Monday, January 4, 2010

All Pinball Wizards Have Handicaps Eventually

I hate Bus Tracker. I hate you. Bus Tracker can suck it, and the CTA can suck it, and the Western bus can suck it, and they can all have a suck party together where they sit around and fucking suck. And I will make winter my bitch without their help. I shove my hands into pockets and kick invisible dirt just to get the blood flowing. Frozen jeans sting my calves because they are HORSESHIT. I kick through some snow out into the street and look southward. There is no bus.

There should have been a bus minutes ago. It should have stopped right where I'm standing and I should be riding it to my goddamn party, because Bus Tracker told me it would be here. This is the last fucking time I trust that piece of shit website. Maybe I should take a cab.

Impossible. Expensive and impossible.

After six or seven more minutes, the bus stop fills up with more commuters taking advantage of the New Years Eve penny rides. I give some of them directions to their party on whatever crossroads. The bus arrives. People who've been here for two minutes try to muscle their way to the front of the pack.


They probably usually take the train. I don't like it when train people get on the bus. Bus people wait their turn, they remember who was at the stop before them. There's an unspoken boarding hierarchy amongst bus riders. But these fucking train people got no respect. They don't care that I've been freezing for over ten minutes in temperature that's half that.

Once safely on board, all of us passengers do that thing where we're fake polite to each other, professing that we don't require only available seat, really, it's not necessary. You should take it. No, I insist. Sit down. Take it.

Really, of course, we don't want to sit next to the sleeping garbage bag man who smells like hopeless homelessness, but that's it, of course. We have important parties to go to, with alcohol packages and pulled pork. We don't want gutter stench on our new jeans. It's not because he's black. No, really. Do people think we're racist because we don't want to sit next to the stanky homeless man? Because if he was white we wouldn't want to sit there either.

The bus jolts and rocks back, and I fall into the empty seat, but I totally make it look like I meant to sit down. Seriously. The smelly guy twitches, and I catch a moldy hospital bracelet on his wrist. What was he in there for? How long has that been on his arm? There's some sort of fungal infection thing growing on his fingernail - did he go to the hospital for that?

The guy on the other side of me is talking abrasively on the phone to his daughter. April. "Happy New Year, April! Of course you're my favorite daughter. April, honey, daddy wants to know if you need a piano? Well, I got one lined up if you need it, and April? You know what? It's only three years old. Yap. It's a nice one, April. Daddy thinks you would like it. I just want the best for my girl." The whole thing is very annoying. Who uses someone's name so often in a conversation? Why does he refer to himself in the third person? Why isn't there a rule that people with thin-pitched voices are legally required to have their larynx removed and thrown in a jar?

I feel like an asshole. I can't think about anything except that rotten smell raping my nose, the shrill discord of that man's voice. I feel guilty for having running water and superb intonation, and then I feel guilty for having guilt, and then I feel like an asshole again and tell myself to suck it up, when someone touches my knee. It's April's dad.

"Hey there," he smiles. "You wouldn't be innerested in a pinball machine?"

I blink.

"S'just that I have this pinball machine, see, and I was gonna give it to my daughter, but she don't have room, see. So you wannit?"

"I don't think I have a place to keep a pinball machine."

"Oh, I'm sure you could figger it out."

"I don't think I could afford a pinball machine."

"Well you won't really have to pay for it, you see, cuz I got it fer free. I figger you could throw me fifty bucks - cash or check, I ain't picky - and then we'd work it out from there. What's yer address?"

"Ahhhh - no," I laugh, "I'm not sure I want it."

"Well it's a perfectly good machine, almost new. The lady who gave it to me is moving, see, and she had a pinball machine and a piano to get rid of because daughter sliced off her hands."

I blink.

"Yeah, pretty spooky? Yeah, both of 'em, yeah, they got sliced right off in a car accident or something, but I guess this little girl used to be something of a fishindo. A-uh-fishiando. Fishiando. Affishianado."

I blink.

"And so now this poor little girl loses both of 'er hands, and her mom wants ta get rid o' the piano and the pinball machine what remind her o' havin' hands."


"Heavy, huh? Makes you think. But this little girl has got some of those posterpedic hands now, you know?"


