Characters on the Bus

Setting: Bus, Tuesday afternoon

Character #1: elderly gentleman, gray 5 o'clock shadow, hunched by the window, bag on the aisle seat, body language non-approachable

My State of Mind: tired after 7 hours of children + 3 more hours of evening homework, hungry, 95% in my own thoughts, 5% of my thoughts being aware of my surroundings

As I walked down the bus aisle, the man moved his bag for me to be able to sit down. When I sat, I said a polite, "Gracias," and then I took out a book and began reading in my comfortable English world. Two minutes pass and his cell phone in his right pocket rings, so he reaches for it and accidentally elbows me in the ribs. "Disculpa," he says (Sorry!), and I say, "Tranquilo" (Don't worry about it.). He tells me I speak really good Spanish, although I have spoken a grand total of 2 words. He asks me where I'm from. "Cheeeekago," I say. He says (the whole convo in Spaneeeesh) he lived in NYC for 20 years and that when he moved there at age 18 the Twin Towers were only 4 stories tall and were in construction. He said that on September 11, 2001, his job in Manhattan sent him to Wall Street for the morning, and he felt what he thought was an earthquake tremor, but was really the first airplane crashing into a Tower. He ran outside and saw the second plane crash. He said he was so afraid to think that people hated the U.S. so much to want to do something like the attacks that he left the States within a month and has never gone back.

WOW. I had goosebumps to think he had experienced Sept. 11 so closely and it wasn't even his home country.

Setting: Bus, Thursday afternoon

Character #2: BIG lady, small purse

My State of Mind: tired after 7 hours of children, grading papers, 5% of my thoughts being aware of my surroundings

I was sitting on the window side of the bus and this lady sat down and squashed me against the window. I continued to attempt grading papers, but I couldn't really move enough to even write. I asked her what time it was. She told me 4pm. She asked me if I was a teacher, nodding toward the pile of student work I was balancing on my lap. I said yes. She said that instead of trying to write on the papers in the jerky bus, I should print sticker labels and then just stick the stickers on the papers as comments and grades. I actually considered the idea until I realized sticker labels are quite expensive here.

Setting: Bus, Tuesday morning 5:45am

Character #3: Idiana, light green eyes, stares at me like she has a million questions for me

My State of Mind: barely waking up, praying about the upcoming day, 5% of my thoughts being aware of my surroundings

Idiana chased me down while we were running across the street to catch the bus. She asked me if I thought the motorcycles would stop for us and I said I didn't know but the bus was not going to wait long so we should run faster! Apparently running together was a bonding experience because she stared at me the whole first bus ride (from barrio los sauces to downtown San Jose). When we got off the bus in downtown, she asked where I was going and I said to the Coca Cola bus station. Her stop was just a block before that, she said, so we walked together. She took me a "new route" that I had never been before and I didn't feel very safe in as there were a lot more homeless people sleeping and waking up in the street... some only half-clothed or obviously high/drunk on something. Idiana didn't seem to mind the homeless though as she told me her life story, that she was here in Costa Rica because there was little work in Nicaragua, that her son is 12 and in 5th grade, that she just wants the best for her son. We parted ways at La Iglesia Merced and her light green eyes full of questions stayed on my mind for my second bus ride.

Setting: Bus, 5:30am

Character #4: man with freshly shaven face, black hair, dark skin, dark eyes, laborer's clothes

My State of Mind: barely waking up, reading my Bible, 5% of my thoughts being aware of my surroundings

I ask him what time it is, he asks me if the Bible says it's okay for him to marry his sister. Um, no sir, it doesn't. He asks my own personal opinion about brother/sister marriages and I tell him I think of the serious problems their children could have. He's not convinced. I tell him I can't change his mind about it, that he's the one who asked my opinion so I just gave my opinion. He knows the Bible well and asks a few more questions.

I've seen him on the bus a few more times, but I have avoided him. A combo of experience and other's advice tells me that men wanting to talk about the Bible with gringas on the bus usually don't have good intentions.


In other words, riding the bus is very... interesting. educating. mind-boggling at moments.

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