Fighting Back : A Bus Story

This bus. This is the same bus I take to and from work all of the time. Same routes, same drivers, and generally the same people.

Not a whole lot changes in my life. Steady job, happily married, a resident of my neighborhood for more than two cumulative decades. It is not monotonous in the slightest. It is stable.

Because, regardless of the things that remain concrete, I am always evolving, always flowing, and fluctuating. I am up; I am down. I do not have the luxury of having a constant mental state, where everything is perceived exactly as is was yesterday, and the day before that. Also, I do not have consistency within myself and my emotions to risk tipping the scales.  The cost is too great. 

I am more than content to go on living my life in the same way, unlike many others.  Why?  Because I have endured so much and worked so hard to get to this point.  Right here, where I undoubtedly believe that there are concrete things to grab onto when I’m sliding, and I have at least a modicum of clarity about myself, my present, and my future.

It’s this clarity that keeps me intact.

The predictability that I am going to wake up next to my husband, poke around on WordPress, play with my son, feed us, walk down the street, and hop on the same bus, at the same time, with the same driver to go to the same place I went the day before.

I do that backward in the evening.

I wrote this to a friend, soon after I wrote Pause. Skip. Fast-Forward.

“My mind feels like it fell from a skyscraper and shattered on the ground, 100 stories below. That’s the kind of wreckage we’re talking about. Not only did I leave an impact crater, I’m practically dust at the bottom of it. I can’t think, and I’m overwhelmed by this horrid, damaged feeling.

. . . I was handling it pretty well from moment to moment because they were pretty pronounced from one another, and rather short. Now, I’m pretty sure something tipped me off of my precarious ledge. It doesn’t matter what the causation was, because it’s not going to act as an antidote.

It was coming anyway. Three months in the making.

. . . I can’t trust anything I say, think, or do right now . . .

A few nights ago, I found myself standing at my same stop, waiting for my same bus, having a conversation with C.S. about our respective days.  They had been rough ones.  C.S. was dealing with a defaulted loan, and several accounts that were flaming turds at work.  I had bombed an observation at work, and was dealing with a potential denial from unemployment regarding my lack of work over the summer.  Everything was off kilter, and I had been for several weeks prior to these events.

My way home.

In the 99 Quirks of Lulu, in #2 and #5, I describe certain phobias I have.  So, when I board a bus, I naturally take the seat right in front of the backdoor.  On these buses, there is a plexiglass barrier between that seat and the door.  I am positioned properly, and it alleviates claustrophobia.  I can see everyone who can get to me.  I am close enough to the front of the bus, near the driver, without occupying a disabled seat, and I have an easily accessible exit.

Of course, I always survey my surroundings, without making eye contact.  There were five other people on the bus with me.  A larger, middle-aged man in jeans, who sat two seats in front of me.  A 50-something year old woman, with short poofy hair, dyed auburn, with grey roots coming in, seated a seat behind and across the aisle.  A man occupying a disabled seat in the front, and a male and a female in the very back.

I chatted with C.S., upset by the events that were simultaneously occurring.  It is the same ritual that occurs every night, usually minus the serious conversation.  And everything was in it’s right place.

I take notice of when anyone moves around on the bus.  I have been accosted more than once while en route, so I am always cautious.  The man had been casting me glances, obviously unaware that I had noticed.  The woman got up, and leaned across the aisle to speak with the man.  I continued on with C.S., still perfectly aware of what was going on around me.

She leaned in toward me, close enough for my eyes to focus in on her greyish, crooked front teeth, and scolded loudly, growling, “You know, there are other people on this bus.”

Seeing red again, seeing red again…

Typically, I go unprovoked. I would ignore such a person and prattle louder, in the attempt to defy the other person. But, something triggered. I could feel it in the millisecond before my response. It was like the click of hammer when a gun is fired. And the projectile came out.

“Oh don’t worry, I’ll be off soon enough,” I replied bitingly, knowing my stop was just a few minutes away.

