Monday, May 14, 2007

What Price Speed?

I had a lovely weekend in Rhode Island. I got to see my friend S, my grandparents, and cooked my Mom a bitchin' Mother's Day breakfast. The weather was so nice in my native land that I was sad to leave. I rode the train into South Station and debated which bus would get me closer to my apartment with a minimal hassle. One bus left Central Square, another left Davis Square. I elected to get off at Central and wait fifteen minutes for the bus. I'd have to walk up a hill, but decided it would be quicker that way.

I found the first stop for the bus I decided to take, and stood my massive duffel bag full of clean clothes next to me. Since I was by myself, I decided not to listen to my iPod while I waited. A man with a chihuahua tucked inside his button-down flannel shirt smoked a cigarette inside the bus shelter, so I had to stand in the wind since I didn't want my clean clothes to reek of smoke. The man sat next to an old woman in a work-issued pickle-stand polo shirt who appeared to be dozing while sitting up. Across the street, a woman who looked like the kids' aunt talked to a crunchy-granola friend of hers.

After five minutes, the man got up to talk to me.

"He's freezing," he said, motioning to the chihuahua. "He's not used to this cold."

"Oh," I said. Sometimes, I really wish I looked like I didn't understand English.

"But our car broke down in Watertown while we were visiting friends, so we're stuck taking the T." The woman, who I'd assumed was with the man, continued to doze unattended in the bus shelter.

"That's too bad," I said, praying the bus would show up.

"Yeah. I don't know what to do with it. The thing just shot right out. Ptttffffftttttpppppt. Can I call my bank and just tell them to stop taking my money since it's dead?"

"Uh, I don't think so," I replied, "I think you still have to pay for the car, even if it's broken."

"Oh, I know," the man said to me, thinking I was clearly an idiot for suggesting such a thing, "I want them to repo it."

I smiled tightly.

"Well, I have to get it out of Watertown somehow," he mused, petting the dog sticking out of his shirt.

"You don't want to get a bunch of tickets on it," I commiserated.

"My friend said I should just report it missing," the man said dreamily, "but that would be fraudulent."

I nodded.

"But the job market up here is just so bad. We just moved here." I still wasn't sure if he was referring to him and the dog or him and the drowsy woman. How the hell long does it take to get from Watertown to Central Square by bus?

"Are you a student?"


"Oh. I thought you were," he said, pointing to my near-bursting duffel bag.

He smiled, then walked away as a couple guys accosted me. They'd been lurking around the corner, then a huge white guy and a small black guy came up to the bus shelter. The white guy started asking for cigarettes while the black guy blasted a hip-hop song out of his boombox. Unfortunately, my head nod was interpreted as a desire to dance.

"YOU FEEL THAT BEAT?" The guy yelled over his beatbox. "UH, YEAH, CAN YOU FEEL THAT BEAT? I CAN FEEL IT."

The radio twosome walked away, and the bus finally showed up. The driver let the passengers off the bus about ten feet away from those of us who were waiting. The waiting passengers wandered over to the open doors, and the driver waved us off wearily, as if we were illiterate. He then drove the bus forward four feet and opened the doors. He looked as if he wished he were dead.

The chihuahua guy and the woman, who was indeed with him, got on the bus. "You'd better not be mean like you were on that last bus," the man said into his chest, "or else this guy will drop you off in the boonies. Not like that other dog who went to Harvard. Like that movie? Legally Blond?" The man said, mostly for my benefit. I avoided eye contact with him. The granola lady got on after me. A toothless couple from Philly got on after her. They snogged behind the chihuahua couple as I begged God to get the bus to my stop as quickly as possible.

A few stops into the trip, the bus driver narrowly avoided hitting a car that had cut him off. I nearly flew sideways into the bus driver, and pickle-shirt lady was half-standing, her Dunkin Donuts cup clutched in her hand. When we slammed back into our seats, the woman's coffee splashed forward in a half-figure 8. It looked like a cartoon as we all collected ourselves.

"Those asshole Massachusetts drivers," the guy with the dog muttered. "At least if I don't have a car I won't be the one cussing at them."

"What a nice dog," the granola lady remarked. "Is he a puppy?"

"No," the man said, "he's from Georgia and he's six years old. His name is Mr. Sandy McSunshine."

"Georgia in this country?" Granola asked.


"Yes. We have another, but she's at home. She's going to have some babies by this guy."

"Is that her son?"

Oh, I thought, we're in the dog incest place with this.

"Oh no. He's from Kentucky, but we don't let them do that."

Before I could hear any more about the sexual predilections of the man's dog, my stop came up. I took the brisk walk home, happy that I'd be alone once I got there. Next time, I think I'll take the bus from Davis.

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