Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Comeback special

Public transportation is so dodgy. Not because of the transportation part, but because of the public. I'm reminded of the time in Carbondale taking the Saluki Express out to the Walmart when the bus stopped to pick up a man in a blue cape. He climbed in, announced to everyone that it was his birthday then began to sing. About Darth Vader. He sang in his seat all the way to his stop. This being Carbondale, nobody much noticed.

This poignant vignette is all lead-up to my trying out public transportation this morning. In particular, I was trying out the service the city offers for the disabled, elderly, etc. If I teach next semester, it will be at the campus of the other college in town, no place I can get to on my own.

Of course, I always dread these excursions into the land of the inevitably looney that is the world of the disabled. The driver introduced himself as Smitty. Already, that spidey-sense I mentioned a couple of weeks ago is flaring. A man who goes by Smitty is, of course, utterly insane.

"We'll getcha on thar, yessiree, don't you worry, Smitty's here."

"I'm not worried."

"Good! Good! It sure is cold. Did you get rain last night, Paul? Lord, back at the house, it rained to beat the band!"

"Yeah, I heard the rain during the night."

"Ten tornadoes in Tennessee touched down."

(Here I must admit I was rather taken with that line, all those t's.)

"Oh, really?"

"And some fella out in California won the PowerBall. 310 million. Have mercy! I'd re-tar quicker than you can say re-tar. How quick can you say re-tar?"

"Pretty quick."

"That's what I mean! 310 million. Why, old Smitty, he's headed to Hawaii with that kind of money. I'll take you too."

By now I'm on board. I notice a stocky young guy, dressed head to toe in denim, setting up front. He moves towards the back, towards me.

"Now, you buckle up, Patrick! If something happens to you, first thing they do is fire me, then the state'll sue me and I won't have nothing."

Patrick buckles up. He leans in close, with a conspiratorial air.

"I'm Patrick. But call me Pat. All my friends call me that. Pat."

"Hi, Pat."

"Look. Look at these pictures. I took 'em myself."

He shows me a photo of an Elvis impersonator. In a white sequinned jumpsuit. 'Elvis' is windmilling one arm with amazing passion, eyes closed, nearly on bended knee.

"That's a great picture, Pat."

"I took it myself."

"You don't say."

The next photo is of an Elvis in a red jumpsuit, towelling the sweat of the spirit of Elvis from his forehead. After that, Patrick poses with yet another Elvis. By now it's clear Pat who, besides being a little slow but pleasant enough, has a major Elvis fetish.

"This is outside Graceland. Isn't it gorgeous?"

"Yes, it's quite a sight."

"It's gorgeous. This room is inside Graceland. Isn't it gorgeous?"

I can tell he really, really wants me to say the word gorgeous, that upon this word hangs a great importance.

"Oh, yes, it is gorgeous, defintely."

"Here's his Cadillac."

This went on for some time. Pictures of the mostly tacky interiors of Graceland. More Elvis impersonators. Pat spoke up again.

"They just won't leave him alone, they won't let him rest."

I took this to mean all those who believe Elvis to have faked his death. I didn't press. Pat had grown introspective, still shuffling through all the pictures of his dead king.


Anonymous said...

I too have the affliction of the man in denim. An acute case of Memphis pride!

LKD said...

Oh, Paul, thanks for sharing your spidey adventures with us. You made me desperately homesick for Pittsburgh which is where I relied on public transportation to get to art school and everywhere the hell else while I lived there. I used to love watching complete strangers fall asleep and use each other's shoulders as pillows. And of course, there was that rare bit of excitement when an eyeball was found on a seat at the back of one of the buses. Turned out to be a sheep's eyeball but oh, how the city did wring its collective hands in horror at the thought that some poor soul's eye had been gouged out only to end up on the RTA.

(Bob's asleep on my feet. Time to go to bed.)

Oh, and hey, you ain't seen loony until you've worked the midnight shift at a Dunkin' Donuts. Honey, I can attest to this fact: The really crazy people don't come out til after dark. (grin)

Suzanne said...

You are a wonderful story teller. Yes, you are. Thanks for this, Paul!