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Ride the Storyline Express – with Bubbles and a Big Startle

In Blog Post, Entertainment, mikidemillion, Random Posts, Ride the Storyline Express, Stories, Story, Uncategorized, Writers, writing, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique, Writing - Work in Progress on October 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm

The first story of this series can be found here:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/writers-block-ride-the-storyline-express/

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BUBBLES and the BIG STARTLE

Remember the things you said as a kid?  In my neighborhood we said it all, mostly when out of the hearing range of parents.  We weren’t allowed to swear so we called each other things picked up from television shows or expressions passed down from kid generation to kid generation.  Things that made us laugh.  Like ‘snot nose’ or ‘dog breath’.  One particular favorite, always good for a giggle or two, was calling someone a ‘bubble butt’.

“Hey, Bubble Butt, just try and make it to second base!  You’re going out.”

Or, “Quit stalling and just kick the can, Bubble Butt!”

To be honest, we didn’t really know what a bubble butt was, it just sounded funny.  So we said it.

I don’t want to think how long it’s been since my kid days.  I’m thoroughly embarrassed to even think of the many other things that used to make us laugh.

And I guess there’s not a lot to laugh about now, waking up early every day and going to work and having to pay bills.  Welcome to the real world.

 

Photo by Tokyo Metro GFDL 1.2

 

On the way home from work this week I boarded another crowded bus.  When people tried to get on at the next stop they were stopped at the top of the bus steps by a wall of people that you could bounce a ball against.   Only five blocks later did people finally begin to get off the bus.

I moved, inch by inch, deeper into the interior mass of people.  I noticed a guy sucking in his stomach and squeezing around people, leaning halfway into one of the seats to move to the back door.  That’s when I saw that the back half of the bus aisle was empty.  What is it with people wanting to stand at the front of the bus?  Not me.  I passed by two people and could see light shining through the rear bus window.   I moved toward it, but was blocked.  There was only one person between me and freedom of movement.  This person was big, but not really fat.  Just very tall and a bit meaty but not at all obese.  I crossed over the other side of the aisle and looked down to keep my footing, and that’s when I saw it.  For the first time in my life, many years out of my childhood, I was actually being blocked by the biggest bubble butt imaginable.

This was the real thing.  More expansive and bubbly than any butt I’d ever seen in my lifetime.  It took up the entire aisle space.  I mean, the distance from the right-hand row of seats stretching across the aisle to the left row.  Shaped like bubbles about to burst, it protruded out far enough to block the aisle.  It defied gravity.

I didn’t want to stare.  I sucked in and leaned halfway into the same bus seat the guy before me had used.  The poor woman sitting in that seat had to move her head to let me by, just as she had to do for the guy minutes before.  I squeezed between her and the bubble, holding my breath, and barely made it into the open aisle space.

So, it was true, I kept thinking, able to breathe again.  There really was such a thing as a bubble butt!  I was absolutely awestruck that it really did exist.  Isn’t it wonderful how we humans are all alike yet so different?  It’s the differences that make each one of us interesting, makes each one unique.

A seat opened up and I sat next to the window, staring out at people walking down the sidewalk.  A hospital was nearby and I watched car doors flying open and people emerging with handfuls of yellow and pink flowers.  Babies went by pushed in strollers.  One man caught my attention.  He walked slowly.   I stared because there was something about him that didn’t seem quite right.  His head hung low.  When my mind registered what I was seeing  I couldn’t believe it.  It was so startling I couldn’t help but openly gape at the sight, turning my head to continue looking as the bus passed by.  I turned all the way ar0und in my seat to watch as long as possible.  And, still, it was difficult to process what I was seeing.

I’m not sure, but I don’t think the man had a neck.  There was skin where his neck should have been but it sagged down over his shoulders and at the end of it his head bounced along like a watermelon inside a mesh produce bag.  I stared harder, trying to see him in the distance as the bus rolled along.  How was it possible?  How can someone survive without the support of a cervical spine?  People die from broken necks.  But this guy was walking around with his head hanging below his shoulders without any sign of support.

