On the Bus Vol. 2 – Bathroom Lurkers and Bus Stop Pouncers

Greetings on the way home to New Hope for holiday weekend!

I gave helpful tips last week about how to get a seat by yourself on the bus and, as I’m sure you all remember, the tip I recommended most highly was sitting next to the bathroom in the back of the bus.

Since that blog posted, every single morning when I climb on board for my morning commute, there has been a large, somewhat menacing man sitting in the exact seat I recommended.   Could he have read my blog?  Should I have kept my helpful tips to myself?  Or is it possibly true what the great Buddhist teachers say?  Are we all really just one mind?  I may never know the answer to these questions, but more importantly I now realize that a person looks somewhat like a lurker when they plant themselves next to the bathroom door every day like those creepy old men I read about in Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask who perpetually  hung out in bowling alley restrooms looking for a deviant good time. (This was an unfortunate book for a confused gay adolescent to steal from his mom’s bookcase and secretly read at night—the guilt and shame it instilled in me has been the financial lifeblood of many a therapist over the years.)

Anyway, now I’m back to Square One and am typing this blog crammed next to a fellow commuter who keeps falling asleep on my shoulder.   Apparently, you don’t always need bowling alley bathrooms to find intimacy with strangers.

But this is the least of my bus issues.

Now every morning at the bus stop, there is a heavyset man with a voice like Fran Drecher who is waiting for me when I arrive at 6:30 AM. He has a crazy, anxious, clingy air of a person who doesn’t talk to a lot of people except when they are forced to wait with him for a bus.   In the old days, I would have intently read my latest paperback novel to subtly communicate that I was not interested in chatting, but now that all my books are downloaded on my phone, it looks like I am scrolling through Facebook and therefore available for conversation.

The talk can be slightly soul-numbing.

Him:  The bus was 2 minutes late yesterday.  I wonder if it will be on time today.

 Me:  I hope so. 

It’s not exactly the stuff of a Proustian novel but that doesn’t keep him from trying to go deeper.

Him:  Are you getting your daily potassium from that banana?

I wasn’t sure how to answer that one.  I wanted to say No, I could care less about my potassium intake but that just seemed rude.  So, instead I giggled and said yes which seemed to satisfy him for the moment.

(Update:  The man who fell asleep on my shoulder is now dreaming and twitching.  I’m starting to feel somewhat of a bond with him and wonder what his name is and what he does for a living).

Yesterday, my bus stop companion didn’t say hello to me right away and I instantly became concerned.   Had he grown tired of me?  Was I losing my spark because I wasn’t being attentive to my potassium levels?   Suddenly I wanted him to talk to me more than anything in the world.

Finally, he turned around and said hello.

“Oh geez…here we go again…” I thought to myself with annoyance.

In a nutshell that gives you a lot of insight as to what I’m like in a relationship.

Speaking of my husband.  Saul is about to have his last weekend of his May Art Show in New Hope Art Center.   Last week was gay Pride weekend and we were busy from Saturday morning until Saturday night with a gallery full of people.

Saul’s show is definitely geared towards Pride participants—well, at least the men.   He has many pictures of guys kissing or shirtless or in a few cases pant-less.  This took a while for me to adjust to, and I encouraged him to paint more kitties, puppies and birds, but his interest seems to be in scruffy men which is I suppose why I am wearing his wedding band today.

Since the show ran all month we also were open on Mother’s Day.   It became quite amusing to see adults stroll in to find gay-themed paintings and instantly become alarmed and scurry out in retreat.   Now mind you, these painting aren’t crude or portraying people caught in the act.   They are innocent kisses at best.

I am amused now, but was somewhat ashamed at first when I saw this reaction and felt as if we were doing something wrong.   Then I realized when I go to a museum such as the Met or the Louvre, I see people in all states of undress and feel warm and fuzzy when I see someone kissing in a painting.  I don’t recoil in shock  and wouldn’t have escorted my mother away from the Venus Di Milo or Statue of David because some genitalia was exposed.

I can only chalk this up to the assumption that there is still some uncomfortableness and phobia around  gay people when they aren’t   being simply funny and sex-neutral like  Will and Grace or Ellen  even from the nicest people and especially when they are taken by surprise.   And by my guilty reaction, there is apparently some uncomfortableness in me too (Thanks a lot Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex author). But instead of getting angry or feeling ashamed, I am trying to be amused and hope we all catch up to the maddeningly simple idea of accepting each other—even the gays who want to kiss  and even the  bus stop people who want to chat.

(The man is waking up next to me and starting to try to read this blog so I better wrap it up.)

Oh, and just to update you on last week’s blog…No I did NOT meet Sally Struthers and she has left the town of New Hope for good.    Like Hillary who I also wrote about last week, I am a bit humiliated for setting such a huge public goal and then falling short.

Perhaps some  walks in the woods and a few  Broadway plays will heal me.

Until then Happy Memorial Day!


Beware–Kissing Men Inside.


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Keith Hoffman lives with his artist husband, dog and two cats in the small town Lambertville, New Jersey 72 miles outside of New York City. He has completed a memoir entitled The Summer My Sister Grew Sideburns.

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