Friday, March 07, 2003

There are a lot of perks to life in the big city: good public transportation, interesting museums, important political events. But I think my favorite part of urban life has got to be the crazies. And I'm not talking about the Austin kind of crazies; the "I dropped too much acid in the sixties and now I have an ecosystem in my hair and I mutter to myself a lot" kind of crazies. I'm talking about the "my psyche is atrociously damaged with gruesome, crippling psychoses and I am seriously frightening the other Metrobus patrons" kind of crazy. I am fascinated by these people somehow existing on the farthest fringes of reality and civilization. There's Wilma who lives in front of the FBI building and refuses to move for hell or high water. After the first snowstorm of the year, there she was under six inches of snow in the little tent she creates out of blankets and a bench. When she's feeling perky, Wilma emerges from her blanket cocoon and stares straight ahead. I don't think she's into people watching, because she's invariably wearing one of those elastic sleep masks they give you on airplanes. Another charming trait of Wilma's is screaming profanities when people walk too close. I guess she just senses them.

Then there are the talkers. They sit on the bus and carry on a deafening monologue that would make any filibustering democrat sit back in awe. Often, these performances are punctuated by short barks or grunts or other unidentifiable, quasi-human sounds. My officemate had a talker next to her on the subway one time. Except this guy was having a conversation with an imaginary other about whether or not he should take out his knife and smite Whitey for keeping him down. She reports that the conversation went something like this
"You got the knife, take it out, man, take it out."
"Aw, you think I should? I don't know, man, I don't know."
"Yeah, yeah, get the knife."

Who are these people? Where do they come from? How did they get here? What in God's name are they carrying in those bursting garbage bags they bring on to the bus?

My officemate (who was undeterred by the murderous talker) tried to bring a hamburger and hot wings to Wilma. Wilma barked, but accepted. But now my officemate is wracked by guilt. "I've had their hot wings" she confides to me. Then lowering her voice and looking at me meaningfully, "she's going to need to do a number 2." Where, for the love of God, do these people have to go to do a number 2?
(You know how all these restaurants and bars are all having trendy "number" names nowadays? Wouldn't "Number 2" be the absolute WORST restaurant name imaginable?)

Speaking of Number 2, here's a site with some neat-o pictures. This guy is a photographer in Austin. He's got a nice series of toilet pictures that I was impressed with.


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