I spend a lot of time by myself these days, which means I get to do something I love: stare. Oh yes, staring is my favorite, haven’t I told you? I am actually pretty sure I’ve talked about my starting problem in the past here. Well, I have mastered the art of staring, and now I have a new place to conquer. One of the best places to stare at people is on the bus. Because of where I live, I’m usually hopping on a bus at the beginning of its route, I get my pick of the seats. I usually sit in the back. The back is usually the last place people sit, for some reason. Prejudiced, I think. I love the back. First of all, it’s prime staring location. Second, you can lean your head back and not have to worry about the person behind you. Sure, there are germs, but that’s why you wear a hat.

This is my morning routine: Get on the bus, make my way to the back and sit, put in my sunglasses, turn on my headphones, and pull my hat down low. I have about 15 stops before I get to mine, or roughly 30-40 minutes. I have seen all kinds of people on the bus. It can be really funny to watch people do what I call “the bus dance.” This is where a person walks onto the bus, and, having not seen a row that’s free, has to quickly scan for an empty seat next to someone who appears to be normal. If that isn’t possible, the person will either stand, rocking back and forth as the bus lurches around, or they will sit next to someone only to jump up THE SECOND someone else exits a seat. I’ve seen people fight over the single seats! It’s awesome.

I amused myself today by counting how many people were falling asleep. It’s amazing how the bus can lull you to sleep, even with all of the abrupt, jerky stops. And, of course, the smells. It doesn’t always smell downy-fresh on the bus, especially on the older ones. Or who you’re sitting next to. The bus makes you a mouth breather. Today, I counted 8 people nodding off. Two were next to each other, and while they weren’t together, their heads kept falling onto each other’s shoulders. Then, one would wake up and nudge the other off. After about three stops of that, the woman finally changed seats.

Sometimes, though, when the back of the bus is full, I sit in the middle of the bus where I can look out the window. There are some interesting things on my routes. Right away I noticed the weird signs. There are signs like, “No Standing” with arrows pointing in two directions. What, you can’t stand on either side of the sign? And there are TONS of signs that say “No Honking.” Well, not a lot of drivers listen to that. I hear honking horns all the live-long day. I noticed another sign today, one that is holiday-inspired. There is a bank out here called Fleet. I passed a Fleet today and, because I was stopped at a light, I looked at all the notices hanging in the window. The one that caught my eye was for a holiday toy drive. It said, “Make a deposit – and a world of difference. Fleet Holiday Toy Drive.” Nothing wrong with that. But what really caught my eye was the graphic that went along with it.

I took one look at this picture and started cracking up! Can you just imagine the bear being all, “Help, this machine is eating me! HEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLP!” Ha ha! And, to top it off. There was someone dressed up like a green alien, and it was just chilling in front of the bank. I didn’t stop laughing for at least 10 minutes.

The other thing I noticed today was the increased security. On the bus, I saw a lot more police activity than normal. All the stop lights were out and traffic was being directed. The subways had a lot more guards. It’s weird being here during a heightened state of alert. I know that NY has been at level orange since Sept. 11th, but it really hits home when you hear about the nation-wide alert, and you hear that your city (cities, really, because I include LA) are being named in “terrorist chatter.” I guess I never felt affected before. Then I hear about an earthquake in California. I’m flying home in two days. I can’t wait.