Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Semantics of Last Conversations

I've been busy making friends. My new friends want to add me on Facebook. I tell them that this is a bad idea. I tell them that my Facebook is only for my friends "in real life." I tell them that my Mom reads "all my posts on Facebook" and that "I would have to explain to Mom what StickCAM is." I am not ready to do that yet.

Another reason I've been too busy to write in this blog is because I have been watching old men have heart attacks while arguing the meaning of bus stops.

It's not just semantics for the old man.

"I just got out of the hospital." He told the bus driver. The old man waved his hand at the bus driver like he was waving back cold soup at a deli. "You're going to give me a heart attack." He bellowed.

For some reason the old man strikes me as Jewish. Even though I am sure he is not. I think the old man would like to end the argument with the bus driver, but the bus driver kept telling the old man to "calm down."

There is no quicker way to inflame an argument than by telling one of its participants to calm down. For some reason that only makes people angrier.

The argument got started over the fact that the old man waved the bus driver down while a good 50 feet from a bus stop.

When the driver saw the old man he let out a curse and slammed on the brakes. The old man walked slowly toward the bus using a cane. He was upset and red faced by the time he got on board. He mumbled and sat down close to the driver in the partitioned section reserved for the elderly and the handicapped.

The mumbling must have set the driver off because the bus driver got stern with the old man. The bus driver lectured the old man about proper bus riding technique. He told the old man that, "Although I stopped for you…you were not at an approved bus stop." In addition he told the old man that he should, "Get himself to a bus stop in time if he wants to ride the bus."

The old man would have nothing of it.

"You did not give me time. You never stopped at the bus stop!"

The retort was not enough to win him favor.

"I just got out of the hospital." The old man looked at me like I could confirm his whereabouts.

I don't know a lot about philosophy, but I am sure that the old man's statement was just meant to garner sympathy. His illness is not germane to the case at hand. The old man's gaze caused me to stir in my seat uncomfortably.

"Either you WERE or were NOT at a bus stop, sir." I say to myself.

I don't like all this conflict between bus driver and bus rider. I want it to stop. I think I should say something. Get them to calm down.

But I don't like conflict so I don't get involved. I don't say anything to the old man or the bus driver.

I wonder if I am experiencing something my social psychology textbook tells me is the bystander effect.

The old man is telling anyone who will listen to him on the bus that he is "probably having a heart attack." I wonder if I am going to have to try and revive the old man when his heart gives out.

We are only a few hundred feet from the hospital. Maybe the paramedics can get here in time and I won't have to give him mouth to mouth resuscitation. I wonder if the old man has dentures. I wonder if they will slide off his gums when I bend down to give him my air. I imagine teenagers getting stuck by interlocking their braces. I see the dentures in my mouth as I come up for air like I went bobbing for apples.

There is a college girl sitting on the bus reading Bukowski. She reads the book because she was assigned to at school. She looks up at all the yelling. She takes an earphone out of her ear. The earphone is the in-the-ear kind. It is white. It unmistakably belongs to an I-pod.

I want to talk to the girl about her Bukowski book, but she pulls the cord along the window. The bus driver stops the bus and the girl disembarks without looking back at me.

I am invisible to everyone but the old man. I feel bad for him. I figure the old man is going to die soon. The old man's last conversation is arguing with a middle aged bus driver. The old man was in the hospital, but no one came to pick him up. He was all alone but still stood defiantly away from the assigned bus stop. The only person on the bus who looked him in the eye was worried about his knowledge of CPR.

I sure hope I know at least enough CPR to keep the old man's heart beating long enough so that he can have a better "last conversation."

2 comments:

Beloved Parrot said...

Excellent! One tiny thing, though -- you had the old man talking to the driver before you showed the old man getting on the bus and the bus stopping for him. A bit confusing.

Good work!!!

Romius T. said...

I remember doing that on purpose and hoping that it would not be confusing. My bad,...