Archive | June 2011

Bus Friends?

The other morning was the closest I ever got to making a friend on the city bus.  I decided to sit on the sideways bench seat that is close to the front of the bus across from the bus driver.  As I was getting myself, my purse and bag situated, the last person got on the crowded bus and decided to sit next to me.  As the bus started to leave the side of the curb, it swerved unexpectedly, and my fellow passenger accidentally ended up on my lap which caused my peanut butter and jelly sandwich to get squished.

“I am so sorry.  I didn’t mean to sit on you,” she said, as she laughed and tried to regain her balance.

“That’s okay,” I said in my smiley voice.  “These new buses don’t have anything to hang onto like the old buses.” 

The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Squisher got busy with her cell phone, and I opened up a book to read.  That was the end of my longest adult conversation in over 20 years while on a bus going to or from downtown.  

Some of my co-workers have shared the fact with me that they have “bus” friends – friends actually made on the bus. Discovering that people actually had real friends that they met while riding on the bus made me a little jealous since I have not had a bus friend since I rode the school bus for one year during ninth grade.   

There once was a lady, who appeared to be about the same age as me, who used to talk to me on the bus in the late 80s.  She was a Talker and I was a Nodder, and she would sit by me on the way home from work.  One day she noticed that I was reading a novel by Stephen King. 

“Isn’t the world filled with enough sadness?  Why are you reading a book like that?” she asked.  (This is true, yes, the world is filled with enough sadness.)  I was astonished that she said this to me.  I didn’t say a word in reply.  I know it’s not possible to bite your tongue and have your jaw drop at the same time, but that is what it felt like I was trying to do.  I also know that Stephen King novels are not for everyone because it is a known fact that his stories can cause nightmares in some people, but there is something about his writing that can make you miss your bus stop instead of wanting to get off the bus.  The Talker obviously was not aware of the type of journey that Stephen King brings to his fans.

Not too long after that, The Talker moved far away from my neighborhood to never ride my bus again.  I was able to spend more time reading any type of book I wanted without being scolded.  It was a happy time.

I have seen certain signs that have led me to think that most of my fellow bus passengers do not want to have close and personal friendships with fellow commuters.  Some signs include:

  • When commuters see the bus approaching to take us home, they all rush to the bus and really do not care if they run anyone down on the way;
  • No one gives up their seat to anybody, even if a pregnant woman is standing with her belly button almost stuck in a fellow passenger’s ear;
  • People who take the bus are very busy catching up on their emails, text messages and other electronic updates, or they are listening to their iPods, and they do not have time to be social with people who are sitting right next to them;
  • Whether it is the beginning of the day or the end of the day, some people are sleeping, so I know that they are too tired to talk;
  • They have blank stares on their faces, also known as daydreaming; or
  • Their eyes are glued to a book, newspaper or word puzzle book.

Sometimes I think that my fellow passengers may have encountered someone like The Talker.  I try to sit in the back of the bus when possible.  When I am totally engrossed in a book and all the other window seats are taken, people gravitate toward the empty seat by me even if there are several seats in front of me.  These are my new-found friends – people who see that I am a reader, not a talker.  They know that if they sit by me, they will have a quiet ride to and from downtown.  I think these people are the closest that I will get to having bus friends, and, you know, I think I am okay with that.

My Dog Thought She was a Cat Sometimes

Our dog, Music, was raised by five cats and some humans during her tender puppy years when she lived with her first pack.  Because she was surrounded by so many feline creatures at such an early age, we think those cat qualities rubbed off on our precious canine. 

The day Music found her new pack was the day my three young children and I were visiting the Animal Humane Society.  The sign on her cage said that she was being surrendered because her family was moving.  This is when we found out that her family had included so many cats.  The sign also said that Music was three years old, and that she was a cocker spaniel and black lab mix.  This combination of breeds gave her the sweet face of a cocker spaniel with black and curly, floppy ears and a long thick curly tail.  Other people visiting the Animal Humane Society that day may have thought that she looked scruffy because all her fur was strewn about and very long.  But when we saw her, we knew she was the dog for us. 

Music was lying on her belly with her front legs stretched out in front of her.  The volunteer who helped us told us that Music had to have individual counseling for several days because she was distressed about being surrendered.  Music patiently stared out at us with sad eyes through a chain link cage.  Now that I think about it, she did have a distant look about her that could be considered to be an attitude that might be becoming of a cat.  All the other dogs were jumping and barking at us, trying to get out of their cages.  It was if they were yelling at us and saying, “pick me, pick me!”  Music’s quiet ways drew us to her.  Little did we know that even though she looked like a canine on the outside, part of her was a cat on the inside. 

Music bonded with our family right away.  She hopped into our car, and as I drove away and peeked at her occasionally through the rearview mirror, it looked like she was smiling.  It was if she knew exactly what was going on – that we were taking her away to live with us. 

