I rode the bus yesterday. It was quite deliberate, I had other choices. My car went into the shop. It’s cold here, and sadly, some mice had taken up shelter in the ventilation system under the hood. When I unwittingly started the heater fan, the party was over. Or perhaps the party had already been over. I didn’t have a camera on the particulars. The noise and the smell were arresting though; the critters were cooked. Time for an oil change anyway, so, as I wished the pitiful rodents a higher birth in a new life, I planned for their extrication.
The day before yesterday, I considered the bus. This luxury of contemplation was presented to me as I waited for a ride after dropping the car off at Joe’s. Joe, one of the good guys. Middle aged, bordering on old, he has no thought other than to keep going. When you drop the car off he interviews you like he is a gentrified doctor and your car is a patient, seriously needing a precise diagnosis. Like all such mechanics from the side of the light, he is overbooked. I had to wait a couple of weeks to get the car in. I have been lucky; I seemed to have found a Joe in the last few cities I have lived in. These fellows don’t know it, but they make a difference. It’s only a car someone might say. But in this society, there is no such thing as “only a car.” A car, especially a good one, puts you in a different caste.
I went without a car for many a year. I didn’t feel like it put me in the underclass, which I suppose is to my credit. Just like Joe, it’s best not to put too much thought to your place in life when you are putting the wheel of your flesh to the grindstone of interfacing with money. Those years of riding the bus in several different cities had their own illusory glory. That’s another story.
As luck would have it, where I waited for my partner to pick me up in her car, there was a bus stop. Another hapless soul, no doubt dashing around grindstones, had at least a good coat. He was no doubt oblivious to the lack of fashion in all the cacophony of labels built into the fabric. The word beer with skull and crossbones under it stood out. Others were symbols for cultural references I don’t understand, but resembled icons for an entire league of soccer teams, bright colors on a white background.
Anyway, he was distressed. He had lost some papers on a previous bus and was trying to catch a bus to get to a place where he could trace his important papers. His conversation was disjointed, but his demeanor was so self-enclosed that I was sympathetic. He was also looking for a mask. I happened to have an extra one in my tidy little faux military mini-pack. I gave him a mask, but his distress was unmitigated. I crossed the street to get my ride; in my mind and words I wished him well.
I got my ride, still contemplating the bus. I hadn’t ridden a public bus for 5 years or more. I decided for adventure — to remind me that I am just one disaster away from what we call the underclass. Am I ready? In old age, one is ready for less and less. And yet…
The following morning, I rode the bus, thinking I would have adventure and risk. I was mugged getting off the bus one time in my 20s, a life changing experience. In that exchange for a few moments, I had a gun at my head. These moments remain with me long.
The bus ride was pretty uneventful. The unmasked female African American bus driver scoffed at my double masked face without saying a word. The bus was clean. I was the only passenger, until a well-dressed prim 30 something Asian woman, masked, got on.
It led me to a reflection about women’s coats. Hers, tan, just longer than thigh length, clearly was an accouterment of the business class. My city is 50% poor and black, but downtown is a haven for the nation’s industrial banks, likely her grindstone destination.
Women’s coats ride a razor’s edge of fashion and functionality, usually favoring fashion. Women’s coats say “I can’t be out in the cold long — it isn’t safe.” They say, “I have status, so back off.” Different costs for a different class.
By Evalyn Baron
On December 3, 2022
Paul..I loved this rumination! Always glad to read you!
By Paul DeLong
On December 3, 2022
Thanks so much Evalyn. Always so fulfilling to resonate with this community by reading, writing, sharing. You are such a kind reader, glad it connects. Isn’t that the whole purpose of reading and writing? Connection !!! Yes! 🙂 Paul