I Have No Idea What To Call This One. Stranger Danger?
Know how sometimes you want to update your blog with a funny story about how you fell in a 16″ sinkhole in a city park while drinking and then you had to then pedal your bike home and you hummed “Pushin’ Up My Baby Bumblebee” over and over again to take your mind off the fact that there was blood running down your leg, but then your would-be father-in-law ups and dies and you have to fly back to the East Coast last minute and the next thing you know it’s the middle of August?
Yeah, me too.
I don’t mean to sound so callous about my father-in-law’s death. I really don’t. He was a good man who lived a long and full life and we will all miss him dearly. It’s just that sometimes, despite my best agnostic tendencies, I am compelled to think that God exists and that he has a really horrendous sense of timing. I have really wanted to sit down and write about the whole experience, but, honestly, time management is not my thing right now.
I will write more about the funeral and the trip back East and all the darkness that was brought, kicking and screaming, into the light. It was an emotionally exhausting trip, and I am still processing what it all means.
What is fresh on my mind, however, is the bus ride home from the airport. Because God, if he exists, also has a thing for kneeing you in the balls when you’re down.
Riding public transportation in a city late at night can be a dicey thing. Here in the great city of Seattle, physical safety when riding the bus is not usually one’s prime concern. What is of concern is one’s mental safety. It is not without cause that certain of our bus lines are referred to as “mobile psych wards”. Some of the greatest serial killers of our age were born and bred right here in the Evergreen State. Charming, huh?
So, Mr. Burdy and I decide to forgo the fifty dollar cab ride home from the airport and put our money where our civic-minded mouths are and we take the light rail to downtown to then catch a bus home. The whole train ride, Burdy and I argue over where to get off. I insist that we take the line all the way to Westlake Center and then hoof it on over a few blocks and catch the bus that picks up near the market. Burdy, using a series of apps on his iPhone that calculate the timing of bus routes (and simultaneously the average annual rainfall in the Philippines, I think) insists that we should just get off in Pioneer Square. No, I insist. I’ve taken this route before. Let’s just take advantage of our whole $2.50 and ride the train to the end of the line, I say. The train goes faster than the bus, I say. It’s logical, I say. I don’t want to deal with the belligerent drunks in Pioneer Square, I say. Why ride the slow bus at the beginning of its route when we can take the fast train to the end of its route and then pick up the slow bus when it’s already a third of the way to our house, I say. Burdy taps the iPhone a few more times. He’s starting to remind me of Dean Stockwell’s character on Quantum Leap, and I want to punch the iPhone for giving us what I presume are bad predictions about the future. My intuition is telling me something. And my intuition is never wrong.
Westlake, I say.
Pioneer Square, he says.
Westlake, I say.
Pioneer Square, he says.
University, we both concede.
So, we get off at University.
We get inside the bus shelter and I impatiently ask Burdy, who checks his iPhone again, when the bus is coming. We’ve just come from 90 degree weather with 17,000% humidity, so Seattle’s crisp nighttime temperature of 65 degrees suddenly feels like an arctic blast and I want the bus to hurry up and get there so I can be warm again. Also, it’s late and I am cranky. Just as Burdy is about to tell me when the bus will be arriving next, a guy leans in to the bus shelter and asks when the bus is coming. Call it street smarts, call it a woman’s intuition, call it the simple fact I could deduce from the timber of his voice that the guy had been smoking unfiltered prison cigarettes for most of his life, but I knew this guy was going to be a thorn in our sides.
What commenced after that question, (and Burdy’s iPhone-assisted answer), was a self-obsessed diatribe, unparalleled in its bravado and its audibility (this coming from a person who has listened to her fair share of nutbags at bus stops). I knew this guy was buttering us up for beer money the second he cheerily said “White people know everything!” (I muttered under my breath in response “No, the iPhone knows everything. We don’t know shit”). I can smell a street ruse a mile away. Sure enough, five minutes in to his soliloquy, he turned quite somber, asked us our names, gravely shook our hands, introduced himself as “Dave”, delivered a mini-sermon about how “it’s all about the love”, and then asked if we had a few bucks for beer.
