Today on the bus was almost surreal. There was a beautiful afternoon light. It was practically empty and quiet except for the roar of the bus engine and the droning computer voice telling of the stops, telling us to be aware of suspicious packages and telling us that it is for our safety and COMFORT we are being monitored by camera. Anyways, I looked around and the five people on the bus were all reading. I was reading the Alchemist. A young woman looked like a student, she was reading a textbook, a guy was reading a newspaper. A homeless looking guy was in the front. He was a mountain of a man. He had his pants rolled up to his knees. He was holding up a book and reading it. He had garbage bag belongings. His legs looked swollen and raw. The one leg was bandaged in many places. He had sores on his thick trunk like legs. He rubbed his sore legs.
Today on the way home I just missed the bus, I knew the wait would be super long, it was about 20 minutes. I waited inside the fish fry place and got some fries. The place was jam packed with folks getting their chicken boxes. The pepper shakers are chained to the wall. In the bathroom the toilet paper is chained to the wall too.
Outside the spot this dude says to me, "Sista, can you give the original man 45 cents." He acted as if he were waiting for the bus and yet Original man didn't get on the bus after someone gave him the money.
The bus was crazy crowded, no room to even squeeze to the back. And then a woman with a walker, the kind that she could sit on, got on the bus. For a moment I had someone's backpack in my lap. That walker was a bulky thing. The already sardined people needed to part so she could get in with her grandson who was like eight or nine. The elder sat down and the bulky thing sat in the aisle. No one could get through. It didn't fold! People were almost hanging out the front door while the bus still stopped at all stops picking people up. Her grandson sat in the thing.
A young lady was sitting at the window next to the elder. She was having an intense conversation with the woman. I don't think they knew each other. It seemed she was on her way to visit someone she knew in prison. Catching just snippets of their convo. She maybe knew the guy who was at the bus stop asking for money. I heard her say she told some guy that he was a loser. She also had a baby in day care. The bus slowly emptied out. When I got off the bus the young lady was still talking. The elder was able to move the walker so folks could move on to the back.
D told me the other day when he was on the bus three young girls got on, all of them had a baby. There were no seats. One of the girls walked down the aisle, pointing at the people on the bus like they were sucka MC's and said, "I know on this crowded ass bus that someone gonna get up for the fucking baby!" A guy stood up quick with his arm up! D said the guy stood up like a benched player at a basketball game finally asked by the coach to play. "Over here ma!" He gave her the seat and started to rhyme about how hard it was out there. He rapped about the streets, his friends, his girls and his life out loud the rest of his bus trip. Some of it was freestyle and some was rehearsed. I asked D if the guy had skills, he said the guy seemed motivated, not ready for a record deal yet, but if he put his time in he might be able to do something with his talent.
Since there is never a line formed as people wait for the bus, try to let the people who were waiting longer than you get on before. This is a silent agreement between the folks waiting for the bus. Some people break this silent agreement and cut in front of the line.
Sometimes if the bus stop is very crowded you will have to just claim a spot. It is civil enough. I have never seen folks fight about it, though it sometimes gets tense.
There is no single spot you can stand and know the bus will stop directly there. It depends on the driver.
If you are waiting at the bus stop alone never wait by the actual bus stop sign, that is a sure way to get the bus to drive right by you. Instead, when you see the bus finally coming try to make eye contact w/the bus driver through the window and nod. You can always wave like crazy to get the bus driver’s attention, not too maniacal or they won’t want to pick you up.
Do not read the arrival times posted at the bus stop to get an accurate idea about what time the bus is going to come. The buses come five minutes to half an hour of the time posted. A book to read or electronic distractions are highly recommended.
Sometimes two or three buses will come at the same time, go to the third bus because that bus will have the least people in it and will probably be the best smelling.
On the bus
There's a 50-50 chance the fare box will be broken. You don't have to pay. Take it as a tiny little gift.
The fare box likes to eat nice, crisp dollar bills. If your quarters have lint they will be spat out and then you have to stick your finger into a dusty wayward coin catching box and redeposit your change. Don't be like some people who put twenty pennies in fare box.
$3.50 buys you a full day of passage on the rolling circus called the MTA.
When you get on the bus you might have an easy time- not too crowded- a smattering of seats. Don’t take a seat next to anyone talking/singing to themselves, talking on a cell phone, leaning over or wrapped in a cloud of funk like Pig Pen.
If the bus is super crowded- suck in your butt, suck in your gut, hold your purse and say “excuse me” as you squeeze through all the people crowded in the front part of the bus.
Hold the pole so you don’t fall. Keep your balance like an urban surfer.
If you happen to find an empty seat towards the front of the bus give it up if a person with a baby, elderly person, handicapped person, pregnant woman get on the bus and there are no seats.
Usually you will find a seat in the very back where the guys with the tattoos on their faces sit.
Ring the bell by pushing the yellow tape or by pulling the cord to get the bus to stop at your bus stop. Do it as the bus pulls out of the last bus stop. Your timing must be impeccable-if you ring the bell too soon it won’t register for the next stop, if you do it too late the driver will assume no one wants that stop and pass your bus stop right by. If the bell doesn’t work yell, “Next Stop!” at the top of your lungs.
Hello! I am a Haitian American writer and visual artist.
My writing has been published in various anthologies and literary journals. My collages have been been exhibited in galleries, libraries and cafes throughout New York and Maryland.