Thursday, December 20, 2007

First Things First

Here it goes, my first bus story already!

Let me start with how I select a seat on the bus. Travelling by myself, I'm careful about where and by whom I sit. If presented with a choice of sitting with a man or a woman, I'll sit next to the woman. I recall one specific incident when a man intentionally and uninvitingly felt my leg. I also try to sit near the front, after the seats for disabled and elderly riders. I feel safer and I can alert the driver of a bad situation on the bus, should one occur.

Other than that, I'll sit wherever a seat is open. A teenager wearing all black with a mohawk, a fresh-from-the-jobsite construction worker, a frowning old lady clutching her bag tighter because I might be a thief, I'll sit next to any of them. I've shared a bus with crying babies, workaholics, people who talk aloud to no one in particular about nothing in particular (conspiracies, Asians don't give money, grouchy mumblings about see-he-did-it-again-he's-just-like-those-others, that kinda non-particular), big people, small people, I-Pod listeners, gamers, texters, loud cellphone users, readers, sleepers, and many, many tourists. I've had the unfortunate experience of sitting behind a guy with a very questionable odor, or at least, I hoped it was him and not me.

They don't bother me. The person that rattles me is THE COUGHER. I'm not talking about the polite closed-mouthed cough into the sleeve cougher like those at a symphony concert or in a meeting. The bus-riding cougher puts his whole being into horking up phlegm from goodness knows where, wide open mouth, several times, throwing his mucus-inducing germs into the air-conditioned atmosphere.

On the first bus of my two-bus trip to campus last Thursday, I sat by a young, healthy-looking guy. After a few minutes, he's coughing. He gets off somewhere in Pearl City, so that's about 20 minutes of coughs. He had turned to the side and tried to bury his coughing, so after he got off, I stayed in the aisle seat. Usually, I would have moved over to the window seat and leave the aisle seat open for the next rider, but that just wasn't gonna happen. Luckily, the bus wasn't very full and many seats were open.

Like the two seats behind me. An older guy moved from somewhere in back to the window seat in the row behind me. Alright, he's not bothering me. And then he coughed. A few minutes later, he coughed again. He didn't get off the bus until somewhere in town. By now, that's an hour of breathing in air coughed by someone else. It was enough to make me start to feel a little under the weather myself. Maybe I should ask, will being allergic to someone else make one cough?

It was a rainy, windy sorta day, so the number of potential coughers in a bus goes up dramatically. I'm going with that.

From UH, I caught a ride with Brenda (Big D Committee) and Nick to visit Kapolei Middle. When the visit was over, I had them drop me off at the Kapolei SC, I went to the bead shop, then took the bus to the LCC stop. From there, I waited to transfer to the bus that'll take me home.

Already at the stop were four people: a guy on the backside by the rail [call him G1], a guy sitting on the rail to the right [G2], a guy sitting on the bench in front of G2 [G3], and a girl sitting about two feet from G3, all about college age (I'm assuming 'cuz we're at the LCC stop). The girl was wearing white slippers and white jeans, both of which were splattered with mud. I said it was a rainy day.

I was listening to music so I didn't hear everything, but I noticed that the girl was facing G3 and talking. G3 didn't seem to be listening to her though. He had earbuds in his ear and not really looking at her. G2 didn't seem to be paying attention to her either. G1 was looking down the road for the bus and completely not in a conversation with the girl.

She's talking and making sense, saying stuff about how hard her finals were and the classes she's taking next semester and stuff, but I couldn't figure out to whom she was speaking.

Then I see G3 take out his right earbud. He glances at her every so often, nods his head. He made some reply to something she said.

Apparently his phone rings; he takes out the other earbud and answers his phone. She seems to stop talking. Then she says something, he turns his head towards her, still on the phone, nods some more. They do that a few more times.

His bus arrives and he just stands up and goes. Another guy [G4] gets off from that bus and sits on the bench where G3 had been sitting. The bus leaves.

A minute later and she starts talking to G4. She's saying the same things she had said to G3, only this time G4 participates in the conversation with her.

I was at that stop for at least half an hour. My bus comes and it's pretty full so I sit in one of the elderly seats. The girl sits right next to me on the left. A couple guys that got on with us stand in the aisle. The bus starts rolling.

A stop later, the girl noticed that there was a seat on the other side between a guy and a pole, kind of a tight fit if one doesn't like touching a stranger on the bus. The girl asks the guy [G5] standing in the aisle to my right, "You like sit down? I'll go sit ovah d'ere." G5 declines. "You sure? You like sit down? I'm gonna sit ovah d'ere so someone can take this seat." G5 declines. "I'm gonna go ovah d'ere, you like sit down?"

She gets up and sits between the guy and the pole on the other side. G5 looks around him, sees that no lady or elderly is standing so he shrugs and sits next to me where the girl had been.

Initially, at that last stop, I was thinking, good thing she wasn't talking to me. I'm not very good at being social with strangers who talk just to talk. I'm awkward with small talk and get bored easily if the other person talks on without caring if I'm listening or not. I try to make conversation, but, I'm awkward.

I ended up thinking, wow, that girl is something good. She saw an open seat and moved to let a strong young man have her seat. That has got to be the first time I've seen that happen. God bless that young lady.

And no, G5 did not cough even once.