Charis has always had a lot to talk about when she comes home from school. Barely through the front door downstairs and it all starts pouring out. Usually it has been about her teachers or the other kids in class. Now Charis has a whole new topic to tell about: Weirdos on the Bus!
Coming into the 5th grade this year, puts Charis at a “High” school (Gymnasium is what it is called here) which is no longer in walking distance, so she takes the #22 bus to the #1 Tram and gets off directly in front of her school. After a couple of days of taking the route with her, she was on her own and feeling pretty confident. (I’m so glad she is adjusting well to her entirely new school situation.)
Now my gregarious daughter (don’t even think that thought! She has it from BOTH of us!) comes home and says things like this: “Mama, today this guy got on the bus and one of his eyes had skin grown over it. He had a blind stick, but I think he could see a little bit from one eye. I gave him my seat.” Or, “Today the tram was really full, and I had no place to put my feet. Every time the tram jerked, I accidently stepped on this woman’s feet. I said I was sorry, but she scolded me!” Or, “Today it was so full and when I wanted to get off, there were too many people in front of me, I had to wait for them first. Then this man behind me rudely pushed me aside and told me to get out of his way, so he could get off the bus” Or “There was this guy who looked pretty shabby and he smelled so bad, the bus was so full, that he kept squashing me up against the side. I got off a stop earlier than i had to, just to get some fresh air.”(Charis is particularly offended by "icky things", such as body oder, bad breath, saliva. Rules out kissing or any kind of body contact.)
So then I tell her about when I had to take the bus to school. At about her age, I took the #42 bus down to Dupont Circle and then switched to the D2, which took us to Hardy Middle school. Mostly we kids dominated the bus scene once we were on it, and we found any number of “targets” for our curiosity and amusement. I was a rare white face in the back of the bus with a loud and boisterous group of black and Hispanic friends fighting for the good seats next to the windows. In DC there was no shortage of smelly passengers, and the ones who smelled most like liquor and urine were also the most eager to engage us in some surreal conversation. Jan and I had the opportunity to experience just such a social encounter together many years ago in a subway in NY. In fact we stole the line our fellow commuter kept repeating, and we still use it for a laugh, and for when we want to signal that one of us is getting too close to the edge of our sanity.
I told Charis about the guy who got on my bus once when it was particularly crowded, who had no nose. It wasn’t grown over or anything; there was just this big, gaping hole, where his nose should have been! Wow, not everybody gets to see something like that! But our favorite characters were the Big Hair Ladies. I’m not talking beehive hairdos from the 60’s either. I’m talking big monster hairdos. Dinosaur hairdos. Scary hairdos! They had large cardboard signs with them with pictures of burns on their bodies, which they said were caused by the government doing chemical testing on them. It had also made their hair grow like crazy. I guess I pretty much believed them, but I didn’t really know what to do about it. I just thought, "wow, that’s scary". One day though, I saw one of these women take her big hairdo off. That was eye opening. I still don’t let the government do any testing on me though.
I guess I’ll save all the stories about almost getting frost bite while waiting for the bus for hours in sub-zero temperatures in my Nikes, my wet hair frozen to icicles by the time I got to class, for when she starts bugging me to give her a ride to school in winter.
Well, sorry for ranting on about all that. Charis just reminded me again of all those people we miss while we drive around in our SUV’s and our mini-vans. Her little reports made me realize that she is venturing out of a pretty protected circle and discovering that this world is full of wackos! So, if you ever think you are a wee bit too snuggly in your comfort zone, just start taking the bus, and you'll be reminded what a weird world we really live in.