Other than that he looked like any one else on the street.

What a ride!

Living in the city, at times I am annoyed by all the people I have to encounter in a given day.  It’s normal to stand in a long line at the post office, wait for ten orders of people ahead of me to be made before I can get a cup of coffee, and to have a bus go by my corner because it’s too packed with people to stop for more.  I could scream sometimes!  People are annoying and obnoxious and pushy, yes, but they are always fascinating and unique.  How wonderful there are people with bubble butts and how miraculous someone can walk down the street with seemingly nothing but skin to keep their head on.

I used to read a book on the bus, but now I ride with eyes wide open.

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The Pigeon and the Coffeeshop

In Random Posts, Ride the Storyline Express, Story, Uncategorized, writing on September 26, 2010 at 5:17 am

I’ve been gone for some time, work-shopping a story at some other sites and reciprocating reviews with my thoughts on their stories.  It all takes time, as anyone who participates in online workshops knows.  I’ll write another post about it.

I haven’t had the time to come back here and share more transportation stories about people I meet traveling to and from work.  One recent incident didn’t happen on a bus but it was on my way to work so that should count for something.

Sometimes I stop at a little corner coffeeshop for my morning caffeine fix.  The woman who works behind the counter is an elderly woman who is pleasant enough but moves so slow that not only can I take time to smell the roses but plant the seeds and watch them bloom before she makes it to the cash register to ring up my order.  Imagine when there is someone in line ahead of me.  I can cash out my retirement plan savings with no penalty by the time she asks for my order.  I don’t mind the waiting.  I usually get there early and have plenty of time before I have to be in the office.  And she’s friendly and grumpy at the same time.  I like that.  None of this saccharin, “Hello miss, I’m Super-Happy-So-I’m-Talking-Fast-and-High-To-Show-You-Just-How-Really-Happy-I-Am-To-Serve-You” crap so early in the morning.  This woman is the perfect mix of what do you want and the cups are over there.

Pigeon - photo by Alan D. Wilson, http://www.naturespicsonline.com

One morning I walked in the opened door of the shop, scattering a flock of pigeons roaming around the doorway.  The woman behind the counter yelled and waved her arms at me to back away.  “You don’t stomp when you see pigeons at the door! You must walk slow and let them move aside.  You don’t stomp at them.”  I didn’t know what to say, and stood frozen, looking at her and at the pigeon in line in front of me.

She opened the flap-door of the counter and stomped to the pigeon.  It ran toward me, then ran toward her and, trapped, it spread its wings and flew over the counter onto the pastries in the window.  I watched in horror.

The moment the bird flew into the window, that woman raced through the open counter space and leapt into the air, hands raised above  her head.  In one magnificent movement she’d captured the pigeon in her hands and met the floor like a Olympic athlete sticking the landing.  It was an out of body experience, as if this little old lady had suddenly morphed into the spirit of large, predatory cat and bounced out of the shop with prey in hand.

But, she was angry.  These pigeons had been taunting her daily, standing in line waiting for orders with other customers, and she was fed up with their bird brain habits.  “I hate pigeons, they are always coming in here,” she kept saying,  “I hate them.”  And she stood on the sidewalk outside, with both hands raised high above head, and swung her hands downward with such force the pigeon whacked the sidewalk.  It was a sickening sound.  I couldn’t move, not really registering what I’d seen.

People on the street stopped to look at the woman and the unmoving bird lying on the hard sidewalk cement at her feet.  No one said a word.  The woman realized people were looking at her.  “I hate them,” she said, loud.  Talking about the pigeons.  But people continued to stare.  She walked to the pigeon and nudged it with her foot.  I was sure it was dead, from how it sounded hitting the pavement and the way its neck seemed to bend on impact.  The whole thing made me feel queasy.

But the pigeon flapped its wings.  The woman lifted it up with her shoe.  It stood up, as if just waking up, and after a timid step or two, opened its wings and flew off as if nothing had happened.  I almost clapped my hands at the sight.  Thankfully, that poor little pigeon was going to be fine.  The woman, who’d by then realized how wrong she’d been, was redeemed.

