Public transportation can be a great equalizer and no form of transit is more public than the bus, where anyone with 36 cents gets the same right to one cubic nanometer of personal space. However, not all bus riders are created equal, at least from an entertainment standpoint. As a new transplant into DC I’ve set about cataloging some of them below. Supposedly there are 5 people that you meet in heaven, if you believe in God or the afterlife or redemption or books. This is a lot like that except slightly more real. Just slightly.
1. The Mystic Gypsy
DC boasts an incredibly diverse population that includes immigrants from every corner of the globe. Coming from one of the slightly crustier corners comes this wizened crone whose name is probably Esmeralda. Given that she can turn you into a toad or one of Donald Trump’s wives with her magical ways it’s best not to disturb her as she polishes her crystal ball and casts a quite literal (and potent) evil eye at people who bump into her. On the other hand, if you share your Skittles with her she might give you a monkey’s paw or something. So don’t be a jerk is what I’m saying.
2. A Woman Who Really Doesn’t Need Your Opinion On The Book She’s Reading
Look, we all like when other people enjoy the same stuff as us. That’s great. But when you see a girl deep into something by Kurt Vonnegut or Jonathan Safran Foer that doesn’t mean you need to pontificate unto her to establish your intelligence and suitability as a mate. Maybe she doesn’t like the book, or maybe she does, or maybe she’s not sure yet. Just because you got an English degree at Eastern Who-Gives-A-Shit University doesn’t mean you need to know. Read social cues, unless you want to be the creepiest dude on the bus, which is like winning the Pervert Olympics.
PS – Ladies, I am available for chats about Kurt Vonnegut or Jonathan Safran Foer both on and off of buses at your convenience and can be contacted via Snapchat.
3. A Wise Janitor That Teaches You The Ways Of The Heart
“Well son, love is a lot like a mop” he begins “sometimes you can’t get clean until you get real messy first”. This unsolicited advice comes from a 300lb man who literally scrubs feces all day, but somehow you still feel like it rings true. Dispensing sage wisdom for anywhere from 4 to 16 blocks, you’ll get a whole new perspective on trust, communication, spousal understanding, and a bunch of weird, overly graphic sex tips from this hardworking blue collar guy. Also, if you’re picturing him as a black guy a la Shawshank Redemption then you are super racist. His name is Giuseppe De Santos and he’s half Italian, half Portuguese and he moved to the US in 1986. You fucking racist.
4. Time Traveler…Or Hipster?
This is a tough one. Usually bearing a waxed mustache, vest, pocket watch, scarf, and monocle, and delaying everyone’s commute by attaching their goddamn velocipede to the front of the bus, they are either the latest form of hipsterdom or a misplaced 19th century time traveler. Either way, they looked very confused and are having a hard time operating their steampunk cell phone so it’s probably best to avoid contact. If it is a wayward temporal wanderer it’s polite to offer any assistance you can. If it’s a hipster than you are legally obligated to spit on them, as they are the only group that it is still acceptable to publicly shame.
Oh damn it, it’s Todd. Remember him, from your cousin’s wedding? He got really drunk and kept talking about his workout routine. He lives around here and he works in…Sales? Or Marketing? Shit, you made eye contact. Fuckfuckfuck now he’s waving. He calls you “baked bro-tato”. He says you “HAVE to try” his bikram SoulCycle CrossFit class. He wants to know when you can help him move. There’s no escape, unless something amazingly lucky happens, like the bus careening into the Potomac.
6. A Pack Of Feral Children
Occasionally on the bus you will realize that a section, or perhaps even the entire back half of the bus, is no longer public space. Through a primal agreement, a group of unsupervised, unruly, and fully feral children has taken control and established a libertarian, Lord of The Flies-esque anarchic state, in which they mostly play fun and classic games such as hopscotch, tag, and murder. Legend has it that several years ago such a wild pack overtook a bus on 16th Street and successfully ran the line for over a week, setting WMATA records that still stand in route speed, reliability, and customer satisfaction.
7. President Barack Obama
It may shock tourists but any seasoned DC veterans will tell you that within two weeks of moving to the nation’s capital you’re pretty sick of seeing the Chief Executive around town. Whether it’s on the bus, shopping at Trader Joe’s, catching brunch with John Kerry and his college buddy Scooter, or just walking around greeting people, Barack Obama takes between 8-12 hours a day to just get out of the office and “clear his head.” Since he’s moved into the “lame duck” or “IDGAF” phase of his Presidency it’s a lot more common to see him and he will not stop talking about the screenplay he’s working on. It’s about a misunderstood President who everybody doesn’t realize was really great (shocker). Don’t even ask him about it.
8. A Lot Of People Who Just Want To Get The Fuck Home
It may be an unexpected surprise, but a lot of people on the bus are…well, people. They just worked, or shopped, or ate, and they’d really like to get the fuck home and not deal with the bullshit of public transportation. Eventually you’ll be one of them, just trying to get home against the odds of an uncaring universe and an even worse transit infrastructure. Happy bus riding!!