Securing a seat is a mixed bag

I, like many PSU students, elect to use public transportation as my means for getting around. Of course, I don’t have a car, so it is not like I have a lot in the way of transportation choices. At any rate, I ride during rush hour, for the most part, so I have a great deal of experience dealing with various kinds of riders, especially the rude ones.

My least favorite people to share the bus with are the bag ladies. I do not mean homeless women who carry their belongings in numerous bags. No, the women of which I speak obviously have homes, and carry their belongings in multiple bags.

First, of course, they have a purse, usually open with the contents threatening to spill out. Then they carry a small to medium sized shopping bag with handles. The bag is always a worn out bag from an upscale store they visited three years ago, but want the world to know that yes, they can shop at Saks Fifth Avenue! These bags are usually stuffed with bills and random papers along with the latest Oprah’s Book Club offering. Then they pack their lunches in flimsy plastic grocery bags. All of these satchels look suspiciously like they are going to spill or break. Add to that, that nine times out of 10 these women are also wrestling with the newspaper at the same time.

Once these women get on the bus, they require a seat for themselves and one for their bags. If the bus is full, or there is only one seat available in any one place, they get huffy and sling their accoutrements dangerously around their bodies. They sit and angrily shuffle their belongings, cursing the rest of us for taking up precious seats that were meant for their bags.

They will push everyone on a standing-room-only bus aside, banging heads and arms with their stuff even if the one seat available is in the back next to a group of punk-rawk teenagers. I have several divots in my skull from paper Versace shopping bags full of Danielle Steele novels to prove it.

If the bus has a few available seats, these ladies will occupy two adjacent seats and spread out their wares and pretend to organize them. They will fold their newspapers and try to tuck it, first, in the shopping bag and then in their purse. After realizing it fits in neither, they unfold it and read it.

Woe to the rider who attempts to take a seat next to one of these souls. Last week, I went home from work early because I had a fever and was producing snot faster than any three-year-old with a cold ever could. At any rate, I was sure I was close to death and I could barely stand. There were two seats available on the bus. One was next to a bag lady and the other was next to a character I call The Smelliest Man in Portland. He is a regular fixture on my bus line and sitting next to him will bring tears to your eyes.

I asked the lady if I could take the seat next to her. She looked up at me, her face shining with the righteousness of someone who could have driven, but chose to save the Earth by taking the bus, and said, “Can’t you sit over there?”

Next to TSMP? It wasn’t going to happen. Anger welled up from my diseased depths. How dare this person dictate where I place my ass.

“No. No, I can’t. I’m going to sit right here.”

Shock. Her mouth made a wide O. I looked right into her eyes. Surely she could see I was feverish and sweaty? Certainly she could see the flies circling TSMP? He is big enough to take up one and a half seats anyway. I wobbled a bit and coughed from a deep place in my lungs. Fear, disgust and anger flickered across her face as she gathered her belongings in her lap.

As I sat, I nearly sliced open my right flank on keys protruding from her faux Coach purse. I primly placed my ONE bag in my lap. I coughed deeply again and fished a Kleenex from the depths of my well-stocked bike messenger bag (which fits my lunch, Oprah novel, newspapers, bills, the latest issue of Vogue, 15 colors of gel pens, two pairs of glasses and some anti-bacterial hand soap, just fine) and hocked the biggest, yellowest loogie I have ever seen in my life into it. I cleared my throat and sat up straight. I turned to my seatmate and smiled.

“Thank you,” I said. I hope she gets my cold.