Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Diary of a Bus Bum, Part 1

I'm what you might call a bus bum. Well, okay, I call it that. I'm one of the many, many people in the world that takes public transit. I do not do this in order to help the environment. I do not do this to reduce my carbon footprint. I certainly do not do this in order to spend more time with my fellow man. I do it because it's cheaper than owning and maintaining a car and because I'm broke. To buy a bus pass and travel anywhere in the city I want for as many times as I want for a month costs me about the same as my pizza budget used to be when I was married.

Side note: you know you need to cut down on ordering in pizza when Domino's sends you a Christmas card three years running. True story.

In all honesty, I like taking the bus. There's less stress on me (I don't have to pay attention to the traffic, don't have to worry about parking, don't have to worry about speeding tickets...er, not that I get them...moving on), I can just veg out or read or play on my DS, and it's cheaper than a car. Did I mention that already? However, for every plus there is a minus, and if you're looking for minuses, look no further than your closest public transit system.

The main negative about a public transit system is that it's open to the public, which means that more people than you ever wanted to meet in your entire life are more than likely crammed into a space roughly half the size of my apartment, and that space is almost constantly moving. This means a lot of jostling around, invading total strangers' personal spaces, and getting to know your neighbours more than you probably ever really wanted to (or they wanted you to, for that matter). It also means trying to use diplomacy with numbnuts who take up two seats when the bus is crowded, or trying to explain to the lady sitting on the aisle seat that there is, in fact, no one sitting next to her in the window seat, so would you mind if I sat there? Now? Please? It means sitting next to sweaty, smelly people, people who smell like they've jogged through the Sahara Desert in a parka while consuming nothing but anchovies and radiator fluid. It means sharing a small space with drunken idiots who think the funniest thing on the planet is to burp loudly and then blow it in the face of their equally drunken friend, without allowing for the fact that that particular drunken friend is sitting next to an innocent sober person who really doesn't want to inhale sour beer breath.

However, again on the plus side, it's given me a load of great stories to tell. Let me give you some of the best, right after the colon:

A couple of years ago, shortly after my marriage broke up, I was renting a small apartment in a dump just down the street from an Axis of Evil: an intersection that had a drunk's wet dream on every corner, i.e., a liquor store, a 7-11 convenience store for midnight munchies,
a bar (with it's own liquor store, too. Seriously), and a Tim Hortons. Every drunk heads to a Tim Hortons; I think it's engraved on a slate mounted in every bar's men's room in the northern hemisphere -- "When thou hast imbibed of the fire water, headest thou to thy nearest nationally acclaimed coffee shop for refreshments and donut holes. Ensure that thy vomit has been thoroughly spewed in yon establishment's restroom (hitting the centre of the relief-inducing throne is purely optional)." Or something like that, I've never really checked to find out the exact wording, but I think that's pretty close. Anyhoo, because of these swank surroundings, I would often find myself sharing a bus with those poor souls who had had a hair of the dog. In fact, a few of them would appear to have completely shaved said dog, since they were usually stinking (and I use that word for a reason) drunk at eight o'clock in the morning. And hilarity would ensue.

On one occasion, I had made plans to meet an old friend, Dave (not the building manager!), that I had managed to get back in touch with after an absence of around five years. This was, naturally enough, cause for celebration and we agreed to meet one night for coffee at a Tim Hortons that was roughly between both of our respective homes. I got to the bus stop in plenty of time, but I was not alone. Already sitting at the bus stop was a shaggy-haired fellow with glasses, holding something in a paper bag, and his head between his knees. At first, I thought the poor fellow was depressed...then I got within whiffing distance. I quickly walked to a place near the bus stop that was upwind and watched the drama unfold. I temporarily dubbed the fellow "Shaggy", not only because of his choice of 'do, but because he bore a striking resemblance to his namesake of Scooby Doo fame. I'm quite sure that if he had put on a baggy green t-shirt, he could've sold his story to E! about how the rest of the Scooby Gang hadn't appreciated his talents, had kept yelling at him to clean up after his damn dog, and how they kept making fun of his scratchy voice. The final straw came about when Fred insisted that Shaggy contribute more towards gas for the Mystery Machine than the others because Shaggy and Scooby ate more than the entire gang put together, and in a fit of rage, Shaggy dared to grab Fred by his ascot. Shamed and shunned, Shaggy wandered the streets with Scooby, his only friend (we won't count Scrappy, that annoying little shit), begging for change and solving mysteries to feed their Scooby Snack habit. When Scooby finally lost his battle with Snack addiction, Shaggy was left alone in the world and turned to alcohol to kill the pain...where the hell was I??? I seem to have wandered from my point...oh yeah, the drunken idiot...

So anyway, Shaggy was stinking drunk, and I do mean stinking. He'd obviously been drinking as if he was getting paid by the glass, and judging from the scuffs on his knees and his ragged palms, it had been a rough walk to the bus stop. He was sitting in the shelter, bent in half with his hands dragging on the ground. Every now and then, he'd sit up long enough to take a swig from the quickly-emptying bottle in the brown paper bag, then immediately fold back over himself again. When the bottle finally emptied, he tried to stand up to throw it out. Funniest fucking thing I've ever seen in my life. Imagine, if you will, a sentient egg noodle. Now try to imagine this egg noodle attempting to stand up. He first tried to roll up his spine to sit up straight...so far, so good. Then, one foot got planted, then the other...hands on the seat, a quick push to spring upright...only to land on his knees, causing him to bounce back up and land on his ass back on the seat, striking the back of his head on the bus shelter wall as he did so. Heh heh heh heh!

Meanwhile, the bus has pulled up at this point and I and the two other passengers watching this spectacle get on the bus. I've just taken my seat and the bus driver has closed the door to pull back out when all of a sudden, there's a blur of movement at the side of the bus! All I can see is a shock of hair as Shaggy runs for the bus and hits the door face-first. He stumbles back, then stumbles forward with his hands outstretched, but manages to miss the bus completely. It's easy to lose your sense of depth perception when the whole world looks like you're staring through the bottom of a Coke bottle, I guess. Shaggy tries to grab the bus' bike rack as he goes down, but hits his head again and rolls UNDER THE BUS. And then LIES THERE. All of us on the bus are pretty much gobsmacked at this point...did we just watch a drunken Jerry Lewis routine, or was the exhaust on this bus leaking through the backseat??? The driver, for lack of any other plan, was forced to park, open the door and check the situation out. Now comes the funny part... Turns out that when Shaggy hit his head and rolled under the bus, he ended up behind the front right tire and his torso was now caught between the bus and the curb. He was stuck, completely stuck, underneath the friggin' bus. We couldn't go forward or we'd drag him against the curb, and we couldn't back up or we'd pop his head beneath the front tire like a grape at a square dance. It's okay, you can laugh, I did too. We're all going to hell now. Poor Shaggy was so drunk that he couldn't cooperate with the driver to maneuver his body out from underneath, so the driver had to call the paramedics. So I'm sitting on this bus, late for my coffee with Dave, knowing that he doesn't have a cell phone that I can call to explain the situation, and trying very, VERY hard not to completely bust a freaking gut and look like a total jerk to the other passengers.

After about ten minutes, the medics arrive, squeeze Shaggy out from under the bus, dab the boo-boo that he got on his head, and manage to drag him a safe distance from the road so they can check him out for broken bones or road rash or innate stupidity or whatever. And we're off! I finally get to the coffee shop twenty minutes late and Dave's sitting there like "where the hell have you been?" Luckily, I had the best excuse for being late I think I've ever had in my life.

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