Riding the #47 Down Van Ness

2012-06-23 09.15.27Her cut-off Daisy Dukes show off the track of pimples/injection sites on the back of her thighs, emptying into knee high, black velvet, high-heeled boots. The fluorescent tank top is more appropriate for a 10-year-old girl from 1982. Her head is shaved minus a flop hair that slides down one side of face. As she speaks to her companion, a small lady with a big Filipino accent, her lips betrayed her teeth to the world, or however few she had left. However distracting the presentation, it’s her words that capture my attention.

In the history of the world we have heard challenges to go to the moon, equality for all races and sexes, and philosophers expounding on friendships and love. Discourse has reached certain heights and we usually do not hold court unless we have something important to say. At this particular moment, however, she throws her plastic shopping bag of clothes down on the last remaining empty seat stating to the man sitting next to it: “If you steal my clothes I’ll beat you’re a**.” Then to us all: “That goes for everyone here. I will beat you’re a**es if you steal my clothes.”

She has our attention and I wonder:

Why would we steal your clothes?

Where would we go with your clothes when we are all squeezed on a mid-afternoon bus?

For the next five minutes we’re treated to a brief discussion on how she tried to steal an iPhone from a woman on the street (“That woman was a B****”) and if we heard Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap”. She doesn’t really ask as much say “ Sheeeeet. You ain’t heard this? MmmmmHmmmmm. Lemme give y’all a listen.”

Lucky for us she has her phone handy with the track. Of course, I’m not sure whom the phone belonged to moments ago.

After a few minutes of dancing, her friend takes a seat against the back of the bus and they talk amongst themselves to the relief of everyone until some guy gives her a reach around and slaps her on the stomach. This does not sit well with her even when the man shyly retreats: “Sorry. I thought you were Mike. You look a lot like my friend Mike.”

How can you confuse this lady with anyone?

“Don’t you be touchin’ up on me. Mike? I ain’t no Mike. Do you think my mom would name me Mike? Do I look like a Mike?”

Seriously I don’t know if there’s a name invented yet that would make me say “Yes, you do look like so and so. Quite fitting actually, especially given your lack of teeth, sausage casing fashion sense, and total disregard to hygiene and hair care.”

As the bus stops, she grabs her belongings (no one stole them in case you were wondering, most likely for fear of having “their a**es beat”). As she squeezes to the door she can’t seem to get by one last person. I say a silent prayer that she makes it to the doors. In true handover fashion from Act 1 to Act 2, she presses against an intoxicated, elderly, homeless man.


“You move…hehe.”

“You move motherf***er.”

“You move…hehe.”

A big shove and she squeezes by. Thank you God.

That’s when the show begins. The intoxicated, elderly, homeless man, I will refer to him as Jasper (he really looks like a Jasper), begins laughing/muttering some finality to that argument. In a brief moment of clarity, Jasper’s eyes attain a long lost sparkle, somewhat akin to a child being presented a large wrapped present on Christmas morning. I trace his glance to the middle, back seat of the bus.

Jasper shuffles two steps towards his destination, nearly oblivious to the fact that his pants are falling down save for the one finger holding them above his knees. Hanging loosely from his waist are tighty-whities containing the obligatory stains. As the stench envelops the back of the bus, a herd of riders, including a middle-aged tourist couple and several young professionals flee from their seats as if their basic instincts kicked in to warn them to seek higher ground as a tsunami approached.

Jasper laughs, half-heartedly pulls up his pants, and sits down as an anorexic young woman proclaims “That’s f***ing disgusting” to the delight of a young man in a Bob Marley shirt who announces “This is one helluva bus ride.”

Jasper starts harmless verbal arguments with passengers, as the anorexic tugs at her waistline in front of me. Passengers turn away, rolling their eyes and I can’t help but laugh a little at this absurdly realistic bus trip. His pungent odors have me concentrating on breathing and I worked with animals for years; assisting in necropsies and having all sorts of species relieve themselves on me daily.

When my stop finally comes I feel a little closer to my fellow travelers – even Jasper as he quiets down, settling in to his mid-afternoon slumber. Maybe I’m not quite local yet if this ride seems unusual, however maybe some day I’ll sit looking out the window of a bus full of characters as we hurtle toward our destinations, eager to have our own space yet thankful for a story to tell.


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