Older Than Dirt: On the Bus

Never having driven a car, I have had many long commutes to and from work. I have worked full time in three different states, and always used public transportation. As you might well imagine, that can get quite boring at times.

Looking at the same scenery every morning on the way to work. Looking at the same scenery on the way home, just on the opposite side of the street.

My route to work was usually a long one, and many people got on and off the bus during my commute. Commuters are creatures of habit and prefer to sit in the same seat every day, if they can. Being the people watcher that I am, I noticed everyone and greeted them with a smile and a nod.

As the weeks and months pass with the same driver and usually the same passengers every day, I found myself giving them names in my head. Yes indeed. In my mind I began to think of them as characters in a book. I always wished I could actually read a book while commuting, but alas I was plagued with motion sickness and could not read on the bus or the trolley.

The lady who sat at the front of the bus I called Old Maid. I am sure she was a lovely person, but she looked a whole lot like the face of the Old Maid on the deck of cards. Most of you reading this will probably remember what she looked like. Graying hair pulled back in a bun. Large dangly earrings, and a bit of a sour face. I think the card game may have actually been called Old Maid.

There was a young woman who usually occupied the seat directly in front of me. I called her "Little Red Haired Girl." To me, she looked a lot like the character from the Charlie Brown stories. She had carrot red hair, and freckles. She carried a smock that seemed to be a K-Mart one. She got off the bus pretty close to K-Mart, so I assumed she was going to work also.

Across the aisle sat " Prickly Hair Man." He was probably twenty-five or so and heading to work. He did however have the most peculiar hair cut. It seemed to just stick out in all directions, ,even though he did appear to constantly be trying to smooth it back. We always exchanged a smile when he took his seat on the bus.

Usually occupying the seat behind him was "Sleeping Beauty." This poor woman worked two jobs, had kids at home and most of her sleeping was done on the bus. Prickly hair man usually woke her to let her know when her stop came up. I could not help but notice it was a motel that took weekly residents. I guessed she must be struggling. I saw two young children waiting to meet her at the bus stop. After what must have been a long night shift.

The seat directly behind the bus driver was reserved for one I called "Beam Me Up." He often got into conversations with the bus driver. He appeared to be a business man and carried a briefcase with him. The Boeing company was a few stops after mine, so I figured that was where he might be getting off the bus. During one of his conversations with the driver I clearly heard him say, " I don't know how much longer I will be riding the bus. The mother ship will be coming back for me soon." Thus the name Beam Me Up. (Perhaps he was not a businessman after all.)

At the very back of the bus are the "Drop Outs." This was a group of teenagers who attended the continuation school. Their language was pretty rough, and their music was worse. Even with the headphones it was always blaring out. They often spit on the bus window when we pulled away from their school. Yuuk! I remember thinking how grateful I was that none of them were mine.

Directly behind me sits "Street Man." He got on the bus every morning at the Detox center and got off at the Men's Mission. I would guess it was for a hot meal. He was not very old, but appeared to have been through a lot in his life. He was pretty unkempt and in need of a change of clothes. We always gave each other a nod as he exited the bus.

At one point, I got a new rider. She was about 20 years old or so. She was not going to or coming from her job like most of the others. According to what I overheard between her and our bus driver, she was on her way to her radiation treatments. I seem to recall that I saw her two or three times a week. I did not give her a name in my head. I just got sad when I saw her. When the weather turned cold, I could not help but notice that she had no gloves, scarf or hat. This concerned me.

I talked with Sister about her, we decided we would get her a matching hat, gloves and scarf. It was nearing Christmas time anyway. I was afraid she might not accept the gifts from me, so instead decided to leave the Christmas package for her with the bus driver. I knew she would see her again, even if I didn't.

About three days after I left the package, she got on the bus again. She was wearing the hat, gloves and scarf that Sister and I had gotten for her. It was red, and it looked very warm. I complimented her on her new red accessories. "I got them from a secret Santa," she told me.

I took this bus route for about three years. Most of these characters rode with me every day. In my mind, I knew them all. If any one of them did not show up, I wondered if they were OK.

One day I happened to share all of this with my adult son. I told him about the bus people and the names I had given them. He was quiet for a moment and then asked me, What do you think they call you ... Big Head?

I guess I always did have a rather large head. Maybe he was right, and they were doing the same thing I was. In any case, each day was a bit of an adventure. Not to mention how truly fast the time went by.

My days of commuting are long over. No more job to go to, or people to wonder about. Even though I could not read a book when I traveled, these characters will always remain in my head ... My BIG head!