It's been a while since I've had one of those "am I being filmed for a reality show" bus experiences. I had chalked it up to the fact that I was on vacation for a couple of weeks and that perhaps the crazies had also all gone on vacation. Until today. We all know not to eat, drink, or litter on the bus or Metro -- it's plain as day on signs on the bus and train (and this handy "manners" page from Metro). So imagine my surprise when I saw a woman having a full picnic lunch today.
My co-rider was sitting in the seat directly behind the driver (separated by a partition of sorts). The Lunch Lady had, balanced on her knees, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a juicebox, a bag of potato chips, and an half-eaten apple in her hand. She was eating said apple with a loud munch-smack at every bite. She was speaking loudly, mouth full, to her friend sitting next to her. She didn't bother to offer him any of her treats, though.
The bus was particularly crowded, so I found myself standing directly over her meal. As I was standing there, afraid she might throw her apple core at me when she finished it, LL opened her window, surprising me by throwing the core out into the street. I had to resist the urge to drop my jaw and bug my eyes out. Next she started on her PB&J. She continued to chew with her mouth open, carrying a conversation about "Little Ray" while she ate. It seems Little Ray was having some trouble with school (which was confusing to me, as school is out for the summer). I was half afraid she might wipe her peanut butter fingers on my suit, as I stood there hovering over her. Maybe my momma just raised me right, but I actually felt a twinge of bad manners, standing there practically in her lap/plate while the bus jostled on. She gobbled up the sandwich, again tossing the trash out the window. The man sitting across the aisle from her, whom I alternated looking at (because, really, it's rude to stare when someone's eating), seemed just as dumbfounded as I was by the full meal being consumed on the bus.
We rode along and the Lunch Lady ate on, tossing her garbage out the window as she finished each "course." The bus filled up even more, so I was able to move slightly past where she was sitting, while still marvelling at her chutzpah. What was the most surprising was that, besides the one guy across the aisle, nobody seemed at all phased by her elaborate meal. I've seen people eating candy, sipping water, and once I even saw a man drinking beer on the train, but I've never seen such a display as I saw today. The only things missing were the red and white checked tablecloth and an army of ants.
But after I thought about it a little more I realized that perhaps this lady, incited by the fare hikes that went into effect yesterday, decided to get her full money's worth out of her now 20 percent more expensive bus ride. Maybe, just maybe,what I witnessed today was a sophisticated form of rebellion; an "I'm taking what is rightfully mine" moment. In which case, I really have to give her kudos. I mean, how many of us wanted to find a way to "stick it to the man" when we found out about this latest round of Metro increases? And this brave soul, this renegade, took matters into her own hands, starting a grassroots movement. So think of that the next time you see someone whip out their lo mein noodles and chopsticks on the L2 or a plateful of red beans and rice on the Red Line, and raise your fist (or eyebrows, if it suits you) in support of this peaceful protest. But please, throw your trash in the proper recepticle -- protest is no excuse for littering.