I love my bus ride home. It’s 45 minutes to relax, stop thinking about work, read a good book and listen to music of my choice. Time to wind down from one job and wind up for the next (mom, wife). And, most of all, to not speak to anyone.
I find myself sorely disappointed when I know someone on the bus, and I have to talk to them. I have no interest in conversation. I do it to be polite but I really don’t care. In my head, I am telling my co-conversant that they are an annoying thief of my time. I have actually started avoiding certain times because I know I am more likely to meet someone I know. Today was the worst bus ride I have had in a while.
I got on just outside of the hospital, as usual, and saw a colleague. We chatted, because it would be impolite not to. My transfer, though, luckily, I thought, had no familiar faces on it so I happily plugged my headphones in and looked for a seat.
The only seat on the bus was beside a man who was turned sideways and taking up two spots. As this is generally obnoxious behaviour, I stood beside him and stared pointedly until he moved. Dumb move. I should have waited. I sat. He said a few words over his shoulder to the man behind me, something about the new MRI machine at the hospital near my house. Not 30 seconds later, he started talking to me.
Creep (pointing at my music thingy): Is than an Ipod?
Me: Yes, a Shuffle.
C: You like it?
M (noncommitally): Sure.
C: How many songs does it hold?
M: I think about 200.
C: Well, that’s pretty good. Who needs more than 200 songs, anyway? I have about 120 CDs at home, myself.
M: That’s a nice collection.
C: Yeah. So how do you get the songs on there, with the computer?
C: What kind of music do you listen to?
M (offer no personal information): Oh, this and that. It puts the songs on randomly, so you never know what you are going to hear next.
C: Cool, that’s like the radio only better.
M (when oh when is my stop going to come?)
In the fifteen minute bus ride, I learned that this man is 35, his birthday was last weekend, and he didn’t even get a cake. He recently broke his ankle, and expects it will never fully heal. It happened at work, which he goes to 8-4:30, Monday to Friday, downtown. He gets along with everyone, even his boss. He always wanted to be a health care aide, and even took the course, but got kicked out during the practicum (I offered no comment). He wasn’t good under pressure, he said. He also told me he lives near the Y that we go to and he used to go to the one downtown, but he switched to the new one as soon as it opened, but he hasn’t been there in a long time because of his ankle. I learned all about his little radio that he used when he worked out at the Y. He told me exactly where he lives (near the Y), where he hangs out (nearby restaurant) and what he likes to do with his spare time (drink coffee with his buddies). He told me he always thought he would be married with kids by the time he was 35, but he had some health problems (I refused to bite). He told me that the week after he turned 21, he had a brain aneurysm that ruptured (although he also called it a stroke) and he spent a week in a coma and six more weeks in the hospital, and then 2 years at a rehab hospital that we happened to pass at that moment. He was paralyzed on one side but now he is back to normal. He told me, though, that he does have some short term memory loss. Go figure. This explains a lot.
Not once did I say anything that would invite conversation. I didn’t even turn my music off. I did, however, answer his questions politely and relinquish no personal information whatsoever. I gave vague answers to personal questions. I was most relieved to get off the bus.
I wasn’t afraid, or even creeped out, I was just intensely irritated that someone was interrupting my alone time. Never did I offer verbal or body language that anyone would construe as the least bit inviting, but this man was singularly unwilling to take a hint. I practically turned my back on him but he kept on talking. I stared furiously at the freshly coiffed head of the lady in front of me, who was reading a paperback, oblivious to my predicament, allowed by circumstance to escape into her book while I had to endure this lonely man.
Last night it was little better… I sat next to someone who wanted to bitch about the weather. Granted, it was snowing in the first week of October, but still. I don’t care. I also heard all about his family life, his kid’s ages, and where he lives and works. Don’t you see buddy? I don’t care! Maybe I look too friendly. Maybe it’s that component of my personality that attracted me to nursing, that I (appear to) care. I really only care about people and things I have some connection to. A shared seat on the bus does not count as a connection. Hey, maybe I am missing out on something, maybe I am forgoing my great Opportunity, but if it is coming at me at 5:00 pm on a weekday, I think I’ll give it a miss. This life isn’t so bad… who needs Opportunity? I don’t want it if I need to make nice with a stranger to get it.
I tell ya, I am on my own tomorrow night. I have done my socializing for the week. It’s someone else’s turn to chat with the freaks.