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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Microcosm

Trent and I needed to go into Downtown Denver last evening, and even though I looked like someone who might soon be changing her name to Quasimodo (more about that some other time), I stuck with my commitment. We knew that the Colorado Rockies were having a home game, making parking and traffic in the area a potentially frustrating experience, so we decided to ride the bus. The ride downtown was almost boring. There were perhaps a dozen riders, all quietly absorbed in their plans for the evening. We made it to where we were going, and went about our business. 

When it was time to go home, we had the choice of two different locations at which to catch our bus home. We decided to go to a different station than the one at which we had arrived, and walked briskly to catch the bus which would be leaving at 10:27. We knew that if we missed it, the next, and last, bus was an hour later. Naturally, when we got to the station, there was a sign on the door saying that the station was closed and we would need to catch our bus at Union Station. Since it was almost 10:25, we knew that we'd be missing our bus. This didn't really bother us, though. We waited for a shuttle to take us to beautiful Union Station.

Union Station is what it sounds like - a train station. This lovely station opened in 1881, and has been a hub of train travel ever since. It still serves that function, but has had some ultra-modern additions. It is now a major hub for public transportation. In addition to being a major stop for the light rail system, it also houses an underground bus station that looks like a bit like an airport concourse. These pictures (which I found on Google) show the front of the old building, the light rail area, and the bus station.






We enjoyed our time waiting in the station for our bus to arrive. Instead of the station being deserted because it was so late at night, there was a whole lot of people-watching to be had. Numerous people who would not normally have been at the station so late were there to ride the bus home after the Rockies game. We saw a young woman who had gotten upset with her companions and ran dramatically through the station to sit on a bench. We heard some of her companions behind us asking if someone shouldn't go and check on her. They were answered that she would come back when her moment of drama was spent. Sure enough, within about a minute and a half she got up and walked calmly back to her group of friends. 

There were groups of people who were enjoying their post-sports high. We saw a pair of boys, who may have been about ten years old, carrying baseball gloves and racing each other from one spot to another in the station. There were older couples walking slowly, hand in hand, savoring the time until their bus departure. I learned that if a really tall young woman has cut off her jeans way too short, tugging them down doesn't make the situation any better, it just makes it more obvious. For several minutes it seemed like every young woman who walked by had had a slip of the scissors. Let's just say we saw a lot of "smiles" walking away from us, accompanied with the surreptitious tushie tugs in an attempt to cover things up. Several fashionably drooping sweaters helped their owners with their coverups.

When the bus pulled up fifteen minutes before departure time, we knew that if we boarded the bus we would be waiting on softer seats than the metal benches in the station. So we bid the people-watching goodbye. Or so we thought. The people on the bus ended up being a microcosm of many parts of the Metro area. There were some people on their way home from work, like the adorable young woman who sat across the aisle from us, wearing the fishnet tights and "Stay Sexy" shirt she had worked in that evening. There was the couple who had been at the game and were being cute and cuddly, but totally wholesome and relaxed. 

A lot of the riders had their cellphones in front of their faces. It occurred to me that nowadays cellphones can also do what books and magazines and newspapers used to do years ago. They act as a wall, engaging the user and shutting out the advances of any potential interlopers. The back of the bus was full of young men who were loudly discussing various teams, and insulting or commending one another based on which college they had attended. We heard stories of who had majored in what, and how many times they'd had to take the required science courses before passing them. They were afflicted with what I jokingly refer to as alcohol-related deafness. It seems that the more people drink, the harder it is for them to hear. Why else would they be so loud?

Let me interject something here - when I was younger, I thought baseball was pretty boring. I had only seen it on tv, and commented many times that I had far better things to do with a couple of hours of my time than watch a bunch of men spit tobacco juice and scratch their whatevers. And then I went to a game and was entranced. The field was so beautiful, and the sound when the bat cracked against a ball which then went flying by your eyes, on the third level, no less! It was magical. I have said ever since then that the best dog and a beer are the ones you have while watching a baseball game. Something about the sunshine and fresh air just makes them taste better. I leaned over and whispered to Trent, "These guys had too many beers and not enough dogs!" He chuckled and agreed.

I noticed that the young woman sitting in front of us was quickly texting. I wasn't trying to invade her privacy. So much of what people do is so public these days, and right on the large screens of their smartphones. As she held the phone right in front of me, I quickly figured out that she was trying to call her significant other, Jose. How did I figure that one out? Because when she pulled up the screen to dial him, these words (or something very like them) were on the screen, "In a sea of people, my eyes search for you." Being cursed as I am, with both romantic and realistic tendencies, I had two thoughts almost simultaneously. One, that the quote was so sweet and romantic, and two, that the guy was probably a complete jerk.

Sometimes I hate it when I'm right. She tried to dial a few times but apparently the call didn't go through. No surprise, right? We were in a bus parked in an underground station, surrounded by concrete and steel. As soon as the bus departed, she tried to call Jose again. And my suspicions were confirmed. "Well, because I was in the station and I couldn't get a good enough signal for the call to go through. I called as soon as the bus started to leave the station. Well, I texted because the texts were going through when I couldn't get a strong signal. Okay, I'll resend the last test. Oh, I should have called you so that you could drive down here to Union Station, and by the time you got here the bus would already be leaving?" I am pretty sure that either the possibly suspicious jerk or the harried and resentful woman hung up, because the call ended pretty abruptly and the phone was put away. 

I spent the rest of the brief ride listening to the sounds of the happy guys in the back of the bus interspersed with quieter conversations and snippets of brief phone calls. Even though the bus was semi-dark, several faces were glowing in the lights of cellphones while others were calm and relaxed and lightly sleeping. I was full of wonder that this random group of people represented so much of the larger society of which we were all a part. In an odd way, it was magical, this microcosm of modern life. I drank it in and savored it like cool water on a hot day, and wished I was an artist capable of depicting this rich, brief bounty. I knew that all I had were words, and hoped that they wouldn't fail me, or I them. If I managed to convey even the smallest portion of what I saw and felt, I guess that will suffice.