by John Riddle

Looking for a good laugh?  Please enjoy an essay I wrote some years ago that appeared in the Hallmark gift book, “Laughing Out Loud.”

The Commuting Life

As a commuter on rush-hour buses for many years, I have concluded that although people from all walks of life ride the bus, they fall into four specific categories:

  • Nodders – You can tell these folks have really worked hard all day (or enjoyed an extended liquid lunch!).  As soon as they get settled into their seats, their eyes slowly close, and their heads begin to nod, lower and lower.  When the bus goes over a big bump in the road, the Nodders snap to attention, as if they had been awake all along.  Soon their eyes begin to slowly close again, and their heads droop in what I would call a “bowing Buddha” position.  Nodders have an uncanny ability to wake up just in time to get off at their regular bus stop.  (Tip: Avoid sitting by Nodders if at all possible.  They often drool!)
  • Talkers – You do not have to be a regular commuter to know who the Talkers are.  From the moment they arrive on the bus until they reach their destination, they never shut up.  Typically, even outgoing types avoid Talkers because the topics tend to be less than refreshing: Aunt Maggie’s gastric anomaly, Little Frank’s unfortunate birthmark, the menu for tonight’s dinner, etc.  Talkers are savvy, too.  When they get on the bus, they quickly scan the other passengers and deftly avoid Nodders!
  • Complainers – Amazingly enough, Complainers have conspired to ensure that one of their own is on every bus ride, regardless of the city or the time of day or night.  Small Town America, you might not find a Nodder or a Talker, but there will be a Complainer on board, you can count on it.  And they often ride in pairs!  Complainers do what they do best: complain about everything.  The weather, the bumps in the road, the bus schedule, cretins they have encountered at bus stops, taxes, cold sores, their bosses, etc.  And the number one thing that Complainers complain about?  People who complain!  Complainers have been known to purposely seek out Talkers.  If you see two people sitting next to each other on the bus, both talking a mile a minute, odds are it’s a Complainer and a Talker.  Thank goodness, they can hear only themselves talking, which is why they don’t mind going on, and on, and on…
  • Standers – If you’ve ridden the bus at all, you’ve seen a Stander.  These are the poor unfortunate souls who left the office a few minutes late, arrived at the bus stop late, followed everyone onto the bus, and couldn’t find an empty seat.  Of course, the unfortunate ones are those people who have to sit next to a Stander.  Standers almost always have an attitude problem, and they don’t mind letting people know that standing is no treat.  This is generally done with weapons disguised as purses, umbrellas, briefcases, tote bags and even overcoats neatly folded over one arm.  Standers seem to wait until their aggravation reaches a high point, then they shift their weapon from one arm to the other, “accidentally” hitting someone in the head, arm or shoulder (whichever is more convenient).  Nodders should avoid sitting by Standers, because being hit in the head by a swinging purse is no way to wake up, especially on a bus during rush hour!

I should know.  I am a Nodder (and former Complainer) who never talks but occasionally stands.