Saturday, August 2, 2008

Public Transportation

I wish I could confidently say I will never have to take the Metro train, public bus, Greyhound or ever leave my house again, but that would be a lie. I have too many places I want to go and a 10-year old Korean car with intermittent electrical problems means chances are I will be taking public transportation some of the time.

I took the bus and train regularly for about 10 years. My only complaint about the train was that it smells on hot days and they didn't clean their windows regularly. I have a lot of olfactory related complaints about the bus, too, but a bigger problem when I rode regularly were the passengers. There was always one guy on every bus that could make it miserable for the other passengers. There probably still is. My consolation is that now that I am older, bigger and perfected my "I am going to kick your ass" look, the horny drunk guys leave me alone.

I was pretty put off by my first Greyhound bus trip, which was drama-heavy with rancid-chicken man, being appointed the messenger of hope on a dark stormy night, a possible kidnapping, recently released prisoners trying to be sneaky about their crack intake and a bus coming in while we were on our way out that had a recently deceased, believed to be murdered body on it. According to the person who told me about it, it was mentioned on the news once and never again. My second Greyhound trip--I never lose faith--sort of redeemed itself by limiting the reek of humanity to a few close talkers in need of antibiotics, a toothbrush and a shower. There was one eye popping moment when, upon departure, I looked out the window to watch luggage being loaded up with pretty floral luggage and boxes of human blood. I took a picture. Blog fodder is blog fodder.

The rest of my second bus trip was uneventful. Scott was a little traumatized during unloading when he couldn't find me but did find an entire busload of cargo labeled "fresh meat". Welcome to St. Louis. Next time I'm traveling with a tazer. The personal size even comes with an attractive and purple handle. That's how you know it's meant for women. It also comes in neutral, ahem, I mean manly colored handles.

Don't worry. I'm not buying a tazer. I'm not limiting what little public travel I do. I will avoid it when I can, but that's pretty typical of, um, everyone. The only thing that will change is that I will be even more nervous for those in my life who remain oblivious to people sizing them up for a mugging. I won't change what areas I go in to. For the most part I already stay out of areas where I would be easy pickins. I will be more wary about 'safe' areas I frequent. So should you. Random crime is on the rise. Just don't be chicken little about it. Be wary, be cautious, don't be an asshole.

So far I have been pretty good about knowing when I am being sized up for a mugging and taking steps to avoid it so far. Once I saw a guy sizing me up in the middle of the night outside Webster University library. It was late, I was tired, I had a deadline and I was Not In The Mood. I just wanted to finish my cigarette in peace. I ignored him for a minute, but I listened to the gnawing in my gut and picked up the phone and pulled up the public safety number. When the guy finally plucked up his nerve and ran at me I pressed 'send' and loudly said, "I'm already on the phone with the police". My would-be mugger couldn't change his trajectory fast enough and stumbled off the curb. It shook me that my instincts were right. It also made me shake with laughter that I startled a would-be bad guy.

I don't pretend random acts of bullshit don't shake me. Muggings probably shake me more than they should while random acts of beheading don't shake me enough. Mugging seems real like it can jump out at you at any second and threaten that sphere of safety you have built in your mind. But random acts of murder? Being stabbed by your seat mate for no reason? It doesn't seem real. It is like the bogeyman . It is horrific and makes me want to hide under my bed. My heart aches for the victim, the family and the witnesses, but I can't wrap my mind around it being real. All I can do is believe is that this kind of tragedy is random, isolated and rare.

Onward I travel, what little local and long-distance traveling I do, keeping my cell phone in my pocket, dangling something pokey in my fist (like keys), keeping my eyes open and trusting my gut.