You’d think that being denied beer money would make a man take his dog and pony show elsewhere. You’d think that he’d understand a thing or two about body language, about how no eye contact suggests disinterestedness, that the way we were having a FULL ON CONVERSATION on TOP of his, that we were NOT interested in making friends. But not this guy. No, this guy was persistent.
Also? R e e e eeally high.
Dave told us, with emphatic arm gestures, that he’d spent ten years in the Army and twenty years in prison. He showed us his tattoo of iconic images of San Francisco (and then I was teased for not being able to identify the Folsom Prison tower on his bicep. You know. BECAUSE I’VE NEVER MURDERED ANYONE.)
He told us he was half black, half white, that his mom had flaxen hair, that he got the shit kicked out of him for being a “half breed” (his words, not mine), that he loved the city of Seattle for its festivals (were we going to Hempfest next week? No? Why not?! It’s going to be aaaaaaawesome, duuuuuuuude), that he’d just bought weed in the U District, and that his “friend” had just given him Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and he was listening to it on his portable CD player on infinite repeat.
Oh, and he’d just gotten laid.
I believe the words he used the term “that fine honey” to describe his ladyfriend and some choice words involving a vacuum-like experience, but it was the way the words dripped out of his mouth and the way he cocked his head back and let his knees go slack that let me know we were talking about a “fine honey” for hire. Then, contemplating the temporary nature of his recent lovin’, he said ruefully, “I just want someone to love on my summer sausage, you know?” And then he laughed a deep throaty villain-from-the-movies laugh and looked me straight in the eye.
Even the cooties left my skin just then. Fuck this, they said. This shit’s naaaaasty.
At this point, the kitsch factor of this whole encounter evaporates. Whereas this guy was once a wayward, lonely stranger, innocent fodder for a blog post, he was now some drunk asshole whose self aggrandizing bullshit was bordering on aggressive and I was going to have to pretend to ignore him in a four foot by two foot bus shelter. I no longer cared about his 16 inch long dong, or his prison record, or his love life, or how cool he thought Seattle was. I just wanted to go home. But the bus wasn’t there yet. So, I turned, leaned against the edge of the bus shelter, and faced the direction the bus would be coming from. I was hoping this guy would somehow, magically, understand that now I really didn’t want to listen to him.
And that’s when I feel something warm and rubbery being shoved into my ear.
Now, it’s nearly midnight, it’s dark outside, it’s chilly, and I am groggy from lack of sleep. I cannot immediately put together the sensation of warm rubber, cold night air, and relative silence followed by the woozy strains of muted brass instruments in my ear into one cohesive experience. Slowly at first, and then all at once like a train going 186 miles an hour into a brick wall, it all comes together: it’s Dave’s EARBUD in my ear! From his CD PLAYER. He wants to share! That’s Dark Side Of The Moon I’m listening to! And rather than dwell on the milk of this human kindness and the universal language of music kicking down the barriers of age and race, all I can think is: I hope I don’t have ear herpes now.
Throughout this whole thing, Burdy keeps trying to interject with clever little bits, tries to answer this guy’s rhetorical questions (You guys know Haight Ashbury? You guys know Pink Floyd? You guys ever been to Folsom Prison?), but Dave is too wrapped up in his running dialogue to respond. And God bless him, Burdy is trying to make lemons out of lemonade. Drunk, high, unselfconscious, with tendencies towards violent outburst lemons.
Let’s cut to the bus ride, shall we? Now, when you belong to a Facebook group called “I SURVIVED growing up in Irvington”, you know a thing or two about how to properly board a bus with a crazy guy behind you. Get it? I SURVIVED Irvington. I didn’t just LIVE there. I SURVIVED it. Like a freakin’ nuclear holocaust. That’s what growing up there was like. Only with crack vials and bullet casings instead of radiation.