"That's the one, and they snap right on at her wrists and hold onto her nerve endings and they look real, you know? But she can move fingers and everything. They look so real." He leans towards me, quieting his voice slightly. "Guess how much they cost? Huh?" He licks his lips and leans back haughtily. "Twenty fucking grand apiece."


He nods. "Yep. Twenty fucking grand. Each. Per a la hand!"

"And she still can't play pinball."

"No ma'am, she don't want to. Reminds her of back when."

"Wow." I nod, and look out the window, trying to gauge how much longer it'll take for me to get to the bar and get my drink on. Soon.

"'So what d'ya say? I could drop 'em off at yer place on Saturdee."

"I don't think so." I don't want your cursed pinball machine, sir. I like having hands. I consider asking him what kind of pinball machine, as if that would make a difference at all, and decide that the less I say the better.

"Ya sure? Fifty bucks. I need the money now, though, you know. Make sure you're legit."

I can't believe this. "Maybe. You got a card?"

"You know what? No, I do not. I should though, but I left all of 'em at my office."

"Uh huh." I nod. One more stop. The homeless guy next to me shifts slightly. "Well, I get off at the next stop."

"Ya still sure? You could just give me your phone number and address. Will you be home on Saturdee?"

"I'm really not interested," I shake my head and pull the stop cord. "Happy New Year, though."

"Okay, well, happy New Year to you too, young lady."

I smile, steel my arms, and start bullying my way off the bus.



jessica said...

this is a sign that you should start a novel.

it will write itself, you'll just have to arrange things.

Diary of Why said...

I read about the frozen jeans and the never-on-time bus and I remember my Boston days, and I feel sort of really, snobbishly thankful I have a car now.

Then I read about April's daddy and the pinball machine, and I am completely envious of you. How am I going to find out about pinball machine deals from the hands-less, sitting all alone in my car? This shit is better than NPR. I envy you, Rassles.

Jacob said...

I once held hands with a panhandler and prayed with him in the shared parking lot of a high-end grocer and Taqueria del Sol because I have trouble saying no and I enjoyed the novelty of his shtick. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I wasn't a fellow believer and he seemed to be genuinely okay that I wasn't going to give him any money. It was a moment.

I would have preferred a pinball machine.

Schmee said...

jafskfkdjs;ajk classic.

Nikki B. said...

Write. Afucking. Book. Please.

It's bittersweet, your blog. Perfectly penned posts, about anything and nothing, that are absolutely filling, and satisfying...but, they leave me with an aftertaste of inadequacy.

As in...what the hell am I doing thinking I can write some shit, after I read this. The most interesting thing I've read in goddamn months, and it's about nothing, and everything, and shit you just can't make up.

Anonymous said...

you seem to be flypaper for freaks, but you write a lot better than flypaper would. i can almost smell him... thanks. i was trying to eat dinner.

Mongolian Girl said...

...and I thought it was going to be the homeless guy that was going to break my heart. Alas, it was April's dad. Sad bastard.
I agree with Jessica. Novel please. Thank you.

Jane said...

That is an awesome story. I only ever end up talking to the homeless people on the bus.

Meagan said...

Somtimes I hear stories like that and think: how do wackos like that not realize how creepy they are? Other times I think: I SO want to pull a wacko stunt like that, just to see how people react. It's never as fun as I expect though.

Georgia said...

This is like fucking david sedaris shit. seriously.
I'm really enjoying following your blog.

Chamuca said...

1) OMG hilarious and fucked up.
2) Another perfectly written post.


renalfailure said...

What? You didn't even ask what kind of pinball machine it was? Maybe it was a cool one. Then you could have it in your apartment with a sign that says "Hands Off."

Anonymous said...

Because I'm shallow, I'm kinda with RenalFailure. I came of age in the pinball era and my fave actually was the Pinball Wizard machine featuring Elton John in those huge platform boots. If I had the chance to buy that for $50, I'd be all over it. I spent lots more than that in college...slipping quarters into the slot while balancing my watered down draft beer on the edge of the machine.

JMH said...

