Monday, 21 April 2014

2. APRIL 20th 2014: THE MAN ON THE #23 BUS

…from Ruggles to Ashmount, South Boston

The old man stumbled awkwardly in the centre of the bus, as it jerked forward from the last stop. He was waiting for a young guy on the aisle seat to make a way through to the empty window seat. Sitting with legs wide apart, knees jammed against the seat in front and plugged in to an alternative world of music behind his shades, he wasn’t moving. I picked up my bag from the seat next to me and the old man flopped down.

“All black people are so rude,”
he said, fixing me in the eye. He was black.

Not all black people, surely, no more than white people?

“We’ll 99% of them. So that’s pretty much all, ha! And the bus drivers are the worst. If you ain’t got your money or your ticket absolutely ready for them, they shout ‘What you doing trying to get on this bus? Homeless folks don’t belong here.’ ”

Are you homeless?

“I lost my home about a year ago. Landlord evicted me. A No Fault eviction, but what can you do? Have to stay with my daughters now, but they don’t like it much. Me neither. You need a place of your own, ‘specially when you are on your own.” Silence. “You ain’t from round here. Where you from and what you doing here?”

I’m from London and I’m going to Burke High School for a conference this morning.

“I’m gettin' off before Burke. Goin' to rob a bank,” he laughed.

What I’ve heard about US banks, that sounds like a good plan. But how could you be sure it was their money you were stealing and not your neighbour’s? 

 “Hmmm, good question." Silence. "Do you think I’m older than you?”

 I’d say we are about the same. I was born in 1948. What about you?

 “November 11th 1947. Hmmm. I'd guess you must be a Scorpio like me.”

Right. October 31st.

“Who’s your President?”

We don’t have a President. We have a Queen…

“Oh yeah. That Mrs. Thatcher?”

No, she was the Prime Minister, like Tony Blair and David Cameron.
 “I ain’t never heard of them. Now who was that short fat guy, with the black hat and cigar?”

Oh, Winston Churchill?

“Yeah, that’s the one.  ‘We shall fight them from door to door. We shall fight them on the beaches, in the fields and in the streets; we shall never surrender”. Silence. “That was a tough guy.” Silence. “They sure don’t make ‘em like him no more.”

Stephen Hill, Brooklyn NY. April 20th 2014