Riding the bus with Gary Winslow: 'Crazy Lady'


  • Illustration by Lee DeVito

I was standing in line to get on the bus and I heard this piercing female voice above all others and said to myself, “Oh, Lord: Here we go. Another one o’ these.” Of course I was referring to yet another loudmouth put on this Earth to irritate me. (Selfish, I know, but so what? I wasn’t in the mood.) The closer I got to the door, the louder she became, and it seemed as though she had something to say about everyone who passed her to get to their seat. I prepared myself for what I thought would be a boatload of stupidity after waiting in this long line. Of course, being a gentleman and letting all of the ladies board first was just making the wait longer, but I began to feel as though this might work to my advantage for a change; maybe she’d run out of juice before I got to her.

No dice. When I did finally get on and tried to get to a seat, she started right in on me. “Oooh! I love your hair. Can I touch it?” I gave her my line I use either to encourage or deter such a request; this time it was the latter: “Oh, I don’t know, baby. That’s foreplay,” and kept walking, flattered by her compliment, but unwilling to entertain her idea. When I said it, I heard spontaneous bursts of laughter throughout the bus. I wasn’t trying to embarrass her, but she put me on blast (on the spot), so I had to get back with her. Anyway, it was just a joke and all in good fun, but I made sure I made my way to the back as far away from her as possible.

When I sat down, there was an old-school cat seated in front of me, and he turned around to give me the pound and said, “That’s a good one, I like that.” I enjoyed my dap with a smile and then noticed that Ol’ Girl was undeterred. She started in on the next one, “Oooh! I see you got that Burger King. Gimmie a bite. I need my Happy Meal,” obviously confusing Burger King and McDonald’s, but with her brand of trash talk it didn’t even matter. She started in on the next passenger, and the next, and … you get the picture.

At the time, I considered her a bit obnoxious, as she seemed to have something to say about most everyone. Stop after stop, her mouth would pop off, and I just rolled my eyes thinking, “What next?” until we got to this one stop where this woman who appeared to have a mean disposition and a definite scowl on her face walked in. She was somewhere in her 20s and was dressed in what some might call masculine fashion, but her sizable breasts left no question as to her gender. As soon as she got close to this crazy lady, Ol’ Girl shouted, “Oooh! You look like you give good hugs. Come here and give me one.” The well-endowed woman cracked a smile as the crazy lady cracked her shell, and they embraced in a loving, sustained hug. “Oooh! I was right! You give good hugs, baby. Gimmie anotha one!” Everybody fell out laughing, and the tough chick with the scowl on her face lightened up, gave her another hug and smiled all the way to her seat.

It was then that I began to realize that “crazy lady” was alright. As a matter of fact, I would say that she was just “aggressively friendly,” meant no harm, and brought a lot of laughs and cheer to the bus ride. As I arrived to this conclusion, she began to explain herself to all who would listen — which due to her volume was pretty much everybody: “See, I love everybody and just like to spread it around, ya know? Oh, I’m’a make ya laugh now,” and at that moment she won me over. All her comments and rants were her tools of spreading love and laughter, that’s all.

Later I would see “crazy lady” again in fine form but with an unexpected twist: I was at the Royal Oak terminal one chilly evening and, because of the cold, I chose to suffer it out and wait for the next Woodward heading toward the D instead of riding the bike. There was this young teenage girl at the terminal, and by what she was saying I knew she was waiting for the same bus as me — unfortunately. I say “unfortunately” ’cause this girl was just downright annoying. I tried to ignore her big obnoxious mouth when she was about 15 yards away from me, talking on the phone and walking in circles on this large, round brick-laid planter. I tried and tried and damn near succeeded in blocking her out, but just as I thought I had, she jumped off and pranced her way smack dab in front of me.

She started to make a big “look at me” scene, talking about how dizzy she was from walking in circles and exaggerating her stumbles, going, “Wooo!” and soliciting attention from anyone who would bother to listen. Well, she got a bite: An older woman whose garb looked like someone trying to disguise themselves — large shaded glasses, obvious “stand on top of the head” wig, and an obscene amount of makeup.

They began to converse; small talk about the ills of the world as the girl pranced back and forth. The girl said things like, “I’m ready to die at any time, any place,” coupled with, “My friends say, ‘How do you handle school and work and hanging out as much as you do,’” and in the same sentence, “’Oh, my parents will get me whatever I want.’” “Spoiled, ignorant, loudmouth brat,” I thought to myself.

