Monday, May 28, 2012

The Duel Incidents on the Bus

    Here are some pictures I took recently while at a friends house. They are pictures of Aurora Ave. Aurora is a bit dingy, but in an interesting way that makes me want to take lots of photographs. The city is trying to clean up the image of Aurora by closing down all the cheap motels that charge by the hour. After one of the motels closed down, the graffiti artists took over and decorated the place with words and pictures. I always meant to take photos, but I never found myself in the area and now it has been torn down. Hopefully somewhere on the internet the motel still exists in pictures.

    A couple of months ago while riding a bus down this very road, I had an interesting encounter on the bus. Any bus rider living in a city is bound to have a handful of bus stories chronicling the odd occurrences experienced while trying to get from one place to the next. Most of my bus stories include a shady looking man offering me swigs from a bottle of unspecified liquor, not so discreetly hidden from view by a brown paper bag. I always promptly but politely decline their offer. Not offended but eager to share, they then offer their beverage to an equally uninterested bus passenger. Of course, not all bus incidents involve undrunk liquor.
    Recently, I encountered my most dramatic bus incident yet! What made this bus incident especially dramatic was that there were two different occurrences happening simultaneously. Drama was unfolding in the front of the bus where I was sitting while passengers in the back of the bus were subjected to their own drama. I was reading a book and listening to headphones when the drama began, so I was unaware anything fishy was going on. Usually I am more tuned in to good eavesdropping opportunities, but it must have been an off day.
    My first clue that something strange was happening was when I saw a man from the back of the bus rush to the front of the bus with quick strides. He and the bus driver briefly spoke to each other, but I didn’t take off my headphones to listen to this exchange. I assumed the man missed his stop and was asking the bus driver to stop in between stops for him. This is a common enough request, especially on an express route (which we were on) where stops are not close to each other. But even the most ardently told sob story will not convince a hardened bus driver to stop in between stops. They have heard it all! The bus passenger walked back to his spot in the back of the bus. I thought he walked back with defeat in his gait at his failed request, but I would learn later that my assumptions about the driver and passengers exchange were all wrong.
    I continued reading and listening to music when my eye was drawn to two men in the front of the bus, maybe ten feet away from me (maybe more, I am a pretty bad at visualizing distances). One of the men was a young man with a scowl on his round face. He held himself with and air of casual defiance in hopes that his body language would distract from the fact that he still had the pudgy face of a younger teen. He seemed to be working very hard to cultivate an attitude of toughness. The other person was an older man sitting in a motorized wheel chair scooter. He had a red truckers hat and a beard. He looked like the type of guy who when he was young was a bit of an idealist and thought he would never grow up to be grouchy or cynical. But then something happened along the way and the loss of his idealism only made him more grouchy and cynical then he would have been if he had never been idealistic. In the pause between the songs on my headphones, I heard a bit of their conversation. The older man said “Well, do you need assistance getting off the bus?” He said it loudly with a slight edge in his tone. The young man said “Yeah, yeah I do!” It was an odd conversation, but for some uncharacteristic reason, I deemed it unworthy of pausing my music to eavesdrop. I think my reasoning was that angry people on the bus is very common. Its hard to be squeezed on a swaying bus with a bunch of strangers when you’d rather be at your destination. Some people don’t handle discomfort well.
    When we arrived at the next stop and the driver got up and went to the back of the bus. Again, I assumed his motivations were mundane. I thought someone in a wheel chair was sitting toward the back and that the person needed assistance getting off the bus. The bus drivers are often very helpful to people in wheel chairs although usually anyone in a wheel chair sits up front. But soon I realized we had been paused at the same stop for a very long time. This is when I started to get really curious. I looked up from my book and surveyed the scene. The old man and young man from earlier were outside, standing right in front of the bus. My view was partially obscured, but from what I saw the young man moved in an aggressive manner toward the older man, as if he was going to smack or push the older man. This is when I really started paying attention. What sort of person bullies an old man in a wheel chair? The young man has taken his tough, angry youth persona too far. A middle aged man with blondish hair gets up from his seat on the bus and rushes outside. From what I can gather, he was trying to diffuse the tension between the angry duo. He comes back inside and the old man and young man wander off toward the city. As the young man departs he says “Fuck the cops!” which is funny because there aren’t any cops around. Although I did wonder if the blondish man was an off duty cop and the comment was directed at him.
