Thursday, 9 December 2010

A ghost of Lennonmas present (write of passage number seventeen)

On the Transitway, a temperature of -10C is feeling more like -15 with the windchill. It's just before 9 and I've been on the go since 7:20 and this bus is my fourth of the morning -- so far. I get on at the front of the articulated bus, so by the time I make my way to the back, most of the few remaining seats have been grabbed by those who nipped in by the rear doors.

A woman has a cell phone glued to her ear. There's a pillow in her lap and two large designer purses on the seat beside her. She also appears to be wearing two long wigs. The bottom one is white-blond; the top one is magenta. I pause expectantly by her seat. In Canadian Bus Body Language, this means: "Will you take your stuff off, please, so I can sit down?". Madam Double Wig stares determinedly into the middle distance and mumbles into the cell phone.

"May I have this seat?"
No reaction.
I adopt a cheerful, motherly tone: "Excuse me, sweetie, did you pay for two seats?"
She glances at me, then back into the middle distance. I'm beginning to suspect that no one is on the other end of her phone call. An elderly Asian couple gaze on this scenario in mildly appalled wonder. I look to the very back where there's one seat wedged between two large adolescent males busily texting.
"I see," I say, a shade less cheerily. "You're just rude." I stalk off and carefully dock my butt in the free space.

I'm comforting my wounded feelings with the folk/rock/soul mix of CBC Radio Two's Morning show when I see a large group of commuters board at the Lincoln Fields stop. An elegant and formidable lady spots the seat I failed to get. She's dressed in what I think of as Civil Servant Winter Issue: a long, slim-fitting immaculate black wool coat crowned with a fleece cloche hat. She assumes the traditional Bus Body Language position I described earlier and when ignored, firmly puts the two designer bags in Madam Double Wig's lap. MDW slams them back into the empty seat beside her. Few words appear to be exchanged (I'm several seats back with ear buds in), but Elegant and Formidable Lady isn't budging.

After an impasse that nearly lasts the Transitway stretch of the Ottawa River Parkway, EFL manages to sit down. In honour of the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon's assassination, CBC Radio Two is playing "All You Need Is Love". I listen to Lennon while watching the seatmates conversing, with MDW's gestures gradually growing more extravagant:
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. It's easy.

Now I can't resist slipping the ear buds out. The two are facing away from me, but a few words make it back, all from Madame Double Wig:

"Ride the f@$@#ing bus..."

Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time - It's easy. (I got the general idea, so I'd slipped in my ear buds again.)

Elegant and Formidable Lady has evidently had enough and transfers herself to a seat that has become available down in the next section. Madam Double Wig is now declaiming to the crowd below, some of whom are energetically remonstrating with her.

"And you can f*&$% off..."

I stick my ear buds back in. Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.

Back in my section, people are animatedly discussing the situation in pairs, nodding and smiling. Chatting odd couples: a fellow with a long grey ponytail with a pretty office worker in a bright tuque; a Muslim lady with a baggy-panted young fella. The appalled elderly Asian couple offer their seats to Madame Double Wig's next unsuspecting seat partner as they exit the bus. The unsuspecting seat partner smiles and politely refuses the offer, looking mildly confused.

- My goodness, I think to myself, as the song fades in my ears. Madame Double Wig is actually a kind of catalyst.

Nobody told me there'd be days like these. Strange days, indeed. Most peculiar, mama!


Lisa Rullsenberg said...

What a fabulous narrative: all accompanied by Lennon music. We have our fair share of MDW equivalents here --- though probably without the wigs, just with the wiggy behaviour...

Volly said...

Lovely writing!!

The rudeness? Ah, what can we say? My default conclusion for a myriad of situations like this is... overpopulation. We're all feeling crowded, some more than others. Some cope far better than others, and some people, such as MDW, start to crumble from the inside and the result is what you witnessed. What would make someone behave in such a way as to attract widespread hostility and even potentially endanger her? One concludes that she is so heavily invested in guarding her space, her territory, that it's worth any price.

Then, of course, you get another type on that bus -- the one who is heavily invested in "overcoming" the rudeness of someone like MDW. EFL was not a hardcore example of this type. Someone fitting that description is out there somewhere, however, and the end result of that combination is usually violence.

Very sad. I wonder what MDW is like when she's not riding the bus, and how long she's been that way.

Persephone said...

Volly, I witnessed the perfect example of which you spoke a little over a year ago.