These were silly little braggadocious comments, and I acknowledged to myself that I, too, at one time, was an opinionated teenager, so I tried to cut her a little slack until the girl said, “I don’t think its fair that I should have to pay taxes for people to go to jail and have fun.” Lord have mercy, she hit the dumb-bunny button on that one! Where the hell did she get this erroneous information? The older lady that invited her verbal onslaught attempted to offer her wisdom, even though it was a bit generic and clichéd: “Life’s just not fair, dear.” The girl cut the disguised-looking lady off and answered my question as to the source of that “fun jail” lie. “I’ve had friends that went to jail and said it was no problem. They said it was easy and they even had fun. It’s just a damn vacation!” She made no differentiation between jail and prison, and that was an additional indicator to me that she had no clue what her dumb ass was talking about.

From then on the teenage annoyance just became a stuck record and went off on basically the same subject until the bus arrived, which seemed like an eternity. When the bus finally docked to pick us up, I could feel the collective relief of everyone as we were all freezing — except homegirl. She was sporting a T-shirt, shorts, and a backpack, and it had to be a windy 30-35 degrees. To make her ignorant, opinionated patter even worse, her anti-killer jargon was contradicted by the big, fat gun tattooed on her calf, which to me made her downright insufferable.

We lined up to get on, and this young, lost black girl went on with her hateful, unrealistic and blind battle cry. Now before any of my readers’ feathers get ruffled here, I’m not saying every black person in America should feel the same, but to be black and not understand the inequity of black and white incarceration is blind indeed, and I’m not gonna waste anybody’s time arguing the obvious.

She continued, “If you kill somebody you should be killed and stop wasting my tax dollars on a vacation.” Vacation? Ridiculous! Firstly anyone that has half a brain should take something as serious as death on a case-by-case basis. What are the circumstances? Is the evidence irrefutable? Is there remorse? Look: In my opinion a cold blooded killer should get whatever’s coming to him, be it death or life in prison. If it be life, the assailant will have enough time to both suffer and reflect, maybe even redeem himself. If it be death, I just hope you killed the right person. Studies show this is not always the case — and don’t get me started on the racial inequities of the death penalty!

Anyhow, she kept going, quite defensively, I might add, as I believe a small part of her clueless brain began to realize that no on in line was feeling her.

Enter Crazy Lady: She stood in line with the rest of us, being let ahead of all us gentlemen about to board. She had a little hunch to her posture, and leaned quite dependently on her cane, which I didn’t notice the first time I saw her, and slowly made her way to the step up on the bus that the driver respectfully lowered for her. I had the feeling she’d have something to say to this knucklehead and, let me tell you, she did not disappoint. She didn’t come with her loud, boisterous style that I heard from her before. She smoothly inserted herself in the conversation by simply asking, “So you’ve been to jail?” The youngster answered, “No but my frie—”

Crazy Lady cut her off real smooth-like: “Well by the way you was talkin’, you sound like you been there.”

“No but—”

“Well, how you know it’s a vacation, baby?”

“My friends told me—”

“You know there’s a difference between a couple days in jail and the big house. When you in prison, you in there with real criminals, and they make sure you don’t have no vacation, baby girl. Besides, you ain’t been to jail, so how would you know.”

The girl started to breathe heavier and went into defense mode. “Well, my friends—”
Undeterred, Crazy Lady cut her off again, “You can’t go by what yo’ friends say, young lady, and I hope you smart enough not to find out.”

“Brilliant!” I said to myself, “Go ’head, Crazy Lady! Give her the benefit of that sweet, old-school wisdom!” I kept my thoughts about this girl to myself and also checked myself for being so surprised that this woman of wisdom was so profound. I just didn’t know she had it in her.

Everyone boarded and, though this conversation was getting really interesting, I was just too damn tired to try to keep up. I moved to the back, hoping to separate myself from what I thought would eventually be an argument, but the volume of the overzealous girl was such that I remained engaged anyway. She blurted, “I just don’t go by what everybody thinks.” Mind you, this is the same girl who constructed her entire philosophy of incarceration on the word of her friends. Stupid.

She said it once, but I guess she didn’t feel as though she made it clear enough, so she repeated herself and attached an additional statement that started a shitstorm.