Anywho, I was tired, and all these years of living in this Wonderbread town has made me go soft, so I got on the bus AHEAD of crazy guy. BAD CHOICE, amigos. Let me give you a lesson in dealing with Crazy: You always let the crazy guy get on FIRST. You let him find his seat, and then YOU sit about twenty seats AWAY from him. You dig?
Luckily, Dave found a seat at the front of the bus after we’d found ours at the back. He then he proceeded to poke a young woman in the arm across the aisle to get her attention.
Now, I had only just debarked a plane from the East Coast a few hours before. My hackles were up, my fists were poised in punch-mode down at my sides, and I was READY to take on the first idiot that crossed me. But, I have to hand it to the Northwest: there’s something about this place that just lowers your blood pressure. By the time I entered that bus shelter, I had already sassed someone at the airport for being in my way, and I was in cool-down mode. I was in a sleepy sort-of transition phase on that bus. The East Coaster in me wanted to tell this idiot to stop singing aloud to Pink Floyd and to leave the girl alone. But the West Coaster prevailed, so I just sat there with quietly my teeth clenched, waiting for the bus to get to our stop.
I was also FUMING at Burdy for having made the end of our trip such a hassle. Had we gotten off at the stop I wanted to, we never would have met Dave, and we could have gotten home in relative peace and quiet.
Instead, we were listening to Dave recount, at the top of his lungs and in vivid detail, his blowjob.
Yup, right there on the bus. I guess drugs will do that to you: make you forget about appropriateness and decibel levels. Hey, I’m a fan of recreational drug use. And I can get behind recalling fine works of sexual art. Just not on the bus at midnight in front of senior citizens, you know? There’s a time and a place to talk about the size and shape of a fine honey’s mouth, okay?
After about ten minutes of this crap, the bus driver did something I have never seen a bus driver do in this town: he got on the intercom, and in a stiff, offended manner, said: SIR! YOU ARE ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION! YOU CANNOT TALK LIKE THAT!
I snorted. A guy with a Folsom Prison tattoo on his arm is not really inclined to heed the chastising of a ninety pound bus driver. Just sayin’.
More details about the BJ, more “MUH-NAY! mumblemumblemumble MUH-NAY!” from Dave.
Then, the bus driver does something even MORE astounding. He PULLS THE BUS OVER. But, instead of saying WHY he’s done this, we just sit there, all of us, in stunned silence.
Except for Dave, who has no idea we are pulled over.
“AW, MAN! THIS SHIT IS AWESOME! MUH-NAAAAAY!!! FAR OUT!!!”
Remember how in grade school the teacher would make everyone stay in for recess because one kid had done something wrong and now the whole class couldn’t go outside because the kid wouldn’t ‘fess up and everyone KNEW who the kid was and was giving him stink eye but the kid just sat there doodling on his desk? Yeah, that’s how sitting on the bus felt.
I could feel the East Coaster rising in me. I was LITERALLY just about to shout NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR BLOWJOB, DAVE. CAN IT! when some young kid in the front of the bus turns around to face Dave and makes the slicing-neck motion with his hand. “Chill out, dude. Bus driver wants you to be quiet.”
“WHAT?” Dave yells. He pulls the earbuds out of his ears. “ME? Oh, sorry man”, he says to the bus driver. “You want me to get off here?” he asks. Silence from the bus driver. Dave looks to the kid for advice. “Does he want me to get off?” The kid tells him to just keep quiet so we can all get home. But Dave does the first unselfish thing of the night. He gets off the bus.
Everyone on the bus visibly relaxes. We get home and I throw my things into a corner, get changed, and crawl into bed.
The last thing I say to Burdy before falling asleep:
“Rule Number One: You let the crazy guys get on the bus BEFORE you. Rule Number Two: Don’t engage with the crazy guys. No eye contact, no telling them your real name. Rule Number Three: Trust your wife’s intuition. When your she says get off at Westlake, GET OFF AT WESTLAKE, FOOL.”