You Meet The Nicest People On A Metro Bus, NOT!

I am one of the lucky ones that gets to ride on the Houston Metro Bus lines on a daily basis to commute downtown to work. I use a Park and Ride facility, which means I can park and ride a Metro bus that takes advantage of the HOV lanes for a faster commute. This definitely beats having to drive downtown and fighting all the traffic in Houston where a 17 mile commute from the suburbs can take up to 1 ½ hours. But of course, riding a bus does have its disadvantages. I never know whether the bus will be packed with standing room only, if I will have the luxury of having a seat all to myself or if I will have the privilege of sharing my space with one of the other daily commuters.

It’s those days where the bus is packed that give me the most joy, or should I say laughter. Those are the days where human behavior is at its finest. Those are the days I get to meet the nicest (meaning strange, weird, bizarre, annoying) people. Those are the days that I get to sit next to….

Neat Nick – he looks for the cleanest area, takes his handkerchief out of his pocket and spreads it on the seat before sitting down. Then he sits straighter than humanly possible (almost like he has a two by four strapped to his back) without touching the back of the seat, with his hands folded in his lap, knees and feet together and looks straight ahead. I can almost read his mind. I am sure he is thinking, ”Don’t touch me, don’t breathe on me, don’t cough on me, don’t touch me.” I am tempted to sneeze in his direction just to see his reaction. He would probably run to the front of the bus screaming, “Unclean, unclean, let me off, I’m infected!”

Movie Mike – as soon as he sits down, he pulls out his smartphone and earbuds and starts watching the movie/TV show/sports channel that he missed last night. His uncontrollable laughter, screams of exhilaration or sighs of disbelief are heard by all because he has forgotten that he is sharing the bus with 40 other people. It’s not until he screams “Yes” and turns to me with a raised hand and a shout of “High five”, that he remembers he is on the bus and not alone.

Triple T (Two Ton Tiny) – 5’4” inches tall and 350 pounds of everything but muscle. He takes up his seat and ¾’s of  mine, sitting with his legs spread as far apart as possible so that there is no way that he can prevent from touching (squashing) me. Personal space? There ain’t no such thing when I am sitting next to Triple T.  Unfortunately, I was sitting on the inside seat so now I’m the size of a pancake and plastered up against the window. My only hope is that he gets off the bus before my stop, otherwise I could be here for the long haul. Of course, that is if I can peel myself off the side of the bus after he gets up.

Gabby – she stands in line waiting for the bus and talking on her cellphone, she gets on the bus talking on her cellphone, she sits on the bus talking on her cellphone, she gets off the bus talking on her cellphone – get the picture? Not only is she on the phone the entire time, she is going into explicit details about the meeting she had today with her boss (the Aggie reject), the date she has scheduled for this weekend (and I just have to make time to get a wax, you know, one of “those” waxes because you never know what might happen), the problems her “ex” is giving her because of all his issues, the great pasta dish she had for lunch (even though it gave her tummy aches), yada, yada, yada. By the time she gets off the bus, everyone on board knows her whole life story because she tends to speak LOUDLY in a high pitched, whiny voice. She actually received a standing ovation as she exited the bus, I guess I was not the only one tired of listening to the drama queen.

Mr. Spreadsheet – he is the businessman that grabs his laptop out of his bag and starts pounding away on the keys the whole trip. It doesn’t matter that he just spent 10 hours in the office, he still has another 3 hours of work that he has to do. His laptop has a 17 inch screen so the whole time he is typing away, he is also trying to prevent me from looking at the screen, as if I have any interest in doing so. He is also a professional juggler, trying to balance his backpack, laptop, cellphone and memo pad on his lap at the same time.  My only thought is that he needs to “get a life.”

The “I dare you to make me move” rider – he is one of my favorites. As soon as he boards the bus, he finds an aisle seat towards the front and then places his backpack/briefcase on the seat next to him. If I come up and ask to sit in the seat where his backpack is resting, he ignores me completely. If I persist, he gives me the evil eye then turns around and looks to see if there are any other seats available on the bus. If there are additional seats, he once again tries to stare holes through me and then slowly gets up, removes his backpack and leaves barely enough room for me to squeeze by into the seat. Then he stares at me the rest of the trip, muttering under his breath. Why is he my favorite? If I see him on the bus, I will make a point of antagonizing him by asking him to move his backpack so I can sit on the seat next to him. Does that make me an evil person?

The Gamer – even though he keeps to himself for the most part, playing Candy Crush or various other games on his smart phone, he never uses earphones or turns down the volume. I have the privilege of getting to listen to all the bells and whistles of his game as he moves from one level to the next. Heaven forbid that he play an auto racing game, because then he shakes the whole seat as he twists and turns his phone making those quick course changes.  And more often than not, he is also making vroom, vroom noises while he plays.

