The Intern: Volume II

Talk to Your Neighbors

Make new friends as you wait for the bus.
Make new friends as you wait for the bus.

Last week I made an erroneous claim, insinuating that people who use public transportation have poor hygiene. For this I would like to apologize, and clarify that only the wise public transportation users at one stop have poor B.O., a stop that will remain unnamed to protect the identities of the accused.

It is remarkable the people you can meet while on a bus, because if you think about it, everyone has a story that, when told in a proper manner, can be both engaging and intriguing. I caught the bus at a later time this morning due to one of seemingly many busy days at the office, and my relationship with complete strangers is all the better for it.

His name was George, and his grey, curly back hair stuck out the back of his shirt, entangled with his giant, metal ball necklace like weeds under a chain-link fence. He was a stout man, considering his height, made to appear so by the way the gathering of fat in a small hump behind his fair-skinned neck forced him to hunch over. He wore thick-rimmed rectangular sunglasses, and his ear piercings accented his short, spiked hair.

“Good morning,” I said, boldly taking a seat next to him on the tattered plastic bench without asking. We exchanged courteous forms of anonymous midmorning greetings.

“Summer school?”

“Nope, internship at the Weekly Alibi.”

“Oh, really? I read that.”

“Yeah, it’s fun,” I said. “What do you do?”

After emigrating from Poland when he was 12, George wound up at the University of California, San Diego, where he received a Bachelor of Science. Sidetracked to Vietnam, he was exposed to Agent Orange, forcing him into open heart surgery in 2001 to keep him going.

“I earned $150,000 a year administering CAT Scans for 30 years at the UC-San Diego Medical School. I’m now retired.”

He stood up from the bench, signaling the arrival of the No. 31 into his field of vision. Boarding the bus, he sat next to me to continue our conversation.

For awhile, George lived in Florida, where he finished his medical career. He was driving back to California to retire officially when his car broke down outside of Albuquerque.

“And I’ve been here ever since, and it’s growing on me.”

George, who lives in Albuquerque because his car broke down.

We discovered that we live in the same apartment complex, and he invited me to stop by sometime--when he wasn’t volunteering at the VA. George got up from our bench as the bus approached his stop and shook my hand, thanking me for the talk. Abandoned, I flipped open my book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, but couldn’t concentrate as a thin lady with a broken nose and thick glasses boarded, glancing at me shyly. I wondered what had brought her to Route 31 on a warm Monday morning, unknowingly throwing her story into my future domain of curious bus rider prodding.