The Short Shuttle

Posted By on September 9, 2009

“Another One Rides The Bus”

“I can’t move if I can’t close the door,” the bus driver informed us. I had no pressing need to arrive at my next destination, so I voluntarily disembarked. I knew the wait for the next bus wouldn’t be long. In fact, I could see the EE rounding the corner as I stepped off the F.

.: The Rutgers shuttle service spans all five campuses in New Brunswick and is indispensable for getting around. Even with faculty permits, parking is uncertain, so spots once claimed are rarely relinquished. Far better to wait in the shade for a few minutes than to circle the campus four or five times before success.

.: One curious aspect about the shuttle service is that it is available to both students and city residents. No fee is required, and no IDs are checked. The only people who can’t use the bus are, ironically, people who can’t walk. I learned all that when I first came to Rutgers back in March. What I did not know until today was that lack of higher cognitive function also does not preclude one from enjoying the services of the Rutgers shuttle system.

.: The F pulled away right as the EE came to a stop. I was the first in line, but instead of standing in place as soon as I stepped onto the crowded bus (as is common practice in areas heavily populated by assholes) I made my way towards the back of the bus. Nobody else back there was standing, and there was a single unoccupied seat remaining. All that prevented me from claiming the seat as my own was a small backpack and a small backpack owner.

.: I made an appeal with my eyes that to normal people said, “Please remove your inanimate object from the designating sitting area so that I, a fellow human being, may sit comfortably for the duration of the ride.” But to the small backpack owner the look in my eyes apparently signaled, “I am food. If I make any sudden moves, eat me.”

.: The revving engine drowned out most of the sound, so I cannot be certain if he growled; he did, however, widen his eyes and flare his nostrils as he gripped his backpack ever tighter. I backed off.

.: I’ve found that, when bizarre/strange/irrational situations occur around me while in public, I immediately seek out others in the crowd who also realize just how unusual the situation is. The inexplicable is no less so because someone else witnessed it, but at least the problem is recognized by more than yourself. So, while standing in a crowded bus next to an empty seat guarded by a territorial lunatic, it was reassuring to see others acknowledge that, yes, that guy’s being a jerk.

.: As we pulled away from the bus stop, the jerk thrust his middle finger up against the window, flipping the bird to no one in particular but flipping it intensely nonetheless (lesser panes would have cracked). I looked again for understanding glances — this guy is nuts, people! — but most were minding their own business. That is, until the laughter started.

.: Imagine what a laugh would sound like if it were emitted during a screening of, say, Shoah. Or, imagine how a mother might laugh upon learning her child was delivered stillborn. If imagined correctly, those laughs should have sounded completely fucking deranged, and that is what this person sounded like. Nothing seemed to provoke his laughter, either, which forced me to conclude an internal source, and I do not wish to speculate on the nature of thoughts responsible for that kind of laughter.

.: It continued. One girl had to put down her book and cover her mouth, lest the creature saw her trying to suppress her own laughter. Three girls in the very back quietly conferred with one another, no doubt about the demonic possession to my left. Even the guy with headphones was disturbed.

.: A police officer walked by outside. This displeased the gremlin, and he expressed his disapproval by banging on the glass with his fist and muttering, “Cops!” which if phonetically transcribed would require an additional forty-seven ‘S’s.

.: The bus stopped. One person got off, and I took their seat. The ride continued, and so did the laughter. More and more people were exchanging glances. A consensus was forming. Curiosity was getting the best of us. Try not to stare. That wasn’t hard; he never looked away from the window. More laughter. Is he murdering us all with an axe? Why would that even be funny? Other passengers now openly discussing the caterwauler. “Oh my God” was heard, as was “Is something wrong with him?” Another bus stop. A small female approached the empty seat, ignorant. Do we warn her? Which is ruder: telling her about the crazy man in the crazy man’s presence, or allowing the crazy man to sever her head? There are no innocent bystanders.

.: She sat down. I didn’t know what to say, or if I should say anything. I looked to the guys on my right. They both had headphones on. All I could do was widen my eyes and bite my fingers. I felt like the audience at a horror movie who just witnessed the victim enter the wrong room. Dramatic irony is no fun in real life.

.: She saw the concern in my eyes. It laughed again. She moved.

.: There is no climax to this story. However, there are two observations the significance of which I only now realize. One: while cellphone ownership is to the point where it’s no longer surprising to see a toddler carrying one, I still find it somewhat amusing that there are people out there whose numbers are stored on the cellphone of this particular brain stem (caveat: he may just be using it as a surrogate wristwatch). Two: the goon had a backpack and wore Rutgers apparel; I think it’s reasonable to conclude that he was a student. Way to go, admissions board!

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