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It’s early in the morning and I’m riding the bus home, since I work nights. I’m reading, because:
a) I like to read, and
b) reading is about the clearest way I can think of to go “HEY PEOPLE ON BUS WHO ARE CRAZY: I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT HOW AMISTAD TOTALLY BLEW YOU AWAY” without actually saying that or having a sign that says that.
So, I’m reading my book, and a couple stops in, this guy gets on the bus, stands in the stairwell immediately behind my seat and starts talking to himself about how he wants to get off at the last ride-free stop. I ignore this, as there are many crazy people on the bus at different times, and I assume he’s talking to someone else (or, more likely, himself).
He finally sits down, and starts saying “AUTHOR?”. The first 3-4-5 times he does this, I can’t actually make out what he’s saying, let alone that he’s saying it to me. I finally figure it out look up, and he goes “AUTHOR” once more at me, and I go “David Foster Wallace” (as at the time, I was reading Broom of the System. He goes “huh?” and I say “David Foster Wallace” again, and show him the book cover, pointing out the name, and go back to reading.
He starts saying “CLIVE BARKER” over and over, and I look up from my book and look at him like “Are you attempting to start a conversation?” (with “I’m sorry, I don’t speak nutball” implied). After he’s done repeating Clive Barker‘s name, he goes “CLIVE BARKER IS A BAD AUTHOR” (it was pretty clear he was meaning “bad” as “good” here, although I’d probably be more inclined to agree with the meaning-as-stated. Also, pretty much everything he was saying was shouted, as is pretty much the S.O.P. with Bus Riding Nutbars) and I go “Oh, I haven’t read any of his stuff.” And he sorta looks at me and says it again, and I say my thing again, and he goes “YOU SHOULD MAN, YOU SHOULD” (although it’s funny, because the way he says “should” sounds like it could conceivably be “shouldn’t”).
He then starts doing this weird sort of hand-jive thing where he makes weird hand motions, and then points to his mouth and starts flapping it, along with a flapping of the hand, then points at his ear. I think to myself “Is he saying he’s deaf?” (My secondary thought is “Does he think I’m a stoner of some sort and is trying to bum some weed off me?”). Anyway, he does the “CLIVE BARKER! CLIVE BARKER!” thing again, and then the Bad Author thing. Perhaps he notices a look of confusion on my face, which he misinterprets to mean that I’m confused about the phrase “bad author” rather than why he’s talking to someone who is obviously attempting to read a novel, because he goes on a tangent about how when he says “Bad Author” he actually means that Mr. Barker is a good author because like the English language is always changing like everyday. I nod and agree, and then he does the hand-jive thing again and I notice that he’s got a stuffed monkey. This, at least to me, more or less confirms the “insane” theory.
Whenever I think he’s done talking to me I go back to reading and get maybe a line in before he starts again. When he starts, it’s always the same: More Clive Barkering, and then more hand-jive, and more hand jive. Eventually, I tell him “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you” (because, uh, I didn’t). He does a bit more hand-jive, and I say it again, and he looks sort of exasperated, and opens up his bag, and gets out a checkbook-sized thing (I think it was either that or a date-planner), and finds a pen, and writes in big block letters about an inch and a half or so high:
tears it out and gives it to me. (I notice that it is written on a date-planner type page, from 1998.)
I take it and thank him (I kept it for a while, but I’ve lost it. If I ever find it again, I’ll definitely scan it and post it here), and tell him I’ll definitely check out his stuff (this is a lie).
Then he does more hand-jiving.
Around this point, his bus stop finally arrives, to which I think “THANK GOD”. He gets off the bus, still hand-jiving and babbling at me.
Near the end of the bus ride, I figure out what the hand-jive was: I think he thought that I was deaf, because I didn’t realize that “AUTHOR?!” was directed at me, and that the hand-jive was his attempt to either get me to do sign language (which I don’t know) or write what I wanted to say (which was either nothing at all or, at most, “LEAVE ME ALONE YOU WACKJOB”) on a piece of paper. Later, I had this suspicion confirmed by Wry Ann Duchane that apparently part of the hand-jive was similar to the official ASL sign for “deaf”. Most of it seemed to be Pure Him, though.
Although, maybe he just wanted me to write down “Clive Barker” so I would remember to check out that author. I don’t know.
At any rate, I was glad when it was over. And I only got to read maybe 10 pages. Maybe 20.