Writer’s Block? Ride the Storyline Express!

In Random Posts, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique on March 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm

When I tag-surf WordPress I see at least one writer a day blogging about the dreaded Writer’s Block.  Now, I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to get out of or even think there’s a quick solution for it.  I sympathize.  Writing is hard work, but not writing is agony.  I get it.  As I read these painful posts, I always think those writers must not be bus riders.  Buses are rolling, rollicking storylines on wheels.

We can help fellow writers who don’t have the luxury of riding a storyline express.  We can share glimpses of mass transit humanity.  SHARE THE RIDE.  Write your most memorable mobile experiences to share with others who find it hard to get their motors running.  Help a fellow writer today.  Use these real adventures and tales for story ideas and inspiration.

Write your own version or simply comment here  Go ahead.  Tag your story with RIDE THE STORYLINE EXPRESS.  We’ll find you.  Or, include a map to your route, just add a link to the comment section here.

Oops, gotta go.  The Storyline Express is now boarding.

Here’s a story that happened this week on the mikidemillion route:

There are times I sit in the back of the bus, away from the little old ladies who use the front seats as a daily meet-up session to shout out across the aisle every life detail that occurred in the 24 hours since the previous morning’s bus ride. I like to read books on the bus, when I can keep my eyes open, and in back I’m far away from them.  There is no story material in front seat chatter.  Believe me.  Unless you are researching laundry detergent or charting how smart and cute grandchildren can be.  It is like a big wrestling match up there, the WWF of Words.  Lots of boasting, loud and long speeches, over-talking someone who’d been over-talking someone else.  Nothing of substance, except to close family and friends of the constant chatter.

St. Patrick’s Day was one of those days I was hiding away in the back.  The bus wasn’t crowded.  I sat in the back seat reading an Annie Dillard book.  When the bus stopped for passengers I glanced up to see a young guy take a seat nearby.  I noticed him because he was wearing knee length shorts.  And he had a white plastic covering over his right hand, from wrist to the start of his fingers, like a half glove that left his fingers free.  I went back to reading my book.  Then I heard the pop of a can tab.  I smiled.  It sounded like when someone pops open a beer can.  It’s a different sound than the sugar bubbles of soda.  It has more of a whoosh and a softer crunch when the metal tab releases and pushes back inside the can.  What a thought.  Food or coffee wasn’t allowed on the bus.  It was a silly thought that not only was someone drinking something openly on the bus but that the person was drinking beer.

I peered over my book to the guy in shorts.  He held a silver can with red lettering.  Budweiser?  No way.  It must be some new energy drink.  He was holding it in his left hand.  Everyone could see it.  He placed it on the floor so he could rearrange his back pack on the floor near his feet.  Yep.  It was definitely Budweiser.  Now I was worried it was going to tip over.  No person in his right mind leaves a can of anything on the bus floor.  People with wide sneakers holding onto bus straps or poles cannot assume they’ll be upright after every bus lunge or lurch.  I waited for what seemed like a full minute.  Waited for it to tip.  The guy grabbed for it and sucked it down, holding the can vertical for a long time before he lowered his arm and sat back in his seat.  I breathed out, not realizing I’d been holding my breath the whole time.

wow.  I thought.  just wow.  That guy doesn’t care who sees him.  7:00am and popping a beer in the back of bus.  That’s bold.  The guy is fearless.  I mean, really, how awesome it would be to sit on a city bus, pop open a beer at the top of hill, and drink in the sunrise from the back window of a moving bus with foamy beer on your face and in y0ur belly.  wow.  What a guy.

Then he balanced the beer can on his palm, reached up to the open window, and tossed the can out the window of the moving bus.  I wondered, did I just see that? but I heard the can rattling on the road behind us.  Yep.  It had really happened.

“Not cool, man,” a man sitting in the opposite seat told the guy.

“You didn’t like that?” the guy says.

“Not cool.  Put it in your backpack and throw it away later.”

The guy doesn’t say anything more and reaches into his backpack and pulls out another beer.  He pops it open and drinks it down.

