Commuting with Superheroes
Every weekday, I walk into a den of superheroes and a lair of supervillains.The regulars on the bus I take to my downtown Seattle office have become more than just a sea of semi-familiar faces; they are the costumed crusaders that keep the city safe. Not in a grandiose, Batmannish sort of way, but in their own, quiet ways. I’m sure that everybody has a few of these -– people who seem to be just that little bit more … interesting, somehow. More distinguished. People who seem to have just a little bit more going on than the average citizen.
It’s pretty easy to pick out the daily villains. There seem to be some pretty standard archetypes — The Bottlenecker, The Loud Gum Chewer, Too Much Cologne Man, and everybody’s favorite, Lil’ Miss Nickelback, the 16-year old terror with her Hot Topic body armor and her iPod set to stun. But the heroes are just as vital to recognize, for they keep these dark forces in check. Here are a few of the crusaders I ride with daily:
Alpha Nerd. Dresses all in black, and slings a laptop bag in one arm while nestling a netbook in the other. He generally sits cross-legged. At first blush, it seems as though this is a ploy to keep the seat all to himself, but it’s really for maximum commuter computing ease. Sometimes, when I steal a peek over his shoulder, I can see that he has a veritable Tetris stack of spreadsheets open and running, but peeking out from behind them is a D&D Online web page. Alpha Nerd fights the orcs so we don’t have to.
Karen By Night. Four days out of the week, Karen seems to be a pretty typical office gal, all business casual and sensible shoes. But come casual Friday, all the cubicle frumpery is ditched in favor of tight black Levis, Converse Hi-Tops and vintage cotton pajama tops — the timeless uniform of the Classic Vintage Thrift-Store Maven. She can wield ’60s faux pearls and ‘70s Vivaldi pumps with neither fear nor remorse.
Walks-in-the-Clouds. This gentleman is impeccably dressed, always polite, and has perfect poise and posture. He is also always reading books about angels and how they walk among us. I not-so-secretly believe that he is indeed one of said angels (or is at least in their employ), and is here doing fact-checking and making sure he (or they) is portrayed well in popular fiction.
Pretty in Pink. She dresses in monochrome: Like a grey fog bank in winter and in glorious pastel pinks in the spring and summer. Like Karen By Night, Pretty’s superpower comes from her flawless fashion sense; just being in close proximity with her makes you feel a little bit more put-together. Sometimes it’s all you need.
Rockabilly Rebel. His name is probably Karl, and he probably works at Tully’s, but for a few brief and shining moments every morning, he’s the heppest cat in the whole bus shelter. When the morning sun hits him just right, you can see the glint of his pomade and you can almost hear the invisible bassline that follows him around. Ka-dunga-dunga-dunga-dunga.
Small Craft Advisory. I swear this gal has been knitting the same sweater or scarf or whatever it is for at least seven years. And we’ve only been riding the bus together for four. Nonetheless… Small Craft’s super power is kinetic energy. If you are having a sleepy sort of morning, just sitting near her will be enough to give you the fits and spurts of energy you need to get you through your commute. Conversely, if you need just a few more minutes of sleep, the rhythmic clickety-clack of her needles will soothe you right into slumber.
I have no idea what their real stories are, but I hope they are at least as interesting as the ones I have made up. Perhaps one day I’ll get up the gumption to strike up a conversation and find out. But until then, I’m quite happy to believe that these people will be there, quietly saving the day and keeping my commute safe from drudgery.
And I have to wonder: am I a character in anyone’s work-a-day narrative? Am I maybe Cranky Hoodie Girl or She Who Wears Blue Shoes? And am I a hero or villain? I’ll probably never know.