We woke up somewhere around noon on Day 2 of the Chicago trip (I got pretty fucked up, big surprise, on Day 1). The weather was still brilliant, and we really wanted to take advantage of it. Food was foremost on our minds, and JJ had already decided that we would be eating at this Vietnamese restaurant around the way. The only problem was that the establishment was too many blocks to walk, so we were forced to ride the bus.
Oh, mass transit in metropolitan cities. Soooo fantastic. All the "big city" tour books always recommend that visitors check out the bus system so that you can travel about the city and “take it in”. What they always fail to mention, but what should be completely obvious to the average mind, is that public transportation is barely functional and far, far, far from luxurious. It's an A-to-fucking-b translation, and nothing more is promised. Coming from, and having lived in large cities, we were well prepared for the standard and reasonable irritations associated with riding buses in downtown settings. I was expecting to see some sleeping bums, really shitty graffiti, and maybe a puddle of urine somewhere between the back row of seats. But this trip was special. And by “special” I mean “unduly nasty”.
We boarded the bus and saw two empty seats to our right, just past the requisite blind man in a wheelchair with some child who I assume was somehow related. The kid had to have been somewhere near ten years old, and the dude in the chair must have been four hundred and thirty five. Give or take a century. Dude probably invented the “pointy stick” for improved hunting, when in his prime. We passed them for the empty seats. My lady took the left seat, and I intended to take the right. However, it was occupied by a thin set of paper adverts. Upon trying to remove said adverts, I noted a strange resistance. I tugged and it released. Upon inspection, it was apparent that someone either sat on some chocolaty nougat, or shit themselves straight through their trousers. And then made a half-assed attempt to remedy it with a blanket of coupon inserts. I immediately let loose of the evidence, disturbed at the discovery. My lady was most disappointed at the situation.
I decided to stand.
At the next stop, some people relinquished some seats further back, so we took them. JJ acquired a seat directly across from us. An elderly woman and a teenaged boy came aboard. The woman took the clean seat while the teen eyed the greasy, dirty spot on the seat next to her, and then sat right in the nougat crime scene without blinking. Dude had to have known there was an issue there. That’s life in the big city I guess. But it's still fucking nasty.
Just before we reach the next stop down, some woman behind us starts prodding who I believe was her son, telling him to run out and get her something "real quick like". Initially, the kid, probably fifteen, is completely uninterested in the errand. But she’s adamant, and is pushing him with the whole “do it for your momma” guilt-trip bullshit, so when the bus stops he runs out the back door. He jogs up to some dude leaning against a quickie mart window, and they make a sideways-glancing exchange. The kid runs back on the bus with momma’s request and hands it over. “That’s a good boy for momma!”
For all the current and future bus-riding mothers out there: buy your own fucking dope. Send your kids to college, not on crack runs. There’s wrong, and then there’s that. Don’t they deliver that shit in Chicago? They do in NYC. I mean, fuck.
Two stops down, the largest and still operating-on-two-feet man I have ever seen in real life lumbers on and makes his way down the aisle to stand between JJ and me. Now I take no issue with anyone who may have some sort of glandular disorder, physical impairment which precludes them from healthy exercise, or a woman who has just given birth to quintuplet silverback gorillas. Obesity is no joke. I read CNN, so I am aware that it is a national concern. Dude was big, I mean, he was probably twice in pounds what the wheelchair guy was in years. But his weight was not the issue. It was the sad and utter disrepair of his attire and hygiene.
Yes, I am critiquing the attire of others riding an inner-city Chicago bus. Sounds pointless, doesn’t it? On the one hand, who the hell am I to critique ANYONE on how they look or smell? And on the other, it’s a goddamn public bus , what the hell should I expect, right? But you had to see this guy. If he had looked down at me and said “worst. bus ride. ever,” I would have written him off as a hilarious and overzealous fan of The Simpsons. And that would have been brilliant. Almost brilliant enough to overlook/oversmell the sights and odors involved.
The man's gear was atrocious. Just awful. And for me to take notice, AND remember, is saying a-lot.
He was wearing grey sweat pants, and he was obviously making sure that they earned their name. You could see the soak-lines running down the legs from the waistband, at differing rates of dryness. Like the rings of a tree. I’m pretty sure there were Doritos bits stuck to the inside of his left knee, clinging there in silent desperation, hiding, imbedded in tufts of balled-up cotton fibers. His green t-shirt did not quite cover all that… material which folded over and into the pants area. Some pink-belly goodness peeking out from below. Various holes and stains dotted his back like the grain and knots on a sheet of pine plywood. The man was an amazing piece of work.
I never considered it, but later My Lady confided in me that she has something of a phobia that in tight public spaces, such as a bus or elevator, large and profusely sweaty people will fall or rub on her. Sure, that’s pretty disturbing, but I was too busy swimming in mixed fascination at the man to consider such horrors. He was so secure, just emitting this “hey fuck y’all, I gotta get to my D&D tournament so you can breath in my being. Inhale it, shitheads ,” kind of vibe. And boy, what an odor his being brought with it. Dude was RIPE. He smelled the way I would expect a dead cow, soaked in dumpster wine, and placed in a shed for a month, in Haiti, to smell like. Parts of that man had not seen soap in years. Fella reeked of dying extremities.
Damn. I feel like I have spent far too long describing this man in such a sinister light. I’m sure he’s actually a great guy who loves his grandmother, donates to the Red Cross, and remembers his friends’ birthdays. But shit, he made one hell of an impression on me based on his far less impressive attributes.
Whatever. Moving on.
A few stops later and we got the hell off. Right in front of the restaurant...