Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tranquility at the Rib Shack

Myspace Graphics - Fukitol Standing at the stop, it wasn’t even noticeable until the number 40 arrived and we climbed aboard. The clean cut, twenty-something guy is normally on the bus each morning and works at a local restaurant chain (evident by the screaming advertisement referred to as his uniform). He’s polite, quiet and dips his head in acknowledgement when greeted. Two mornings ago, something just wasn’t right. He shuffled feebly toward the bus and ascended the steps in an octogenarian-like manner, paused for a moment near the coin collector fumbling over his pants pockets with his fingers, yet never actually retrieving a ticket or cash for the fare. He lingered, then passed the driver by in a slow motion, “I remember touching my wallet, so I must have paid her,” kind of painless lumber, self-motivation clearly required for each step. Climbing up behind him, we registered our ticket as the driver asked, “He ok?” As if we’d have the scoop on his stuporous state simply because we got on at the same stop.

The polite guy managed to reach his usual seat. Ever notice how people will migrate to familiar places? We try to sit all over the bus….breaks up that routine feeling. Anyway, he meandered straight to the back of the bus and took the seat. The old ladies gawked. He walked by and they began the chatter of hens. One turned directly around inviting us to discuss polite guy’s condition, to which we had nothing to add realizing this could be health related or self-induced.

Two stops later the bus driver got on the mike and said, “Sir - in the black Rockin’ Ribs t-shirt (fake restaurant name inserted to protect the innocent; hopefully we’re not violating any privacy or copyright laws), you have not paid your fare!” It took him a minute. With the prompting of other passengers, he got up and forced his heavy legs to transport him back to the front of the bus. His eyes were a little bugged out, although drawing on our newly acquired bus etiquette skills; we stole the peek ever so quickly, never risking a stare. The old ladies were provided more tidbits for immediate discussion as our mind began to move toward the thought that, wow, this guy got a hold of some great stuff at 7:30 in the morning! Once he made it to the front, he had to work really hard to drag the wallet out of his back pocket, still fumbling, causing the appearance of having no fare. An older gentleman, typically on the same morning route, stood and offered to pay his fare (any disruption to the flow is met with a number of creative solutions exacted by other passengers to get the show back on the road). Bus driver said, “No, no, he’s got it.” Then loudly she questioned polite guy, “you sure you’re OK,” to which the old ladies broke into another round of concerned discussion. We had half a mind to tell the two sitting directly in front of us that we split a horse tranquilizer at the stop, just to see what they’d say, but then thought better about spreading mistruths and rumors, regardless of their hilarity. Polite guy managed to fund his trip, we took off, and lucky for him the acceleration propelled him toward the back relieving the dragging weight of his legs.

An overactive imagination ran through a number of disturbing scenarios as we motored along just waiting for something to happen…you know…like, crazy druggy whips out gun and kills ten on CARTA bus. However, he stayed silent - not even a peep. All of our scenes were filled with violent endings, like news reels rolling out the worst possible situation, all of which could happen in the presence of someone on something. Of course, nothing happened at all. Maybe he was focused on maintaining composure rather than killing.

When we reached Polite’s normal stop, he walked a little faster. Reviewing his gait as the bus pulled away, his motion appeared slightly more normal. We’ve seen this particular guy nearly every morning now for two months. He has never displayed any type of lethargy in the past, causing us to wonder what exactly was going on that particular morning. We also wondered if the red sauce was mixed up with the yellow during Rockin’ Ribs lunch service that day. Additionally, he was not on the normal bus route this morning. Maybe he got fired. Notably, it is almost a full moon again.

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