I was already frustrated when I boarded the City Bus from Montpelier to Barre Friday afternoon, so when the crazy woman I sat next to struck up a conversation with me, despite my closed eyes and headphone-stuffed ears, I felt myself teetering on the edge of sanity.
You see, I had left work early on the account of being ill, so I was hoping for a speedy trip home. At least, that’s what I was expecting after asking my coworker, who frequents the <a href=”http://www.gmtaride.org/” target=”_blank”>GMTA</a>, what time the next bus would arrive. She assured me they run ever half hour, and being 10 minutes until 2PM, I would just make it.
Forty-five minutes later, I had watched 2 TED talks on my iPod, prioritized the following week, and called my mother twice to complain. I also consulted the other commuters to find out if they knew what the hold-up was.
“Yesterday it was an hour late, and then it never came,” a woman dressed in too many shades of red informed me. I thought about asking her to clarify, but then thought better of engaging her further. Instead, I decided to take her comment as evidence that something was amiss with the GMTA and it was my job to fix it.
I did this by huffing and puffing loudly and announcing to the people around me that something needed to be done. I then demanded to know the phone number of GMTA.
“It’s right behind your head,” another woman told me.
Ignoring the clearly posted schedule above the phone number, I dialed the GMT and said my peace.
“M’am, how long have you been waiting?” the customer service representative asked me.
“Fort five minutes! And there were two buses in that time that were supposed to come, so I just want to know when the bus is going to arrive.”
“Well the next bus comes at 2:31, which is right now, so it should be there in the next five minutes. The bus before that was due at 1:16, so you must have missed that one.”
I began to respond with a deflated “Oh” just as the bus pulled up – a total of 3 minutes late. By this time, I had made such a scene that the other people waiting practically ushered me to the bus door ahead of them.
Once on, I sat next to an elderly woman and kept my iPod on, hoping she would take a hint and leave me alone.
Instead, she tapped me on the arm and asked, “So are you going home or to work?”
“Home.” I said as I tipped my head back and closed my eyes.
Tap, tap, tap. “What do you do for work?” she pressed (my buttons).
“I’m unemployed,” I lied.
“Oh, well I’m just out doing a couple of things.”
“That’s nice,” I said through closed eyes, then turned up the music. I could faintly hear her voice continue to make sound through my music for a few more minute before she finally gave up.
I had just about settled in when I heard a man’s voice shouting. It was the bus driver. Concerned he might be relaying important information about our journey, I cautiously removed one of my headphones to listen, taking care not to make it obvious to my seat mate that I had a listening ear exposed.
“I just want to let everybody know that this is a new bus. Yup. It’s brand spankin’ new!”
Of course this piece of information only served to inspire the woman next to me to resume her chatter, so I quickly replaced the headphone, closed my eyes, and tried to drown her out.
When we reached the Wayside Restaurant, a woman at the front of the bus who was getting off turned to the bus driver and asked “Do you wanna come inside?”
“Aw, gee, thanks very much, but I can’t right now,” he replied.
I wanted to say to her, “Yeah, he can’t come, because he needs to take me and the rest of these people to our destination!”
The only thing that kept me from an outburst were the tissues I had stuffed in my bra while I waited for the bus. You see, the snot I had blown into them before storing them there was beginning to soak through the fiber of the tissue and onto my skin.
I needed to get home.
“Times Argus!” the bus driver shouted as we pulled up next to the Vermont newspaper building. I took this to mean that it was a bus stop, which was convenient for me, because it was only a short walk from my house. It wasn’t until I stood up and walked to the door that I realized he hadn’t slowed down and was merely alerting us to the sights.
“Um, I guess I’ll get off here,” I offered.
“Sure thing Ma’am! Have a great day!”
By the time I climbed into my bed, I had lost about 2 cup sizes due to the absence of tissues, but aside from that I was unscathed after my first ride on Vermont’s public transit system. In fact, my guess is that the people around me have more to report about my behavior than I do about theirs. For what I learned about my journey yesterday is that despite how crazy everyone else appeared to me, I was the only puzzle piece that didn’t fit.
If I ever see that woman again, I’m going to ask her where she’s going, then listen to what she has to say.