I walked to the river to catch the bus to the University from there. The cross-country service arrives at the stop the same time that I do. I rather like the circuitous route this bus takes, past some architecturally interesting homes—there are no McMansions or Boxes in this part of town.
Left my office at 5.40 to catch a bus home. The City Express isn’t able to pull into its usual departure stop because a bus, going only as far as the shopping centre, is loading passengers. The Express stops at the Rocket stop instead, where there is a queue, almost back to the main building of the campus. Those who would have taken the Rocket board the Express. I am at the usual stop and see no point in trying to get on my preferred bus since I would have to queue jump to even occupy standing room. The Rocket arrives after the Express—it leaves with ten passengers, at most.
I check the timetables and notice that there are at least 15 minutes until the next bus I can catch. All at once, approximately 300 people arrive at the bus stop, soon followed by what must be another 200 more (I’m not exaggerating. Perhaps the numbers will die down as the semester progresses and people skip classes). Another Rocket arrives. A bus to the shopping centre arrives. Both are in the process of being stuffed to the gills, when an Express arrives. The Express pulls in behind the bus to the shopping centre and blocks the departure of the Rocket. Much beeping of horns ensues as the driver of the Express tries to indicate to the driver of the bus to the shopping centre that it’s time to close his doors and move away.
Now, it’s after Six. Finally, I get on the bus. I receive a text message that asks if I’m ready for a masterclass I’m attending tomorrow. No, I have so much reading to do. While the bus is loading, I start to read one of the papers that will be presented at the class. The bus closes its doors and the light I was reading by is gone. Sigh. A girl eyes the half-seat beside me, but then she recognises me as a former tutor (or at least I recognise her as a former student of mine), so she remains standing.
I decide to listen to the music I put on my phone before I left home this morning. When will someone invent a pair of bud headphones that don’t constantly tangle without the slightest provocation? It’s dark and I can’t see precisely where to insert the headphones. At the same time, my eyes hurt from the brightness of the display on my phone. I press play and can’t hear anything. WTF. I turn the volume up, but can only hear the faintest of noises. Then I realise, from the body language of my former student, that I haven’t plugged my headphones in properly, thereby treating the bus to Natalie Merchant singing a rendition of ‘Birds and Ships’. ‘Sorry everybody’. I give up trying to soothe my irritation.
The bus stops at four stops before reaching the shopping centre. Again, would-be passengers are left stranded. The driver allows only one person on at each of the stops, replacing those who have disembarked. At the stop just before the shopping centre, the first person in line declines the driver’s offer, since he is waiting with the four other people.
I sort out the bad headphone connection while people get off at the shopping centre. The bus reaches my stop during ‘California Stars’. I think about taking my headphones out. It’s not that safe walking in the dark without listening to your surroundings. I leave my headphones in. Looking around constantly, I make sure I’m aware of my environment on a visual level.
Slowly, Jeff Tweedy’s voice begins to relax my brain. When I hear ‘Hesitating Beauty’, I can feel the tension in my face loosen and joy bubbles up in me. I’m on the verge of singing out loud:
Well I know that you are itching to get married,
And I know I that I am twitching for the same thing,
By the stars and clouds above, we can spend our lives in love
You’re a hesitating beauty, Nora Lee
I make it home halfway through ‘Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key’. I keep the ear buds in until the song finishes. Irrespective of any neighbours, who might be home to hear me, I sing, at the top of my lungs, in a terrible Billy Bragg/Natalie Merchant impression:
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me,
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me.