Sunday, October 27, 2013

And Another One Rides the Bus

Join me once again for a ride home from work…

Angela got on the bus as she did on most Thursday nights. She was usually pretty lively and fueled by whatever she’d had to drink that night. Sometimes she would sit across the aisle from me. Eventually she would lean toward me.

“I’ve just had a cocktail.” She would say the last word with such crispness that she seemed to snap it in two.

I would smile and she would confide. I remember little about her except that she worked at a hair salon.

This particular night she said nothing when she got on the bus and did not make eye contact. I greeted her and she nodded her head. Our bus driver, Bradley, a very voluble guy, didn’t notice anything as he was in the midst of a story about his life.

If something newsworthy happened—I remember a discussion about Columbine—he would offer opinions about that. However, Bradley’s favorite topics were himself and his apartment. He talked about decor, china patterns, carpets and drapes.

I am counterdomestic. Show me a swatch of material or a wallpaper sample and my eyes glaze over. The word armoire makes me sleepy. Etagere? I snore.

Bradley, enraptured by the vision of domestic comfort he was painting, failed to notice that his audience was silent. Even I, who have turned “Ummm” into a sound rich in meaning and nuance, felt unable to rise to the occasion.

I glanced at Angela. She looked enraged. As we were getting to her stop, Angela got shakily to her feet.

“BRADLEY!” she yelled. You talk about your rugs and your drapes and your china pattern and your Waterford crystal. You know somethin’? Nobody gives a [insert the expletive of your choice]”

Say amen, somebody!

I looked at Bradley. His eyes were wide and his face was as red as if he’d been slapped. Angela was already down the bus stairs and walking down the street.

Bradley’s features were crumpled up. He was shaking a little and his eyes were wet.

I am a firm believer that people piloting vehicles on the White Horse Pike should be in a state of focused serenity.

“Oh, Bradley. She was drunk,” I said. “When you see her next week she won’t remember it.”

He looked slightly calmer.

“She certainly didn’t mean it.” I lied in my warmest and most sincere voice.

He brightened, sniffed, and returned to being capable of driving safely.

The next Thursday Angela practically bounced onto the bus. We greeted each other. She had had a cocktail (or two).

Bradley said nothing. Angela and I chatted for a few minutes. Then Angela leaned toward Bradley.

“What’s the matter, Bradley? Cat got your tongue? What happened about those drapes you were gonna buy?”

© 2013 Stephanie Patterson


  1. I've met Angela and Bradley in my various life experiences. . You have captured their personas well . Hope we see a longer story from this .Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  2. Well, I have a million bus stories. I know life is chaotic and difficult but people who cocoon themselves with ear buds miss so much! Steph

  3. Buses are great stages for short stories, Steph. A Flannery O'Connor story playing out as a mother and son wait at a bus stop in a Georgia town, then board--unforgettable! Stay on the bus.

  4. Bob, Flannery O'Connor is one of my favorites. In the mid '60s my mom bought "Everything That Rises Must Converge." "She's a little too weird for me," said mom. And I always went right to anything that other people thought was just too weird. This is not to be confused with the period of my life when I read any book that I heard described as "the most depressing thing ever written." By the way, the winner among the books I read at the time was "The End of The Road" by John Barth.