When I first moved to Seattle, one of the things I was most excited about doing was taking the bus.
Only a lunatic or a masochist would be excited about taking the bus, right? Totally. Unless, of course, you’re from a city where the bus service is unreliable to non-existent and carries risks such as mugging and (as 15-Year-Old Me can attest) getting vomited on. And I am from a city like that, so I was excited to take the bus in a place where the buses show up on time, the drivers are helpful, and the passengers are quiet and polite (and, for the most part, not vomiting, although you are running a risk when sitting in the back near the sleepy-but-unpredictable junkies).
Although it can sometimes be a pain to factor in an hour to get to a neighborhood that is only 20 minutes away by car (but 50 minutes with circling around trying to find a likely expensive parking spot), overall, I love taking the bus. I love that it helped me to figure out where I was going in Seattle. I love that someone else is driving. I love that occasionally I find an air-conditioned bus, which, depending on the day and if the bus stop was in full sun, can feel nothing short of miraculously decadent. Weirdly, I also love seeing some of the same people on my bus, because again, weirdly, it makes me feel like a part of my community.
I guess it’s strange to feel a sort of kinship with people to whom you never speak, but there’s an odd connection between people who take the same public transportation every day. Like, when you see the same person at the same time every day, you form certain assumptions about their character. And on the other hand, when you suddenly don’t see them one day, you get a little startled. It could be vacation, it could be that they died. You don’t know! I have recognized relief on the faces of fellow passengers when someone reappeared on the regular route. We’ve shared these looks. Although there’s no real sense of responsibility for someone’s whereabouts, I guess it’s still affirming to realize that you do still care about the life of a stranger, no matter how distant or ineffectual they may seem to be at first.
On my morning bus route, there are a few recurring characters that I’d notice should they go missing for a bit.
First is Clog Girl, who is the second person to arrive at the stop after me. She wears clogs every day – like, a startling variety of clogs – which I find strange since she’s maybe in her early 30s and doesn’t work in a kitchen that I can tell.
Second is Alpine Hikes Guy, who is just some middle-aged suit who, for months at a time, read the same book about alpine hikes in Alaska over and over again, despite not looking like the kind of person who needs to know anything about survival tactics above the Alaskan summer snowpack. He’s currently into Consumer Reports for some reason, and pores over Toyota SUV descriptions like they were written by Charles fucking Dickens.
Third is Colonel Sanders, who wear socks with sandals and a stupid fucking hat and sometimes takes my regular seat.
Fourth is the youngish guy who takes the bus only one stop, which wouldn’t be so bad except he’s carrying a gym bag every morning, so it feels a little bit insulting.
Fifth is the Hindu couple who read from the same prayer pamphlet every morning. The husband holds it for the wife and only turns the page when she says it’s okay and they’re about the sweetest thing around.
Sixth is the lady who breastfeeds a four-year-old.
She breastfeeds. A four-year-old.
See, the thing is that I have no problem with public breastfeeding. I don’t give a shit. If your kid is hungry and they require breast milk, then fucking feed them. You don’t need to find a special room or cover your body with a bedsheet. Just whip that boob out and get it done.
But when your kid is four – when they’re verbal and wear functional shoes and I have seen them eat a breakfast burrito with their own hands and then tell you how it tastes – I guess I just find it a little creepy that you’re still breastfeeding them? I dunno. I guess when your child is no longer nutritionally sustained by or dependent upon breast milk to satisfy a hunger requirement, like, if those two factors can be handled by a fucking breakfast burrito, then your habit of not only breastfeeding him but also breastfeeding him on a moving bus at 6:30am, seem kind of…self-serving? Indicative of an intimacy or dependency issue on your part? Fucking strange and more than a little bit creepy?
Just…put it away, lady. Indulge your neuroses on your own time. It’s early, I’ve only had half a pot of coffee, I just want to get to work without seeing your dexterous toddler fiddle with the toggles on your performance fleece in order to reach your desiccated breast.