She walked back into the shop and it was business as usual.  The cups are over there she told me when I ordered coffee.  And a pastry.  She went to the corner of the window where the pigeon had been moments before.

“umm,” I motioned to her, “I don’t want to be eating anything with a fresh coat of…”

“oh yes,” she said, “good idea,” and checked the bag she’d been handing to me.  “It’s okay,” she said with a smile.

I don’t think I’ll be returning to that coffeeshop any time soon.  And now, in the mornings, when I’m walking along the sidewalk, I slow my gait and step lightly around groups of pigeons.  That woman helped me see them with new eyes, not as messy, annoying birds always in the way, but as an innocent group of creatures that happen to share the city with us.  When did it become okay to kill something because it’s an inconvenience to be around?  Aren’t we the ones with bigger brains?  You’d think with all that brain power we could figure out simple things, like how to  close the door.

Ride the Storyline Express – with Bad Boy and Backpack

In Don't Read This - It's Personal, fiction, Random Posts, Ride the Storyline Express, Story, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique, Writing - Work in Progress on May 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm

What’s the Storyline Express?  Here’s the link to where it started:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/writers-block-ride-the-storyline-express/

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Another ride along the mikidemillion route

Here’s another happenin’ on the mikidemillion route:

Years ago my alarm went off at 4:00am sharp every weekday so I could be at the bus corner to catch the 5:00am bus.  Let me tell you, no one is up and moving at that hour unless they get paid for it.  I had to be in the office before the stock market opened so I waited on the quiet corner by 4:50am just in case the bus came early.  Not fun, but necessary.  An older woman showed up most mornings to catch the same bus.

She was feisty and mouthy.  I liked to see her while at the same groaned inside when I did.  She was much older than me and, as I’ve noticed in most close-to-retirement agers, seemed to ‘take no crap from no one’.

Me, not so much, a bit meek around people I don’t know and not fond of chatting to everyone I meet.

I don’t think this woman was chatty, it was more like she carried on the conversation in her head out loud.  I just happened to be there to hear it.  But she did talk directly to me at times.

“Oh, you have herpes!” she’d said once, before her usual morning hello.

She’d stunned me into silence.  The confusion on my face must have been obvious.

“On your lip,” she pointed to a newly forming cold sore.

“That’s not herpes!” I told her.  I most surely did not have herpes and was not going to let this old lady publicly claim I did.

“Oh, yes it is,” she said, almost sounded happy about it.

“I really don’t think I’ve had herpes since I was a kid.  Been getting cold sores on and off my entire life.”   It was the first time I was really mad at her, and resolved to stop participating in conversations with her.  She didn’t seem to notice.  Kept on talking.

Later, I found out that she was partly right, that the herpes simplex virus has been identified as causing cold sores. Most of us carry this type 1 or type 2 virus.  Normally, it’s dormant but when it becomes active, it begins on the lip or nose and causes a cold sore.

Cold sore or no cold sore, I listened to this woman’s work problems every morning, how she always spoke her mind and told the boss exactly what she thought.  It was something she did everyday.  Part of the normal routine when working with people she considered idiotic.

One thing I knew, this was a tough old bird, as they say.  I was secretly relieved that she was not in my workplace.  But I respected her commitment to stand up for herself.  I began to enjoy her little discussions with herself in the mornings.

Don’t misunderstand me, she did not talk like a lunatic.  She was intelligent and independent.  I think that maybe she didn’t have too many people to talk to in her life anymore.  She’d mentioned a few times that her daughter visited once in awhile but I had the sense she felt neglected by her.  I was someone who was a perfect vehicle for a sounding board.  Captive audience, didn’t say much back, and, as the weeks wore on, was actually interested in some of what she had to say.

When she didn’t show up one week it surprised me that I really did miss her.  When it extended into the next week I worried.