Shopaholic – she gets on the bus carrying six shopping bags of “specials” she bought during her lunch break and just had to have. It takes her 10 minutes to situate everything (including asking me to be a “dear” and hold a couple of the bags) and then another 15 minutes to get off the bus because she keeps dropping everything. The biggest problem is that tomorrow she will have the same six bags because half of the clothes didn’t fit so now she has to return them.

Nervous Nellie – why is she so nervous? Who knows? All I know is that during the entire trip, her leg is bouncing up and down at a speed of Mach 1. By the time I get to my stop I feel like I have been on a trampoline for the whole trip. Too bad I didn’t bring the ingredients for a milkshake because it would have been mixed to just the right consistency with all the bouncing going on.

Psycho – he is the one that I have to watch out for. He watches everyone get on and off the bus, never blinking, breathing very slowly, licking his lips at times and then slowly grinning that evil smile. I never know what he is thinking or dreaming, all I know is that he gives me the creeps. Is he harmless, probably? But then again, you never know.

Me – who am I?  I’m the guy that sits quietly, reading my book, trying to zone out and relax a little on the ride home, looking forward to getting home and spending time with my wife. Oh yeah, and looking for things to write about!

It’s Not Me, It’s You and Him and Her and Them…part 3

And last but not least, here are just a few more of the “friends” that I share the road with on a daily basis, although they do tend to take up more of the road than I do….

  • Retiree Ricky– driving the 80 foot RV down the middle of the highway while pulling a small car that also has a boat attached. Of course that doesn’t include the three lawn chairs, two bicycles, ice chest and ladder tied on the back bumper. You’re the one that when you left the last RV park you forgot to secure waste cap so you’re dripping soapy dish water, clumpy brown water (I don’t even want to know what the clumps are) and garbage all up and down the highway. You’re easy to follow because of the wet trail you leave behind. Plus, since it’s been a few months since you last drove this monster you are still “getting the hang of it” and tend to drift from one side of the lane to another. You get so close that I have been able to color in the empty states on the map of the USA posted on the side of your RV of the places you have visited. But hey, you’re retired with no specific place to go so who cares how long it takes you to get there?
  • Mr. 18 wheeler – where do I start? Should I complain about you driving in the left hand lane with 10 car lengths between you and the next vehicle, or about you and three of your buddies driving side by side down a five lane highway at 5 miles under the speed limit and making it impossible to get around, or about you riding two inches off my bumper and then blaring your horn and flashing your lights wanting me to move over even though we are both driving 10 miles over the speed limit, or about the flat tire you have that is throwing rubber all over the road so that it seems like I am having to play dodgeball to keep from being hit by one of them, or about the wide turns you make as I am stopped at the red light and you miss my car by ½ an inch because I can’t back up or move over and you are laughing the whole time because of the look of terror on my face, No, I don’t think I will mention any of those issues.
  • Teenage Tina – driving the 4 passenger car with 6 of your besties jam packed inside while drinking your Grande Iced Caramel Vanilla Macchiato with Extra Espresso, texting your boyfriend and taking a “selfie” with the radio on full blast to the latest Bruno Mars. You’re the one we try to stay away from because you drive anywhere from super slow to super fast, changing lanes at the last second because otherwise you will miss your exit. We never know how you are going to drive, so it’s better to just move over and let you get by.
  • Traffic Tommy – traffic, what traffic? If the traffic slows down, you immediately swerve over to shoulder and drive on that to get around everyone, or you will navigate between the white poles that separate normal traffic lanes from HOV lanes and get in the HOV lane (after all, there are not any cops around so you can drive on it free). The traffic laws are not for you, they’re for everyone else because they need laws to keep them in line and out of your way. After all, you’re more important than everyone else and have someplace you need to be. Okay, maybe it’s not that important, but you still need to be there now. Okay, maybe you don’t need to be there now, but you might as well get there as fast as possible, after all you’re just surrounded by a bunch of losers.

This is what driving on Houston freeways is like. You meet the most interesting (crazy, homicidal, nut jobs) people and I can truthfully say the problem is not me, it’s you, and him and her and them!

It’s Not Me, It’s You and Him and Her and Them… part 2

Here is part two of my favorite homicidal maniacs that I see as I drive to work on Interstate 10 in Houston every day. I can truthfully say that the problems I see are not my fault, it’s you and him and her and them, I am sure that you can identify with most of them…

