t recall, an impromptu song about Stella Adler and Stanislavsky.


  5. sheepdays Says:

    Thanks for your comments. Liz, you are so right, this was kind of a tense movie moment. There was definite dramatic irony–except that it felt like I was the only one who could see the dynamics that were running the whole drama. A bus drama, with an audience of one.

    Hi Lori! Thanks for sharing your bus story, especially one that reminds that buses are often good enough places.

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