I am a train person. I take the Lawrence bus upon occasion, but it terrifies me, basically because I don't know bus etiquette. Where are you supposed to stand if there are no seats? What if the pull cord doesn't ring the bell? Will I be trapped on the bus until Wilson and Marine? What if I push the door and it doesn't open? Everyone will laugh at stupid Whitey. Eeeeee!

I value the information that you've provided here and the manner in which you've provided it.

But I hope you made that no hands thing up.

Sid said...

I agree. If you wrote a friggin book I would totally buy it. Totally.

Also ... you've made me miss riding the bus. I miss having weird conversations with people.

Del-V said...

Hey!!! I'm a train person and I'm not rude!!! I just like using triple exclamation points sometimes. Plus I agree with RenalFailure, maybe it was a cool pinball machine...

Chris said...

Nothing like a stress bump and a good story on the way to a bar. Great story.

Mister Crowley said...

A hip flask, perhaps?

Thanatos said...

Great. I have an image of Elton John wearing platform shoes stuck in my head now.

Can you buy it and ship to Denver? I would offer all the beer you can drink for one night but don't think I'll be able to make my mortgage after that.

Ginny said...

Gah. I can't even stand the talent. You reek of it.

I wish you'd scored that machine, though. I'm surprisingly good at pinball. And when I inevitably make my way to the city you are in, I could have shown you my mad skillz.

Kitty said...

You moved me from tears to laughter with one word.


Happy birthday you brilliant woman.

Chris said...

Happy Birthday, Rassles. Have a great year.

Kono said...

happy birfday yo, here's hoping you get a pinball machine.

Mrs. Booms said...

Happy Birthday and I wonder what game it was.

Because I used to go to this laundromat that had a pinball machine that was based on the movie Twister. And I had never seen the movie, but I would sit there looking at the flashing lights and the spiraling cow that was just about to land on Bill Paxton and Laura Dern.

I still haven't seen the movie.

That's why.

Mrs. Booms said...

And wait... Why exactly have I not been invited to view the List of Awesomocity?

Cold Spaghetti said...

Awesomeness. I would almost believe that the guy was a con, except that he seemed so slick that if it were a con, I would have thought he'd have a partner planted to make it a stronger sell. He seemed that slick.

In the years before ebay, my husband used to buy out old warehouses full of pinball machines. I'd clean them, he'd do the electronics. We trade them up for more collectible games and sell them at auction, etc. -- it's not something you make money doing, it was a fun hobby. We're down to just two in the house now (with another 5 or so stored at a relative's)... his babies.

Happy birthday to you, too. We share an Epiphany birthday.

Here In Franklin said...

Happy Birthday! It's my mother's birthday too--an excellent day all around.

Red said...

As it happens, I work for a trade association for the prosthetic industry. Really. The best prosthetic hand currently available to the general public is the iLIMB by Touch Bionics. I don't know for sure, but $20k sounds cheap to me. I thought they went for at least twice that.

I once shook hands with someone who has one. Losing a hand sucks, hard, losing them both sucks harder, but the iLIMB is pretty damn cool. They also recently did the first successful hand transplant in Pittsburgh, and I read an article yesterday about scientists are working on figuring out human regeneration. Losing one or both hands would still really suck, though.

The Ambiguous Blob said...

He just wanted your address so he could hit it.

Blues said...

You're a freakymagneto. Which is lucky because that gives you plenty to say.

Whenever I ride the bus, I get off hating humanity. It's definitely worth it for my well being to take a cab. But then I have to deal with the fucking cab driver speaking to me slowly like I'm a retard cause he thinks I don't understand and then ending up telling me how fantastic my spanish is and asking me 'don't you just love Spain?'. And then I wish I had taken the bus.

Zen Mama said...

Just discovered you lurking around here with your fucking unbelievable writing talent. I live in Milwaukee - your ability to write the Chicago homeless dude in his own voice was spot on. "Saturdee" brilliant!

formerly fun said...

"Who uses someone's name so often in a conversation? "

He was probably trying to continually remind himself which daughter he was talking to.

Jillian said...

Per a la hand. HA!

I need to live where you live, or start using public transit more often. That is, hands down, the most awesome New Years interaction one could hope for. Pun semi-intended.