Riding public bus systems has certainly expanded our view of the universe. Each municipality has its own unique approach to public transit and the ridership varies by city.
Cruisers tend to use bus systems a lot and we have a lot of time to observe each system. Meredith likes Vero Beach transit.
Vero Beach has an unsurpassed bus system. It is free. You can get anywhere on the system in under an hour. Anywhere includes the Publix, the Walmart, the big mall and the airport.
Ridership in Vero shares common threads with most other American cities: largely black or elderly or cruisers, generally lower income. If you recall the story about the maids and nannies tipping the driver from an earlier blog you get a sense of our feelings on the quality of people we meet on the bus: we like them.
Vero Beach Transit has the friendliest drivers we have ever encountered.
It also wins the prize for most eclectic ridership.
Take today for instance:
Getting on the number 1 bus at the Publix we run into the one legged mother who is traveling with her 10 year old and her 2 year old and a big old baby buggy. This woman literally has only one leg. She travels on crutches and she and her children ask no favours from anyone. We always help this fascinating crew when we run into them.
On the number 2 bus at the big mall we ran into Spiky Head/Big Belly. This 6'4", 400 lb. behemoth speaks with a Basso Profundo. His hair, long and unwashed is done in, well, stalagmites. Today as a special treat he was wearing his shirt open so everyone could enjoy his expansive belly.
Spiky Head/Big Belly likes to look scary and he practices on passers by while waiting for the bus, putting on the old evil eye and rushing up on the innocents with a wild look. He always pulls back with laugh.
Spiky Head was joined today on the number 2 by Crazy Telephone Guy. CTG's thing is to ask to borrow some fellow rider's cell phone. You never give Crazy Telephone Guy your phone.
Once in his hands CTG opens his everpresent notebook to reveal a list of about 100 numbers which he starts to call methodically from first to last. On the rare occasions when someone answers his call he always has the same patter: "Hi. I'm calling on my cell phone. Yeah, that's right, I have a cell phone. Busy people need a cell phone you know? So, tell me, what's new?" Rarely does the call go beyond that. As soon as the person being called realizes it is CTG the call ends.
When he is done calling the list CTG returns the phone to its proper owner but first he labouriously copies the number from the loaned phone onto his notebook so...you guessed it...he can start calling the poor slob who gave him the phone whenever he tricks the next poor slob.
So Spiky Head and Crazy Telephone Guy are sitting across from each other when the number 2 bus gets to Walmart. There waiting just for us is our favourite passenger: the List Lady. List Lady has a touch of OCD.
She cannot walk past a piece of paper without picking it up, putting it down, picking it up, putting it down, picking it up... You get the idea.
Today she had her groceries in hand but as she approached the bus she passed a grocery cart which had a couple of what seemed to be receipts lying loose in the bottom. She stopped and looked at them. She ran her hands over them. She picked them up. She put them back.. She ran her hands over them. All the passengers had boarded the bus and the driver was waiting for her. She was panic stricken. She looked at the bus and then at the shopping cart. "I gotta get going" says the driver, "Are you coming or not? I can't wait no longer."
List Lady picked up the pieces of paper in the shopping cart and with herculean effort put them back, ran her hands over them one last time and ran to the bus, all the time looking over her shoulder at the shopping cart with the irresistible lists.
The bus got to List Lady's stop. As List Lady walked down the aisle of the bus, a misguided fellow passenger, misunderstanding the nature of the obsession offered List Lady her grocery receipt. List Lady took it and started out the door. She did not make it.
She ran back to the seat where the passenger was and placed the receipt on the bench beside the passenger. She smoothed it out. She stood up....and then she bent over and picked it up again. She placed it back on the bench and smoothed it out.
"Gotta go" yells the driver. "NOW".
List Lady was truly stricken. She really wanted to stay and pick up that receipt and put it back down again. But the driver had broken the spell and with a final long glance at the list sitting back on the bench List Lady left the bus. She was very unhappy.
And now I am out of time. I cannot tell you about Gimpy ("No one told me they added a new bus run at 5 p.m. Did they tell you? No one told me they added a new bus run at 5 p.m. Did they tell you? Why did they add...")
or the Veteran Hat Parade who won't talk to anyone not wearing a hat with an ex military pin on it
Or Red Headed Baby Machine, or the Blind Mover, or the Working Lady who takes the bus to work, all day long, changing from the 1 to the 2 to the 4 to the 6 to the 1. All day long she' s going to work.
Fact is we like these people. They are starting to accept us as we start to accept them.
Another 2 weeks in Vero and I am going to start riding the bus while wearing my lifejacket.
Just so I fit in.