Thursday, August 02, 2012

writers' workshop on wheels

Buses are gold mines for writers.

Whenever  I take the shuttle bus between Salem and Bend, my pan always finds several shiny nuggets.  And Wednesday was no exception.

There are two bus drivers on the route.  For my purposes, the driver I have named Mr. Grumpypants (After all, this isn't Tolstoy) is my favorite.  If you were to combine Yosemite Sam with Bedford Falls' Mr. Potter, you would have the prototype.  For him, life is a series of opportunities to share his pain.

And he was in fine form on this trip.

When we boarded the bus, he asked all of the passengers who were getting off at Sisters -- the first stop -- to sit up front.  And the Bend passengers to sit up front right behind them.

Of course, we scattered like mercury from a broken thermometer.  When he got on board, he immediately grumped:  "What did I just say?  I want all of you to move up front."

One guy moved up.

He stared at the rest of us and said:  "Fine.  Have it your way.  My PA is broken, but if you don't want to hear me, it's not my loss."

He then started his lecture about rest stops, road conditions, the time we could expect to arrive, and his choice of assorted observations.  All in a voice that could easily be heard in Newport -- let alone the back of the bus.  The fact that the PA system did not work was not particularly relevant.

But the two young men behind me were simply ignoring his lecture. 

"Hey.  You two.  Listen up this is important."

They weren't talking with one another, but it was obvious they were not listening to him.

"Hey.  Pay attention.  I am only going to tell you this stuff once."

The young men didn't even look at him.

"What are you?  Deaf?"

And then I noticed why they were not paying attention.  They were "talking."  In American sign language.

Yup, Mr. Grumpypants.  They were deaf.

And I took a bit of pleasure in wading in the shadenfreude pool when I pointed it out to him.

And then there was the very attractive young lady who was rather confused when the man across the aisle announced that he was from Vancouver, British Columbia -- in Canada.  She thought British Columbia was an eastern state -- over by New York.

She turned to me and asked what the name of the state was. 

How do you respond to a question like that?  I thought for a moment, and asked: "Are you possibly thinking of New England?"

"Yes.  That's the name of the state.  Now, just where is it?"

"It's actually not a state.  It's a region.  Vermont.  New Hampshire.  Maine.  Rhode Island.  Connecticut.  Massachusetts."

"Oh.  Right.  Right.  And, of course, British Columbia is in Canada.  We just drove through there a month ago on a trip from Alaska.  I just get New England and British Columbia mixed up.  All the time."

The Canadian's eyes rolled back so far he looked liked a slot machine that was not going to see a payout for quite some time.

This is the type of material that writes itself.

And it makes we wish I could speak Spanish better.  I suspect these nuggets surround me every time I ride the bus in Mexico.

I just don't know it.


norm said...

I taught 7th grade geography for a few months back in the 90s, I had a youngster who could not put the US on a blank map of the world yet she had straight A grades in her other work. I felt for her because I'm the same way with spelling. 

 And, "what are you deaf?", is about as good as it gets.   

Andean said...

On the local mex buses anyway, when I put out my hand with a bunch of pesos and the driver picks out the amount, people do laugh...oh well

Nancy said...

I'm laughing outloud reading this - how did you NOT laugh outloud living it???

min said...

We have to go back retake History class.Ha ha

When I say,Founding Fathers,
People look at me like I  am from out of space.

Have fun at Bend.

By the way,
Smile and willingness goes long way ,When I am on the road.

Steve Cotton said...

Life itself is worth a chuckle and a smile.

Steve Cotton said...

I forget that we may be the subject of similar anecdotes.

Steve Cotton said...

I made up for it by laughing heartily while telling the stories to my family.

Steve Cotton said...

This was the stuff of classic television sitcoms.

Nita said...

Sad to say, geography doesn't seem to be one of America's best in education. It's a good thing we have maps and Triple A. If not, I doubt some could get from one state to another..

Steve Cotton said...

I know people who cannot get across town without a GPS.

min said...

 so true!

brenda said...

From what I have seen or heard the Mexican people seem to have a better grasp of geography in general than the Americans do.  Not trying to be rude here; but it is just my observation from traveling around.
I met a young lady, early 20's perhaps in Texas who had never heard of North Dakota and thought maybe that she had heard of South Dakota !!  She had no idea that Canada even existed.  
Say what you will about the Mexican education system; but they do teach their students more about their own country IMHO.
It is common here to hear people talking about other countries, world events and they know where these places are situated.  They have a better grasp of Canadian geography that the majority of Americans I have spoken to.
Just my personal experience, yours of course may vary.

Steve Cotton said...

Mine is very similar to yours.  For whatever reason, a large portion of Americans have a very poor sense of geography -- and not just young people.  On a recent cruise to Europe, we were passing through the straits of Gibraltar on our way into the Mediterranean.  A group of Americans of my age were staring out the lounge window wonder what the large mass of land on the starboard of ship could be.  The general consensus was that it was either Spain or France. It would have made another great post.

Most of my Mexican neighbors have a good idea of the geography of The States.  Especially, if they have visited up north.  I have found, though, that the location of Oregon manages to stump them. 

If I could speak better Spanish, I would have plenty of grumpy bus drivers tales in Mexico.  I just didn't know what caused the grumpiness.

DonCuevas said...

Most of our Mexican neighbors think "¡Kansas!", when I tell them that we lived in ArKANsas before we moved here.

But how many of us can name the states of Mexico, starring at the the California-BCN border, working down and across until you get to C——s, the state bordering Guatemala?

How many of you already knew that Guatemala bordered Mexico on the south and east? 

Jdreeves said...

Like your moon shot. Central Oregon?

Francisco said...

That bus driver reminds me of Ralph Kramden, and some drill instructors I've heard about.
I'm amazed how many people don't know the birthdays of their immediate family.  I think you'd be surprised how many people, living in the U.S. don't know the name of the current president.

Steve Cotton said...

Al Gore?

Steve Cotton said...

Shot from my brother's ranch last night in Bend.  I could not get a better focus on the moon's face.

Steve Cotton said...

I can name most of them.  But because I have driven through them -- or planned on driving through them.  I mentioned to an American acquaintance the other day that Mexico has a federal form of government -- like Canada and The States.  She responded with: "What is a federal form of government?"    

Mommy with Commuter Husband said...

That conversation about New England and Canada is just, just - well very, very funny and startling at the same time.

Steve Cotton said...

My theory is that the surprise factor is what makes it funny.

min said...

 Yes, haha
He create the Internet!

John Calypso said...

A wealth of material indeed.  Almost any time you get more than a few people together - something will pop up ;-)

Steve Cotton said...

Keep that notebook handy.

NW said...

But, did you get the phone number?
My brother would always say, "Them smart ones is way too hard tu catch but even you got a chance with them not-su-smart ones" 

Steve Cotton said...

She undoubtedly would have been an interesting date.