The Touch

It’s a harmless curiosity, but that’s not how you’ll see it. You will recoil and glare, perhaps blurt some epithet to quickly define your discomfort with the situation, and I’ll immediately be on the defensive despite my harmless intentions. It’s understandable that you would jump to conclusions, this being a public bus and me being a stranger, which I will grant is true despite that fact that we’ve ridden the same bus line for what seems like years. But we’ve never spoken, and that Read more [...]

The Ruse Revealed

EXT. DOWNTOWN MAX STOP, MORNING Train stop is empty except for two middle-aged men, silently waiting. Incredibly, neither is holding an electronic device, so they occupy themselves by scanning the windows of the corporate building across the street, occasionally staring north to see if the train is coming. From off-screen, a man perfectly cast to appear in the credits as “Train station panhandler” approaches the two men. PANHANDLER (to first man waiting) Can you spare a buck? TRAIN Read more [...]

The Newbie

For a span of about five stops, two different bus lines serve my neighborhood, the #35, and the #4. These are very different buses, in the same way that Antiques Road Show and Wipe Out are very different television shows. I usually ride the #35, which I call The Library Bus. Not because everyone reads (though most people do), but because the general mood is quiet and sober, No one is audibly singing along to their headphone soundtrack, no one is complaining aloud with the expectation of an Read more [...]

The Detour

If he had asked the passengers to vote, I’m sure we would have urged him to ignore the flashing blue lights and simply drive up on the curb to get around the police car, then do the same with the second police car visible two blocks further down N Greeley. But he didn’t ask, probably because he predicted the same voting results, and instead took a right onto Rosa Parks Boulevard. I expected he would immediately turn again at the next block and circumvent the police activity, but we passed the Read more [...]

One Day on the F’in’ Bus

I’ve never regretted anything so quickly in my life. I was sitting on a crowded bus, my four-year-old daughter on my lap, and among the standing-room-only riders were two shirtless twenty-ish males sporting a blotchy calico of suntan and dirt. The loud one stood in the front where there is more space between the seats, while the louder one stood behind me and next to the back door. As the bus began to roll, the louder one began planning their afternoon by yelling possibilities across the 15 Read more [...]

This Mess Belongs to All of Us

I was disappointed to be on the side-facing bench, facing the blur of buildings and bushes that rushed past the back door rather than seeing what’s coming through the front window. As I settled in, I heard a percolating chorus of quips and giggles among a group of young teenagers in the seats in the back of the bus. Per standard bus courtesy, I pretended I wasn’t aware, doing my best stealth to absorb the surroundings without looking at anyone directly: one chuckling teen on the bench next to Read more [...]

Public Service Announcement for Randall

Dear Randall, Just wanted to send you a quick note to say, dude, what’s up with the way you’ve been behaving? Getting caught visiting that little psycho girl while Angela was out of town, then claiming you just wanted to make it clear to her that you have a new girlfriend? Telling Angela you were sick and had to go home at 8:00, then going over to that little psycho girl’s house at 10:00 because you “felt better”? C’mon, Randy, you aren’t fooling any of us with your bullshit. I’m Read more [...]

My Nemesis Revealed

The guy sports a van dyke, which should tell you everything you need to know. If you’re not familiar, the van dyke is part soul patch, part handlebar mustache – think three musketeers, or the painted beard on the V-for-Vendetta mask. He’s a good looking twenty-something, well-dressed, and it’s easy to picture him in his natural habitat, drinking canned beer at this month’s trendy dive bar, quietly besting every earnestly mutton-chopped man with his black-belt-level hipster facial adornment. We’ve Read more [...]

This is why I say hello

Portland is comprised of 134 square miles of real estate within Multnomah County, which itself stretches 465 square miles. That county resides in the 96,000 square miles of land known as Oregon, just one of 50 states in the 3,800,000 square mile tract we call the United States, an enormous nation and yet, unbelievably, barely 2% of the 198,000,000 square miles of dirt and water that makes up the surface of the earth. And that is just the earth, a tiny planet suspended in an apparently limitless universe Read more [...]

The Dog Whisperers

It was a quiet, normal morning on the bus, a dozen-plus passengers keeping to themselves, averting eye contact, and trying to avoid having a story to tell that begins, “You wouldn’t believe what happened to me on the bus.“ I looked at each of their faces – no one was surly, no one was cheerful, everyone was simply in a holding pattern, waiting for the bus to arrive at their stop so that they could step clear and resume their lives. This went on for a couple of miles when Duchess got on. Read more [...]