I ride the bus to work every day, because I love the earth and I hate dignity. I ride the bus, in part, because I am somehow both lazy and impatient, and public transit allows me to 1) get to work by doing nothing, and b) avoid the hassle of getting stuck behind some pokey fella who is in ever-so-slightly less of a hurry than me. To be honest, it’s mostly because I’m a skinflint of the highest order; because my workplace subsidizes the bus pass, I pay a pittance to take advantage of the transportation services of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, or, as they would like to be known, The Metro.
(No one–NO ONE–calls it The Metro. Everybody just calls it “the bus.” We Midwesterners are a sensible, practical people who have no need for high-falutin’ big-city European-sounding titles for what is essentially a cattle car for human beings.)
Anyway, as I was saying, the bus. I ride it. And I am not alone in this: apparently I am not the only one in KC who despises the freedom of personal transport, so it can get fairly packed, and those plum window seats go pretty quick. I’m lucky enough that I get on early enough on the route that I can usually score a decent seat, but as the trip wears on, riders find fewer seating options and generally have to sit right next to–eeewww–another human being.
Now, I am a decent type, and as much as I would prefer to have a seat all to myself, when seats are running low I will move my backpack (a backpack! like a child! how adorable) to my lap, freeing up a seat. Some people are not so nice, and will, in full douche fashion, leave their bags and whatnot on the seat so that none shall sit next to them. Some will even sit in the aisle seat with their belongings in the window seat, making it clear that this two-seat bench is mine and the rest of you can burn in hell. Now, I may be reading a little much into their actions, but nonetheless it is clear that these people are objectively horrible. That’s not opinion, brother, that is straight-up science.
So the other day the bus was even more crowded than usual. This particular vehicle had a slightly different layout, with long four-person benches along the wall rather than the two-seats/aisle/two-seats configuration you typically see. And they were filling up fast… all of them, that is, except for mine. At every stop, people would get on and cram themselves onto a bench next to someone. Meanwhile, I was sitting at one end of one of these benches, all by myself and no one would even give it a second look. The bench across from me had commuters packed shoulder-to-shoulder, jammed together tight and visibly uncomfortable. Finally, every seat on the bus was taken–every one–except for my bench, which was empty except for me. And the kicker? A guy got on the bus, looked around at all the options, saw that the only option was sitting near me, and he elected to stand. He didn’t even have to sit right by me! He could have sat at the other end of the bench, with two seats between us! No thanks, he said, I’d rather endanger my life by remaining standing as we plow down I-35 at 60+ miles an hour.
And here’s the thing: this kind of thing happens all the time. I mean, people do sit by me occasionally, but it’s pretty obvious that a seat next to S. Price Horn is the absolute last resort. If there is literally any other option, they will take it. You see them looking around, sighing loudly, then, with a profound sense of defeat and resignation, slump into the seat next to me. You can almost feel a sense of relief from them when I get off at my stop downtown.
So, how come ain’t nobody want to sit with me? What… what’s wrong with me?
Look, I know I can come across as kind of weird. I am a short, balding guy in his mid-40s who likes comic books and Star Trek (sorry, ladies… I’m taken). At lunch, I mostly sit alone in a corner of the lunchroom, eating a sad frozen entree (as if there is any other kind of frozen entree), chuckling softly to myself and reading novels about zombie spaceship warlocks or whatever. (Note to self: write novel about zombie spaceship warlocks. That mammajamma got Pulitzer written all over it.) Point is, I am aware that I can sometimes broadcast heck of weirdo vibes.
Is that it? Is it that I’m kind of odd? Or is it that I’m kind of odd-looking? I know my misshapen features can be an acquired taste (a taste that few, I imagine, will ever acquire). But hey, it ain’t like I’m riding the bus with a bunch of lingerie models and buff, shirtless firefighters. You people ain’t no great shakes, neither! Look, beautiful people don’t ride the bus. If someone gets on who is the least bit attractive–by which I mean, slightly less dumpy than the rest of us–you almost want to ask them if they’re okay, if they are aware that they’re, y’know, getting on a bus.
Maybe I exude some foul miasma that is like kryptonite to Kansas City bus riders, one that my family has perhaps been too polite to mention. I mean, sure, I use deodorant and soap–almost every day, even!–but there must be some imbalance in my bodily humours, some unique pheromonal mutation that causes a vile aroma to seep from my every pore, repelling any who would dare approach. Think about it! It’s the only explanation that makes sense!
If this is true, this doesn’t mean people don’t want to be my Bus Buddies. It means I’m special! I’m the next stage in human smellvolution! And the normals… they fear me. They envy me. And they can’t bear to be close to one as gloriously stomach-turning as me.
And so on. So yes, I’m weird. And I ride the bus alone. But I don’t stink. I prefer to think of myself as differently odored.