Two different stories to share. The first was last night (Friday) coming home around 8:00ish. I was on the phone with a colleague, and I overheard these three girls ask somebody if a certain bus came by the stop we were at. Well, I just had to butt in. Turns out there were three young ladies visiting the states from Australia. They were genuinely surprised I guessed their country of origin correctly, as most Americans asked if they were English. Since I meet an Aussie about once a week on this route, its not that big a skill. They had some very nice things to say about our country, “Everybody is so friendly here.” one said. I didn’t have the heart to tell her is was likely more to the fact that she was blonde, cute, and young. They were good company until I got to Hollywood/Highland, and had to run off.
Tourists are the perfect people to meet on the bus. They don’t mind a short conversation, and one can learn oh so much just by asking them questions. They also do not expect a deep relationship, they are quite happy with a short polite talk, and then to be on their way. Sending them off with a smile is so easy, and costs practically nothing but a little friendliness.
One of the ladies asked me about superannuation, which caused me to say, “huh?” I can be quite witty at times, but this caught me completely off guard. Apparently it is the name for their retirement/pension system. It was interesting to try and explain Social Security to someone not from around here. This lead to a discussion about medical insurance which was even better. They thought our system was absolutely stupid, leaving so many people uncovered. When I told them that many conservatives were convinced their medical system was terrible, they laughed. “Why would they think that?” one asked. Why indeed. That this conversation took place on the bus, which means we were surrounded by a crowd of mostly working poor, most of whom could not afford medical insurance, only made the point stronger. I wonder what those sitting next to us were thinking.
All in all it was quite a pleasant experience.
Earlier in the week I had the opposite experience. An elderly gentlemen of color approached the stop while I was waiting to catch the Orange Line one morning. He was dirty, and smelled strongly of urine. When he saw me looking at him, he started talking to himself. He soon got very loud, and was obviously agitated. The other people at the stop moved away from him. His stench alone would have been enough, but his tone of voice was pretty scary. He didn’t yell at anyone, and he didn’t make any sudden moves, so I assumed he was reasonably safe. I did keep a careful eye on him though. The worst thing was that he often was speaking to himself, telling himself to calm down, but he could not. He mostly spoke lots of disassociated gibberish, like scanning through several talk radio stations, but all in the same voice. He also looked around and addressed people who plainly were not there. It was sad to see, as he was old enough to be a grandfather, sitting at home, bouncing babies on his knee. Instead he was living on the streets, peeing in his pants, and unable to contain his mental illness. In his lucid moments he must know what he is doing, and feel a sick dread at is actions.
Sometimes mental illness really sucks.