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!