Taking public transit is probably one of the few ways life forces us to interact with people we wouldn’t normally have anything to do with. It’s interesting, in a sense, that really we only interact with people who are similar to ourselves. Most people have jobs where they work with people who also share their interest, or at least there complaints, about the workplace. We tend to have friends who share our interests because honestly what are you going to do with someone who makes soap all day unless you too enjoy making soap. And we also have a tendency to only talk to random strangers when we either need something or there is some obvious icebreaker. In fact, unless you work in customer service, you probably rarely interact with the general public. And if public transit is any indicator, there is probably a good reason for this.
Now it’s worth thinking about that a little bit before I get into this story. Public transit is sort of a weird place where for a brief moment you are sharing the same terrifying experience as 100 other people at the bus driver takes a corner too sharp and the wheels leave the pavement. You have suddenly become connected to these people, your lives intertwined, and, quite possibly, ended together.
Anyways, this particular story starts while waiting for the bus. And because nothing interesting ever happens unless the crazy people are awake, this story starts while waiting for the night bus. Now the night busses are interesting in their own right in that there are three sorts of people awake at 2 in the morning waiting for the bus to come. You have your workers, from various offices or janitorial jobs, waiting to go home and sleep. You have your partiers, who are already drunk and may very well puke on any given corner. And finally you have, for lack of a better name, your hippies, the homeless chaps with dreadlocks and backpacking gear who just got thrown out of the hostel or are on there way to whatever couch they are supposed to stay on for the night.
And then you have me. Now I’m on the night bus because I’m trying to get home from school. Now that isn’t quite as lame as it sounds, I spent my evening with some friends eating sushi and painting pottery. Okay, so maybe its almost as lame as it sounds. But at least it was interesting pottery. So I am standing at the bus stop at 2 in the morning, carrying several small ceramic figurines in my backpack and reading when a trio of hippies wanders up the bus stop. Now its just me and the hippies at the bus stop and I’m trying hard to be inconspicuous because the last thing I feel like doing is trying to make friends at 2 in the morning. In fact, all I feel like doing is sleeping.
Anyways, the hippies pull out a set of poi balls from one of their bags. If you’ve never heard of a poi ball, it a cloth ball attached to a cord which you twirl around to make patterns. Usually, you have one in each hand and the trick, I suppose, is to not get them tangled up. I’m not entirely sure why it would be so difficult to not get them tangled up, but then most of the people I know who have them just spin them around in circles and concentrate hard on not letting them go. On the other hand, the hippies clearly had some practice with it. A couple of them were spinning two each and throwing them up in the air and catching them or spinning them through an interesting leaping and dancing routine. I was somewhat impressed, bearing in mind that it is 2 in the morning and in all honestly anything to break my boredom would probably have been impressive, and was a little disappointed when they stopped.
Perhaps unfortunately, they didn’t stop for long. The third member of the group proceeded to light the balls on fire with a lighter in his pocket and the other two became spinning the now flaming balls around and throwing them up in the air and catching them.
So, just to recap, standing at a bus station, almost black outside, a few weak street lamps, 2 in the morning, balls of fire being spun around rather close. Now, it being 2 in the morning, that magical time when all you really want to do is pass out, I failed to do the intelligent thing, which would be to run away as fast as I could. Instead I stood there and watched as balls of fire twirled around the bus stop. Of course, at this point the next most logical thing happens. The bus comes.
Now in a sense you sort of have to admire the night bus drivers. Undoubtedly they put up with a lot of crap. When you drive the bus on which all the drunk partiers from all the nightclubs spend an hour trying to get home you probably have a bit more patience than most. And so, when the bus driver pulled up, i think it was the first time he has ever really been surprised after his first week on the route. The passengers on the bus were all staring out the windows at the flaming spectacle beside the bus.