It's been a LONG time since I took a bus trip. It was fun. Well, also, it was boring, but I got some work done.
So this story is about the bus ride home. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then we shall begin.
The bus driver got lost on the way out of Pittsburgh. But that's another story. This story here, is a different one.
After I boarded the bus, as I'm walking down scouting for a good seat (my preference is near the back), I pass by a young (barely not a teen?) lady, heavyset, kinda cute, huffing and puffing in her seat. At the time I thought she had perhaps exhausted herself running to the bus, and climbing the stairs with her little collection of very stuffed duffels. In hindsight, I think that maybe she was hyperventilating. "Poor thing" I thought to myself, remembering too many times I've been that way myself.
The bus got underway. Very soon after, the same YL comes back to the back to use the potty. Nothing unusual there. She comes out, just as the bus does that big boaty rocking thing that busses do as they get underway on the way out of big cities, and she clutches the back of my seat in a death grip and nervously remarks directly to me: "Wow! It's like *surfing!" I smiled back and hummed a few bars of "Wipeout!" for her. She lit up a very sweet smile, laughed a bit, and bravely made her way past me and back to her seat. I went back to whatever had my attention, and mentally patted myself on the back for having successfully done a nice thing that Good Bards are supposed to do.
About an hour later, YL is back again to the potty. By now I had figured out how to put my seat back and was trying (not very successfully) to nap. So when she came back out again, my seat back was not available for her to just grab. The bus was also again, at that time, fitfully rocking, and the poor YL gave an audibly distressed sigh. So, once again, Maugie to the rescue; this time tangibly. I put my right elbow on the seat rest, with my hand up for her to grab, which she did. I felt a lot of desperation in that grip, much more than "random wobbly bus" might normally indicate. She thanked me profusely and made her way back to her seat. "Poor thing", I thought "All alone and not handling this trip very well." Again, I mentally patted myself on the back for doing a good deed in the World, and modeling a World where such deeds exist for someone who maybe needed that, a bit.
There was one more trip to the restroom for the YL. This time with drama. She comes out, and sets to alerting everyone that she had "spilled something in there" and felt really bad. Someone took pity and gave her napkins or something and she went back and, I presume, cleaned up whatever she had done. Again, with grateful rhapsodisations, she resumed her seat and as I actually dropped off, I overheard her saying things like "OCD" "Anxiety" "Just couldn't leave it there" etc.
Some time later, the bus pulled into our rest/meal stop (A place I've been to before, actually, where I helped to rescue a different Damsel in Distress but that's also a different story. But interesting recurring theme) As I staggered off the bus, regaining my land legs and walked to the entrance, the YL stops to thank me again, introduces herself as "Lisa" and starts to share how she's headed for Richmond, having come from Oregon. I said "Wow, Lisa. That's a LOT of bus you've ridden. Well, you're nearly there, eh?" So she shares a few more pleasantries, along with a worry about some motion sickness she's been experiencing. Then, we got to the restrooms and as I had a big fire that needed putting out, I said "Hey, listen. I need to catch you on the flip side, ok? This is my stop.", pointing to the Men's side. She looked a little disappointed, but I figured that if she was craving more conversation, we could have it after I finished in the toilet and got some fast food for lunch.
I came out of the restroom feeling much relieved, and I went over to the Burger King kiosk, where I saw some couple handing her a bag full of fast food. Not her parents, the way she rhapsodised so much in gratitude. It disappointed me a little that maybe I was being chatted up in order to score lunch off of me, but I know that's a thing that one does out of necessity when young, broke, and traveling. C'est la vie. Someone was taking care of her, and she obviously needed that.
As I got back on the bus, with mere minutes to spare (I don't know why it took SO long to just get me a couple of burgers), YL looked at me surprised. "I thought you were getting off here." "No, I meant the *restroom*. I was being cute with euphemisms, but I really had to go."
Wow, I thought to myself. She must really be preoccupied if that joke sailed over her head right *by* the restroom. She didn't *seem* that clueless. Oh well.
An hour later, YL RUNS back to the potty, and I could overhear her throwing up, ALOT. Actually, everyone could. Moritified, she re-emerged and as she's headed back to her seat, a fellow rider across from me intones:
"Girl, you need to change your DIET!"
YL fled back to her seat.
YL came back a few minutes later with a bottle of water (I presume to rinse her mouth out) and the same guy again intones:
"Girl, you need to change your DIET!"
