Adventures in City Dwelling

Today I went to the grocery store on my lunch break to pick up a few things for my fabulous, funky dinner party tonight. The store is about a 20 minute walk from my office, 30 minutes when the streets are packed full of tourists on a beautiful day like today. Given that it would take me 30 minutes to walk there and 30 minutes back, I had to find a way to get there via transportation. So I took...dun dun dun...the bus. And thus began my hour long adventure.

Now I ride the bus out on the west side from home to the red line a couple of times a week, but rarely in the loop. These past few weeks, however, I've found myself running errands north of the loop on my lunch break, which has required extra bus riding. And the thing about bus riding, the most unfortunate thing about bus riding, is that it is not a solo activity. No, there are other, I shall call them "people" but I'm hesitant, other "people" that ride the bus with you. Occasionally, this makes for an entertaining trip. Usually it makes for an annoying trip. Like today.

1:05 p.m
I get on the bus today, quietly catching up with my mom on the phone. The bus seems pretty empty and I am pleased.

1:07 p.m
A couple stops down and the bus is much fuller. An ambulance is screaming by and children en masse are getting on the bus. One of them and his mother sits down directly across from me. This child appears to be about six, maybe seven years old. Old enough to behave. Upon sitting in his chair, he starts wailing and crying and flailing for reasons I do not understand. I am still on the phone with my mother.
Mom: Where the hell are you now? What's all that noise? Is that a baby???
Megan: No. No Mom. It is not, in fact, a baby.

More people get on the bus, this time a very angry woman and her child. She shoves her child down the aisle toward a seat and plants herself next to the driver and begins yelling. I'm trying not to pay attention because, quite frankly, I don't care. But the yelling escalates and finally I have to hang up the phone with my mom because we can't hear each other.

The angry woman seems to be angry that the bus didn't come fast enough. Or that some other bus drove right past her. I couldn't tell which. She eventually sits down, but not without comments from the peanut gallery behind me. Next thing I know, some dude yells to the middle of the bus, instructing the angry woman to sit down and shut up. Why on earth someone is picking a fight with this woman is beyond me, but he is. She tells him to shut up. He tells her to shut up again, for she is on the bus now, what is the point in yelling? He gets up to exit the bus at his stop. She gets up to confront him. They talk in each others' faces for a few seconds. He tells her to stop her bitching and gets off the bus. She yells after him, "SHUT UP! YOU GAY BITCH!!"

I see I'm at my stop and fly off the bus, only to be confronted, videogame style, with a load of tourist idiots that I have to dodge and wiggle through to get to my destination.

I finally make it to the grocery store where I search out my bread and marshmallow cream. Apparently, this grocery store does not have marshmallow cream because God hates Megan.

I get in line. The Express line, as I only have four items. I'm going to be cutting it close getting back to work, perhaps I will take a cab. I look to see who's ahead of me in line. The guy directly in front only has a few items. As I look to the lady in front of him, I noticed that it is her turn and she is paying. She has also just pulled a large pile of change from her purse. My eyes widen. She begins counting.

Her total is $21.19. Moving at the speed of a glacier, she puts the change into dollar piles and slowly reaches $7 of change. I nod my head to myself, "Yeah, this about right. This is my life." After another dollar pile and another two minutes, she hands the woman a $10 bill, pleased with herself and, apparently, finished counting. I calculate in my head and find she has only paid $17 of her $21.19 bill. The cashier agrees with my mental math and tells her she needs more money. The woman scoffs and mutters in another language and counts out another dollar. Again, the cashier points to the total on the screen and says, "It's $21.19". The woman mutters again and reaches into her pocket, from which she pulls a fistful of BILLS. Ones, fives, tens, twenties. My eyeballs nearly fall on the floor.

I'm out the door and standing on the street trying to get a cab. A seemingly harmless grandpa looking old man approaches the bus stop near me. He begins bumbling around and quickly becomes less harmless seeming. "Those motherfuckers!" he bellows, gesturing at some invisible group of motherfuckers. "Those motherfucker bastards! Shouldn't be workin a job like that," he growls. "They should be workin in a kitchen. In a dump!". He is talking to no one in particular. "I'll tell you what, those cocksuckers! That fucking bus!". As he continues talking, the words between curses begin to make less and less sense. Finally a cab rescues me.

I am in the cab of a rather friendly cab driver, probably in his fifties. We have some ambiguity about which way he should go, and he offers the information that he is new to cab driving. This is not the first time, or the second, that I have been subject to the confusion of a new cab driver, but at least he knows where the address is, if not exactly how to get there.

I asked, "How long have you been driving then?".

He tells me three weeks. I ask him, "Do you like it?"

He says no, with a very sad look on his face, and tells me that he lost his job and that this is what he is stuck doing. He also tells me that since he has started driving all day long, his back has already begun hurting him. None of this is said pitifully, just with resignation, which makes me unbearably sad. I tip him $3.50 for a $6 cab ride, as he probably needs the extra dollar more than I do. He thanks me profusely and I exit the cab.

Living in the city, you are forced to face the sadness of downtrodden people on a regular basis. Some days, some excursions you are forced to deal with it a lot more. It's easy to turn away and try to ignore it. But sometimes I like to indulge in the reality of it all to make myself realize how lucky I am to be protected in my white, rich person bubble, unlike the crazy old man, or the angry woman, or the sad cab driver. And then I like to give myself a pat on the back for still, even after seeing the sadness on a daily basis, being moved enough by what's going on around me to doing something uncharacteristically unselfish, like making the cab driver grin with an extra tip.

1 Response on "Adventures in City Dwelling"

  1. Sharona says:

    Well, honey, you're right. The screaming on the bus WAS quite annoying to our conversation. All told, I'm amazed by your patience. I remember being a 20-something person, travelling by public transportation, and being WAY less nice. I was never one to say anything outwardly, though. I seethed quietly. Could that be where you get it? In a typically "unrelated" situation... This past week in Florida, I was in the parking lot, in the rain, not driving, but trying to load groceries, ie: beer, water, ice, gatorade, into our vehicle. An older woman next to us had a case of water, other groceries, and an umbrella. Imagine that. An umbrella in the rain. So after putting our shit in our car, I proceeded to load her car, make sure she was dryly deposited in her driver's seat and returned her cart to the the cart corral. "Customer service?" you say. Damn. I guess that's me.
    Love you honey. Hope you get what I have.

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