She snarled, sinking back into her seat, “You know, you don’t have to talk so loudly.”  Funny thing was, I was not talking loudly.  I was speaking in my normal voice, on a bus quiet enough to rival a library.

“Actually, this is me talking loudly.  Just so you can tell,”  I retorted, even louder this time.  I did not swear, threaten, or get up.

“As if it’s all that important.”  Clearly, she was regarding me as some teenage idiot prattling idly to her boyfriend on her cell phone, gossiping nonsensically about this and that.  Looks are deceiving.  She should have learned already in her long life to never take anything at face value.

And I raged, speaking to her as if I were scolding a student for extraordinary misconduct, “Yeah, actually it is important.  This is about my life.  Not your life.  And if you were actually listening as you clearly indicated you could have been by the volume of my voice, you would know what I was talking about.  But no, you don’t, because it’s all about you.”  She didn’t have anything else to say.  Her body language indicated she was terrified, as she became smaller, and smaller in the corner of her seat.

Meanwhile, C.S. was in my earpiece talking me off the ledge.  “Stop talking.  Ignore her.  Just stop talking to her,”  he repeated.

I got home, and we were fixing dinner.  He said to me, “I didn’t tell you to back off because I thought it was the right thing to do.  I was sitting there, listening to this, thinking to myself, ‘What would I do if someone fired their mouth off to me after a bad day?’  And I thought, ‘I’d probably punch her in the face.’  Or at least, I’d want to.  I wasn’t about to bail you out of jail tonight.”

The thing was, physical violence didn’t occur to me until I was already home, ranting about that scene with C.S.  I said to him, “Her posture indicated that she was actually afraid of me.  She should have been.  She clearly didn’t know who she was dealing with.

I continued, “I’m going to go ahead and assume that she is near retirement age, by the greys in her hair, and likely had to stay late at work, in a job she hates, because I’ve never seen her on that bus before.  She had a bad day, was irritated, and was looking for someone to take it out on.  So, she is irritated by what looks like easy prey.  I hope she learned her lesson.”

After a few days of mulling this over, I realized what the click was.  I perceived her as a bully.  She matched multiple descriptions of my personal definition of a bully.  Clearly, she didn’t live in my lower-class neighborhood, because she was not even close to gathering her belongings for departure.  In all likelihood, she was riding to the Park N Ride two townships over, so she could drive the hill to the well-to-do part of town.  Match number one, someone with higher socioeconomic standing.  Match number two, she was older than me.  She had a sense of entitlement, as if I had to do what she said, just because she felt a certain way.  Match number three, some kind of social standing, or concept of authority.

Three strikes, you’re out.  I fought back.  Like I’ve been wanting to do my whole life.  And guess what?  I won.

Unfortunately, it took being severely unhinged to do it.

Bricked

I decided on Friday that I was going to take a mini vacation from myself over the weekend.

And it was fantastic! I took my full doses of medicine and smiled. I grinned ear to ear at all of the things stretched to near transparency and the rest that’s hanging by a thread. I went grocery shopping at a local market, on a Saturday morning when it’s always packed with people, and loved every minute of it. I eagerly sampled all they had to offer and just enjoyed the flavor of something new.

Saturday was the white ponies, double rainbows, and gold dust dreams are made of. It was an easy day like Sundays are supposed to be. I was well-rested and in great company. We ended up spending about $150 on groceries that will take us through about 3 weeks. Conversations took place where not a single whisper of the lawsuit existed.

All of T.D.’s Christmas presents were purchased by C.S. and a good friend while T.D. and I napped. And later, we drove around aimlessly and found a 24 hour doughnut shop not too far from home. Any hour of the day, there are doughnuts to be purchased! How incredible is that?

Oh my, do I have a penchant for rambling!

Sunday. Well, I don’t actually believe that was the day God rested. If so, then wouldn’t that be the last day of the week in the Christian calendar?

Sidebar – A Little About Lulu v. Religion

I was brought up a good little, white, blonde, pink cheeked Episcopalian. Just like all of my Scottish ancestors before me. I was baptized, confirmed, and married in a small church in my hometown.

