So I'm standing at the bus stop waiting, as you do, for the bus. I'm fiddling idly with my bus card, looking right, looking left, basically anywhere but directly at the people standing around me. One doesn't want to draw too much attention to oneself in these situations. I'm plugged into my iPod. Crisp white wires on prominent display, running from my ears to my coat pocket. A clear warning signal to would be conversationalists--STEP OFF BITCH!--it says, or so I imagine.
I've been there, waiting, everyday at about the same time for about two months now. Some of the faces are familiar to me. I might smile and nod to some of the friendlier looking ones. One doesn't want to appear rude, afterall. But I'm careful not to let my gaze linger too long on any one person during these occasional exchanges. Eye contact only ever leads to conversation, and conversation...well, see above...it's not what I'm there for.
We all see the bus at about the same time. It drives around a curve about half a kilometer away. It'll be pulling up at the curb in less than a minute. We make ourselves ready.
A sort of loose, jostling scrum forms around the approximate spot where we guesstimate the bus door will eventually open. Some are only now getting around to pulling out bus cards or loose change for the fare. Some idiots will wait until they're standing right in front of the driver. I hate those idiots. Me, I'm all ready, bus card in hand. I have only to pull out an ear bud in order to greet the driver properly--again, one doesn't want to appear rude.
The scrum tightens reflexively as the bus pulls up to the curb. I find myself standing next to an older woman. One of the friendly, familiar faces to whom I've nodded from time to time. My backpack knocks her purse off her shoulder as I'm pushed slightly from the right. I pull the ear bud out my ear, give the woman a tight, chagrinned smile, and say, "Sorry."
She smiles back, and before I have a chance to look away again, she puts her hand on my arm and says, "I just have to say, it's always such a pleasure to see you here in the mornings. You've got such a cheerful face. You're always smiling." She gives my arm a little pat, winks at me like we've just shared a conspiratorial little secret, then pushes ahead of me into the bus.
Who? Me? Eh?
If she'd given me a chance, I would have been able to explain: It's not me. I'm actually a pretty god-awful bitch in the mornings. Ask my kids. There's not enough steaming, milky tea in all of Europe to sooth my rougher edges at 7 o'clock on a cold wintery morning. It's the iPod. It's David Sedaris. I've got three of his books downloaded on to it, and the dude is funny. Laugh-out-loud-even-at-7-o'clock-on-a-cold-wintery-morning funny. At the precise moment when this kind woman chose to tell me what a cheerful face I had, I was listening to David Sedaris read a Christmas letter from a woman who put her daughter's crack baby in the washing machine. I couldn't tell you exactly how, but trust me.....F.U.N.N.Y. And apparently, I'm calling attention to myself at the bus stop listening to this stuff.
Whatever. As long as the audible guffaws and wide, gapping grins are being interpretted as cheerfulness, and not madness, I'm going to keepright on listening to it. Makes the time pass much quicker. In fact, I often find myself wishing the commute was a bit longer.
David Sedaris. Check him out. He speaks to the darkness in your soul and makes it giggle.