It’s quite reassuring to know that public transport [mass transit] in Philadelphia competes favourably with London Transport in many ways, including price, coverage and quality of on-board loony. As a simple and wholly unscientific measure – what we social scientists call “qualitative” – I would like to document two quality bus nutjobs I’ve encountered since I moved to the colonies.
The most recent bus-barmpot was encountered during today’s hour-long commute home. A lady sitting a few rows behind me was talking into an invisible mobile phone to a wide assortment of characters. Her voice was so obnoxious and cartoon-like that I spent half the journey getting annoyed that one of the loud, feisty, girls, who always sit at the back of the bus, were so insistent on doing a comical impression of a rancorous old bat for so long. In fact, it wasn’t until I watched them leave the bus that I realised that the voice couldn’t possibly originate from them.
I’ve no idea who the people were on the other end of that imaginary phone, but whoever they were, she felt very, very strongly about the way they were living their lives, and was only too happy to impart her worldly advice to them in extremely frank terms. She was clearly not a member of “the politically correct lobby” either; she was telling them straight in as overtly racist, sexual, homophobic and crude language as was obviously necessary to convey her strength of feeling to the callers.
SEPTA buses are one of the few places in Philadelphia where you get to see some real cultural diversity and so this barking-mad wrinkly could have been in trouble. However, she was so obnoxiously mental that, after a period of mass adjustment, the most she managed to educe from the weary throng was the occasional snigger.
Prior to this, the best nutter I have observed on mass transit over here was during Ralph’s stay. We were two stops into a bus journey to Center City [on the 9 for bus nerds] when an ebullient chap, wearing a brightly coloured baseball cap and sporty t-shirt climbed the stairs. He was obviously a local celebrity because he knew everyone! Well, he certainly appeared to know the driver and the few people in the front seats because he was having a right laugh with them all about something or other. OK, he was doing most of the laughing and joking, but then that’s what people like about tubby men: they are so happy. He was also wearing shorts, white socks and bright trainers.
At the next stop, a tall skinny man wearing a Phillies t-shirt took a seat near by our hero. Being very observant, our man immediately noticed the Phillies t-shirt and used it as the basis of a conversational opening gambit. He was also wearing a bum-bag [fanny-pack].
“Oh you like the Phillies ? I had a room mate that liked the Phillies. But they really are bad aren’t they ? I mean, they’re the worst!” offered our colourful friend to the Phillies supporter. He continued:
“Like, they could play against the worst team in the worst league and you know what ? Actually, they could play against a girls’ school. They could play against the worst team in a girls’ school. No, they could play against the worst team in the worst girls’ school in the country and you know who would win ? You know who would win ?”
Concerned that the Phillies supporter may have thought this was a rhetorical question, he asked again:
“Who would win jya think ? Who do you think would win ?”
“The girls ?” replied the Phillies supporter through gritted teeth with the vague hope that this cock with the shiny face would fuck off if he gave him the answer he wanted to hear.
“Yeah! The girls would beat the Phillies!” explained our voluntary fantasy-baseball pundit.
At this point I looked away because something nasty was clearly going to happen if this dickhead didn’t shut his gob. But he didn’t shut his gob. And he kept up a barrage of bullshit for the entire duration of the journey. Even when everyone around him had been staring at their shoes for at least ten minutes, he still continued his monologue – he just stared into space while he was doing it. One topic that he seemed obsessed with was the fact that he’s “not allowed to drive.” Despite that meaning we all have a risk of bumping into him on a bus in the future, it also means he won’t be driving…which made everyone feel a lot better about life.