I sat down in the seventh row, aisle side, so that I wouldn't be trapped in. I watched the folks saunter (or, in many cases, waddle) down the aisle and hoped I'd have a row to myself. I averted my gaze when a confused-looking man seemed to be eyeing my window seat; at only 210 pounds and dainty waist size of 34, I realized I was a prime target for a seat-mate. Furthermore, I had showered that morning, and my Irish Spring flavor was sure to attract potentials. What to do? I was fresh out of garlic cloves, and couldn't exit the bus to smoke a big cigar that might ward people off.
Maybe it's not so bad, I thought, and my canine-like sense of smell simply exaggerated the natural odors of people around me. But I realized the threat of chemical warfare was real when a mountain of a person in a Snuggie plopped down in the two (yes, both) seats in front of me and overwhelmed my defenses. This was the first time in my life I actually desired Axe brand spray deodorant, and not for myself, and not for stinky French people either.
The psychiatric patient continued toward me, slowing as he reached my row; I tried to look mean and show off my tattoos, but then I realized that a temporary cupid tattoo was more likely to attract a recently released, potentially loving inmate than ward off a scented bus rider. My mean look also didn't work very well, as I have the face of an angel.
He stopped and asked if the seat next to me was occupied, and I imagined pulling a Forrest Gump ("seat's taken!") for a second but realized the trauma Forrest went through. I decided to do a cursory inspection before assenting. I wafted some scent toward my nostrils and gave him a preliminary thumbs-up; as he turned around to place his backpack (it looked expensive, big bonus!) in the compartment, I saw that his hair had been cut recently. This was a double-edged sword; either he was a clean-cut dude, and my suspicions were unfounded; or he was recently released from prison, which would explain the oversized clothes and, moreover, the reason he was on the bus out of town in the first place.
I kept my ears clear and on the listen for any humorous material on the bus. It was plentiful, and could be an entire entry unto itself. Some of the highlights follow. They range from the culpable: "I know, I shouldn't have been outside the window in the first place" to the annoyed: "For the third time, I told you, I got laid off!" to the downright honest: "I hitchhiked here from San Antonio last night" to the embarassing: "The song I really like to sing karaoke to is Tiny Dancer by Elton John" (I may or may not have been the speaker on that one) to the insightful: "Next time, I'm won't transport any packages I didn't pack myself!"
Lessons learned: when I take the Greyhound to Denver tomorrow, I pledge to:
A: Not shower beforehand. For three days.
2: Sit in the middle of the seat and puff out my cheeks to make myself look bigger.
C) Put the temporary tattoo on my face, a la Mike Tyson.
D: Bring a whoopee cushion and load up on beans in the days prior to my journey.