I’ve recently discovered that there are some situations in which public transportation is completely inappropriate. I’m not speaking about situations where vehicles are inaccessible, or difficult for me to use, rather, just the opposite. I’m not having unsaid difficulty. But someone else is in a situation on public transport that is absolutely bizarre.
Today I was on the bus going home. The bus was shockingly empty, until about halfway through, at which point twenty people entered the bus at once. Being preoccupied with my work, I continued reading the book I was currently using as a resource for my occupation. The bus traveled on a little way and I noticed two things: the first thing was how exceptionally quiet this particular bus ride was. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, and of course children were still at school, babies were home for naps, and the businessmen were still in their cubicles, causing an absolute dead silence on the bus, unique for London Transport. In this city, you don’t talk to strangers. Ironically back home, the reason you don’t talk to strangers is that they might be weird, whereas here, the strangers will probably think you are weird for talking to them. And so, we all listened to our iPods, read our books, and faced forwards in silence.
The second thing I noticed was that I could swear I suddenly smelled fresh water fish. Strange smells are unfortunately a common enough occurrence on public transportation, particularly on a bus, and so I dismissed the smell assuming it to be on account of someone’s poor hygiene.
As I was reading, out of the corner of my left eye, I saw what looked like a bit of trash. Again, a very mundane thing. And then I noticed that the trash wasn’t obeying the laws of physics. When the bus would slam on the breaks, this object would go towards the back of the bus, not towards the front, as the rules of inertia dictated. I took a closer look…
My first reaction was that someone had let a frog loose on the bus. Perhaps a school kid wanting to cause trouble, or simply losing his pet. And then I noticed that this object was not only alive, but crawling with eight legs. Frogs, to the best of my knowledge, don’t typically crawl (or for that matter have eight legs), and so my mind went into desert mode. Immediately I thought it’s a tarantula. And then, as I examined the creature underneath the seats of the bus (fortunately on the opposite side of me), I began to wonder where on earth anyone would have the resources to get a tarantula in London, given how much they guard the selling of lockable knives and chewing tobacco, I was amazed that someone not only was able to get a hold of a tarantula, but also had the boldness of releasing it on a bus. Boldness or stupidity…you choose. But, my reasoning further deduced, arachnids are typically hairy. And this looked slimy. I watched it a little more and realized it was a crab. Over 5 inches in diameter, it was a crab. There was a crab loose on a public bus in London.
Now, this immediately put me into a very unique position, because being on public transport, if I am to say anything to a stranger, such as “Hey there’s a giant fresh water crab on that seat and it’s really scary,” they would immediately assume me to be one of the crazy people. It’s part of the territory when you have a disability. You get to be the victim of everyone’s stereotypes about disability. And they would smile and nod, claiming that they didn’t understand. I know because I’ve relived this situation over and over. I was not about to do it again. So, I closed my book, sat back, and tried to watch the scene unfold.
Within seconds a woman in full African dress goes from being seated to jumping with both feet on the seat and screaming (how on earth she was able to do this in an ankle length skirt, I don’t know). And then, the small Chinese woman from the front of the bus runs to the back, picks up the crab, runs back to her seat, and places it into a blue plastic grocery bag, which is also full of, well, crabs. While doing this act, she crosses from the front of the bus to the back apologizing to every person along the way, as in, looking at each of us and saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” And I sat there in utter disbelief of the entire absurdity and, might I add, multicultural diversity of the situation. The rest of the bus ride was silent.
The entire thing felt like something out of Annie Hall, which made me immediately wonder, did Annie and Alvy take live lobsters on the subway with them in order to get them back to Annie’s kitchen? What do you do in a society that is dependent on public transportation if you need to transport something really absurd such as sea life or crustaceans? For a public transport system that attempts to meet everyone’s needs, there are some things even the folks at TFL can never even dream up.
The Asian woman waited until 5 stops later to get off, securely holding her two grocery bags of live creatures. I can only assume that somebody had some very fresh crabs for dinner that night.