Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ain't Misbehaving Much


When I was growing up in the Mid-Jurassic Period, my friends and I looked forward to wearing costumes and going from house to house on trick or treat night. We enjoyed doing this every Halloween until the year I was in the ninth grade. That year, we got a lecture instead of treats. A woman at the first house we went to yelled at us, saying we were too old for trick or treat. “You should be ashamed of yourselves,” she said before telling us to go home.

That woman took all the fun out of trick or treat night. But, even though she turned us away, we never even thought about playing tricks on her. We didn’t go to any other houses. We were afraid that those people would also turn us away. We went home empty handed, figuring that our trick or treat years were over.

They weren't. Sort of.

The next year, my friends and I came up with an idea to have what we considered a little harmless Halloween fun. We decided to do some window waxing, but we wanted to make it easy for people to clean up. We knew that removing wax from windows was a chore; so we “borrowed” bars of soap from home. About 8 p.m., we went to check out the window-waxing possibilities on the main street of a neighboring town. (Yeah, in retrospection, that was sort of dumb.) That town was larger than the one where we lived. We figured we wouldn’t be recognized if we were caught in the act.

While my friends scouted out their territories, I claimed a spot in front of a TV repair shop that had a Closed sign in the window. I could see a light at the back of the shop, behind an open door that led to what was, most likely, office space. Probably left the light on to discourage thieves, I thought.

I started spinning soap circles all over the window. A few minutes later, I glanced up and saw a man standing in the back of the shop. He was laughing, but I freaked out anyway. I dropped the soap and took off. I found my friends, and we got the heck out of there.

From then on, I behaved. Well, at least on Halloween.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bus Lines: They Can't Arrest You, but They Can Shoot You

I’ve been a bus rider since I was thirteen. Yes, I do have a driver’s license, a brand new one, actually (lousy picture, but thank you, California). However, I’ve found that, for me anyway, using public transportation is more convenient most of the time. I don’t have to worry about finding a parking space or dealing with distracted drivers, meandering pedestrians, and a variety of emergency vehicles. And riding the bus is less expensive than adding a second vehicle to the household.
 
Several times during the week, I’ll take the neighborhood bus to the downtown transit center (DTC). From there, I’ll walk to either the library, Starbucks, or Barnes & Noble. All three are within reasonable walking distance, and I can use the exercise. I don’t know who or what created the bus schedules, but whoever or whatever was responsible for them did a great job. Most of the buses arrive at and later leave the DTC at the same time. If I want to travel to one of the outlying shopping centers or to another city, I generally have a short wait before transferring to another bus.
 
Once in a while, the neighborhood bus runs late, and I miss my connection. That’s when I spend twenty or thirty minutes doing some serious people watching. Hey, it’s a bus station, and bus stations do tend to attract “interesting” people. I try to be inconspicuous when observing fellow bus riders (or the individuals who seem to just hang out there every day). I admit that I sometimes pull a notebook and pen out of my backpack and jot down my observations. Discreetly, of course.
 
Well, no one has asked me why I’m taking notes. Not yet.
 
Several individuals roaming around the area have (unsuccessfully) asked me for money, but people usually mind their manners. So far, I haven’t witnessed anything wilder than a man screaming obscenities at no one in particular. (I moved away from that one pretty darn fast.)
 
Last week, I overheard a driver and a passenger discussing a fellow who has been permanently banned from the DTC. Among other things, he made inappropriate suggestions to a female bus driver. “It takes a lot to get you banned from the transit center,” the driver said. “Whenever that guy shows up, we call security.”
 
Security, in this case, is the transit police. The transit police can enforce rules, resolve conflicts, and order people off the property. Sounds like they mean business, and they do. However the business they’re allowed to mean is rather limited. I recently learned that the transit police are not authorized to make arrests. In the event of a serious issue (I don't want to even imagine what that might be), they must send an SOS to the city police. That seems a bit odd because the transit police are armed.

Hmm…. So they can’t arrest you, but they can shoot you.