A fiftysomething woman with crutches is sitting in the sideways-facing seat behind the driver, holding her nose while surveying the chaos surrounding her. She catches the eye of the woman across from her, chuckles, shakes her head, and announces to everyone within earshot, “I’ve got a get a car.”
Two young(ish) men pass the nearly deserted stop mid-conversation.
Young man 1: “She’s too tall for me, though. If I was taller, I would get at her.” He pauses while his friend chuckles, then continues. “I swear to God, if I was taller, I’d be in her ear, like, ‘woo, woo, woo!'”
A bus-wide discussion about how hot everyone is (par for the course on any [non-air-conditioned] Seattle bus on any day above 80 degrees) is in full swing before we even reach Harborview. Folks express all the usual (uninteresting) weather-related sentiments, until a middle-aged man sitting directly behind the driver adds his two cents.
“I’m about to go home and get naked. Yep, I’m going to get naked with a little, tiny fan.”
It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and Chicklet, Busling, and I are wandering the aisles of the Douglass-Truth children’s section, looking to replenish our summer reading selection.
At a nearby table, a grandmother is reading a picture book, which happens to be one of those reinterpretations of The Wheels on the Bus, to her two-ish grandson. When she gets to, “The driver on the bus says, ‘Move on back!’” Chicklet immediately stops what she is doing.
“That’s not very nice, is it?” she asks, eyeing the grandmother suspiciously. (Don’t sleep on the Chicklet Side Eye.)
I assume that she is concerned about the lack of politeness–since she is always expected to remember her manners–and so attempt to explain that bus drivers have a job that requires them to communicate directions quickly and clearly and sometimes don’t have time to say, “please.”
This explanation doesn’t seem to satisfy her.
“But Mom,” she persists, “People can sit in the front if they want to!”
Guess she’s been paying attention.
“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds, will continue in others.” – Rosa Louise McCauley Parks
The bus is packed, per usual, so I make my way to the very back and squeeze into one of the sideways seats. After a few minutes of settling in, I break out my current ride read, Hotel Angeline.
The young man in the seat diagonal from mine, who has been holding court since before I boarded, asks, “Is that a good book?”
“It’s interesting,” I reply, and then explain that it was written by 36 different authors, on stage.
“So, what,” he counters, “It’s like the Bible of Broadway or something?”
OK, so the guy was a little bit nuts (wish I had time to share the rest of our conversation) but, he was also a little bit right. One of the things I find most compelling about art is the fact that it has a life separate from its creator. I often hear writers say that a story “wrote itself” or that the characters they created took over a novel. The concept of author as vessel becomes even more meaningful when a story has more than one writer. The story that takes shape from the collective mind of 36 people does not belong to anyone and can therefore convey a kind of truth that’s hard to achieve through a single point of view.
Don’t get me wrong: Hotel Angeline’s no Holy Bible. (For that matter, it’s no Home.) But it does provide an interesting insight into how we create and understand art. We think of writing as a solitary endeavor, but even writers who write alone get ideas from other writers–and from interactions and experiences with the people who surround them. And, of course, the true power of a story is only realized when it is read. In other words, no book is the creation of a single individual; every one is, at least to some degree, a product of the community.
Told you Books on the Bus would spark conversation.
Two middle-aged black men are sitting near the front, discussing job prospects. Somewhere near Harborview, one mentions a position he is particularly interested in, which offers, among other perks, union wages and benefits. The other scoffs.
“Let me tell you something: Seattle has black jobs and white jobs. If President Obama went down there and applied, he couldn’t get one of those jobs.”
Random dude, to me: “What can we do?”
The three of us (Chick, Chicklet, and Busling) are putting on shoes, jackets, and et cetera, preparing to head out and catch the 8. Chicklet, who has no rival in the dawdling department, is (per usual) taking forever. She resists instructions to take a preventative trip to the restroom, puts her shoes on the wrong feet, pauses to play with dinosaur figurines recently strewn around the entry, and manages to misplace one of her mittens.
While I’m zipping Busling’s jacket, she disappears into the bedroom. I call for her to come back and put on her hat.
She calls back: “I’m just going to get …”
Busling stops her mid-sentence, and in a perfect imitation of my exasperated tone, hollers, “We don’t have time!”
At the stop near 8th, the driver gets on the mic and says, “Oops. You went too far.” When no one responds, he looks in his rearview mirror and tries again. “Wasn’t one of you looking for Union Gospel Mission?”
After another silence, several of us begin turning in our seats to see who he is talking to. In the process, our eyes scan the man sitting to my right, who has spent most of the short ride talking loudly on his cell about all the money he’s earned this year, and, in particular, this week.
“Don’t look at me,” he huffs. “I’m a certified public accountant.”
Chicklet, pretending to drive: “Next stop, 23rd & Oz! Yellow Brick Road.”