I spent many years taking the bus to and from the office. Five days a week, wincing under the scorching summer sun in 99% humidity or shivering in the morning darkness while temperatures plunged well below zero, dashing through hailstones that began to fall just as I stepped off the bus, sliding across ice or slogging through snowdrifts, soaked and shivering when my umbrella turned inside out, furious when buses were late or broke down or completely failed to arrive because the regular driver had been co-opted to a training run….
It was rarely fun, but there were compensations, not the least of which was knowing that I was doing something, however small, for the benefit of Mother Earth. One less combustion engine on the roads – there I was, using mass transport in a city in which mass transport was, for the most part, pathetically inadequate.
Further compensations came in the form of what I referred to as my “bus buddies”: other dedicated riders, who, for a multitude of reasons, also braved the poorly-designed routes, the weather, and the many irritations of being a bus rider in a city with a terrible mass transit system. Over the years I knew many a great bus buddy with whom I shared conversation and laughter and even tears. We persuaded one another to read favorite authors and discussed TV shows. We supported each other emotionally through illnesses and myriad personal disasters, and celebrated joyous events, like engagements and weddings and the births of children and grandchildren. We commiserated over route changes and tardy buses that made us late for work. We whined about bosses, spouses, intractable offspring and unpleasant in-laws. We looked at photographs of new homes. We doled out hugs when needed. We criticized unfriendly drivers and lauded the ones we liked. Bus Buddies were a great compensation for the frustrations of ridership.
However, probably the greatest compensation I found for the rigors of using mass transport was scenery. No, I’m not referring to meadows and vistas; those were largely absent as the bus lumbered through the grungy near-southside of the city and into the suburbs. But there was a graveyard; two of them, in fact. And one of them I inevitably found very entertaining. Yes, you read that correctly: Entertaining. It never failed to cheer me on my gloomiest afternoon.
It was an older section of the graveyard down by the road; most of the tombstones were bleached white, a little crumbly, small. But one stood out with startling clarity. It appeared to be of brown granite or marble (I was never close enough to determine which.) It was polished, shining, and very tall – probably five feet tall, at least. It was a cylindrical monument with an odd, domed cap.
It looked, in fact, exactly like a giant penis.
Right in the middle of the graveyard.
The first time I noticed it, my reaction was, basically, “What were they thinking?” What sort of family would erect (I apologize for the pun) such a monument on the grave of a loved one? Then it occurred to me that perhaps this was their intention – a sort of character statement for the deceased. Perhaps he — and I use the pronoun advisedly — had truly been a real dick.
Whatever the reason for that particular headstone, I always chose a bus seat where I could glimpse it as we drove past. And, as I say, it never failed to cheer me, and to draw a disbelieving laugh from those to whom I pointed it out. Even now, writing this and remembering, I am smiling. Or rather grinning.
Yes, despite everything, I always enjoyed riding the bus.