Red Bus Blues

Writers’ Trigger:

I just took part in the most amazing exercise suggested by  Penny Solomons at Word for Word Writers, Crouch End. She gave us ten minutes to write our biography in exactly 100 one-syllable words. All participants were surprised at how deep they dug – how much they revealed.

The time constraints kept us from second-guessing our thoughts or our word choices. Given the short window of opportunity, we could’t sift through the years… keeping the good parts and sweeping the bad bits under the carpet. The results were authentic and raw.

Also, using only one-syllable words, against the ticking clock, makes for repetition, and the repetition gives the end-product a musical/poetic quality.

  • Do not think. Set a timer or a watch. Write
  • Surprise yourself.


I am seriously unhappy today. City life has taken its toll. Yesterday I experienced two ugly incidents on the bus and came home to find that someone had stolen my camera while I was in transit. It was not a good day.

I generally take the bus because I like to avoid crush load during rush hour. And most often I take the 390 that runs between Notting Hill and Archway. Yesterday two incidents:

Sitting three seats in front of me was a mother and her son. Both wore black leather jackets. He was in his early 20s. His scalp was shaved to some point above his ears and above that he sported a healthy shock of black hair. He was reading a paper.

She had dyed her hair mahogany and wore it in a topknot. Except her hair was too short to sweep up, so beginning at the nape of her neck, she had used dozens of bobby pins to keep the up-sweep swept up. She had a Gravel Gertie voice, a Camel smoker’s voice, the voice of an old woman. And her voice was loud. Loutish loud as she heaped abuse on  her son. Letting my imagination take hold, I figured that she was a drugged-out street-walker in need of a fix and her son had suggested that she get clean. She was not happy with him. She was yelling and he was ignoring her.

All riders could easily hear her. As could the bus driver who (in keeping with Transport for London policy) should have asked her to get off the bus. The driver chose to ignore her.

Screaming at her son, she yelled, “If people won’t accept me, they can f*** off! I’m myself. I’m a normal human being. I have a right to live my life. I’m not stupid! (Note: these bursts of anger came in spurts, and every one of them ended in an exclamation mark.) Take your advice? I’d rather kill myself and die. You’re f**kin’ hopeless. I’ve proven myself all these years. I don’t have to prove myself to you!”

And on and on. And then she turned and I caught her profile. She was not the mother; she was the same age as the boy. She wore pearl earrings. Her eyebrows and eye make-up were dramatic, but well done.

Moments passed. She stopped ranting. She turned her attention to the passing scene on Oxford Street. She called the boyfriend’s attention to something she saw in the street. He joined her in looking. Her passion was spent. Who was the woman? What was her story? What was the couple’s relationship? I was looking forward to getting a better look at them when they left the bus.

But that was not to happen because my attention was taken by another altercation. Before I could bid goodbye to the first couple, two, teenage girls sitting behind me raised their voices. They were listening to very loud music on their iPhone. Very loud music and they were singing along. I knew better than to turn around and ask them to turn down the music. I could easily imagine their back-talk to “Granny.” And so I endured.

But then a younger woman sat in the seat beside me, and she was not going to take it. Turning around she quietly asked if they would plese turn the music down. They ignored her. She turned around again: “I’m not going to take this!” They ignored her. She stood up and confronted them: “It is so sad that your mother did not raise you to be more civil.”

The word “mother” was the trigger. One of the girls jumped up: “You disrespecting my mother! Nobody disrespects my mother!” Lower lips were jutted. Fists were raised and threats issued.

The woman who had confronted the kids invited them to get off the bus at St. Pancras where she would teach them a thing or two. Imagine my surprise when the girls got off at Euston Station with me.

By that time, I was ready for trouble myself. There was a part of me that wanted to take them on in front of the CCTV cameras. To make the nightly news. To take a public stand against base behavior. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my chance.

It was only later that I discovered that someone had stolen my camera.

As I said, yesterday was not a good day. Today I look for balance. A laugh is always good. See the topiary dogs below.

"In! I want in!"

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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2 Responses to Red Bus Blues

  1. Laura Dembosky says:

    Awh, Mama! Sorry about your cruddy day 😦 …if anything, just look at it as a testimonial to your own parenting skills, which are no less than fantastic. I for one would never pick a fight on public transit, nor steal from the “granny” sitting in front of me. Hang in there. …your almost home… where you can ‘walk’ to the grocers. xo

  2. timeout2 says:

    Ah… what a sweet note! Yes, I think I’m ready for some life in the slow lane. XOXO

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