Monday, June 18, 2007

More Bus Stories

I grew up in L.A. and spent much of my teens in Seattle; did a stint in Oklahoma a zillion years ago when I (stupidly) worked for the government but I don't really like to talk about that. Or, rather, I COULD talk about it, but something bad might happen to me, like Dick Cheney might accidentally shoot me or something. Now I live and work in San Francisco, and have done so for far too many years to admit. What do I do here, you ask? Well, I work with mentally handicapped children. Okay, so it only it SEEMS like that, most of the time. It's really an Internet startup. But anyway, where was I? Oh yes. The Point. The point is that I come from the Great Northwest (where the weather is iffy) and the So-So Southwest (where the weather is great), and in those places nobody really rides the bus except drunks, psychos and hippies. But here in San Fran, lots of regular folks ride the bus in addition to the drunks, psychos and hippies -- primarily because there's no place in this damn town to park your damn car.

But stories about regular folks tend to be boring, and besides, today -- unbeknownst to me -- was evidently Psycho Fight Club On The Bus Day. And being the daily transit commuter that I am, I am used to some pretty crazy shit. But today was decidedly, um, crazier.

On the way to work there is sometimes this totally unlikely nutjob -- a fiftyish Latin guy, somewhat stocky, well-groomed in a Havana 1949 kinda way. Accent sounds Cuban or perhaps Venezuelan (or some other former Spanish colony -- what do I know?). Always wears absolutely black sunglasses and stereo headphones plugged into an ipod. He looks like he'd be a tough customer, but a relatively normal one. In other words, unlike the usual stanky bus wacko, he combs his hair and washes his clothes. Impeccably, even.

Well, he's constantly talking smack -- loudly, as if having a heated conversation with someone. But to no one. Seems like he's on the phone, but he isn't. And it's always in clear, eloquent English with this middle-class Hispanic accent, talking about kicking somebody's ass or whatever, and occasionally laughing defiantly. Always with a cartoon-hitman grin on his face like a guy who enjoys stomping on kittens. The shades NEVER come off, making the whole picture that much more menacing, but I'd never seen him actually do anything to anybody -- he just chatters nonstop the whole bus ride until he gets off one stop before me, laughing and threatening his invisible victims as he climbs out into the street. I don't see him every day (the buses aren't particularly reliable so the crowd tends to vary throughout the week) but overall, there are enough semi-regulars that some of us have started referring to the guy as Tony Montana...

Anyway, today he was doing his usual routine, talking shit to nobody, with most people pretty much ignoring him as usual. Except for Crazy Guy Number Two.

I see this one a fair bit as well, and unlike Mister Montana, he's got the whole crazy street person look down. Scraggly patches of longish hair that hasn't seen shampoo in decades. Wild John the Baptist beard, replete with orangish nicotine residue and what might just be a smattering of actual locust parts. Malodorous layers of old shirts and a ragged pair of cheap brownish work pants spattered with God-knows-what. Plaid JCPenney poncho from 1972 wrapped around the whole mess. He usually sings some unintelligible song that's likely been looping in his head since he played his first Hawkwind 8-track tape. Other than his annoying attempts at crooning that sound a little like Tom Waits undergoing a root canal sans anesthetic, he generally doesn't bother anyone.

But I'd never seen these two on the same bus.

Now, like I said, I've seen a lot of weird crap. A few weeks ago I glanced up and caught, in the corner of my eye, a pair of the loveliest breasts I'd ever seen. they were full and round and succulent, and popping out of a very tight and very low-cut sexy tank top. Obviously, I thought, in the split-second my typical male mind had to respond, this was a girl who knew how to work a crowd. But in that same split-second I registered her face, which was rather smallish and squinty and stared blankly ahead, her tongue ever so slightly protruding from her moist lips. Moist not from arousal, but from drooling. Because, you see, the woman had Down Syndrome.

Now, I'm not one to make fun of such people; that's not it -- it was the incongruity of those pornstar tits and that innocent retarded little face. OK; so maybe 'retarded' isn't the politically correct word, but I'm trying to convey the reality of the situation here, and since when am I ever PC anyway? The girl was fucking retarded, okay? And I'd been checking out her tits! I felt so PERVERTED. So DIRTY. But then I thought, who the hell dressed her like that? Had she actually selected that outfit herself? Was she hoping to get lucky? Or perhaps I'm just out of touch, and the Pussycat Dolls have added a new, slightly funny-looking member?