    The bus driver came back to the front of the bus but instead of driving off, we remained immobile for even longer. From a distance, I saw the guy in the motorized scooter putter back toward the bus. He parks his scooter right next to the bus and stands up. He stands right outside the bus in front of the open door and says to the driver “You should have helped me! That man was bothering me and you should have helped me!” He was not just stating it as a simple fact, he was angrily yelling. The bus driver looks weary. He is tired of the daily drudgery of dealing with disgruntled passengers, drunken passengers and apathetic passengers with no where else to go. The bus driver’s body language coveys a sense that he is almost amused, like maybe he is already imagining retelling the story of the angry bus rider to his wife at dinner time. His wife will put her hand on his and say “oh, honey, they really do not pay you enough to deal with all these crazy people.” He’ll smile and feel glad to have someone who understands him.
    Without much conviction, the bus driver shuts the door in the old mans face. This infuriates the old man. He starts pounding on the glass and trying to pry the door open. He yells and hollers more angry words at the bus driver. he says “if you don’t open this up, I’ll report you. I will report you!“ He screeches at the bus driver The bus driver sighed and meekly smiled “Fine,” He said, “report me then.” The old man, who had appeared docile while sitting on the bus now resembled an angry animal banging frantically against his glass enclosure. At this point, I am definitely not reading my book anymore which contained way less drama then my actual bus ride. I am feeling very uncomfortable because I really do hate confrontation. The man yelled “Let me in!” The bus driver sighed and with a lazy push of the button he opens the doors. As the doors open, the bus driver got up and walked to the back of the bus. The old man stumbled on the bus and without the bus driver near at hand to directed his anger toward, he instead turned his furious eyes toward us, the passengers.
    “You should have helped me!” he yelled, spit flying from between his lips and landing on the cheeks of the people sitting in the first row. “That man was bullying me, and you all just sat there!” This is when I started piecing together what happened earlier. While I was distracted, the young man had been bothering and bulling the older man on the bus. The incident outside was just the climax of the dispute. I felt simultaneously sympathetic and annoyed with the old man. He had a point. When we as humans see someone in a weak position being trampled upon, we should help. But he sounded so belligerent and malicious and downright scary as he yelled at us, it was hard to have the proper compassion for him. Also, he assumed it was apathy that prevented anyone coming to his defense when it could just as easily be fear that stopped people. No one wanted the mean young man to start harassing them.
    The old man continued yelling “All of you, all of you are horrible, despicable people. You should have helped me!” An old woman sitting a couple of rows ahead of me on the opposite side had enough of this old man. She must have been in her late seventies or in her eighties. Throughout her life she has seen plenty of angry men and does not intend to deal with them any more. She yelled “Ahhhh, pssshhh.” and gestured her hands toward the front of the bus as if she was pushing an invisible person away from her. The sound she made is an odd one but I think it was suppose to convey a sentiment of “Just leave!” This only serves to further infuriate the man. He yells “You are all lame. You should have helped me. But no one cares.” Some one else whispers under his breath “Welcome to Seattle.”
    The old man looked at his newest nemesis who is the “ahh,pssh’ lady and said “You! You are a jerk!” Then the lady sitting next to me, who is a baby boomer that definitely was a hippie in her youth said “HAHAHAHA! NO sir, you are the jerk!” More yelling ensues and he calls us all lame, shameful and horrible people. For someone so angry he really did keep his language tame. There was no swearing at all. Finally, the old man was too frustrated and sad to deal with us any longer, so he storms off the bus.
    After he is off the bus and out of earshot, a man in the front of the bus with a broken arm said sarcastically “Well, don’t I feel bad.” The middle aged guy who broke up the fight earlier and may or may not be an undercover cop said “You should feel awful. That man was being bullied and you all just sat there. Can’t you see he is in a wheel chair?” This is when I decided he probably wasn’t a cop. He had this injured expression on his face, as if he just found out Santa Clause is not real. But really it was the expression of disappointment at his fellow personkind. If he was an undercover cop, I don’t think it would be so shocking and disappointing to encounter a situation like this.
    Another person on the bus said “Well he started it!” And other people on the bus murmured their agreement. The middle aged guy said “No, no he didn’t.” and he shuffled off the bus. Many people on the bus had expressions of both guilt and indignation.
    From the distance I heard the wail of a siren. An ambulance swung past us and parked right in front of the bus. The lady next to me said “It is about time!” as if she knew exactly why an ambulance was here. So I asked her what the heck was going on. Apparently, someone in the back of the bus had a seizure. That is why the man from earlier rushed to the front of the bus and also why we had been stopped for so long. I don’t know if the seizure was okay or not, but I think he was. When I got downtown to my destination, I sighed with relief. It was a whirlwind of a bus misadventure.

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