The church itself was built by the parishioners in 1930, with their bare hands. The diocese only lent them enough to build the church itself. Sometime in the 1940’s, the parishioners took it upon themselves to dig out an undercroft, so they may have a common area to meet. My grandfather and his brothers were among those men.

As you can see, my family is deeply rooted in the church. My aunts and mother ran the Sunday School. My grandfather was the financial officer and my grandmother headed every charity event. I was a dedicated member for my entire youth.

There are events surrounding my separation from the church that were beyond my control. I was invited back five years later. But after living in a Jewish community for awhile, my ideas of faith and religion had deviated from Episcopal practice.

Throughout the years, I have been actively involved charity events, but rarely spotted at mass. The church has been facing some serious problems, and I’ve wanted to help so much. But, C.S. isn’t much for wanting to get up early on Sunday morning.

End Sidebar

C.S. has been the one dragging me out of bed on Sunday morning! Somewhere along the way, he’s had a change of heart. I can really only speculate – but in any case, it’s been nice.

Sort of.

This is where the frenzy begins. T.D. went number 2 and we didn’t bring wipes. I was ripped away from a project I didn’t know when I’d get back to.

Then, in the afternoon. It happened.

I was toying with the new Blackberry App World. I should know better. I’ve bricked dozens of computers from downloading things. PC’s aren’t anything I can’t fix. I graduated with honors from a Microsoft Certified School. But, I don’t know much more about the workings of a Blackberry than what can be pulled from Crackberry.com’s forums.

Tallulah froze.

No, no, no, no, no, no, noooo!!!

Stupid 3rd party apps. I waited until we were finished with dinner and told C.S. that I had to get my phone fixed ASAP. And that required me to sit upstairs, hooked to a USB cable, silently loathing myself for the entire debacle.

I wasn’t up there ten minutes before C.S. yelled up. “What are you doing?” Even more irritating, I had to get up and go into the hallway to talk to him because he’s deaf in his left ear. “I’m trying to fix my phone.”. “Still?”..

Eye roll. Yes, still!

Another ten minutes goes by and I hear C.S. yelling at T.D. There were some crashes and T.D. crying. I flew down the stairs and demanded to know what was going on. My kid was acting up. Big surprise.

Everything was busy loading, so I stayed awhile to get them settled again. Then, I excused myself back to the Blackberry battle.

“Lulu, could you come help me?” Back down. Up and down, a dozen times in two hours for every little thing.

I helped C.S. get T.D. into the bathtub, and once again, I took my leave. Fifteen minutes elapsed and I heard a crash, bang, boom! T.D. was hysterically crying and C.S. was hollering. All while I’m jumping two and three stairs at a time screaming, “What happened?!”

I scooped my son, wet and naked, into my lap and hugged him. C.S. began explaining that he ran off and must have slipped. My boy was fine in a minute, jumped out of my lap, and ran off to do his thing.

Suddenly, I was filled with rage at the whole ridiculous, irritating, infuriating situation. I clenched my fists and ground my teeth. I grabbed the item closest to me (thankfully, a little plastic tube), and hurled it at the fireplace. C.S. stood behind me and asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Every muscle in my body tightened and locked. And I pounded my fist onto the floor. Repeatedly.

“What’s wrong?!”

I snarled and screamed, “I can’t even do anything without getting interrupted by every little thing!”

He responded, “I can’t handle T.D. by myself. I just can’t do it.”

I yelled at the top of my voice, “I do it, by myself, everyday! I was doing it all by myself the day after my surgery!!!”

He went silent. I guess walking a mile in my shoes caused a few blisters. And I was left in peace to finish the repairs.

I know. My fit was absolutely outrageous. Honestly, I couldn’t stop it. It all came on so fast! I rarely have tantrums like that, but I was so overwhelmed! It was such a strong I was obligated to act.

Am I alone in the indulgence of inappropriate expression?