bus nazi or call me patrick

I was about to step on the Rapid 720 when the driver yelled at someone toward the back, “Get off the bus.” His forceful delivery made me flinch. And for those who thought he wasn’t serious before, when he qualified the command by barking “Now!” there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this guy meant business.

He stopped a few of us still trying to enter, “Don’t move.” We all looked at each other in fear, waiting for some tough gangster kid brandishing numchucks to be thrown off. Instead, a Korean grandpa tentatively, if not innocently, turned around. Certainly not me, he must have thought, at least that’s what it looked like he was thinking, only not in English, but Korean. He then flashed a cunning smile at the bus driver. As if it was that easy.

“You not special. You enter front door. Not back. Off.” Finally, “Mr. Kim” got the hint—it must have been the lack of verbs and articles—went out the back door, walked around and sheepishly flashed his bus pass only to be lectured again that he "really not special."

I wish I could have had more sympathy for the old man. But earlier, while waiting for the bus, standing a little too close to me, he cleared his throat, coughed up some gunk and spit it out. And with the wind as strong as it was today, I felt the slightest sprinkle of his septuagenarian spittle.

Still, he was an irritable one that bus driver—Patrick. I know his name only because I overheard it. But I’ll get to that later. So either Patrick, with his handle bar mustache, male pattern baldness, Popeye arms and “Lamb of God” tattoo woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, or he’s simply a man with an attitude.

A guy got on the bus a few stops later, he’s white and in his forties so there’s a good chance he’s crazy. There’s a bag at the entrance for trash. It’s also white, like the kind from a market, only instead of a store’s name, in a generic cartoony sort of a way “trash” is printed in big green letters. You can’t miss it, really. Accordingly, he threw his newspaper away in this bag. Only he did miss it and made the mistake to continue walking. But before he could pass me—I was sitting in the front, just beyond the awkward seats that face each other—Patrick bellowed, “You dropped something.” Clueless, the bus rider turned around, “Huh?” “Don’t be leaving your shit on my bus.”

Notwithstanding his likely lunacy, the man knew better than to argue. He picked up his paper and tried to make it into the bag again. “Uh-uh. There’s a trash can outside.” Patrick’s slick scalp and oily creased neck signaled to the door.

Of course this held up others who were trying to enter since they had to make way for the poor dude to get out and toss his periodical.

“What are you waiting for? Get in!” I caught a glimpse of Patrick’s eyes from the rearview mirror. If this was a cartoon they would have popped out of his head.

Fortunately, for Patrick and the passengers he has music to curb his conniptions. As soon as he pushed in that mixed tape of his—disco and rap—he lightened up a bit.

Never mind that his singing and finger tapping on the steering wheel were enough to turn me into one of those crazy white riders, Patrick was clearly in his element. His big blue eyes, with a tinge of redness, I gather from hitting the bottle last night, sparkled. I said hip hop a hippie to the hippie… The middle aged black couple sitting next to me looked at each other and smiled, adding a mild, if not sympathetic eye roll. I simpered to myself. Though I didn’t look around, I’m sure we weren’t the only ones with grins.

It’s a catchy song and you could sense that some people, who might have started off scoffing, were shamelessly getting into it as well. No, the whole bus didn’t join in. Nevertheless, it was a buoyant moment of togetherness.

And then she got on, at La Brea. With her braids, mochaccino complexion, bright eyes, Miss Sixty painted on jeans and Balenciaga motorcycle handbag. Another shared, albeit, internalized moment, what’s she doing on the bus?

She looked confused and asked in her posh, probably London accent where the bus stopped, "Would you be so kind as to stop there for me?” She kept calling our groove meister sir, which prompted him to say, “You can call me Patrick.”

Miss Sixty stayed at the front while chatty Patty turned out to be surprisingly charming, at least that’s what it looked like from my seat. He was suddenly subdued. His cheeks went from Irish ruddy to be-still-my-heart red.

Patrick let her off at Camden—not a regular stop for the 720. She was probably going to Barney’s. His eyes watched her trot off the bus and cross the street in front of us. She gave a coy wave. Patrick shook his head and from his chapped lips came a sound, “burr” like he just took a dip in freezing cold water.

The guy behind me said, “Man, she certainly played him good.”

I wanted to turn around to see who this wisecracker was but didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, or worse, an opportunity to strike up a conversation with me.

Once lovely lady was out of sight, Patrick turned up the radio, I will survive, as long as I know how to live, I know I’ll stay alive… Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly have any more shared moments with your fellow bus riders.

No comments: