Air Rights on the 151 Bus

I took the 151 bus to Millennium Park to hear the rehearsal of the Grant Park Orchestra of Michael Torke’s PLANS. The performance is tonight, Friday June 19th and Saturday June 20th.
It will be the work’s world premiere.

My day would be about hearing and reading. I brought my book by Michael Larsen, “How to Write a Book Proposal” and figured reading, while the symphony was rehearsing, would keep me on track.

I love the 151 bus, it’s colorful anonymity, looking out the window, daydreaming, eavesdropping, reading. The bus was pleasantly full, and I start reading; having had seven children I can read anywhere, undisturbed.

Today was different. I hear from the back of the bus, undaunted, a new perpetrator of the broken sound barrier— an abrasive, annoying voice, loud enough for the person on the other end to hear—without a phone. “Well I told him!” … Crashes though the mellow air.

The whole bus is barraged by a monologue performance, yada-yada-yada for all to hear; the only thing that ever stopped was the bus. Louder and louder, on and on. “It’ll take her 45 minutes to get to the airport!”

Finally, a woman across the aisle from me said, “Shut Up! We don’t want to hear your conversation.”
I glanced to see who had the balls to say something like that, caught her eye and said,” Bravo.” I was going to the symphony after all.

My seat partner looked at me and said, “This is public transportation, if you don’t like it take a taxi! That’s why it’s called public transportation.”

I looked at her, embolden by the woman across the aisle and said, “Who asked you?”

“Go take a cab. This is public transportation. That’s why they call it public transportation!”

What? Doesn’t the majority have rights? If she has the right to her loud conversation, don’t we have the right to the white noise of the city?

My seat partner, a chiseled brunette, continued, “It annoys me too, but would you tell the people in front of us to shut up if they were having a loud conversation?”

I looked at the innocent talking heads in front of us. “Well no… But does she have the right to my private thinking space? What about our rights?”

I heard myself.

The brunette had me.
I shut down, not wanting to be dragged into anymore conversation. The brunette was not ready to drop it; she had her ammunition ready and I was the target.

“I don’t want to have this conversation.” I said smug in my hindsight and started writing—wishing I had my i-pod— still hearing that scratchy, unstoppable, nightmare voice. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to live with her?
Now write that 10 times and get on with your reading.

As the brunette got up to leave I thanked her— and said I would never look at those loud conversations the same way again, thanks to her defense.

She said she’s seen it before, and sometimes it accelerates into a fight. She’d remedy it by a law— banning cell phones on the bus. She patted my shoulder, adding, “I understand, my mother feels the same way.

”Well shut me up and bring on the cell phones!

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2 thoughts on “Air Rights on the 151 Bus

  1. Well I’m glad you said something in the first place!! I’m the typical IPOD CTA rider, and you know it’s bad when you can still hear conversations over your music that’s blaring directly in your ears. Ear drum damage, likely. Peaceful ride to work? It’s worth it =)

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