By this time, all the other riders around him couldn’t help but smile and laugh when we looked at one another, like what the heck?  I couldn’t stop laughing to myself, it was like being in a real-life Cheech and Chong movie.  I kept seeing in my mind the bus rolling along with a beer can flying out the back window every other block.  I imagined the faces of people driving cars behind this party bus.  Then I looked at the guy’s face for the first time.  Everything else about him looked normal, his clothes were clean, a Gap style, new white sneakers but his face, there was something not quite right in his expression.  Not a drunken appearance.  No red face, no red eyes.  There was something about his eyes, how they had a soft droop but I wasn’t sure if it was from the alcohol.  It was like he wasn’t there.  Beer or no beer.  And I knew it was more than him having a few on St. Paddy’s Day.  It was more than him living his young life as an alcoholic.  There was something else there no amount of beer or blackouts could obliterate.  Don’t ask me what.  There are no words to describe it.

I got off the next block, it was my stop.  After walking half a block, I noticed a cop car heading to the corner behind me.  I looked back and there was a red medical van the fire department sends out on calls.  All were arriving at the bus stop I’d just left.  It was the end of the line for Budweiser guy and his backpack of beer.

I think of that guy and wonder what happened to him.  And so many others I’ve encountered.  Share your bus stories.  Or travel stories.  Maybe it will get some of our fellow writers quickly past that rough section of neighborhood known as writer’s block.

  1. Vancouver. 2010 Olympics. A SkyTrain bound for King George station. One very drunk, very happy passenger.

    At least it wasn’t me.

    He was sitting nearby a couple of teenage girls, talking with a cracking voice to them while they seemed rather nervous. His every sentence was heavy with curse words. Until he started singing a very appropriate song for the festive Olympic season.

    “We are Jamaica we have a bobsled team!” Everyone in the SkyTrain heard his drunk singsong voice ring out. Most people smiled a bit – it was funny, after all. Then, however, he sang it again. And again. And again.

    About fifteen minutes passed until he staggered off – it was a rather empty area, definitely not in Vancouver’s bustling downtown sector. I wonder where he went.

    Anyways, I watched the movie Cool Runnings a few days later. More like, it was on TV. I couldn’t stop thinking of that guy the whole time.

    Pretty funny.

    Brayden Hirsch
    Author of The Yellow Eye, a short story at Wet Ink Magazine (www.wetinkmagazine.com/fiction.htm)

    • That poor guy. Probably woke up in the snow without a bobsled. If I remember correctly, Jamaica didn’t run a bobsled in Vancouver because they didn’t qualify. But the spirit of the Jamaican Bob Sled team will be there in every Winter Olympics.

      Reminds me of another bus ride of mine that was a bit more disturbing than our almost-too-happy Jamaican. I was waiting for a bus. A woman and her little girl were the only other people waiting with me until a guy sat down at the bus stop. The little girl had been half laughing and half playing with her mother. The guy says almost under his breath but loud enough for everyone to hear, “Shut that kid up.” The woman moved away from him immediately. There was something sinister in his voice.

      He was making noises like he was mad at the world. I moved further down the bench and was relieved to see the bus pull up. I sat near the back of the bus and the guy sat toward the middle. He turned in his seat, all the way around, and kept his eyes on me. Made me very nervous. I pretended not to look at him but kept watch from the corner of my eye. He did not turn around, kept looking at me with a grin on his face. I did not want this creep to follow me. Luckily, at a bus transfer point I was able to run off the bus and catch the bus loading passengers behind it just as the first bus was about to pull out. Made it.
      There is a point in the route the bus winds around a wooded area before it continues on city streets. He just not have been familiar with the city because my bus passed him about halfway through the wooded area. He was walking away from a bus stop, heading back in the direction we’d been. I gave a big sigh of relief when I saw him. Gives me the creeps even now when I think of it.

      My computer is having problems so I need to post this without fixing typos, etc. Wanted to type it out before my computer goes down again.

      Thanks for the story. Loved it.

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