Sunday, June 08, 2008

On the bus

Thursday morning on the bus, sans iPod, I found myself seated next to two men about my age, who were standing in the aisle and talking to one another in the privileged tones of the corporately secure. They began by assuring one another that the bus was not normally considered an appropriate mode of transport. Both used "fuck" as the most frequent condiment in their sentences, and one of them said "retarded" a couple of times. At first, they were discussing a sporting event.

"Did you see the game?"


"Fucking intense."


"The ending?"

"Yeah, the part at the end."

They reminded me of the people who populate the best of David Mamet's early stage work: often, he has two characters speaking passionately about something with which they may or may not be familiar. It was entirely possible from what I heard that neither man had actually seen the game. I was not able to discern so much as what sport it may have been.

The bus had reached maximum density and the driver had begun to skip stops rather than risk letting more folks on, but these men spoke loudly, as though they were certain that there was not another soul for miles. Children often have this quality, but in a confined public space, most adults do not. Or at least I don't.

We passed a tower of condos near the river.

"You know what those places cost?"

"No. I bet it's retarded."

"Sure, just think about what a fucking membership across the street costs."

"They include a membership?"

"No. I don't know. I'm just saying that's expensive."


"The club's expensive, so the condos have to be."

They got off soon afterward, in the midst of discussing recent or potential sexual conquests.

That's the thing about a rush hour bus ride. You never know what you're going to overhear or see, or become involved in. Two days earlier, a young woman sitting next to me was idly reviewing the images on her cell phone, which included several topless shots of herself. And on Monday, a woman said "Steven, you're breaking my heart" twice into her cell phone, each time in a sort of dreamy singsong. She said nothing before or after, and more than a minute passed between repetitions.

It's nice, I guess, as a writer, to absorb these things. To watch the behavior and be curious, to remember and to record.

But all the same, most of the time I'd rather have my iPod.


Speaking of sporting events, I attended one Friday night. I'll post about the experience soon. In the meantime, there are some pictures of the park and some fireworks which are freshly added to flickr.


Taffiny said...

I don't know your reference. I never really "get" that sort of talking (especially loudly in public). I don't hang out with Bob when he is with his friends, but whenever I over-hear him on the phone, or he relays a story to me about them, I get the impression that they speak to each other in really short surfacey sentences.

I like being plugged into my ipod, especially when in a crowded close space, but I do find the snippets of dialogue and visuals provided by others interesting. Seeing what they are presenting and wondering who they really are.
The cool thing about a bus, is all these different stories, plotlines, lifelines, converged in this small space, for a moment in time going in the same direction together, yet all separate, distinct.

Reading the Signs said...

But Moon, if you'd had your iPod you wouldn't have been able to record this and then we'd have missed something because it's - what is the word - well, moving. Absurd too, but moving, and I can't quite say why. And that word "retarded" in the context - so curious, to my ears at any rate.

Pants said...

Hi Maht

I'm with Signs on this one - much more interesting than the iPod. It's Steven the heartbreaker I want to know about.



Unknown said...

Public transport is just so good - you get to inadvertently become a snoop and you get to keep up with the lingo of all the bright young things!
Really, Mr Moon, you are a writer, pay attention.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Minx made me laugh - ' are a writer, pay attention'

It's good that she made me laugh because I was simmering in annoyance over the shallow thoughtlessness of people.

I was on a train the other day, seated not far from two guys who were discussing women as though they were car shopping by options and features alone.
I was somewhere between livid and furious about that one.

But you and Minx have a much more laid back perspective, and it's a good reminder to me not to take things so seriously.

Or I could get an ipod.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Taffiny said...

I've tagged you,
my post is long, so I've pulled the questions out for you.

I don't actually expect you to do it or anything, but I would like to know your answers, so I tag you just the same.

Off hand I recall, what were the last 5 books you read? 5 places you have lived. What are three of your bad habits? What would you do if you were a billionaire?
going back and checking-
Oh and, What were you doing 10 years ago? 5 things on your to-do list for today. What are some snacks you enjoy? What are 5 jobs you have had?

Gidge Uriza said...

Personally, Maht, I like to combine the word fuck and retard for the classic and ladylike insult FUCKTARD.

I think it has a nice ring to it.

Liz Dwyer said...

I can just see these two. Probably think they're at the top of the world. Annoying and interesting all at the same time.

I love public transportation because you never know what's gonna happen. Last time I road the bus here in LA I got offered $100 by a toothless guy wearing a red bandana. He wanted my phone number. I declined and then he offered $200. I still declined to give it to him but I have to admit I considered writing a fake number down.

Chandni said...

I tend to find my most interesting moments of the day are when I am on some sort of public transport, observing people. Snippets of conversations, mannerisms, a squabble, a mood you can see the entire tapestry of human emotion. Though I must admit I AM happier with my music plugged on. Your narration made me feel I was there too hearing these two! Nice stuff...

btw I got here through Vesper's blog and I am glad I did!

Tim Atkinson said...

The school gates can be just as good, believe me. And the blokes on the bus were definitely public school!

Cajsa Lilliehook said...

I love the bus. I have many "bus friends" - people I have seen on the bus time and again until comfortable enough to ask "what are you reading?" or they have been comfortable enough to ask me and years of riding the same bus builds an strangely intimate acquaintance.

We know about each other's families, great events like childbirth, marriages, adoptions, retirements. We know each other's likes and dislikes in books, movies, music. We actually know a fair amount about each other. It's just that more often than not, we don't know each other's names.

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heartinsanfrancisco said...

I've begun taking the bus more often as parking is so difficult and expensive in SF, but the conversations around me are usually in Chinese. I fantasize about dropping a comment in their language as I leave in the debonair manner of Cary Grant, although I doubt he spoke Chinese either, and watching the surprise in their faces.

Taffiny said...

Dang! You've been on that bus a long time.

Anonymous said...

In the UK we have 'posh' people with "voices that frighten the horses" who do this sort of thing. You don't find many of them on public transport, but restaurants are full of them.