BUSSES, by the way, as the plural of “bus” and not “buses,” which is what Google chrome’s spell-check seems to think I should use. Not to go off on a tangent here, but this is the second time in the past few days I’ve had this fight with spell-check. The last time was when I typed the word “snuck” as the past-tense of “sneak” and spell check informed me that I clearly meant “sneaked.”
And yes, buses and sneaked are both acceptable modifications, but they aren’t nearly the words I’m looking for. I don’t care about pleasing a spell check, I care about the look and sound of my words. When I say snuck, I want SNUCK. Not sneaked. Anyway, to me, sneaked sounds faintly like a not-real world. And “buses” sounds like it should be pronounced “bee-yoo-sses”.
I wonder how you kill spell check in Google Chrome. Clearly, it doesn’t know anything more valid than the Random House dictionary that’s on the bookshelf behind me somewhere, gathering dust.
This was really not what I planned to talk about.
The thing I miss most about busses are the people and their conversations. every two or three weeks, for a year or more in my late teens, I would hope a Greyhound bus and ride it from northern Minnesota to northern Nevada. Something like a thirty-eight hour bus-trip, each way. All done in the name of 1) love 2) impatience 3) bloody-minded stubbornness. (My girlfriend and I were suddenly put into a long-distance relationship. Bus tickets aren’t that expensive. I thought “I can definitely improve this situation” and did so).
Anyway, they’re magnificently exhausting things, bus trips. That’s a lot of hours, and not a lot of sleep, and what sleep you do get is pressed up against a chill window, your jacket bunched up in a ball somewhere around your neck.
One of the interesting things that happens in the course of those long trips is, quite a lot of tired passengers begin chatting to one another. There’s nothing else to do. Some of them have iPods, or laptops. Technology wasn’t quite so small and portable as it is now — and I do wonder, would I step onto the bus to find any conversation happening now? — and so mostly, people drank caffeinated things and ate chips and talked.
I loved the conversations. The late night half-asleep conversation with a girl who had two lip-rings, fish-net stockings, and very short hair, telling me about the first time she took acid. The older gentleman with round, thick glasses who told me in precise and studious sentences exactly how one achieves a meditative state of elation and utter clarity, and what small exercises he knew to calm, focus, awaken, sharpen one’s mind throughout the day.
(He sounded nuts, but was quite wise. It was all valid meditative stuff. I still use some of it.)
I remember a large, soft man who sat next to me and talked in huge, yawning sentences about literature and the theatrical stage. I wasn’t that old, and not particularly adept in literature. What he mostly did was sneer at stuff. He had written a medieval farce starring two political figures of the day. He was very full of his own self-importance. It was the first time I’d encountered a literary Ahhhh-tist sort, and the first time I’d wanted to throw one underneath the wheels of a bus.
The interesting thing about him was, he asked what I was working on. And, me being young, what I was working on was a novel (so long dead, I don’t mind telling you about it) called “The Confidential Man” about a grown supersoldier who got free, fled to Boston, where he settled down and tried to build a family and life for himself. Until one day, the military comes looking for him. It was somewhere crappily between “A History of Violence” and the Jason Bourne books. I didn’t know that, I’d never heard of either one yet.
I said the opening sentence, about a grown supe super soldier rsoldier, and he laughed, loud and condescendingly. It stung. It also, in typical me-fashion, changed how I talk about my own writing, how I deal with explaining and defending my own stories, and who I talk to about it all. Also made me realize the importance of HOW you describe your story (starting off with “a novel about a super-soldier who –” is not the best way).
And so on and so forth. The weird long night where, for some reason, the six people at the front of the bus huddled together and discussed, in low tones, the validity-or-not of Jesus. Or the unshaven, filthy, ragged (drunk?) man who woke me up and sat down next to me roughly, thrust a tattered piece of a phone book page to me and said “What does that name say please man who is that is there a number there still?” and I blearily read both name and number, and he thanked me and rushed off the bus.
I like people. I like listening to them and talking to them and watching them and being one of ’em. It’s one thing I miss about traveling a fair bit. The experiences were similar, sometimes, when I used to fly a bit more. I miss that too, although the state of airport security these days means I probably won’t get to do that for some time longer.
And if this all seems random, well, it is. It’s just me ruminating. A thousand words about people. There are worse things to type over morning tea.
All of those people on BUSSES, remember. Not buses. Damn it.
Have a lovely afternoon.