Finally, there she was, walking along the darkened sidewalk to the dimly lit corner where we waited for the bus.  I smiled when I saw her.  But her walk wasn’t brisk and purposeful as before.  She said hello and seemed sullen.  She didn’t speak.

“How are you?”  I said, the first time I’d ever initiated the conversation.

“Not good,” she said after a pause.

My heart dropped. “What’s wrong?”

And she told me the story.

The bus had been crowded when it’d stopped at the corner.  As usual, everyone congregated at the front of the bus so there was no room for new passengers to get on but the aisle-way in the back of the bus was clear.  She’d forced her way onto the bus, knowing there was room in the back, and asked people to move back.

Some complied but a young man with a large backpack blocked her way.  She couldn’t get past him.  She asked several times for him to move his backpack out of the way.  He didn’t.  She increased the volume of her voice, letting him know she’d like to get by.  Still no response.  Then she tapped him on the shoulder.  Several times.  He finally turned to look at her.  She asked again that he move.  He leaned left and she had just enough space to get by him.  No sooner had she stepped past he pushed her.  Hard, on the back.  She lost her footing and tumbled to the floor of the bus.  Hard, on her back.

And there she lay.  She knew she was hurt, but no one offered assistance.  The people on the bus let her lay there for minutes until a lone young man knelt and put out his hand to help her.  The only one to ask if she was okay.

That’s when my morning companion started to cry.  Tears came to my eyes as well.  She wiped her eyes and said, “You know, I’m not crying because of what that guy with the backpack did to me, but what makes me cry is that one act of human kindness I felt from the man who helped me up.”  She stopped, deep in thought.  “Someone I didn’t even know.  Isn’t that strange?” she said, “how we accept all of the horrible things in life as that’s the way it is but when someone shows they care it touches the deepest emotion.”

Ride the Storyline Express – What a Catch!

In Don't Read This - It's Personal, Random Posts, Ride the Storyline Express, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique, Writing - Work in Progress on April 3, 2010 at 4:51 am

For those new to the concept, when I tag-surf WordPress I notice posts about Writer’s Block.  I suggested a way to get around the block – ride public transportation.  The stories, people, the stories!

If we share what we see out there and post it, then other writers might read it and get ideas from it.  SHARE THE RIDE.  If you want to join, either comment here, leave a link to your own story, or post your story and tag it with Ride the Storyline Express.  We’ll find you.

Here a link to the other stories I’ve posted to date:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/ride-the-storyline-express-with-booger-boy/

and

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/writers-block-ride-the-storyline-express/

With that said, let’s get to the next story on the mikidemillion route:

For months I’d noticed the man with the fishing pole.  He’s hard to miss,  a big man who takes up a full seat and then some of the next.  He sits in the front of the bus on the sideways seats.  Two halves of a fishing pole stick out of a big white bucket held steady on the floor between ankles of yellow rubber boots.  He’s an older man but even with hair whitened by gray he doesn’t look retirement age.  Bib overalls latch across his chest, an unusual sight on a bus packed with students and 9-to-5ers.

There is a reality show on television about the life of crab fishermen.  I’m mesmerized by it.  Rough and tumble men, king crab fishermen, ride the icy Bering Sea in search of a big catch for an even bigger payoff.  It’s not the kind of job a soft office-worker-bee would consider.  These are stubbled men with scars.  A Saturday night drunken trip to the tattoo parlor would be laughable to them.  Think you’re tough?   The scratch of a tattoo piercing is nothing compared to the real pain of a shoulder wrenched out of a socket or a chunk of flesh gouged out of the arm.  All while chilled to the bone.  Tattoo?  hah!  For the weak ones.

So I looked at this fish-out-of-water bus rider with a preconceived notion he was someone with strength to tough it out, a natural provider.  Romanticizing the rugged life.  Was he a loner?  Did he give his heart to the sea?  Maybe a deep thinker, spending hours on a sun-filled dock, listening to water lapping onto shore, and analyzing why we are here on this earth.

