Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Remembering what I forgot

The Stone Age didn't end because people ran out of stones.

Commuters on the M102
I was trying to get ready for my commute to work. I love my commutes (both ways) lately, because I am reading  (on the bus, on my Kindle)  the excellent novel Solar by one of my favorite novelists, Ian McEwan.

I was ready to go, to leave the apartment. But where was my MetroCard? - a transport card we New Yorkers buy that entitles us to unlimited rides on New York buses and subways for a month.

I was running late. I searched. I rummaged through my handbag, shoving around old clumps of tissues, pay stubs, loyalty cards,  advertisements for a New York ballet in 2002, bank statements and peppermints from my nail salon.

After about twenty years I found it. "Would you believe it?" I told my husband, "It was in the last place I looked!"

How irrational! Was I having a senior moment? But this was no time for introspection and so I hot-footed it down to my bus stop.

And the New York day began.

Once on the bus, I sat down next to a woman who looked fairly normal. She was a bit noisy, but I assumed she was talking into her cellphone. For some unknown reason, people who talk into their cell phones in public, raise their voices, as if talking to the senile, the deaf, or their spouse. But THIS woman was not talking to her cell phone.

She was talking to ME. In Spanish. Now, Yo no hablo espaƱol. So I ignored her, though subliminally I thought I could hear her counting. "setenta y uno", "setenta", "sesenta y nueve".

Oh I got it. She was reciting the bus stops. From North to South. But why to me?

I avoided eye-contact and looked down, New York style, to my book.

The bus stopped. A lunatic got on with a bag that looked suspiciously like the sort of bag you are to report to 911 if unattended. But he was attending it, impeccably. He'd shove it around with his foot and if anyone dared to shift it, he'd yell, "Where do you think you are? In your own house?" and the offending foot would retreat. Shamefully.

For a minute or two I thought I was on  a London tube. Such reticence, such ill-placed politeness. But this thought quickly disintegrated when a mother and seven year old son alighted and sat next to me. The little boy was charming. After settling him on her knee, the mother said, "Hey Jeb, I forgot your lunch I'm so sorry." "Well this must be reported to the bus driver," replied the little fellow. "Jeb, I don't think you need to report me to the bus driver," the mother intervened. "Why not?" I asked, "he's reported you to the whole bus!".

She smiled and I went back to reading.

Suddenly little Jeb had an epiphany. "How come," he asked, "that you could remember that you forgot?".

I started to contemplate this too, along with the mother.

Fortunately the little boy was distracted, as at the next stop a woman who was of a certain age and eccentricity,  got on the bus, displaying very conspicuously her hair rolled around circa 1960 10 inch diameter rollers. "Why is that lady got that stuff in her hair?" shrieked little Jeb. I was coming to love that child! "Oh some ladies do that," his mother hushed him. "Then why don't YOU do that?" he answered with a child's impeccable logic. "I do!" she lied. "At the salon." But by then I was distracted by other bus events.

The manic Spanish-speaking woman counting down in Spanish had suddenly become aggressive. The man with the suspicious package had started abusing a teenager with body metal stuck in every appendage. And little Jeb was still trying to report his lunch-forgetter-mother to the bus driver.

It was my stop. Thank god. My commute was over.

The insanity was about to start!


Terry said...

Love it Kate, felt I was there.

Anonymous said...

As I mentioned before, there was a time I would have loved living in NYC. It brings to mind many programs I have watched. Too real.
Can you see yourself on the same bus in 10 years?

Jaded NYer said...

oh sure, Kate gets all the FUN people on the bus, and I get the Fat,Rude,Annoying, Sick and Stupid people. Guess I've been taking the wrong bus!!!

Great story Kate.

Jaded NYer said...

Just noticed the little old lady with the giant hat box. That must be one HUGE hat. Poor thing would be engulfed by it, cause her head seems small.

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