And he does it again as she re-emerges, this time with elaborations, about how you can learn on TV that it's *all* about your diet, blah blah blah, on and on, and how there "ain't no such THANG as anxiety". At that point I couldn't take it any more. This guy was SO full of SHIT and an obviously lonely, fragile young lady who was having a bad enough time already didn't need it. He had stepped over the "random drive by jerkiness" and into the "asshole harassing someone" zone. I had had enough.
I fired the first shot over his bow:
"Anxiety is real. You don't know what you're talking about. Young lady, this guy is full of it. I'm sorry you don't feel well, and that this guy feels a need to make you feel worse. Don't listen to him."
Oh, did young random bus guy puff out at that.
"No one was talking to YOU!" was the first volley.
"Nope. But you're spouting nonsense and this young lady doesn't need to be attacked by you."
"I'm trying to HELP!"
"No, you're not. Someone who just has a bit of motion sickness doesn't need this kind of help. Leave her alone."
"I'm trying to give her ADVICE, and you're BUTTING IN. You don't KNOW that we already have a relationship. We've been talking for FOUR HOURS! You don't KNOW what I KNOW!"
"Yah. Relationship.(snort) Tell me more, about how much more you know, Doctor Random Bus Guy! You're not HELPING anyone. She was feeling sick. That's it. You're not helping. You're just harassing someone who's having a bad day." I nasally, mockingly, repeated "Girl, you have to change your DIET"
Oh, Doctor Random Bus Guy didn't like that, and volleys turned to broadsides as he declared:
"I know that YOU probably need to change your diet TOO! What are you, 500 pounds?"
By now, YL had FLED again, double speed back, to her seat. A furious Dr Random Bus Guy harangued me solidly for about five minutes. Just as with the phonescammers though, I let him, as my thinking was that as long as he was haranguing me, he would not be following poor YL back to her seat to gaslight and fat-shame her some more on what was becoming obvious to me was a very bad trip with potentially bigger issues overshadowing it.
And his haranguing become more and more ridiculous. Apparently, according to Doctor Random Bus Guy, I feel free to butt in wherever I please because I'm just a "thinks they knows it all white european". He didn't take kindly to my "pot calling the kettle black" remark after that, and then he spiraled into some world class random babble that I can barely remember other than it was comical. I started to laugh and kept saying "Tell me more, Doctor Random Bus Guy". I realised that my laughter was fueling him, so I kept it up. I was laughing enough that I couldn't really hear what led up to him saying
"And your MATH IS WRONG!!!",
but that's when I entered the ROFL zone and there was no turning back. I just couldn't stop laughing. So at *that* point, Dr Random Bus Guy did the one sensible thing he could do. He stormed off to the front to complain to the driver. Shocked passengers, having watched and overheard this whole thing leaned way out of his way. I wasn't sure what they thought, but I KNEW the last thing they wanted was for the ride to get even MORE interesting/weird.
I figured worst case was I could survive their disapproval for a few hours if it meant a troubled young not quite a teen any more wouldn't have to endure more abusive "advice" from Doctor Random Bus Guy, who seemed to me to be much more Hyde than Jekyll.
A few minutes later, the bus driver got on the intercom to ask:
"Passengers, I would like a peaceful bus ride, so I'm asking ALL of y'all to kindly keep your personal opinions to yourselves."
Like stunned children on a long car ride after Mom says "I have had ENOUGH!", the ride was silent the rest of the way to Baltimore.
At Baltimore, as Doctor Random Bus Guy got off, I opted to stay on the bus. YL had a connection to catch to Richmond. I hope she was able to do so free of Doctor Random Bus Guy also.
An elderly lady behind me, as she exited, turned to quietly lean down and say to me:
"I liked what you said."
I replied "Just doin' my job ma'am. A young lady getting sick is not the time nor an invitation to get on her case about other things."
"You got that right. Good luck, honey."
I felt vindicated. I wasn't sure. Egging on a bully is a risky move, I should know.
As I told this story to Patches. She put a couple of ones together and made a doubly poignant observation that made a whole lot of sense:
She theorises that Young Lady was in Oregon for school or something, got pregnant, and was heading home. She was having near constant anxiety attacks about what that's all gonna mean. But as of that moment it had been a purgatory of DAYS of bus rides anxiety, and morning sickness. That matches the sweet but obviously troubled person I encountered.
I sure hope I did just a little bit of good on her journey.
So, how *does* one properly use that important advice from Doctor Random Bus Guy? I say that laughter is the best medicine.