Bus Sketch III

An empty bus, from the inside, sketched in black and white.

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” the woman shouted from the front of the bus. She was almost backed up against the massive windshield, pushed and pushing as four more people got on a bus that was overcrowded when the two got on the last stop and the family of four and a guy got on at the stop before that. 

The bus driver was impassive and neutral. She was not interested in refereeing the soon to be melee. She was driving. She was not enforcing the “stand behind the yellow line” rule. She wasn’t asking passengers to make room. She was simply pulling up at the bus stop, pressing the gear to open the door and then shutting it when people stopped forcing their way on. She also did some high quality glaring until people paid their fares. That’s what she came to do. No more. 

“HeyHeyHey, HEY-yay! Can someone give me their seat?”

There was that brief almost exchange among the other riders. In the mid-morning there’d be a discussion. The mid-morning bus passengers were a different group. They interacted. They told each other to sit down. They helped guy who was confused, one said he was a junkie, the other said you just didn’t know and couldn’t he use a hand?

The evening rush riders? Not so interactive. If you looked at someone you might be compelled to give up your seat and join the other bodies lurching fore and aft. Or maybe you’d make eye contact with that woman who was talking a stranger’s ear off. You just pushed your speakers into your ear canal, closer to your brain.

“I got a card that says I’m disabled. Somebody give me a seat?” She couldn’t see past the people in front of her so she couldn’t bore a guilt stare at those seated. Some seats were taken by parents with young kids. You definitely did not want the munchkins to be tossed around like doll babies. People sitting without kids looked around to see if they were in a more protected class than their seat mates. 

“Is there not a GENTLEman on this bus?” The people standing between her and the seats were feeling a little salty. She seemed tired, sure, but they were, too. And they were cued for a seat via the universal maxim of “First come, first served.” 

There was some shuffling on the benches. Space was being made. The law of firsts was getting upended. The woman with the disability card squeezed her way past the standing mom with her standing three kids, bulldozing the smallest of the them into other riders. The riders were close to falling into each other like toppling dominoes. All the movement compressed the commuting horde impossibly tighter. 

“I’m sorry,” a short standing rider hidden by a hood directed her apology to the rider seated in front of her. They had inadvertently knocked knees. The seated rider was just below her eye level. Looking up she saw a pair of large brown eyes framed with long black lashes and a shy smile that barely contained her joy.

It was curious that on a bus packed with tired, cold commuters this one girl–maybe she was eleven or twelve–couldn’t help herself. She was simply happy. The knee-knocked rider smiled back and heard her sniffle. It was from the cold. 

“Are you cold enough?” The girl smiled less shyly and bounced her head up and down in agreement. She held eye contact as they debriefed on the new cold weather. They decided it was colder because it came out of nowhere. 

The bus turned another corner and started to empty. The woman who made the fuss to gain her rightful seat only sat in it for two stops. She pushed her way out as the girl with the warm smile disappeared into the humanity. 

Bus Sketch II

Little girl looking out the bus window. She's wearing a leopard print coat.

“I gotta pee!”

Eleven heads bobbed up in unison, leaving posts unliked, candies uncrushed and videos advancing unwatched. The heads then turned to the front of the bus. Synchronized.

The toddler had been chirping away unnoticed for blocks and blocks. She was fascinated by everything rushing by, her nose pressed against the big window, her little feet hanging over the bench, her shoulders enclosed by an animal print.

She was full of style from toe to top. Starting from her black punk boots that were laced up half-way and working up to the most amazing glasses with a huge square white frame scattered with scores of little flowers, pink, orange, red, yellow, blue on stems of green. She moved with the comfort of a near two-year old who knew in her heart of hearts that she was amazing and fabulous.

She must have asked her dad for a car, because he said that he wasn’t buying her one. His response was like a scripted response that was a part of their private joke. A little bit like call and response. She babbled some sweet sounds, one of which resembled the word car. Or maybe cow. Or curl. Or cat. Or yard. But her dad knew. He delivered his line.

Nothing she said, however, was as clear as when she presented her pressing need. A cold blast of worry chilled the bus. Passengers wondered to themselves, “Will she make it?”

The mom asked her the unnecessary question that everyone wanted to know, “Do you have to go to the bathroom?”

The little diva nodded vigorously. Her father looked concerned that she might nod the tinkle out. The mom worked the magic of distraction, suggesting the girl sit down and asking a few unrelated questions about school. It seemed to work, or at least the tot stopped talking about needing to go.

The dad pulled the cord for the next stop, and the girl leaned over to pull it, too. The mom was on the far side of the bench and shook her head. “Just let her pull it, okay?” She was working hard to avoid a morning meltdown. The dad leaned forward to make room for the girl to grab the yellow plastic coated wire behind him. The bus lurched and the girl held on tight. Since he had already called for a stop, there wasn’t a beep when she pulled. He adroitly pointed to the Stop Requested light above her head. She was convinced that she had effected that.

Her dad picked up her and his backpacks then took her by the hand. Her mom told her she loved her and would see her soon. The girl parroted back the words–or her interpretation and execution of those words–in her little squeaky sing song.

Kisses were exchanged and there was no peeing on the bus. Ten heads returned to the phones in their hands. One followed the pair off the bus and watched them approach the daycare. That one decided to enjoy the bus like a two year old and left her phone in her bag. She turned her head to the window to watch the cars and look for cows.

Bus Sketches

The aisle on an empty bus

The woman was filling the boxes of her crossword puzzle in the morning paper. In pen. She sat sideways as the bus pulled away from its bay. She turned to the woman next to her and offered her a sweet.

The woman shook her head, “no,” and politely smiled her “thank you.” She had a pleasant round face topped by a hat. The leopard trimmed brim was double accented by the fringes of her pageboy peaking out and framing her full cheeks. The weather flirted with cold and the forecast teased rain. The hat was both prophylactic and camouflage–protecting against a potential storm and masking her need to see her hairdresser. She pulled the cord, requesting the next stop.

The man facing front looked up as the woman with the hat pulled herself out of the seat. She led with her chest, almost like someone was pulling her up via a string attached to her breastbone. The man read the sign floating above the aisle. It said the name of the next stop. The woman with the puzzle asked him a question. It might have been about the news or about an event at her church. He responded in a way that was familiar, but when they got to the next stop, a silent woman who was seated next to him stood up, too. He gently guided her off of the bus that pulled away as they got on to their day.