Bus Stories

Bus stories are strategies I’ve learned for starting conversations on the bus from other people.  This is an every growing class resource, pleasecontribute your story, or try these out for your self!droppedImage_1

Today when I got onto the bus my favorite seat was available, the one just up to the top of the steps right behind the back door. Sitting there is like being on a ride, I don’t like rides, but I like sitting there and feeling “like I’m on a ride”. Michael and Uma clocked me coming up the isle (I don’t mean hit me, I mean saw me in a meaningful way) I “clocked them clocking me” and I wondered what was up…. soon after I sat down Michael leaned over and said “excuse me, what do you do?” I told him that up until yesterday I worked in the stacks at the library. He leaned over to Uma, and said, “I was pretty close.” I asked him what he had guessed I did. And he said school teacher. I told him that he was really good because I had just started school to be able to teach. I asked him what he did, and he said he was a seasonal construction worker, but mostly in summer. He told me he had a deconstruction job last week, which was really fun. And next week he has a landscaping gig, he hopes that the weather is like today, but he doesn’t really care, he

loves working outside. He then explained that what he is really good at is relaxing, being lazy. He told me the trick to that is to balance inactivity with moving around pretending like you are actually going to get something done. Uma was pretty shy and mostly hid behind Michael. They got off soon, we shook hands and expressed our mutual pleasure about the meeting. I was particularly taken by this experience, as Michael performed, with me as a recipient, exactly the kind of social practice work that I might do. (I am a little obsessed with the relationships that happen on buses) I loved this experience, and I feel like this is a great demonstration of the synchronicity/coincidence/connection that I am interested in, and I got to be on the receiving, responsive (rather than generative) end of it!

Class Summary:  Guess the profession of a fellow rider-and find out if you guessed right.

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I couldn’t quite understand this fellows name, but he took my book on the bus last week (he literally took it away from me as I was reading.) He did to give it back to me after he ascertained that the only picture was on the cover. I think he may have wanted to point to the irony of me reading a book on “relational aesthetics” when I was on a bus full of people I could have been relating to. I was given a good lesson by a two year old! Thank you little man.  This particular technique might be best practiced by the adorable, however we encourage you trying it if you want to.

Class Summary:  Take someone’s book on the bus.


The stop I have gone to for years on 22nd is gone now, I forget and just walk up to it anyway.

On this particular morning I decided to walk down burnside to 20th and catch the bus there. As I was approaching 20th on the opposite side of the street I needed , I saw this guy at the bus stop pull out a pen and write something on a sign pasted up in the tailors shop by the stop.

Based on his body language, I made a little bet with my self… he wrote something nice.

When I finally got to the stop, I checked out the sign, it was an 8and a half inch paper saying “sorry we can’t open today, we are sick” and what was “graffiti ed” on it was “get well soon”, with a smilely face. I said to the guy I’d seen write it, woha that is so great, thank you. He said, “yeah I felt a little like I was maybe vandalizing but opposite, I hope when they come they see this they know we care, they are just these old people running this shop, they put the bus schedules up in the window for us, they don’t have to do that, they are really cool.” I put quotes around this but this is just what I remember, he said it all a lot better.

We ended up talking a lot on the bus together, he made me feel really good about life, and my day. When he got off the bus, he came over and gave me a hug. It didn’t feel like an awkward gesture, rather it was reflexive, it felt just right.

Class Summary:  Make some graffiti near your bus stop.

Catching the bus at the top of 4th usually means getting on a nearly empty bus and having my choice of seats. But Thursday the bus was already full. As I went to the back to make room for others getting on, a fellow at the very back moved over and signaled me non verbally that there was room. I sat down, thanked him and started annoying him with conversation. He works at OHSU and is from Ethiopia, he has been here for one year. I asked him what was his mother tongue (we were having a hard time understanding each other, which is probably why he wasn’t overly eager to talk to me.) He didn’t really answer me except to say that they spoke a lot of english in Ethiopia except that is is “english english” he explained that they finished their words out in front of their mouths so that one could understand, but that in america we talk inside of our mouths which makes it hard to understand. I told him that several years ago I met an older Ethiopian man who spoke Italian, this man told me that many Ethiopians spoke italian because of the occupation. (I was hoping to speak italian with him) he didn’t know what I was talking about. Then a fellow sitting in front of us said, it was Mussolini who invaded Ethiopia to avenge the humiliation of an earlier Italian attempt that failed, but then the British came in and pushed the Italians out.

I was hopeful that this fellow would join our conversation, but he didn’t and I suddenly became very self conscious and embarrassed that I’d been bugging this guy who was just trying to get home from work. So I uncharacteristically shut up!

What happened next was lovely. “Facil” seemed to understand what I was feeling and introduced himself to me. We carried on with a much more two sided conversation. I asked him how he happened to end up in Portland, I couldn’t understand what he was saying, it sounded like, “like” or “life”, and then he said, “like powerball”, AH I said, like lotto like chance, like life! He said Yes! and we both cracked up- it doesn’t sound that funny, but maybe you had to be there.

This was my best ride all week.

An update…

My daughter and I went out canvasing for Obama (really just making sure registered democratic voters had received their ballots and were aware of the time line to turn them in- obviously if someone was undecided we were happy to give them some information.) We were assigned to a very scattered collection of houses out by marine drive (an area I was completely unfamiliar with.) At one house we went to the woman was undecided, and we had a pretty interesting conversation. After the politics were over she offered up that she was from Ethiopia. I said that I almost never meet anyone from Ethiopia, but had met someone else just last week. Turns out she knows Facil, and was happy to pass on my hello. This was a great thing for my daughter to witness.

Class Summary:  Learn about the person who offers you a seat.

Posted March 27th, 2013 in Wallace Classrooms.

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