Riding the bus with Gary Winslow: Contributions

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ILLUSTRATION BY LEE DEVITO
  • Illustration by Lee DeVito

Lately an interesting and beautiful thing has been happening. Along this path of telling ya’ll about the interesting people and assorted adventures on our beloved Detroit public transportation system, some of my fellow passengers have taken notice. I was even honored last week when my regular 405 bus driver told me that he’s been reading my stories, and I didn’t even tell him about it. Though we didn’t get much time to kick it on any specific topic (he told me just before I got off the bus) it was nice to hear that he dug it and was looking forward to the hard copy. Getting as many people to read and discuss the many topics I’ve scratched the surface of is, of course, part of my goal, and I’m grateful for all of the support and encouragement I’ve received, but it’s gotten even better; people have begun to honor me with stories of their own. I’ve encountered more than a few conversations that started out like, “You should write about this” or “Listen to what happened the other day” or “So here’s what happened” and the like, and I’m lovin’ it. Here’s one of those interesting conversations.

My friend (who made it clear not to use her name; no worries, dear, I never do) and I were standing at Northland on what I remember to be one of those weird Michigan weather days: the kind of day that starts out warm and muggy but makes you sorry you wore shorts by the evening. I usually see her in the a.m. when we’re waiting on that 405, and we sometimes take the 405 together in the evening. She’s a tall, lean lady with a great attitude, cool sense of humor, a big voice and even bigger laugh that’s quite contagious and we’ve projected our conversation across the entire length of the bus on more than one occasion.

I don’t know how we got on the subject but it was almost as soon as we started talking that she said, “So here’s something you can put in your stories,” and she began. “So I’m riding the bus the other day and I see this newspaper … it was the job section. So I picked it up to check it out and there’s this white, like, blob of white stuff on it … I didn’t even wanna think of what that was, but then I opened it up and there was shit, like, shit, folded inside the newspaper … ”

“Eeewww. Aww, hell naw,” said I, and we both blurted out a laughing and disgusted reaction in unison. She went on, “And the job section! So you know somebody set that shit up … some kinda prank.” I thought to myself that this didn’t sound like a city bus type of action but some “jackass” type shit from some type of suburban smartass, so I had to ask. “That don’t sound like no city shit, which bus were you on?”

“SMART, yeah, it was the SMART.”

“Yeah, I figured that. Somebody thought that shit was funny and set it up with the job section so people would pick that shit up …”

“I know, right? Yeah, I figured out what that blob of white paper was … so somebody took a shit, wiped their ass, and left it on the bus …”

“In the jobs section?”

“In the jobs section!”

“Daaaamn, that’s messed up! Oooh …”

We laughed and cringed together loudly like we were in our own world, apart from everybody else. I’m sure folks were like, “What them fools laughin’ ‘bout?” but we didn’t care … never do. I couldn’t, and didn’t, want to imagine how someone could have pulled this off, but whether it was a practical joke or an emergency it was both funny and nasty. Crazy right?

After we had enough of that, barely a moment passed before she got to her next contribution to the cause: “And I got another one for ya. So I’m out here the other day and this guy, this really good looking Caucasian (yes, she said “Caucasian” — she is, as well, by the way) guy was out here just talkin’ to himself. He was just wavin’ his arms around and talkin’ to himself and walkin’ like this,” as she flailed her arms around and staggered about, doing her best impression of the odd man. “And he had on a jacket and this, like, dress on. Then he, like, stopped, and he’s standing there lookin’ down at himself and was like, ‘Aww, HELL, no! I got my girl’s clothes on, aw man,’ and he’s, like, surprised he had this dress on … and he’s all bummed!”

I was like, “Hell, naw!” and our inordinately loud laughter exploded in unison — but she wasn’t done.

“I guess he must’ve just got up that morning and threw on whatever he could find, and put on his girl’s dress or something.”

“Yeah, sounds like he was ‘stretched.’” That’s a term I learned from meth-heads, meaning high for days till fatigue and reality start to set in. Maaan, I’ve met some crazy people in my life!

“And he was just walkin’ around asking for directions, like how to get somewhere...said he was lookin’ for Charleston or Charles town, or somethin’ like that. He kept asking people like, ‘Where’s Charleston?’ or Charles town or somethin’ like that, ya know? ‘Which bus goes to Charles … town?’ or something,” she said as she acted out his aimless wandering.

I was like, “Charleston?”

I’m not even gonna mention how messed-up that sounded, or elaborate why that would send up a red flag — if you paid any attention over the spring of 2015, you know why, anyway. Besides, she was just tellin’ the story, and I’m betting pretty accurately. She meant no harm. I know, however, if I was there I would’ve been checkin’ his waistline and questioning him real tough … hell I might have even frisked him, so it’s good that I wasn’t there. As my mind derailed from the humor of the moment, I gave silent condolences to those good folks … then her laughter brought me back to a more joyous reality.

“So there’s this really good-looking white guy, looked like a surfer dude, just wanderin’ around asking people for directions to … wherever he was going” and she said some other names that he might have been asking bus directions to, “With a jacket and a dress!” Picturing dude wandering around black folks, asking for phantom directions, I can only imagine the looks and laughs he must’ve been getting, all the while completely clueless and it had us dyin’, probably earning a few looks of our own. Now there’s another story she told me, but it coincides with another story that some of my other bus compadres told me so …

So you see, you never know what you’ll get. If you ride long enough, inevitably there will be a story to tell, and if you pay attention, you’ll see more than just the obvious. As long as people keep being who they be, I’m gonna have a story to tell … and listen to the ones people wanna tell me. So my good people, until next time, do what you do — and keep it interesting. Peace. 


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