Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Thanksgiving Observations

It's late, but here, in narrative form, are some observations from my Thanksgiving.


I purchase a fruit tart from Whole Foods and make my way to the bus stop, where I am to catch a crosstown bus to a friend's house in the Capitol Hill area in Northeast DC. The bus is surprisingly -- no, shockingly -- on time, requiring me to run to catch it. It's nearly 4:00, and I've lazed most of the day away. Most of my friends have probably started their dinners by this time; some are on their second helping, others are at their second dinner. I'm just getting started, which is all for the better, because I have a terrible habit of stuffing myself silly when presented with massive quantities of delicious food.

I take a seat in the third forward-facing set of seats, selfishly taking both seats for myself. The bus isn't all that populated, and I would have been willing to move my tart if someone needed the seat. No one ever did.

Across the aisle and one seat behind me is a girl reading a book while her earbuds presumably entertained her. She never looks up for the entire time I'm on this bus. I start creating random stories in my mind about how she's a drifter, and she's just riding the bus for fun "to see the sights." That theory would work better were she actually looking out the window instead of casually ensconced in her reading material.

An older gentleman sits facing the front door of the bus in a raincoat and suit. His suit is rumpled, as if he's actually worked through the day in it. But it's Thanksgiving Day, I think, but I suppose there are people out there who work in this day. He's reading through the Washington City Paper with studied concentration. He either finished the feature article long ago or he generally isn't interested in that kind of stuff, because he's concentrating more on the tail end of the paper, including the personals. He seems to reading every last one of them.

A few stops later, a large older man with white hair and matching (short yet scraggly) beard climbs aboard. He looks homeless, though he lacks the smell usually associated with homeless people. He's carrying two large plastic garbage bags, filled close to bursting with what appears to be junk. One man's trash is another man's treasure. Or maybe he just didn't have "nice" looking bags to carry his stuff in; not all of us have the luxury of courting around Whole Foods bags. He sits facing City Paper man; his eyes appear to glaze over as he stares vacantly out the window.

At one intersection, the bus waits for an inordinately long time. The driver has seen something I was unable to from her superior view: a large black woman was apparently making her way to the bus with some difficulty. Perhaps she had tried to run, but one could only imagine that she wouldn't have been making terribly great time even if she had made the effort. She sports a large waist-length fur coat (whether it's real fur is up for debate), which seemed incongruous when paired with her short skirt which revealed her ample thighs. Her hair consisted of both a bad cut and a bad color job; the short platinum blond waves matted themselves to her scalp like limp lasagna noodles.

A woman who appeared North African boards at the next stop. The bus continues to pull forward as she stands there and fumbles through her purse in search of the right change. From near the back exit, a voice calls out, apparently to her, "Yo Jessica, is yo' Mac-Donalds open?"

A woman with dirty blonde unruly hair also boards, carrying an oversized backpack. It's unclear whether she's one of those crunchy granola hippie types (perhaps she was backpacking across the country?), or whether she's just down on her luck and trying to keep it together. She sits two seats in front of me, her giant backpack sticking up at least two head lengths past hers.

Jessica doesn't even look up as she responds to her friend: "I don't know; I'm not there." She pays her fare and takes her seat next to Literary Girl; three rows behind her is her friend.

As we drive on, we pass the McDonald's. It is presumably the McDonald's to which Jessica's Friend referred, for she comments, "There it is... Dang, it is open!" For a brief moment, I contemplate how sad it must be to even consider having a Super-Size Value Meal as Thanksgiving dinner, but then I hear Jessica's Friend continue: "Oh wait, it ain't open."

"Hey, Jessica, you going to DC General?"

Not bothering to turn her head, Jessica responds: "Yes."

"Is it nice there?"

"It's not bad." The lack of eye contact makes me wonder whether Jessica and this woman are actually friends. No indication is given why they both happen to be heading to DC General. Where I had presumed that Jessica worked at McDonald's, perhaps she works at DC General. Or are they both friends of a long-term care patient? Or perhaps they struck up a friendship visiting their respective friends?

"I'll ride up with you," Jessica's Friend offers. "Want to come sit by me?"

Again without looking at her, Jessica takes her up on the offer ("Sure!") and moves to sit next to her.

At some point during this conversation, Fur-Laden Large Woman With Bad Hair disembarks. She is met by two well-dressed men on the street. Apparently they are all heading for the same place; the two men are each carrying what appears to be food products in boxes. I surmise that they are volunteering to serve Thanksgiving dinner to someone or another. In many past years here I have looked for the opportunity to do this and have somehow never succeeded in finding one.

A clearly angry black man boards. He's carrying two grocery-sized plastic bags. He too strikes me as homeless, and I wonder if he's even paid the fare. If the driver is demanding it of him, she isn't doing it loudly enough for me to hear, which takes some effort seeing as I'm less than ten feet from the front of the bus. He stands behind the driver, grasping at the poles for support after putting one of his plastic bags down on the seat. He mutters frequently, including inflections that, judging from the tone and vehemence of his exhalations, are likely curse words. (Perhaps he has Tourette's?). At one point, he clearly states "I'm not even gonna bother to take a seat," though he does sit down literally ten seconds after he says it. After approximately 8 stops he gets off, still cursing, including a few choice words at the driver. I still don't remember if he ever paid or not. If he was ejected for nonpayment of fare, it was the most drama-free ejection I've ever seen. Of course, given how long he was on the bus, he may very well have reached his final destination anyway.

City Paper Guy gets off a few stops later, abandoning his paper on the seat recently vacated by him. Before I -- empty handed except for my fruit tart -- can even think twice about it, Two-Trash-Bag Man lunges across the aisle and snatches it. He flips through a few pages for under a minute, then shoves the paper into one of his overfilled trash bags. This reinforces my initial thought that he appears to be some kind of pack rat.

As we approach Union Station, Jessica and Her Friend abruptly change plans. Jessica's Friend suggests they take in a movie; Jessica politely demurs. In the alternative, her friend suggests that they go looking for some food. Jessica quickly agrees, and they both hop off right outside the station, hoping that someplace or another will be open at this hour on Thanksgiving night. The nature of their relationship remains completely unclear to me, but it looks like they were willing to enjoy each other's company for Thanksgiving, and I am happy they both don't have to spend their nights alone.

As we continue to wind through Northeast Washington, I take in the views of the homes there -- well kept rowhouses, many of which probably have substantial amounts of history attached to them. The streets are strangely quiet; nary a pedestrian can be seen. I see one couple with a stroller leisurely making their way down the street, but that's all. I suppose they're all gathered around their dinner tables eating turkey, or around the television watching football. That'll be me soon enough.

I start to fret about whether I've remembered my stop correctly, and whether I should get off at 11th Street or 14th Street. I can see the street on which my friend lives, but alighting early could result in an unnecessarily long walk. Thankfully, I find that I did in fact remember my stop correctly, and I get off and walk about a block and a half to my friend's house.

It was a magical Thanksgiving even before I ever made it to dinner.


Rich said...

Well observed and reported. I hope the second half was as enjoyable.

Emily said...

Love the people watching observations. Especially love the black lady's hair in comparision to "limp lasagna noodles." I know exactly what you're talking about.