File this one under Ick

My list of bus-riding grievances might just warrant its own blog.

I spend my bus rides almost exclusively reading old-school science fiction, and occasionally checking e-mails and Facebook on my iPad. I keep to myself, so as not to bother or be bothered by other people. Seeing as my home time is mainly taken up by my daughters, my husband, household chores, meals and laundry, I enjoy these few minutes in my little literary bubble.

Yesterday, on my way to work, I was reading Nineteen Eighty-Four (Yes, for the first time. Yes, I’m serious. Those of you wishing to taunt me on the subject can use the Comments section), when I noticed a small, repetitive scraping sound. Its source was the girl sitting directly to my right, filing her nails. Right there. On the bus.

The girl wasn’t just fixing a chipped nail; she went on for over 10 minutes. This girl, who seemed perfectly normal at first glance, simply had no basic concept of acceptable behaviour. I suppose I should be grateful she didn’t start picking and flicking random bits of her breakfast from her teeth.

But it’s difficult feeling grateful when you’re staring at a small pile of finely ground nail bits accumulating at the top of her backpack. I tried focusing on my book, but the relentless scraping sound of her file was too distracting. I kept looking at her, thinking at some point she’d remember she wasn’t in her bathroom. Eventually, she looked right at me, realized I was in fact staring at her, and finally stopped filing, dusting off the top of her backpack with her hand.

As I sat there watching the fingernail dust falling to the floor, I pondered: how do I always end up with such fine specimens of humanity on the public transit sweepstakes? Between the Nail Filer, the guy who repeatedly passed gas next to me, and the man who yelled at the girl on the cell phone, I’m feeling nostalgic about traffic and outrageously unjustified downtown parking fees.


When Good Hair Goes Bad

We count on our colleagues. They collaborate on projects and provide corporate knowledge. And they can warn you of any visible, potentially embarrassing situations.

Say, hypothetically, one morning you actually take time to blow-dry and style your hair, confidently leaving home with soft, shiny Pantene Pro-V commercial-worthy hair. It’s humid outside, and you embark on a 35-minute bus ride to work.

You consult with people, attend meetings, talk to a colleague, and go about your business. Later that morning, you head to the washroom. As you finish washing your hands, you look into the mirror to see a hairy beast staring back at you, and you stifle a scream. The morning’s humidity has morphed you into Debra Messing on a bad hair day. In the 80’s. Hypothetically.

You wonder: “Who’s seen me like this?” You remember Douglas Adams’ words of wisdom: Don’t Panic. As your brain conjures up a soundtrack of fast-paced action music, you look around for possible solutions. Hair products – none. Blow dryer – none. Paper bag – none. Your only defense are your two hands and a running faucet. So much for a MacGuyver solution.

So you repeatedly run your fingers through your hair, trying your best to tame the beast. Once you’ve gotten the volume down to a quasi-human level, you exit the bathroom as though nothing happened, thankful that no one entered the washroom.

On the way back to your office, you stop by your colleague’s office and calmly tell them that if they ever see you looking like a Wookie again, it’s OK to let you know. In fact, you encourage it and would offer a monetary reward.

Lesson learned: never underestimate the usefulness of carrying elastics, barrettes, pins, scarves, tuques and other hair-saving devices.