Lately I have been taking the bus everywhere in London. I love to sit on the top level of the double decker buses and look out upon the city. People rush by, and I just sit there, above them, watching. I imagine where they are going, what their day has been like, and wonder what kind of people they are. Sometimes I look at people and feel I know them. Something in their face seems familiar to me, and I have to refrain from waving at them, as if they were my oldest acquaintance in the world. (I have to admit that I do smile at people when I am walking in the street. Many smile back. Which is lovely. Other's frown at me, furrow their brow and must think I am insane).
Buses, however, allow you to do more than just watch people. They let you listen to the people around you. I know I may seem guilty of voyeurism and being a self proclaimed eves dropper, but I listen with the most honest intentions. I love human beings. I love what we talk about, how we talk, what we look like - all our mannerisms. They are extremely entertaining to me.
For example. The other day I took the number 9 bus from High Street Kensington to the Aldwych. I sat at the front of the upper level of the bus. The best seat. Pleased with my view I started scouring the streets, indulging my eyes in the feast of people, and the hustle and bustle I love so much. Suddenly, it came to my attention that to my right, sat an elderly couple, whose conversations seemed beautifully scripted, and whose companionship moved me to tears. Despite being an older couple, (I would say in their late 70's), they were in great shape. The lady had planted her feet up on the plastic sort of separator at the front of the bus. She was wearing little black patent leather shoes. With a bow. Shoes that I love, and used to have as a child. Her hair was perfectly coiffed in an intentionally messy very modern style. She wore black leggings and a long sweater, and clung to a large leather bag, that I suspect may have been a Furla bag. She had large rings on her fingers, and bangle bracelets. Her make up was simple, and she had pouty lips. Perhaps too pouty, which convinced me of the botox or collagen enhancing those lips. Nevertheless, she was beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. Her husband, was the stereotypical English country man. He wore his green Barbour jacket, had his flat cap in hand, and hush puppies on his little tootsies. This, followed by his tweed trousers, white shirt under a green sweater, made me remember my fathers fascination with English clothing.
As a little girl my father, a Mexican, would take me to his favourite hat shop off of the Kings Road. I remember the green hat he bought. It was faint green, mixed with blue's and faint yellow, creating an elegant musky green. Almost the colour of freshly cut grass commencing to age. I remember the hat shop as small,stuffy, dusty with a mysterious aura that made me feel I had stepped into a magical and mysterious cave. Boxes loomed over your head, and the shop keeper was a charmingly old man, who hunched his back as he joyfully helped you select the right hat. Every hat you bought would be registered in an enormous leather bound book. The old man would take out his pen, (I remember it as a plume, but that may be a slight exaggeration) and he would write in his beautiful cursive penmanship, the hat's name, date, and new owner of the hat. When my father and I went, he told the old man that he had bought a hat there in the 60's. The little old hunch backed jolly man, got out the book, which was I feel bigger than him, and licked his fingers, and started to turn the pages. Sure enough he found my fathers name, the date he had bought his hat and the type. He disappeared into the back of the shop, and emerged with a new hat for my father, identical to the one he had had before. It is a shame the shop does not exist anymore, such places bear memories that indulge your senses and can remind you of things from caramels to dusty attics.
As I was saying, this couple, on the bus, entertained me so much with their chit chat that I smiled all the way to the Aldwych. Wouldn't you? Their accents were so beautiful, so fine and elegant, so purely beautifully eloquent, the Queen's English to a T. I wished that I could enjoy a cup of tea with them, or have scones with lashings of cream and strawberry jam in their company. They giggled, teased, and loved one another so intensely that I almost reached out and touched the ladies shoulder. I wanted to check they were real, not just a result of my active imagination. But real, they were. "Darling, do you know? It was a marvelous idea to escape our house. What a beautiful day! Look at the trees! Good Lord. How marvelous!" Their enthusiasm was contagious. I loved how they counted their money openly. The lady took out a wad of 20's and started to count the money they were to deposit at the bank. My eyes widened, and I may have drooled slightly. I wish I had such a wad I thought to myself! "It is so annoying that they don't give 50 pounds notes anymore darling". Yes, I thought to myself, I want those notes, now!! They were true wonders of this world, and were the greatest of company on my number 9 bus trip.
Moral of the story? Take the bus. You see more of where you live, where you are going, you see people.....It provides a sense of community. It may take longer, but as with all great things in life, you have to make time for them.
I will leave you today with a joke. My Scottish friend once told me it, and it always makes me laugh. Enjoy.
A new guy in town walks into a bar and notices a large jar filled to the brim with $10 bills. The man approaches the bartender and asks, "What's up with the jar?"
"Well, you pay $10, and if you pass three tests, then you get all the money."
"What are the three tests?" asks the man
"Gotta pay first."
So the guy gives him the $10 bucks, and the bartender adds it to the jar.
"OK, here's what you have to do. First, you have to drink that whole bottle of pepper tequila -- the WHOLE thing at once -- and you can't make a face while doing it. Second, there's a pit bull chained up out back with a sore tooth. You have to remove the tooth with your bare hands. Third, there is a 90-year-old woman upstairs who's never had an orgasm in her life. You gotta make things right for her."
"Well, I know I've paid my $10 bucks," says the man, "but I'm not an idiot. No wonder you've collected so much money -- that's impossible!"
The new guy proceeds to drink several whiskeys, and eventually, he gets up his nerve.
"Wherez zat teeqeelah?" he slurs.
He grabs the bottle of pepper tequila with both hands and downs it, gulp by gulp. Tears are streaming down his cheeks, but he doesn't make a face. Next, he staggers out back. Everyone in the bar hears a huge scuffle outside -- barking, yelping and growling, then silence.
Just when they think the man must be dead, he staggers back into the bar with his shirt ripped and gashes across his body.
"NOW," he says, "wherez at ol' lady with the sore tooth?"