The Moveable Feast: A Day on the Eugene City Bus

I’d just walked out of BoRics on Friday, and I was feeling pretty good.  I’d taken the bus downtown that morning, and had a couple errands to run before heading back to another episode of The-Jerry-Springer-Show-waiting-to-be-booked that was my life at home these days.

I’d unbuttoned my Hawaiian shirt a little bit so that, just like the ladies, it opened up to my magnificent chest, and my newly-developed Ron Jeremy mustache was burgeoning into full 1980s Hedgehog.  That, along with the haircut—well, let’s just say it was giving me some looks.

I had to pick up a pair of contact lenses and then go to the Asian food market, still.  I got to the glasses store in about half an hour.  Called the receptionist “miss” and gave her my best Mr. Chips impersonation, some shit like, “Why, believe you me, it’s tough being a single father these days.”  She giggled and went back and to get my contacts.  When she was opening the box to make sure everything was there, I feigned excitement.  “I gotta tell you, I am really looking forward to putting these in.”

“What are you going to use them for?” she asked.

“I’m going to my baby nephew’s bris this Saturday,” I said, “and I’m gonna be in the front row, and I wanna be able to see everything really clearly.”

She said,  “I don’t believe that.”

So I said, “I was planning on going to the zoo to watch a baby giraffe being born.  And I wanna be able to see everything really, really clearly.”

And she said, “I still don’t believe that, but I’m going to give you the contacts.  Because I don’t like the direction this is headed.”

The Asian food market was less than a mile from there.  They were out of the noodle mix I wanted, but I did come across this rare packet of leaves that I’d heard about containing these crazy aphrodisiac powers.  I heard it’s what made everybody go extinct on Easter Island: they just fucked each other right into the ground on the stuff.  I needed to know a little more about it, so I went over to the teenage girl stocking the shelves. In my most genderless and politely neutered voice, I asked her about them.  She was so disinterested, you’d need an SPF of, like, 5,000 to block the rays of disinterest.  She told me to go and ask the man, obviously the owner, likely her father, for whose response there was absolutely no SPF strong enough to repel the disinterest.

I went over to him and said, “Hi, are these leaves derived from the mint family?  They sort of look like leaves of a mentha species.”

And he looked at them for a second, frowning, then tossed the bag onto the counter, “Uhhh, I dunno.  People make…soup out of it, or something?”

“But are they poisonous if they’re consumed in too large a quantity, say?”

He picked it up again, looked, did the exact same thing.  “I dunno.  People make…soup out of it, or something?”

“Oh, and also, are they edible raw, by chance?”

“I dunno.”  He went back to watching Hannity & Friends on his 7 inch, portable Sanyo mini.  “People make…soup out of it, or something?”

I bought the leaves, got out of there and caught the 51 bus back home.

You know, Hemingway famously called Paris ‘A Moveable Feast’. But riding the Eugene city bus is something else, entirely.

You get on, and every time it’s pretty much a slight iteration of the exact same scenario.  At least one of: dangerous-looking dude, nasty old woman; two or more of: stoned twenty year-old, obese lady with frizzy hair; three or more of: international college student, disgruntled parent (with or without child); and four of: middle-aged guy in sweat pants, dangerous-looking dude.

And there’s always the fear someone in front of you will take your seat before you get to it.  Or the nasty old woman nearby will divide like a paramecium and her clone will slither over and infest it.  I got to my seat safely and sat down, right behind this poodle perm, shag carpeting of a woman, watching her give the stink eye to the Persian nationals sitting across the aisle and a little in front of her.  Worried they were going to hijack the bus and fly it into the World Trade Center, or something.  Surreptitiously live-feeding their activities on Twitter as soon as they start talking about Jihadi Kush.  And Afghani Bullrider.

So at the next stop I look up and see an obvious caregiver with an obvious group of adults with developmental disabilities waiting to board.

For some reason, DD adults have always flocked to me.  Maybe it’s the special Campho-Phenique I use, the burning smell or something.  Possibly the Absorbine Jr., I don’t know.  But whatever it is, it drives them wild, and they just say to themselves, ‘I gotta be by this guy.’

So, she came on and brought her group, and I’m near the back, playing it cool.  I’m like, ‘Look, I’m doing a mitzvah for everybody.  People aren’t going to get crowded, aren’t going to freak out.  Hulk up a row of seats or something.’

And so she brought them all to the back, and this one girl locked eyes with me, and the caregiver was like, “Trisha,”—I’ll call her Trisha—“okay, Trisha, go ahead and sit down,” and she does, in the seat right next to me.  So I, in response, scoot over like an inch toward the dangerous-looking dude on the other side of me, looking like, ‘Dude, I need to borrow that scowl,’ and the dude just raises his eyebrows, shrugs and mouths, ‘Sorry.’

So we’re rolling, and I’m noticing Trisha is continually turning to stare at me.  And after about eight minutes of this, the entire group gets ready to leave, and Trisha goes, “That’s okay, guys, I’ll catch another one home.”

So I’m like, ‘This is it.  She’s really gonna say something, and I can’t even remember where my stop is.’  I totally lost my place.  I start freaking out.  And three stops later, without turning again, she just stands up and gets off.  And that’s when the worst thing occurred to me.  My own vanity made me believe a girl with a developmental disability wanted to sit next to me and talk to me.  I was like, ‘Dude, you got a problem.  You got a problem that a $15 haircut ain’t gonna solve.’

The rest of the trip I resigned myself to just wallowing in my own self-defeat.  After a few moments, I suddenly got the sneaking suspicion I was being watched again.  I played it off for maybe a minute, then turned to where I felt it coming from.  And there he was: coke-bottle glasses, elastic band, bowl haircut.  Staring.  He’d remained behind.  And I had missed him.

I met his gaze.  And, for a moment, our souls passed from one to the other, and the currency that was exchanged in the process was the stream of urine that ran slowly down his inner thigh.

I was him, and he was me.

And I saw, in that moment, the chubby jackass with the BoRics haircut, mustache, and bag of possibly laxative and/or poisonous leaves in his lap he was going to go home and try to…make soup out of, or something.

And I knew I needed a change.