The Felons on the Bus Go Blah Blah Blah…
Update: This essay was recently published in the New York Press – check it out!
I knew he was sketchy as soon I saw him clambering up the steps of the bus.
Slightly hunched over, the man slithered his way down the aisle, shifty eyes darting from seat to seat, pausing momentarily at my row to stare at the open spot across the way. Then, without even glancing in my direction, he slid in next to me instead. I discreetly surveyed my unwelcome new neighbor: He was bald, had bulging eyes, and looked like the kind of chap I’d expect to see headlining the 6 p.m. news after attacking a cashier at a grocery store for refusing to accept his expired coupon for fish sticks. Great, I thought. I’ll be able to say I knew him when.
I’ve taken enough Greyhounds, Bolts, Fung Wahs, and Peter Pans to know better than to indulge in chitchat with my fellow budget travelers. Greyhound seems to have committed itself to becoming the transportation choice of the supremely weird, and its customers tend to represent a diverse cross-section of the dregs of society. Anyone who’s ever spent an hour in the Boston line at gate 84 in the sweltering, cell-phone-reception-free underbelly of Port Authority surrounded by uncouth (and unshowered) aspiring passengers can vouch for this.
So it should come as no surprise that when this creepy, strangely jittery man made himself comfortable in the seat next to mine, I immediately began taking measures to avoid interaction. I angled my body toward the window, whipped out a book, and tried to look like someone who could not be bothered by conversation. Soon the bus driver made his routine announcements and we melted into the uptown traffic on Tenth Avenue, en route to Boston.