My Brain Is…

Forty-three?  Or was it sixty-two? I stare at the bus chart like a European tourist.  I’d only taken the bus once before, about six years ago, for a reason I can’t even begin to remember.  That memory was an uncomfortable one that took place during a rainstorm.  There were fogged windows and people with wheelchairs.  I stuck to the subways after that.  But Jon said it would be easy.  “Just get off at Jefferson,” he said.  Or was it Jackson…

A bus comes.  Sixty-two.  I think it’s sixty-two.  I had committed it to memory with a reference to the B52s, but I couldn’t remember if the bus I wanted was the one that sounded like B52 or didn’t sound like B52.  That was the problem.  I do things like this all the time – things that seem clever at the time and then only serve to confuse me later.  If I had only looked at the direction each bus was headed, I would have been fine.

I board the evening bus filled with passengers too lazy to walk short distances or so physically limited that their limbs cannot take to the up and down of subway stairs.  I dig into my wallet for my Metro Card while the bus driver pulls away from the curb.  Fuck.  I left my card in my other purse.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  I start picking out quarters and nickels from the mess of receipts and gum wrappers in my purse in a feeble attempt to find enough for the $2.25 fare.  The bus driver, still driving, looks over at me as I scramble like an idiotic, fresh-off-the-boat white girl who never takes public transportation.  Three stops down Manhattan Avenue and he presses a button, depositing the paltry $1.35 I was able to scrounge.  “It’s okay, miss,” he says, tired and dismissive.  “Thanks,” I squeak.

I shuffle to the first seat I can find, close to the driver and his big window that I can look out for Jefferson or Jackson or Meserole.  Did he say Meserole? My butt occupies only the last two inches of the seat in my ridiculous attempt to thwart the invitation of the bedbugs that I would imagine prefer to live closer to the wall.  Walls gross me out; they always have.  Bathroom walls, wallpapered hotel walls, the seat closest to the wall in a restaurant booth – these were always kept at arm’s reach, like that dirty kid my ex-step brother used to be friends with in fourth grade.

Without any real firm ground in a chair, each stop sends me sliding across the seat until I hook my leather jacket around a pole for support.  I look over at the woman across from me with her fake Louis Vuitton bag from Canal Street.  She’s looking at me and I wonder if she can see all of my neurosis playing out like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm on mute.  My mom has always said that I’m an easy read.

We pass a street that starts with an M but I wasn’t really paying attention.  I keep listening for Jefferson or Jackson but the announcement never comes.  I just keep hearing the same dinging sound followed by a sign lighting up saying “Stop Requested.”  The bus drives by a Chinese takeout place called Fortune Cookie, which doesn’t seem nearly substantial enough part of a Chinese dinner to name a whole restaurant after it.  Was that Jefferson there?

In the distance I see the BQE and a McDonalds, at which point I call Jon.  “I’m pretty sure I’m lost,” I giggle stupidly.  “I’m at Broadway and, hmmm, what is this street?  I’m at the highway and Broadway?”  Jon emits a longwinded “Noooooooo!” in the inspired vein of Homer Simpson and tells me to get off the bus and start going the other way.  Now this poses a problem: it’s 9:30 at night, pitch black, and I am no longer within the Polish/ hipster confines of my known neighborhood.  Oh yeah, and I’m wearing my inappropriately short shorts I’ve lovingly dubbed “denim underwear.”  I look up at the looming projects on the horizon with their iron gates and their dim florescent-lit living rooms.  Fuucccckkkkkkkk.

I walk back up to the driver who I’m sure has missed me terribly since our last encounter and I ask him where the nearest subway is.  Whatever he tells me doesn’t make any sense.  All I know is that we are approaching the foothills of the projects and although I am tall, I am probably an easy take.  Any attempt to assume the clench-jawed tightness of a hardened badass only leaves me looking like a pale blonde chick with stomach cramps.

Jon calls me back and tells me to get off the bus and wait for Olivier who is coming to rescue me on a motorcycle.  Thank bloody God.  I request a stop (which I’ve just learned in the last two minutes is what I needed to do back at Jefferson or Jackson because it’s late night service) and exit the front of the bus, thanking the bus driver who thinks I’m a moron but is still nice about it.

Then I wait in front of a hamburger/ taco joint watching SUVs with tinted black windows and big tires drive past.  I stand with my arms crossed and leaning against a well-lit wall looking like a regular James Dean, who, in this case, probably wouldn’t look that tough either, especially wearing these shorts.


