Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Moment in Nashville Time

It is perhaps amazing to note that even during the heat of the last couple of weeks, I still walked to the bus almost every morning. It's something I'm proud to say I do 3-5 times a week, 52 weeks a year; a distance of a mile and a quarter. (Ok, I exaggerate, it's actually a mile and an eighth, but a mile and a quarter sounds so much better. So sue me.)

Usually, when I arrive at the bus shelter (our bus stop has one of only a few 'shelters' on our route. It's a typical 3 sided glass box with a nice roof that actually doesn't leak during the rain) I am the first of anywhere from 2-5 people who ride from this location. You can imagine my surprise to arrive and find someone seated in the shelter. However, it was not one of my fellow bus patrons.

One time in the past, the bus shelter became the 'home-away-from-home' for a homeless woman who lives in the area. She has her own issues and is a bit of a staple to those who live in our semi-rural area. This new person was not her. (Was not she? Bubba? Grammar?) No, it was some older long haired grubby guy whose shirt was open and showing off his hairy abdomen, and let me tell you, this guy really puts the 'dome' in 'abdomen.' His fly was open, he had a rope for a belt and he wasn't wearing shoes. To top this entire visage, he was drunk as a skunk.

Now, part of me is amazed at the ability of someone to remain totally drunk throughout the evening and even into the early morning. This takes dedication. The rest of me just wants to stay upwind and not 'engage' in any conversations. Since there was no rain, I could stand up wind about 30 feet and watch for the bus. I had about 15 minutes to wait (damn my walking speed!)

During the entire 15 minute wait, every minute or so, this guy would make a noise somewhat akin to the sound a wounded buffalo makes while lifting a heavy sack of potatoes. This tactic, in case you didn't know, is used to get me to react. "Oh Gee," thinks the mark (me), "this poor guy must be hurt, mayhaps run through with a sword by a passing ninja. Being the good person I am, I shall endeavor to check on his personal state!" Checking on him only gets you information in the "Got a dollar?" concepts of conversation. I stayed upwind.

Soon, two more of my Bus Riding Compatriots showed and we all stayed upwind. The thing in the bus shelter (whom I had come to refer to as "Stinky the Drunk" or Drunky for short for obvious reasons) came out once and we simply told him to be off. "Off with you, vile vagabond! Henceforth I shall call a constable with my wireless telephonic contraption!" (Yes, I'm afraid I do talk that way. Sometimes it works, other times people stare with their mouths agape.) This time however, it was one of the other guys who chased him off. Using less Victorian words. Stinky the Drunk got the idea and stumbled back into the bus shelter. We went back to waiting for the bus.

Now. Along comes the bus and the real reason for this wonderful story. As we assemble our cases, lunches and assorted umbrellas in anticipation of boarding the ride to work, we glance over to the bus shelter only to see a sight that shocks us to our core. Stinky the Drunk has stumbled out to wait for and (supposedly) board the bus. I'm pretty sure that the bus driver will have none of his antics, but before we get to that, one of the aforementioned Bus Riding Compatriots looks over my shoulder and gives forth a hearty "OH, HAYL NO!"

Turning back, I see that not only has Drunky gathered together a bag of 'personal belongings' (god knows what's in that plastic bag...) but in so doing, he has also apparently allowed more of his physical person to hang in the morning breeze than was visible before. Before I can do anything more than laugh at the sight of this poor schlub* with his 'bizznezz' hanging out, one of the other guys goes over to read him the riot act and explain that he will not be riding the bus this morning. Again, mentions of official constabulary get him to not only NOT ride the bus but to vacate the premises entirely. I've not seen him since.

I have total empathy for homeless people in a sort of a 'There but for the grace of God.." sort of thought processes. If things had turned out differently, I might find myself in a similar position. When it comes to people who, for one reason or another are overcome by the forces of alcohol, I don't understand, but I do have some compassion. Drunks like Stinky? I can also have a bit of compassion for them, but geez, at least zip up a bit before you head to the bus shelter!

Life in the South is always new and adventurous.


*Schlub: Yiddish (thanks mom) Unkempt in appearance, either due to lack of effort or lack of awareness.

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