Saturday, February 12, 2011

PegLeg and Me

A few years ago, after fighting for several months with the idea of commuting by public transit, I relented and took the plunge.

To be sure, I had a valid reason for clinging to the thought that my single-occupancy vehicle commute was necessary. At the time I was an unabashed workaholic, happy to be chained to the idea that I was, indeed, doing something as important as rocket science. So if, for example, I wanted to extend my cherished daily slaving time in the urban jungle ruins, a viable, easy-to-use option of getting home was required.

Still, it wasn't until after a co-worker began using the bus that I saw the cost-saving benefit and common-sense rationale. So one day, with great fear and trepidation, I purchased a multi-ride pass and set off on the magnificent journey of public transit.

There were two options: The first was an express route that had two primary stops, a beginning and an end. The second was a regular route that traversed a major thoroughfare and made about 679 stops (give or take a few dozen) along the 15-mile span of my entry points.

The clientele on the express route were primarily white-collar cube dwellers and was less crowded. From the perspective of wondering if I'd get mugged on the way home, it was a safer option. It also cost a bit more at the time so the advantage of safety was, to a degree, minified.

Conversely, the folks encountered on the regular route were, to be sure, of the more earthy urbanite breed; a few looked downright scary. But, being of a frugal nature at times (i.e., darn near broke), I chose this option. After all, I was a fearless, physically imposing (120 pounds sopping wet) cube warrior. What . . . could go wrong.

The first day's inbound ride was uneventful, and I was feeling really swell about the experience . . . couldn't wait for the evening ride home. Arriving that afternoon at the crowded outdoor terminal plaza, still not sure of the real timing of the jitney, or even the exact number of my route, I finally found my station and anxiously awaited boarding. True to expectations, the fellow riders were everything I was not: shoddily dressed, filthy, smelly, having bad hair days, the whole nine yards. But, I was not going to be intimidated. I would rub elbows with them all, even if it meant desiring to burn my clothes immediately after arriving home.

In the distance I saw the charabanc round a corner, sputtering and spewing its diesel emissions like a badge of honor. Being the nice guy I am, I let the women, children, and most of the male cretins board first. Heading to the back of the coach, I shoehorned into the last available aisle-facing seat. There was room for one more rider, and into the seat next to me, and practically staring at my profile, a grungemaster settled in with a sigh and grin.

The bus slowly eased away from the sidewalk, and my stomach began to quieten; my olfactory nerves were calming as well.

Suddenly, but in a practiced and deliberate action, the fellow who took the last seat, reached down and . . . to my horror, twisted his leg off, and planted it, quite loudly, next to him.

I did not utter a sound, and my eyes stayed focused straight ahead . . . even as the denim fabric, now devoid of substance to cover, flapped in the breeze for the next several miles. The remainder of the ride was the most still I have ever sat on a bouncing bucket of bolts to this day, over a half decade later. Like the Bible says I should do, I did not look to the right, and I did not look to the left.

And after that day, I also never saw PegLeg again . . . primarily because the express route became more justifiable.

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