Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Bus Ride Home

Detroit does not have public transportation.

When I say that, what I mean is that they do not have a form of public transportation that any reasonable person could feasibly use. They have the People Mover, which goes in only one direction and stops at approximately three places. They also have buses but who in their right mind would ride the bus in Detroit?

So, one of the exciting things I discovered upon moving to Chicago is that they do in fact have several forms of public transportation here that reasonable people can feasibly use.

Since my employer moved the office down to the West Loop area, I have been taking the Halsted bus to work every morning.

When you ride the same bus in every morning, you get to know the usual cast of characters. Obviously, you don't ever get to know their names - speaking to other passengers is strictly forbidden on the CTA - but I've developed nicknames for some of my favorites.

There's "Stumbly," the lady who trips while trying to board the bus about 40% of the time and who always loses her footing as soon as the bus starts moving and has to use other people's shoulders to keep herself from falling over.

There's "Captain Crossword" who sits towards the back and does the morning puzzle every morning on the way to work.

And then there's "Amazon Lady," who gets on about five stops before mine. She is olive skinned, dark haired, and huge. Not overweight or anything, just tall. Really tall. Taller than me, and I'm 6'3."

That's in the morning. For the afternoon ride home it's luck of the draw as to what percent 'crazy' you get from your fellow passengers.

An episode of crazy from last week:

I'm heading back home from work and I'm sitting at the back of the bus. It's crowded, like always in the afternoon, and has been raining. The lady at the very back of the bus (we will call her "crazy lady") has her wet umbrella sitting in the seat next to her.

The bus stops to pick up more passengers, and up walks a young woman (let's call her "snooty lady") in her late 20's, early 30's. Real Lincoln Park type. Snooty Lady goes to sit down at the back of the bus and sees the wet umbrella sitting kind of hanging over from one empty seat onto the one she wanted. So, Snooty Lady moves Crazy Lady's umbrella without asking.

CTA Cardinal Rule #1: Never Touch a Crazy Lady's Stuff.

Crazy Lady starts shouting, "What the hell do you think you're doing? Don't touch my stuff! Who do you think you are?"

Snooty Lady is taken aback, but only for a moment, before she starts in on Crazy Lady: "Your umbrella is on an empty seat. You shouldn't do that. There are people who want to sit down."

And it goes on like this for a while, with Snooty Lady lecturing Crazy Lady on the finer points of bus etiquette while Crazy Lady tells Snooty Lady not to touch her stuff. And it is a loud little spat. The back half of the bus is just transfixed by this, watching this with a mix of amusement and terror, until finally Snooty Lady gives up and refuses to talk back.

Silence. Awkward silence. For about five stops. You can feel them both quietly smoldering. Finally, Snooty Lady looks over and sees that Crazy Lady has not stopped staring at her.

"What are you looking at?"

"I'm looking at you."

Another quick spat of shouting follows until some more passengers board. Snooty Lady moves down one seat away from Crazy Lady so a couple of nice college-aged ladies (or 'nice ladies') can sit down. The Nice Ladies chat back and forth with each other, going over what they both bought at Victoria's Secret. Crazy Lady and Snooty Lady are silent for a good ten to fifteen minutes, but those of us who have been on the bus from the start know that this isn't over.

Finally, we reach the North Avenue stop, which apparently is Crazy Lady's stop. Crazy Lady gathers up her umbrella, stands up and grabs one of the overhead loops to steady herself as the bus slows. She turns to Snooty Lady and, interrupting the nice conversation that the Nice Ladies are having, points to the Bus ceiling and shouts, "You're lucky them cameras are there. You're lucky. That's all I got to say."

The tempers flare back up immediately. Snooty Lady throws out every insult she knows, disparaging Crazy Lady's clothes (she's wearing a jacket market 'SECURITY') and presumed educational background, while Crazy Lady threatens Snooty Lady. It is the classic battle between the stuck up and the mentally imballanced.

Finally, Snooty Lady shouts, "I hate you!"

Crazy Lady shouts back, "I hate you too, bitch!"

I'm sitting there thinking, "Jesus Christ, these two women don't even know each other and they're shouting 'I hate you' at each other!" And I'm struck by the sheer simple anger, the power and the strangeness of actually hearing a grown-up say, "I hate you!" to another grown-up.

And the Nice Ladies look like they just saw Big Foot mauling their grandmothers.

With the mutual hatred established in no uncertain terms, Crazy Lady has nothing left but to get off the bus, so she does, and Snooty Lady sits quietly for a moment while everyone digests what just happened. Finally, the Nice Ladies break the silence and ask Snooty Lady, "What was that about?"

Snooty Lady gives a quick history of the fight, casting herself as the hero: 'I was just looking out for my fellow passengers / trying to protect us all from a wet umbrella / anyone would have done the same,' never mentioning of course that she never broke the cardinal rule of "Never Touch a Crazy Lady's Stuff," or that she neglected to ask permission, and finishing with a self-administered pat on the back, "I think I landed a couple of pretty good hits with some of my insults."

Oh yes, Snooty Lady. Because "I hate you" is simply too clever.

Now that's entertainment.


Anonymous said...

oh! my favorite is the half-eaten-banana-over-the-shoulder-tosser who was forced with stares, shame and scowls to get off the bus, pick up her littered fruit resting on the sidewalk and dispose of it properly before the bus driver would move. the cta won't stand for litterbugs. also, are you sure there are buses in detroit?

Anonymous said...

I was once basically forced to hug two very drunk, large, and happy women (drinking from bottles wrapped in brown paper bags, naturally) on the Clark Street Bus because we were the only three on the bus (not counting the driver) and I looked like one of the ladies' sons. I am white and he was black, though. Their breath smelled good.
I also saw a 90 lb. Asian woman yell at a homeless man "You dirty!" over and over again. Her accent was waaaaay over the top, almost like she was faking an Asian (country of origin unknown) or it was Rob Schneider disguised as an Asian woman and he was filming a cameo for an Adam Sandler movie. In her defense, the homeless man was very dirty. His retort was to call her a bitch, which may or may not have been true.
I also saw a poop on the CTA the other day.
I also saw a man and woman (angry couple) get into a fistfight on the Red Line. She started it by punching him in the face. I think she won on points in the end, but I wouldn't know because my wife and I exited the train.
I think I need to start driving to work.

Anonymous said...

Don't be dissing Detroit. We've got enough problems...

Crump said...

My first cta crazy experience happened late night on the Red Line when Erin and I were in town for a couple days looking for apartments.

We were in the seats across closest to the doors across from the doors that were opening in the direction of travel. We hit a stop (underground), doors slide one, and in come two gents. The first one is hunched over and plodding and completely silent. The second one was was bouncing around like a caffeinated kangaroo while shadow boxing and yelling about fucking something or someone trying to fuck him. Basically he was just ranting like nobody's business and dancing around like a punch drunk prize fighter. Several times he almost landed on our toes.

I found it highly entertaining and a fitting welcome from the city we would soon be moving to. Erin was basically petrified with fear.