I sat near him one morning.  After a few blocks he pushed his disassembled pole aside to reach into the pocket of his overalls.  A cell phone appeared in his hand.  What a disappointment.  Captain Ahab would never pull out a cell phone, no matter what century he was in.  Was my legendary seaman just a guy who fished?

“What are you doing?” he said to the phone.  His voice loud and graveled, at least that was as it should be.  He listened for a second, leaned forward, then exploded.

“I told you I want the clothes washed this morning.  Did you do the dishes?  I don’t want to see dishes in the sink when I get home.  And make lunch early.  What?  Do what I tell you, you hear me?  No, I want you to do it now.  Shut up and do what I say, you hear me?”

He was loud, loud enough to bring everyone on the bus to a stunned silence.  He clipped his phone closed, dropped it in his pocket and settled back in his seat.

There was a confused moment when my mind re-categorized the guy in my brain.  From fisherman to jerk.

“Oh, aren’t you a big man?” a woman sitting across from him said.

“What’s your problem?” the man stared at her.

“My problem is how you talk to women.”

“It’s not your problem so stay out of it.”

“Maybe you can talk to your woman like that, but not to me.”

“Yeah?  What are you going to do about it?”  He actually sneered at her.

“I’m not afraid of you.  Jerk.  I’m telling you, you can’t speak to women like that.  And some of us will stand up to you and let you know it.”

“You want to take this out to the sidewalk?  Come on, get off the bus and meet me outside.”

“You think I can’t beat you up?  Oh, what a small man you are, picking on women.  Jerk.”

“Want to get off the bus right now?”

“You are not worth my time.  And you’d better not put a hand on that poor woman you were talking to.  Bullies like you belong in jail.”

“Oh yeah,” the guy stands and speaks louder, “let’s go lady.”

The woman sits up higher in her seat.

The driver stops the bus at the corner and stands between them in the middle of the aisle.  They glare around the driver at one another, in lunging positions.  The driver puts out her hands to motion both back in their seats.  “Enough is enough,” the driver says.  “or one of you will have to get off here.”

They continue to stare at each other but neither says a word.

“Good,” the bus driver says and returns to her seat.

“Jerk,” the woman says again, not really under her breath.  Loud enough for those of us sitting nearby to hear.

Jerk, I think, not  aloud.  I’m all for protecting women and everything but my commitment isn’t strong enough to risk showing up at work with a bloody nose and black eye.  Especially when the woman to be protected is an unheard voice on the other end of a dead cell phone line.

And I think of  the guy I once romanticized.  What a catch.  That poor woman should have tossed him back into the water the moment he climbed into her boat.  There is no payoff for that cargo.

What’s interesting is the guy got off the bus after two more blocks.  Not his usual stop.  I’m usually off the bus before him and I had a long way to go.  And I haven’t seen him since.

It makes me wonder, when is the best time to defend an injustice?  Am I part of the problem?  Sitting and watching as the drama unfolds.  Or, is it better to pick battles that ensure results with minimal danger.  I’d like to think that woman on the bus made Mr. Yellow Boots think twice before barking at his wife.  I doubt it.  Probably made him angrier.  But it did make him change his route so that’s something.

And I’ll never assume a man with a pole is anything more than a man with a pole.

So, what about you?  Have a story to share?  Take us for a Ride on the Storyline Express!

Ride the Storyline Express – with Booger Boy

In Don't Read This - It's Personal, Random Posts, Ride the Storyline Express, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique on March 28, 2010 at 5:01 am

I wrote a piece about beating Writer’s Block by riding public transportation.  So many stories, so many lives passing by in front of your eyes.

If you missed the first story, here’s a link:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/writers-block-ride-the-storyline-express/

As mentioned in my first piece, help out fellow writers and post what you see along the way of your day.  Things at work, people on the train, or overheard conversations of someone on a cell phone.  All ideas for writers traveling that lonely stretch of writer’s block.  SHARE THE RIDE.  Add a link to your story under comments or simply tag your own story with Ride the Storyline Express.  We’ll find you.