When we took her for her first walk at our neighborhood park, she was very much the dog we expected.  She greeted other dogs in the usual manner, and we thought her social skills looked normal.  She pranced along besides us at a very happy gait.

After we had lived together for a little while, we got used to Music rubbing her face into the carpet and then lying on her back and twisting and turning.  It was a good dog way of scratching herself.  Then she would yawn, but that yawn sometimes sounded like a “meow.”  She also had a cat dance of rubbing her ears and neck against human legs.  We thought, that is something a cat would do.

Sofas are off-limits to many pets, yet our dog would jump up on the arm of our sofa and gaze longingly out of the picture window that looks out over our front yard.  While perched there, she would warn us of approaching humans or canines, and other times she would patiently wait for one of her pack to arrive back home.  I always wondered if this was a trick that she learned from one of the cats.

Thunderstorms and fireworks made Music fidget as if she was a scaredy cat.  Any blasting sound would cause her to either jump in between my husband and I while we were in bed sleeping at night or to pull out insulation in the basement thinking she was going to dig her way out to escape the noise.  A trick she knew was to stand on her hind legs and open the basement door with her paws.  Yes, she knew that all living creatures were suppose to go into the basement when the weather got bad.

Even though I thought of myself as an animal lover before Music came to live with us, I learned that animals have their own individual personalities.  Those puppy years are tender years.  Let it be known that everything that a cat teaches your puppy will influence that puppy throughout the rest of their life!  It was nice having a dog that thought she was a cat sometimes.



Tattoos fascinate me, by maryannsteiner

The other day I saw a woman who was about 25 years old who had two black musical notes tattooed on the side of her neck.  Later that day, I saw a man who was about that same age with a large tattoo that took up the entire back side of the calf of his leg.  Because I didn’t want to stare too much, I did not have time to figure out the design of his very colorful tattoo.  Yet, those tattoos and others like it fascinate me.

There has been a growing interest with tattoos in the United States for some time now.  What I thought was going to be just a small phase passing through this time in our lives has continued on to what people might think of as a rite of passage.  The interest in tattoos crosses all generations.  Little children are now wondering what type of tattoo they might like to get when they get older.  Should they get a star tattoo like Mommy or a tattoo that says “Mom” like Daddy?  Teenagers also think about what would be the coolest-looking tattoo and where they would like to display it.  Even older men and women are talking about getting tattoos.  Fans of tattoos believe that a tattoo can define who the person really is.

The reality show LA Ink debuted on the TLC network in 2007.  Not only is it entertaining to watch how the employees work out their differences with each other, but it is also intriguing to listen to the customers’ stories and their thought processes on how they decided on what type of tattoo they would like to wear.  One young lady on LA Ink decided to have her grandfather’s military picture tattooed on her back.  The lady brought in a picture of her grandfather, and the tattoo artist magically created a replica.  The lady decided that she would like to have a tattoo of her grandfather since she admired him so much because he was in the armed forces during World War II and he had overcome many obstacles in his life.  The granddaughter felt that her departed grandfather had helped her with the process of breaking free from chemical addiction since he was such a role model to her and she felt his support during his life and even after his death.  The grandfather was leading her on the proper path to a life free from addiction.

This was a very noble gesture on the part of this particular customer, and I could see why she decided on the tattoo that she chose.  I was captivated by her story and many of the other stories I listened to on LA Ink, but yet I wondered how she would feel about her decision in 20 or 30 years.  It is a very huge commitment to have a tattoo, and the tattoo that a person chooses to get at the age of 25 would probably be very different from the tattoo that a person would like to have at the age of 50. 

I also find it a little ironic that young people with very taut and blemish free skin are having these permanent fixtures attached to their bodies.  In my opinion, a person should wait to get a tattoo after they have at least turned 50 years old.  There are many benefits of getting a tattoo when you are 50 years old or older, because it is a good way to:

            1.         Cover up any old age spots and scars;
            2.         Cover up any overly wrinkled or flabby skin areas;
            3.         Get noticed by people at a time when you might feel as if you are blending in with your surroundings;
            4.         Be certain that the brilliant colors will remain for the life of the tattoo;
            5.         Avoid the pain that young nerve endings might experience; and
            6.         Raise a person’s chances of getting a job at a traveling circus.

Also, if a person has been contemplating getting a tattoo for many years, they can be pretty certain that they are making the right decision when they are at the mature age of 50 or older, because all middle-aged or older people really have their acts together.  There is no way that this generation could possibly make the mistake of getting a tattoo that does not define who they are.  All people at this age definitely know who they are and have completed the process of “trying to find themselves.”

I will continue to be fascinated by other people’s tattoos and by the work of tattoo artists, but the tattoos that I wear and that define me are my old age spots, scars and wrinkles.  My “tattoos” are not very colorful when other people see them, but to me they are some of the stories that define my life.