Anyhow, it freaked me out. especially the dreams I've been having since. But that was nothing compared to this morning, when Crazy Guy Number Two decided to pick a fight with Scarface.

Yes, CGN2 was loudly mumble-singing his usual obnoxious little ditty, and ol' Tony was yelling at nobody like always -- but evidently the wild-haired crooner decided he was being upstaged. He pushed his way through the somewhat crowded bus, and started shouting in Tony's face. I couldn't tell just what it was that Number Two was saying, but Tony continued his rant, oblivious to the psychopath screaming incoherently at him, inches from his black plastic eyes. Both of them were in the stairwell, right up against the back door of the bus. Right in front of me.

To any casual (and likely alarmed) observer, they appeared to be yelling at each other, on the verge of coming to blows. But I, being somewhat familiar with both of their tendencies and being within a few feet of the melee, could tell that what we essentially had here was a failure to communicate. Some men, you just can't reach. In this case, two of them.

Because SeƱor Montana was screaming at his imaginary adversary, but Charlie Manson the Baptist was apparently convinced he was the target of the screaming, and was screaming back. The cacophony was really only matched by the smell and the flying spit. I was thankful for my trusty ubiquitous quintessentially San Francisco leather jacket, but it unfortunately did not protect my face.

It went on like this for several stops, with all the people around me getting more and more nervous and attempting to give the insane pair a wide berth. The driver was gurgling something over the intercom but nobody can ever hear what those guys are saying, especially with all the noise -- and a couple of youngish black guys stationed in the back (I'm sure it bugs the hell out of those African-Americans old enough to remember Rosa Parks, but for some strange reason, the Brothas under 30 seem to prefer the back of the bus) kept shouting "Maaaayn, da's fucked-up" repeatedly, so I had chaos in Quadraphonic Stereo Surround Sound -- but for awhile there was no actual fighting, just screaming. That is, until Wild Man decided to reach for the Hombre's sunglasses, and I saw the barrel-chested Latin gangster suddenly take notice of the outside world for the first time.

Tony didn't stop talking smack; he just kept right on with his rant -- but his fist came out of nowhere and slammed into Charlie's crotch. Yes, you read that right. His crotch. Wild Man Manson doubled over in pain just as the bus screeched to a halt, the back door opened, and the two tumbled out into the street -- one tripping away casually while continuing to rave at the universe; the other falling to his knees on the asphalt. One minute I was sitting there pressed against the window, wishing I'd chosen a seat further away; the next minute I was watching them fly out the door. It happened so quickly, I barely had time to register that it had gotten physical. But I'd witnessed the below-the-belt sucker punch right before the door opened, so I knew. "Wow", I thought to myself, "I live in an indie film."

And then the door closed and the bus heaved forward. I watched out the window as the crazy bearded bastard crawled away, leaving his poncho in the street behind him, and my day continued normally.

Keep in mind that I will likely see these guys again, on my daily commute to work.

That reminds me, actually, of another guy who was on the bus recently. Probably pushing 70, but one of those guys who grew up tough and can still kick your ass even if you're half his age. Fairly thick accent; Puerto Rican New Yorker, I think, but again, I'm just guessing. Unlike the crazy guys, he was actually talking to someone on the phone. Again, quite loudly; I don't get these folks who talk so loudly on the phone when they're on a bus full of people, but whatever. He kept saying the same thing, over and over again, to whoever was on the phone: "Firs ya gotsa takes care o da penis."

Did I mention he was loud?

I looked around, and several other people appeared to be hearing something strangely amusing, so I knew it wasn't just me. He kept arguing on his cellphone, gesturing wildly, shaking his head and saying "no, ya gotsa takes care o da penis firs. Jus takes care o da penis an den we'll see." Basically the same weird shit, repeatedly. I am not making this up.

Now this was NOT the kind of guy that you EVER look in the eyes or even acknowledge, so I could only catch furtive glances at him as his frustrated phonecall got more and more heated, until finally he said something to the effect of "Penis! Penis! You hears me? I'm hanging oop now!" and he snapped his phone shut. It was then that it dawned on me. "Business." He was saying, "First ya gotta take care of BUSINESS." That one had me smiling to myself the rest of the way home.

Ah, city life. Ya gotta love it.

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