Bolt for a *uck

The weather sticks to my face and heat traps under my old black blazer.  I wait at the Astor Street station until my subway comes, kicking a much needed hot breeze, sifting the air around like pancake flour.  My leather bag weighs heavy on my left shoulder, filled with not enough clothes and a heavy laptop.  I get on the train and sit across from an old woman and her daughter.  The old woman wears black orthopedic sneakers and khaki polyester pants.  A black Jansport backpack sits on the ground, propped in between her legs.  “Agnes” is written on the front.  It reminds me of when I was in second grade.  I watch her enjoy quiet joke with her daughter.  I stop staring because it’s probably impolite.  Back to my own world.

Two stops before I have to get on the bus to Boston.  First stop.  Try on clothes.  Take Polaroids.  The woman calls me “sweetheart” and I think she thinks I am younger than I am.  Second stop.  Sit in a conference room with big glass windows overlooking the Upper West Side.  Talk to woman about humidity.  Get pictures taken of my hands.  Don’t have time to have pictures taken of my feet.  This is probably a good thing.

Twenty minutes before the Bolt bus departs.  I run down to the subway and pray that I make my bus in time.  I’ve missed transportation for jobs before.  For the record, it makes you look like an asshole.  The subway reaches 34th and I tear out the doors, briskly walking towards the PENN STATION sign.  I am still underground when I realize that buses do not operate subterranean.  Idiot.  I reread my call sheet and sprint up the stairs to where it says the bus takes off.

I run.  I scan.  I find.  I make it.  I am standing in front of the Tick Tock Diner in the middle of an unorganized herd of people with cheap luggage when a woman comes up to me.  The photographer.  I will be riding with two other people.  We stand in the mess until a male Bolt employee makes his best attempt at organization.

“If you are in Group A, stand here,” he waves an arm to a random slice of sidewalk closest to the street.  “If you are in Group B, stand here,” he moves to a remote area probably fifteen feet away from us.  This is what Southwest Airlines would look like during the Dark Ages.  People shuffle around like confused emus, looking up and around with giant eyes.  The entire two minutes makes me a diehard advocate for government and the generalized implementation of order.  Anarchists live by the assumption that all humans are intelligent beings.  They would be wrong in that assumption.

A bus arrives.  We hand our tickets to a woman who only looks like she works for Bolt because she acts like she works for Bolt.  She wears no distinguishing tag or other uniform accoutrement to indicate she is with the company.  For all we know she could be a complete lunatic.  She clears us and we board the bus.

I’ve never taken the bus to Boston before, but compared to the mass amount of people still waiting on the sidewalk, the inside of the bus is suspiciously empty.  Perhaps Boston isn’t as popular as the other Bolt destinations.  Washington DC is super pleasant this time of year, with the asphyxiating humidity and all.  And Philadelphia is pretty sweet given their giant bronze cracked bell.

The bus pulls away from the sidewalk and we are on our way.  Sweet.  A row to myself.  I sip on my water and exchange pleasantries with the photographer and her assistant.  Two avenues and one block away from Tick Tock Diner and the driver gets on the PA system.

“Attention all passengers traveling to Philadelphia…”

Excuse me?  The three of us look at each other with those WTF eyes that are equal parts panic, incredulity, and nausea.  I walk up to the driver.

“Um…hey.  We’re supposed to be on the 12:01 to Boston.”

The guy throws his head back and tells me he can’t take me to Boston.  I think this is his poor idea of a joke.  No shit, Sherlock.  He opens the door and we grab our bags and we half-run back down 34th Street, watching closely to make sure that no fancy orange bus passes by, leaving us in the proverbial and literal dust.

I would like to be furious that the idiot who “read” our ticket let us board a bus we weren’t supposed to get on, but I am too busy sweating and balancing my thirty-pound bag over my shoulder.  Mother f-er.

When we get back to the disorderly mess we just left, I approach the woman who let us board and tell her that she let us get on the wrong bus.  She looks at our tickets again and tells us Boston hasn’t left yet and we should go wait over there in another “A Line.”  There is no apology, no customer service salving of wounds.  Just a pointed finger indicating we should go ahead and get over this whole thing.

It’s a good thing the bus is thirty minutes late, something that would ordinarily infuriate me.  Had the bus been on time, we wouldn’t have had the extra fourteen minutes it required to board, ride, and flee from the other bus.  Thank God for inefficiency and bad business.

I suppose this is what you get for being able to travel hundreds of miles for a mere $15.

Onwards to Boston.