Bus Pass

Oh great, thought Kelly, I can pop into the shop, I’ve got 6 minutes. That LED sign is really handy. Before you had to stand around and wait for the bus, with no idea when it was coming, and according to the season: freeze your balls off, get soaking wet, burn to a cinder, or get your clothes blown off, with people driving by feeling sorry for you, laughing.

Then they erected this new bus shelter and the LED sign. The shelter’s a bit strange though – a grey metal box with diamond cut-outs. It looks more like a bear trap than a bus stop; less a convenience, more a cage. I could have designed something better in art class, and made it in shop class.

“Wass up?” said Tavish.

“Just going to the shop. Want something?”

“Nah, I’ll be here.” He was standing away from the bus stop, despite the rain.

A guy driving by in a Frontier scowled at them. Kelly had noticed this reaction since the new shelter was installed. Sure it was nice to have your own car, but it was stressful and expensive to drive it daily to Strattus, or the City. And you couldn’t read or text or talk. Much better to take the bus.

Kelly hadn’t moved yet. Tavish said, “Look at all those power lines, man.” Kelly looked up and around. He hadn’t paid them much attention before. They were just power lines. “Look how many there are, all up there. That can’t be good for our brains.”

“What do you mean? It’s the other end you’ve got to be careful at – the sockets.”

“You don’t know, man. Those power lines are bad for you. They send out radiation. They should be buried, not going through the centre of town. But the Authority is too cheap, or they want us to die. Keep away from them.”

“You can’t keep away from them,” said Kelly. They criss-crossed above the street, over-connected, heading everywhere. “Unless you live out in the bush.”

“You’re right brother. You can’t keep away here. But be aware. They can drive you crazy.”

Other people at the bus stop didn’t talk to each other, busy using their mobile devices. A boy listening to phat pumping tunes on his iPod, pushed out his lips and nodded quickly. A girl chatted on her Googlephone without breathing. Another chick furiously used Blackberry Messenger. A woman read Dan Brown’s latest marvel on her Kindle. A man Facebooked on his netbook.

The LED sign said “5 minutes”. There are two kinds of time in the world, thought Kelly – real time, and public transit time. One minute of real time takes one minute to pass. One minute of public transit time takes anywhere from minus one minute – when the bus or train has already gone, ahead of schedule – to infinite minutes – when it never comes at all. Who knew how long these 5 minutes would take.

Kelly changed his mind about the shop. It was raining and he may as well make the most of the new shelter. He nodded at Tavish – who stayed out in the rain – and took cover. The other five people – iPod boy, Googlephone girl, Blackberry chick, Kindle woman, and Facebook man – crowded in to make room for the new arrival, but did not acknowledge each other.

There was a flash of lightning, wasn’t there? Was that a small earthshake? Had something shifted? He saw the five people in the shelter in a different light. He saw their needs. iPod boy was in survival mode; he didn’t have enough to eat, and didn’t get enough sex; yet despite this latter lack, he didn’t get enough sleep either. Googlephone girl’s concern was safety; she worried about her health, her family’s stability, paying her rent, and her body image. Blackberry chick’s focus was society; she wanted to deepen friendships, find intimacy with a man, and be useful for her community. Kindle woman sought status; she lacked self-esteem and wanted the respect that comes from achievement. Facebook man wished for Self-Actualization; he had been accepted by his peers as an equal, and now sought to express his spontaneous creativity.

The LED sign changed to “4 minutes”. Something else shifted.

Kelly saw iPod boy’s life before him. He was a Child now, playing and carefree, running and laughing, celebrating all the joys of the world. He would soon be a man though, a Householder, with mortgage, and bills, and taxes, and wife, and children, and work; needing to pay for things, fix things, deal with things, accept his pathetic limitations, and live with them. He would fade into an Elder, an observer rather than actor, watching the confusing, and misguided, ways of the world, and withdrawing in stages. Then one day he would have no place in the world. He would become a Beggar – reliant on a modest pension, topped up by welfare, his family’s sense of obligation, stranger’s goodwill, charity do-gooders, and Lucerne’s health services to keep him alive.

The LED sign changed to “3 minutes”. The shelter was rattling.

He saw into Kindle woman’s subconscious mind. There was darkness within – deep forests and tight caves with unseen monsters. Then her conscious mind – a busy day in Strattus ahead of her, filled with meetings and an ongoing schedule of networking. He saw her superconscious mind, which held the brightness of love for herself and others.

The LED sign said “2 minutes”. The shelter shook slightly.

Kelly saw Googlephone girl’s dual persona – her animus and anima; male and female; girl and woman; goddess and whore; and yearning both to love and to die.

The LED sign said “1 minute”. The shelter seemed to glow.

He felt overwhelmed, and united, with everything in the world.

The LED sign said “Now”. The shelter was the shelter. That was all. An ugly grey metal box; a cage. The bus arrived, filled with more people. Kelly couldn’t handle any more connection. How much was too much before you were no longer yourself? He let the bus pass, and went to the shop, as he had originally intended to.

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