  • Granny – the little blue-haired old lady driving her 10 year old Cadillac in the fast lane at 25 miles under the posted speed limit, with her blinker on (that has been on for the last 30 minutes) so short that she has to sit on a pillow so she can see over the steering wheel. It almost looks like either no one is driving the car or there is a little kid behind the steering wheel. She’s late for her Canasta Club so she is driving about 5 MPH faster than normal (she’s actually up to 32 MPH now) and has a death grip on the steering wheel, scared to death that someone is going to either hit her or a cop is going to pull over for speeding. Then when she needs to change lanes, she turns the blinker in the opposite direction than she is turning,  which creates utter havoc as everyone slams on the brakes to keep from hitting her. But at least she will make it to her club on time!
  • Farmer Freddie – driving on the shoulder, ½ on and ½ off the road, at a constant speed of 28 MPH so he can look at the crops and livestock on the side of the road (even though he’s on the Interstate, nearing downtown Houston which hasn’t had crops or cattle on the side of the road for 30 years). He never leaves enough room to pass and you never know when he may decide to swerve back over into the lane, but hey – at least he is waving at everyone as he drives down the road. Of course people are waving back at him, just not with all their fingers!
  • Motorcycle Mike – where did you get your license, out of a Cracker Jack box? Swerving in and out of all the lanes, cutting across traffic, driving in between cars, then getting upset when someone honks their horn at you, doing wheelies just to show how cool you are, racing your buddy to the next exit then cutting across four lanes of traffic so you don’t pass the exit, but at least you’re wearing a helmet – even though the rest of your outfit is shorts, flip flops and a tank top.
  • Harry Harley – you’re not quite as bad as Motorcycle Mike. Your problem is that your exhaust pipes are so loud that it sounds like an 18 wheeler coming down the road. You may not be driving as fast as Mike, but then again, how could you since you have handlebars six feet long and almost have to stand up just to reach them. With your leather jacket, skull cap, leather pants and motorcycle boots on, everyone is afraid to look at you for fear that you might get mad and call your gang over to “take care of business”. Little do they know, that your normal job is as a CPA, but you live for the weekend!
  • Boombox Bobby – the entire back seat and trunk of your Monte Carlo are taken up by four foot speakers, woofers, tweeters and bass boosters turned up so high that all the vehicles next to you shake and rattle when you pull up next to them. It doesn’t matter that no one can understand the lyrics to the music, it’s all about the bass…bass… and more bass.

These are just a few of my “friends” that I meet on the road every day. There are a lot more, as I am sure you are aware. Stay tuned for part three coming next week.

It’s not me, it’s you and him and her and them and…

Spend 5 minutes on the I-10/Katy freeway in Houston during rush hour and you may quickly become a raging maniac and feel like you’re playing bumper cars. I have spent more than my fair share of time either driving on the freeway in my personal car or riding on a Metro bus. It’s interesting,or should I say scary, to watch mild mannered drivers turn into homicidal maniacs in just a few short miles.

It gets especially dangerous if you happen to be driving in a small vehicle. It’s either get out of the way (even if you’re in the supposedly “slow” lane) or get run over. Drivers will get right on your rear end and see how close they can get to you without actually touching bumpers, although at times I could swear that I did feel a bump when some of them got a little too close!

I can truthfully say the problem is not me, it’s you, and him and her and them. You know who you are, you’re:

  • Big Bubba – driving the F250 Diesel, with 4wheel drive, a lift kit and spotlights all along the top of your cab. You’re the guy that needs a step ladder to even get into your truck. Then you turn on all the spotlight (even in broad daylight), put your lights on bright and then try to see if just maybe you can run right over the top of my car, without actually causing any damage. Then again, if there is damage, who’s gonna stop you?
  • Mario Andretti – the type of car doesn’t matter. You could be driving a moped and you would still be darting in between cars, crossing three lanes of traffic at a time, flooring the accelerator to pass me then slamming on the brakes so you don’t hit the next car, never using your blinker because after all, by the time you turned it on you would already be two lanes over. Interesting enough, even with all your lane changes and quick moves, I normally still arrive at the next stop light at the same time as you – go figure!
  • Makeup Maria – late for work again so you’re putting on your makeup, curling your hair (tell me again why someone invented battery operated curling irons), applying the lipstick, inserting your contact lenses, etc., while driving with your knees. Of course, you also have the car’s vanity mirror folded down, with the 100 watt bulbs (just a small upgrade to the car purchase price) to make sure you don’t miss any of those problem spots. Gotta look good for the office!
  • Businessman Bob – driving the BMW with the 17 inch laptop open and resting on the passenger seat so you can put the finishing touches on that word document while you drive, holding your cellphone up to your ear talking to the office while answering emails with your second cellphone while trying to change radio stations while trying to drive and screaming at everyone to get out of your way. Don’t they know how important you are?
  • Leo the Landscaper – driving the 50 year old, smoke belching, dented old pickup that is held together by duct tape, while towing the 20 foot trailer filled full of lawnmowers, trash, branches and dirt. We know where you’ve been because there is a trail of dead leaves, rocks, dirt and mower parts behind you. And of course you’re driving down the middle lane with the windows open and the radio at full blast listening to music only you can understand. And why don’t you use your blinkers? Probably because they were not invented yet when the pickup you are driving was manufactured!

If I have not mentioned you yet, don’t worry. I’m just getting started, stay tuned for Part Two next week.