Something I’m getting good at

The Baltimore Sun and the City Paper have not responded to my submission of the following as an op-ed humor piece, so I’ll post it here.  It concerns the city’s free buses.

You Get What You Pay For

Brian Williard

I love the Circulator busses.  I usually loathe the actual experience of riding them, but who could argue with their avowed principle of “Fast.  Friendly.  Free.”?  (I’ve tried in vain to reach their Grammar Department to suggest changing the signage to “Our Service Is Fast, Friendly, and Free.”)  The degrees of the buses’ punctuality and drivers’ friendliness may vary, but the freeness is constant. 

The lack of a mere $1.60 fare makes its social leveling effects so interesting.  Where else can one find professionals so intimately comingling with drunks and addicts?  Or young children hearing the coarse talk of hoppers on their way to work (people over)?  And then there’s the many people like me, dutifully forfeiting our seats to others and disseminating helpful hints to the ever-so-earnest tourists.  I’ll admit that I feel a slight deflation when I see them asking the driver the same question I had just answered.  Do I look like the kind of person who gets my kicks by giving people false directions? 

On the Circle-You-Later, the more does certainly not make the merrier.  It’s not so much that the conditions make you pissy, but others’ pissiness is contagious.  I generally enjoy making jokes to strangers to observe their reactions; the more offbeat the quip, the better.  When the bus gets extremely packed, to lighten the mood, I may affect a vague foreign accent and say, “If this were my homeland, the next oncoming rider would have to sit on the roof.” 

If my whimsical conspiratorial mindset is correct, this is when the drivers rack up the most points in their game of Passenger Bowling.  The object is simple:  cause passengers to fall by starting and stopping abruptly.  (The elderly, infirm, and intoxicated only count for half a point; someone with two or more such qualities amounts to ¼.)  Legend has it that a Bill H. once got six standing passengers to collapse in domino fashion.

I truly relish when capacity and my conscience allow me to take a seat.  Whether I’ve had a Sisyphean day sitting at the computer or a drunken one sitting at [location redacted], sometimes I’m just in the mood to do more sitting.  Hopefully, I’ll be fortunate and will happen upon a dry one.  If I belatedly discover that I have not, I can only hope that the dampness is from an overturned beverage.  Wishful thinking has gotten me far in life.

I will try to not read nor write, preferring instead to be mindful of the scenery.  I will feel smug self-satisfaction by noting how many people are too engrossed in their electronic toys or their chemical oblivion to just be, to take the world in.  With my Luddite leanings, I deem cell phones a scourge upon society.  They act in concert with many other cultural factors to erode civility.  Speaking or pretending to speak for nonessential purposes to others in a publicly enclosed space is a flagrant sin in this regard.

I’ve thought of taking obnoxious countermeasures in acts of self-righteous absurdism.  I could pretend that they’re talking to me:  “What do you mean, ‘Where am I?’  I’m sitting right across from you!”  Or, I could intrude into their conversation in a faux knowing way:  “Dude, you’re forgetting the best part!  Tell ‘em how Gina had just downed four shots of Jack when that went down!”  What I actually do enjoy doing—see my aforementioned penchant for oddball humor—is saying “I’m not here” when another’s phone rings.

What truly baffles me about public transportation in general is the people who use it to kill time.  In clement weather, surely one can find something better to do.  I understand that sometimes one just needs to sleep and may think they’re in the safest place to do so, but I’m talking about alert and awake people.  And the drivers know such regulars.  They note that so-and-so got on at such-and-such a spot and will have to disembark after one lap.  After all, “There’s [always] another one right behind me.”

But hey, there’s also a pedestrian world awaiting your circulation throughout it.  For better or worse.

 ___________________________________________________________________________

Brian Williard is a failing humor writer and online businessman.  His less tame humor can be found at funnyphilosopher.wordpress.com. 

Old Friends

I’ve written on this blog before about my buddy Mike, my older buddy who got booted from the Marines for selling pot on base. Here’s part of our conversation from this morning:

“You’re never gonna’ make that one, son.”

I am not good at real basketball, but I love trying to make shots of litter into the trashcan. The trickier and more difficult the attempt, the better. I have come up with some good ones.

“Oh yeah? I’ll take it up a notch.”

I made a behind-the-back attempt from a ridiculous distance. The empty plastic jar of instant coffee was off by five feet.

“Nice try,” commented another down-and-outer who fritters away his mornings in the federal plaza. He laughed when I said that my specialty was empty vodka bottles.

“Good,” Mike joked as I returned to our bench, “now that you’re out of coffee maybe you’ll chill the fuck out!”

Like all my friends, Mike hates to see me wasted. But I also bug him out when I’ve got too much coffee in me.

“Actually, the term of my generation, or Generation Y or some shit, is ‘Chillax’.”

“‘Chillax?’ As in, ‘Take a break from chopping wood’?”

“Nice try, but it’s a combination of ‘Chill out’ and ‘Relax.’ Because, you know, they save two syllables with that neologism.”

“And then you go and waste ’em right back with whatever that last word was.”

“Yeah, but these stupid kids only use words that can be texted.”

“No fucking shit. They do that shit more than they actually talk. I was at my ex’s last month, and she’s on the front porch, texting my son who’s in his old room. I’m like, ‘Why don’t you actually walk to his room’?!”

“Are they fat? Or scrawny fucks like you?”

“They’re in shape, you know. It’s just a stupid thing.”

“Speaking of stupid things, I had lunch with that lady yesterday. She’s straight-laced herself, but her daughter is 21 and already an alcoholic. I don’t know if she really is or if it’s just the normal drinking of someone that age.”

“Could be either.”

“That’s basically what I said. But–you’ll love this–she said that she was doing fine until she went to that Otakon shit.”

Otakon is one of three or four conventions that entail that Baltimore has several Halloweens each year. People dress up like anime characters and you’ll see people dressed up like the characters throughout downtown. Everyone else laughs at them.

“Fuck, if my kid was into that shit, I’d become an alcoholic myself.”

He instantly laughed when he realized what he’d said, since we’re both drunks.

“I know you say you’re from a redneck area of Bawmore, but I’m from the edge of Pennsyltucky. And my dad was from pure redneck stock. But when I went through my freaky, skate fag stage, he had no problem with that. When I wore shit like a pink sock and a yellow sock to school, my refined mom worried that I was gay.”

“One of my boys went through a Grunge thing, with like black nail polish and a little light make-up. I was cool with that.”

“I could see you taking him aside and saying, ‘Son, I don’t care if you’re gay or what, but stay the fuck away from that goddamn Otakon shit. And if you look for more than two seconds at a My Little Pony horse [a Bronycon reference], I’ll fucking kill you’.”

“‘Here’s a bottle of Jack. Take that costume off and drink it. Want me to get you some coke’?”

“‘How about some whores, son?’ You’d get a call at four in the morning: ‘Mr. Lykens, we’ve got your son down here at Central Booking.’ ‘What’d he do?’ ‘Sir, he attacked an officer so we had to kick his ass.’ ‘Did he have a costume on? Did he really assault them or did he use a toy sword?’ ‘He just kept yelling, “Fuck you all”!'”

“That’s my boy!”

“These 69 times, at baaaaand camp…”

‘Sexualized culture’ cited in firing of Ohio State marching band director
By Des Bieler; July 24, 2014; The Washington Post
 
“…John Waters had been the band’s director since 2012, when he was promoted from the interim job…”
 
If you had told me last week that “John Waters” would be embroiled in a sex scandal,
 
 
john waters hair dryer


I would have come to a different conclusion.