Many things happened this week on the 71A. Schools around Oakland are back in session at all levels, so overcrowded buses mean delays and added fun. Yesterday, I stood for 21 minutes on Stanton and Negley waiting for the 71A to cart me away to class. A young boy repeatedly defied his mother, asking all passersby for candy and water.
A nice young family sat outside the Union Cafe drinking coffee. The people of the neighborhood walked by, some stopping to smoke and chat. It was lovely. Communal. I smiled into the setting sun.
And then came the sty guy. This dude had a pulsing pimple on his eyelid the size of an M&M. I was impressed with his ability to blink. The lid must have weighed a ton. He leaned against the bus shelter for awhile, chatting and smoking with the other folks. And then the bus came. He leaned a hand on the handrail, dropped change in the machine and walked back to an empty seat, swinging along the handrails as if they were monkey bars.
I crouched in the front of the bus in horror. He had touched every possible thing there was to touch on that bus. And now I had to touch it as I swayed with the jerking bus. My choices were to touch his sty germs or fall on my face, touching the spaces where his dirty boots had walked. I recoiled into a corner seat, horrified that I ever judged that man from last fall who wore latex gloves and carried a hanky for touching parts of the bus. How smart he was! A barrier between his flesh and the creepies that swirl on eyelids to form disgusting pustules.
I dwelled on the sty guy and his germs the rest of the week, maniacally washing my hands every hour and certainly every time I stepped off that bus. I was thinking of him still this afternoon on my ride home when an overpowering stench wafted into my face.
Standing in the aisle was a very hot guy. He had muscles, appropriate and tasteful jewelry, well-cut flat front pants, and ginormous yellow pit stains. He stood between the seats as if he were crucified, gripping the rails on opposite sides of the aisle. And from this iron cross soared the most foul stench imaginable. Right into my face.
I was left with two options. I could suffer the odor by thinking of delicious smells like garlic or buttery toast or I could hold my nose with my contaminated fingers, risking an eye sty but able to breathe. I pondered long and hard, gagging and miserable, and decided neither of those options would do. I got off the bus and walked home instead.