On the Bus #8 –Food on the Bus and Jesus in Your Heart

A well-meaning person told me yesterday that if I’m going to be writing a blog, I should be teaching something or offering some tips or some type of information. I was surprised by this comment (which felt an awful lot like thinly-veiled criticism.)

I thought it was clear that this blog offered a lot of very good advice about how to ride on a bus. Something that apparently, a lot of people need to know. Today’s lesson seems like it would be common sense but I find several commuters a week are totally ignorant of it.


Easy rule, right? Absolutely no gray areas. If you are hungry, sit down and eat and take the next bus. Or better yet, plan your day better. This rule applies to the subway too. This morning, I got a prime seat on the F train only to have a woman sit next to me and pull out a big, fat, sloppy, aromatic burrito. This was at 9AM and it wasn’t even a breakfast burrito. She had it out smack in the middle of the filthy subway and was stuffing it in her mouth with a large majority of it spilling out all over the napkin on her lap. I had a seat directly next to this carnage and noted a frenzied look of almost sexual ecstasy on her face as she swallowed each bite.

That was enough to pretty much ruin my day, but then on the bus tonight just moments ago a well-dressed woman plopped next to me and pulled out a noisy bag of some type of super extra crunchy vegetable chips. CRUMPLE CHOMP CRUMPLE CHOMP CRUMPLE CRUMPLE CHOMP.

In both instances, I stood up and moved, but I fear my withering glare did nothing to teach them a lesson. I’m assuming they are beyond help anyway. I mean, they are eating on public transportation for Christ sakes.

Maye I am a little tense this week because I am still recovering from my trip home to see my family in Ohio and Indiana

Don’t’ get me wrong. I had a great time but trips home are challenging even when they are good. Trudging through the emotional landscape with all its ghost and emotional booby traps is exhausting.

The first hurdle occurred when we stopped for chili at the Ohio/Indiana border. If you grew up in Cincinnati, the city’s distinctly special chili was usually the first thing you tasted after breast milk. It has cinnamon in it and is always topped with tons of grated cheese. I loved the Cheese Coney’s with onions but there were also three-ways (spaghetti, chili and cheese) four-ways (with beans or onions) and five-ways (with beans and onions). You can imagine how embarrassing it was when someone invited me to a five-way shortly after I moved to New York and I showed with a cheese grater.

As a young kid, I used to peek over the counter and watch the grown up high school boys expertly pull wieners out of the steamer and place them in a bun before ladling chili on top of them, then onions and finally a big glob of cheese. Those boys looked like they had the world on a string. I yearned for the day when I could make Cheese Coney’s at Skyline. I never achieved that goal and it’s one of the biggest regrets of my life. I was the head slicer at Roy Rogers Roast Beef in college but that’s like doing community theatre when you dream of being on Broadway.

Anyway, Skyline Chili is the best chili by far in the city and my husband Saul and I drove 642 miles thinking about it. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, we drove. I have enough public transpiration in my regular life that I try to avoid it by all costs when on vacation. You are allowed to eat in the car FYI, but you should wait until you are married to the person you are eating next to. (See how many tips are in this blog??)

Where was I? So, the Skyline Chili we had been driving 642 miles to get to ended up having a private event and we were forced to go to Goldstar Chili down the street. Everyone in Cincinnati knows that Goldstar Chili is the inferior chili. The decision to go there was a rash one that we made when we were emotionally vulnerable, and we regretted it immediately. The chili was gray and the spaghetti in the four-way was limp. The bathroom was dirty and worst of all FOX NEWS WAS PLAYING ON THE TV OVER OUR BOOTH!

We realized we were in another world. Fox News would NEVER be on the TV in New York or New Hope. As I gamely chewed my coney, Mike Huckabee was above  Saul’s head talking about how Black Lives Matter was just as bad as Nazis. I wanted to throw up my chili for very many good reasons.

I looked around at the crowd at the chili parlor and saw that on one else was even slightly alarmed. I knew they all thought Trump was sane and that people like me and my husband were the crazy ones. As I swallowed the last bit of my wiener, I felt rather hopeless. It was starting to seem like this country will never be on the same page again. I began to fantasize about peacefully breaking into two countries.  They can have Trump, and we’ll find our own non-lying non-narcissist leader. If we want to join in the reality show tradition, maybe we’ll elect a judge from Dancing With the Stars. The only issues I can see is that it will be a pain to need a passport to travel from state to state and the consequences of Trump’s denial of Global Warming and his reckless attitude about Nuclear War will not be contained to only his states.

I keep trying to understand the other side even though it makes my husband annoyed. Trips home are challenging when you are married. We always have one whispered fight in the middle of night where we end the marriage and plot our contentious divorce.  We were fine by the morning when my sister-in-law makes us homemade egg dishes.

Sometimes I think Facebook is the cause of all the added tension in the country. It’s easy for the other side to think we libtards are running around convincing women to abort their babies even as they are about to go into labor. It’s easy for us to believe the entire rest of the country is full of Nazi’s and White Supremacist or high school friends who want me to accept Jesus into my heart. (This has been the goal of certain of my friends since I was a young Catholic. Catholics aren’t as uptight about Jesus being in your heart. We are like the Jews in that it’s more important to learn rituals and feel guilty about things you did or didn’t do. Neither Judaism or Catholicism seems intent on recruiting others into the fold either. It’s very hard to convert to either religion. In my family, religions who tried to convert me always seemed a little desperate and clingy.)

Saul likes to look at Facebook while he is riding with me in the car. Out of the blue he will say things like “Do you think Nazi’s should lose their job?” It’s a hard question. I think people who eat on public transportation should lose their jobs so why not Nazi’s too?

But when I spent the day at the family reunion, I was reminded of all the good people in the world who don’t go to rallies and spew hatred. I have a niece and sister-in-law who are nurses and tend to people at the lowest points in their life. I have another niece who works with drug addicts. I have a good friend who is a minister who works with hurting children. I have a cousin (who is also my godmother) who just went to help young girls involved with sex trafficking in Nepal as part of a mission with her church. My nephew is a vet who fought for our country. Another sister-in-law works with an organization that supports women who have been abused.  And people at the party voted for both candidates.

So, what are the lessons of this blog?

  1. People are more complex than Facebook would have you think. You know when you meet someone and think they are unfriendly or stuck up and then find out they are shy, or recently broken up or their mom committed suicide–and you realize they are not what you first thought? I think a lot of times Facebook is like that. We talk in headlines and have no chance to get into complexities. Personally I’m not yet convinced we can ever engage in a real conversation through social media.
  2. If you want to talk about religion at least start the sentence with “For me…” “For me praying to Jesus gave me solace” goes down a lot easier than being nagged to accept Jesus in my heart.  Anne Lamott, the Christian author, is really great at that concept. And I love my Facebook friends who talk about worshipping or their various churches without giving me advice I didn’t ask them for. (This rule may apply to politics too. “For me, Trump is a lying sociopath”.   Well, maybe not.
  3. There are a lot of good people in the world. My husband is currently with a dear friend and neighbor right now taking him to the doctor about a very scary issue and holding a space of love for him while being a second set of ears. This isn’t a flashy Facebook post but it is the kind of thing I believe the hugely vast majority of us do no matter what our faith or politics are. Sure, there are sick people who really do believe in White Supremacy or worse are subway-burrito-eaters, but I don’t want to lose focus on the love between us too.  It’s miraculous that this huge mass of people have made it this far on this crowded planet.   I think we need to be aware and to protest–don’t get me wrong. But I hope we all don’t forgot that resilience, intrigue laughter and friendship are part of the human condition too.



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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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