Here’s another happening along the mikidemillion route:

I laugh when I see ads from city hall urging the masses to use public transportation.  Save energy.  Save the environment.  Save money.

Here’s a tip to city governments everywhere – the best advertisement to keep people off public transportation is to have them try public transportation.  No amount of advertising dollars can reverse that trend.  Am I the only one who understands this?

Don’t get me wrong.  I love riding the bus.  There are things that occur on the bus a writer couldn’t imagine possible without seeing it first.  Humanity.  That’s what I see.  humanity.

Sometimes I’ll get off a standing-room-only bus before my regular stop and catch one of the crosstown buses with seats available.  It’s inconvenient, but more than makes up for elbows in the face and backpacks gouging into the side for a miserable thirty minutes or more.  Most of the time I can expect the crosstown bus to provide a leisurely ride.  But this time was not to be a most-of-the-time ride.

It was a half-empty bus.  The sideways seat benches at the front, long enough for five people each, were occupied by a single person on the right-hand side.  I sat two seats back in the regular, front-facing seats.  The moment the man walked up the bus steps I knew something was wrong.

He jerked and stumbled to the empty sideways bench.  He practically slid across the plastic seating, partially lying on it with his legs kicking at the other end.

oh great.  a drunk.

All this and the bus hadn’t moved yet.

He managed somehow to sit upright as the bus pulled away.  Then I saw it.  How could I have missed that?  I was too busy willing him not to fall to the floor.   He had the longest, slimiest green booger I’ve ever seen.  Hanging from his nose.  I mean, this thing had a life of its own.  It swayed with the rhythm of the bus.  Must have been three inches long.  And the guy sat, head hanging, oblivious of this thing coming out of his nose.

Would he sniff it back in?  You know that sound.  ugh.  I almost threw up thinking about it.

There’s a joke about it, even.  You ask, “What’s green and goes backward?”  then answer with a swift sniff backwards.  It doesn’t have the same impact if you don’t have a cold.

It was pea green in color, the color of soup.  I’ve never seen snot that looked like that.  It hung on for the next three blocks.  I couldn’t look in his direction without wanting to gag.  I had to watch out the window.  But I knew it was there, swinging back and forth, keeping time with the hand straps above the seats.  I had to close my eyes, afraid I might catch a glimpse of that solid, slippery green thing from the corner of my eye.  It made me sick.

I heard the bump and opened my eyes.  Booger boy was on the floor of the bus.  Just laying there, like it was the most natural thing to do.  I did not have the stomach to look at his face.  Two people got on the bus and, very politely, stepped past him.  The bus driver continued down the street.

Are you kidding me?  I leaned forward in my seat to say something.  The lady from the opposite bench had already stepped over him to speak to the driver.  People stared, the lady pointed at him, and the bus driver kept driving but turned around every so often to look at the guy on the ground.

Then the guy began flailing like a fish in the bottom of a boat.   His arms and legs flopped in all directions.

“Sir!” the bus driver said.  She looked back at him as she drove.

“Sir!” she said again.

Booger boy rolled over and back again.  He began grunting and slapped the floor with his hands.

The bus driver stopped the bus.  She stood near her driver’s seat and looked at him for a long while, then reached into a compartment and, very slowly, pulled on some ivory colored rubber gloves.  Maybe that booger was still there, hanging on.  I wasn’t about to look.

A man with two small children came to her rescue.  He held the man’s arms and the bus driver held his legs.   In a calm voice the man instructed the guy and the driver what to do.  Soon the guy lay still and the driver called an ambulance.

Behind us another bus pulled up at the same time the ambulance arrived.   I really wanted to stay and find out what the medical experts thought was wrong with him.  Maybe he wasn’t drunk after all.  But what could it be except that?

Can a person have a seizure after drinking too much alcohol?  And, how can a booger defy the laws of gravity for so long?  Things I would have never thought about if I hadn’t taken the bus.

Have a story to share?  I know this stuff doesn’t only happen to me.  Come on, get out that keyboard and tell us your travel stories!  Maybe it will steer someone away from that hard road known as writer’s block.