“I don’t think I have to believe what everyone else believes. Like, take religion, for instance …” Oh, Lord, why did she have to go there? The young provocateur got the reaction she thought she was looking for when a Bible-thumper who overheard her pounced with a vengeance, “You mean to tell me you don’t believe in God? Jesus … righteous … goin’ to hell …” — so went the blind religious, uncompromising bombardment from this little lady who was obviously grown but tiny in stature. For the sake of this story, I’ll call her “Li’l Bit.” Well, Li’l Bit continued for a good while with her single mindedness, not giving the youngster a chance to get a word in edgewise. What made her most intolerable was her huge shrieking voice that could make a Buddhist Monk want to cuss her ass out till she shut the fuck up! She was so bad that I actually began to feel a slight tinge of sympathy for this inexperienced young girl, whose words were those of an idiot till her following statement, “I don’t know if what I feel from the universe is what you call God, but maybe it’s the same.” One can agree or disagree with either one of these ladies, but at least the young girl sounded out her first bit of humility and critical thought.

Li’l Bit heard nothing, and continued her fundamentalist onslaught, and actually began to be the more annoying person, but then Crazy Lady began to interject in an attempt to calm the situation. I couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying, but I do know that everybody shut up long enough to hear her. Once again, she said her piece, and by the end had everybody laughing their asses off, including the two warring parties. I said to myself, “That’s the crazy lady I know!”

The bus finally got to State Fair, where we all had to change buses, and, wouldn’t you know, the conversation continued on the short walk to the 53Woodward stop. “So you really have a question as to whether there is a God?” which wasn’t what the youngster said but Li’l Bit couldn’t have known that; she wasn’t listening to begin with. True to method, she gave the girl no chance to answer and attacked further: “Well, that’s the proof there is a God, just ’cause you axed the question.”

Look, I believe in a higher power, but not in the dogmatic way Li’l Bit was bringing it, and you can’t convince me that the Almighty, in its infinite wisdom, would make only one way to feel or find it. Not everyone agrees, but everyone thinks they’re right. Feeling this at the time, I budged in with my two cents: I asked the close-minded Li’l Bit, “Can God be the same under a different name?” She stood there stunned with nothing to say, as I would bet that thought never crossed her mind. I made what I thought was at least a thought-provoking statement, and as soon as I entered the conversation I was out. I don’t know everything, but I had to put that out there and at least give Li’l Bit a chance to shut up and think for a second.

We all boarded and they continued debating, again heightening their intensity and turning off many of the passengers who weren’t privy to their ongoing dispute. I heard assorted comments from the disgruntled, “Aw, maaan, who wanna hear dat shit!” and, “I had a long day. I don’t need dis shit!” and, “You can’t argue ’bout religion, man! Shit never ends!” Amid the verbal disgust, I heard a statement from just behind me that pierced through the intersecting comments, “Maaan, who knows? Who’s to say?” I took that and ran with it with my philosophical self. “What they don’t understand is that God and science can be the same. If there is a God, why can’t everything be considered his creation? Who says the big bang wasn’t God’s initial act to create the universe, or that the big bang was God? The Bible states that the Earth was created in six days and he rested the seventh, but how long is a day to the Almighty compared to our limited concepts of time?” I got some agreement from my fellow passengers in the vicinity, and we continued to discuss theology and philosophy (in a much more cordial manner, I might add) until the bus slowed to a certain stop.

Everything was quiet for a moment, and Crazy Lady chimed in: “I know I come short of righteousness, but the Lord forgive me ’n’ wake me up in the mornin’ — and I’m thankful,” she continued. “Yep, wake me up in the mornin’ ’n’ tell me its time to take my tail to the licka sto’. Yeah, he say, “Get up, girl, its time ta drink!” The whole bus busted out laughing, and once again the mood was lightened by her jovial sarcasm. She continued, “Matta fact, driver, just let me off at the first licka sto’ you see!”

Somebody was feelin’ the vibe and joined in, “Which one, girl. You know they ain’t all the same; they might not have yo’ brand.” She answered, “Hell, any sto’ will do, I’m a professional alcoholic.” The whole bus fell out from front to back as the happy master of communication successfully took the most serious of subjects, flipped it on its ear and brought one of the best, most healing gifts of all: laughter. Thanks, Crazy Lady. Looking forward to next time!

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