Thanksgiving on Bus 18

    Direction: Montclair. Shattuck & Durant. The man sits at the first row, holding a bouquet of lilies and chrysanthemums wrapped in brown paper, whose wrinkles almost blend in with his hand. He asks if anyone knows what time it is. I say “Twelve” a few times, he just gazes at me half blankly, half confused. The bus driver says “Twelve o’clock”. He nods, then mumbles something about hoping that “she will be there”. When the bus turns onto Martin Luther King Jr., he gets off, thanking the driver four or five times, looking lost.

    Direction: Montclair. Martin Luther King Jr. & 46th Street. A woman in her thirties waddles on, asking how much the fare is. Two dollars. She reaches in her grey windbreaker’s pocket for a handful of coins. Missing a quarter. She waddles to a seat, searches her purse, asks if anyone has change for a dollar. Silence. Silence. For 20 seconds. Finally another woman searches her purse and find some coins. Just enough time for the first woman to drop the last quarter into the slot, then she gets off. Her steps heavy, torpid, and somewhat lost.

    The bus is unusually light today. Its four passengers glue their eyes on the window as it glides pass old houses covered in fading blue and orange paints. Tilting fences. Barb wires. Old couches in tiny gardens full of weeds and pots. Graffiti. Empty parking lots. Porches without people because of the chilly winds. A few overweight black men crouching in their coats, waiting for a bus. A few black boys languidly crossing the streets.

    Direction: Albany. 12th & Webster. 1:40 pm. The wind isn’t so bad like in the morning.  The bus has nine or ten passengers. One man with dirt on fingers and gloves in pocket loudly voices his disapprovals at construction work condition to another. One man quietly cleans his glasses. The rest stares out the window. Everyone travels alone.

    But, everyone receives a softly “Happy Thaksgiving” from the driver as they get off. Somehow, that makes the bus feel warmer. 🙂

    *As far as I’ve riden Bus 18 connects downtown Oakland with North Berkeley. Usually it’s overpacked with people in suits and in rags, stale air, the smell of homelessness… But yesterday it seems to transport only lonely lives. – 25. November 2010

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