Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I arrive at the bus stop at 7.20 AM. The Old Man is there, as usual, with his hands deep in his pockets and the cable from his MP3 player running up along his coat, then behind his beard to the small earplugs. I wonder what he’s listening to, but I take it it’s not Metal or Grunge. He’s too serious for that, I think he’s a teacher or something.
The Crazy Woman is not there, we’re the only two at the bus stop. I haven’t seen the Polished Bimbo in a while, maybe she’s broken a finger nail.
The bus arrives at 7.24, sometimes a bit later but today she’s on time. A lot of busses pass here on this busy entrance to the city. If I don’t pay attention I might miss it, but then again the Old Man always pays attention. I really think he’s a teacher.
I sit down next to Mrs. Eyeshadow. I don’t like sitting next to her because of the place where she gets out, but all the other seats are taken, except for the ones facing backwards. I can’t sit in one of those on a bus, I’d barf the breakfast that I didn’t have yet over every passenger. Fraggle, a middle aged woman sitting a couple of seats before me, would probably drown in it. She’s not very tall, and she aged a lot after she decided to change her haircut after the summer.
We leave the busy main road and turn right towards the centre of my suburb. A load of kids get up to drive to school in Antwerp. Two steps further the Bulldog steps in. She always looks at me with this dangerous smirk, as if she would call me names just for the fun of it. She waves to the apartment above the stop and throws kisses. It’s strange to see a fifty-year-old woman with such a face throw kisses.
The Man From UNCLE is the next one to get on. He’s not really the type to be a secret agent, I call him that because he looks a bit like the youngest brother of my father. He has thick glasses and a round beard and holds his leather briefcase tightly on his lap. During summer there was a lady waiting at the same stop. She was so very enthusiast about the whole public transport experience. She would get on the bus with a radiant smile and throw her bus pass forward so that the driver wouldn’t miss it.
The next bus stop is difficult to reach, two streets come together here. The bus driver just pretends he’s the only one on the road and forces the drivers coming from the right to break (the breaks) or break (their car). Rat Boy is already waiting. If you want his picture, look up ‘nerd’ in Wikipedia. He is the archetype. I expect he must have had a hell of a youth with his big upper front teeth, his constantly drooping lower jaw, his pronounced nose and his tiny glasses. My front teeth are smaller than his, but I know I was teased a lot as a kid.
Oliver Twist clambers on too. You can see his a mischievous kid. A couple of weeks ago he had to get off the bus again because he couldn’t pay or didn’t have a pass.
At the first hospital, Fraggle sounds the bell. She used to get off after the second hospital, but I guess she changed jobs.
Mrs. Eyeshadow is the next one at the second hospital. The stop is at the entrance of the hospital, which has a winding climbing road leading up to it. So I have to let Mrs. Eyeshadow pass and get up while the bus is dancing around. That’s why I don’t like sitting next to her, apart from the obvious layer of getting covered in a coat of powder three inches thick should the bus hit a hole in the road or something.
A couple of stops later we cross the bridge over the ring way that marks the entrance to the city. The Old Man gets off at the first stop behind the bridge, Oliver Twist and the Bulldog at the second.
The bus takes a turn and enters the Hood. Ali G, Ali H, Ali I, Ali J, Ali K and Ali L slide on to the back of the bus or chill on one of the handle bars. Some Alis are from Northern Africa, others are from Belgian decent. They try to look as cool and mean as their brothers in the Bronx, but ask them to organise a drive-by shooting and they’ll go looking for a bike and a super-soaker. Life is a bitch in the hood of Antwerp-Berchem, with the free education, overall decent housing, generous social welfare, low drugs abuse and numerous facilities for youngsters. Their brothers in the States must laugh their fraternal asses off.
The train station comes into sight, next stop’s mine. Ali M, Ali N, Ali O and Ali P can’t wait to get on the bus and join their mates, and block the exit. I squirm myself through and clear the path for Rat Boy, who follows me together with a bunch of other commuters. The 502 bus races me to the other side of the crossroads and then disappears in the blue diesel fumes under the railway bridge.