“Oh fuck, I am SO SICK” I heard the guy on the back of the bus yell before I listened to the distinct sound of him clearing the phlegm out of his throat and spitting it on the ground.
I instantly regretted that I’d chosen to read on my commute to work instead of putting my ear buds in and listening to music that morning to drown out the bus noises.
I definitely am pro public transit, particularly in a large city that has lots of options for commuters. But for anyone who is a germaphobe like I am, it also tends to be a bit of a nightmare.
Most mornings I am hyper aware of the fact that I’m in an enclosed metal rectangle with no air circulating for 30 minutes while people cough, sneeze, and breathe their germs all over the place.
It’s a rare week in my life when I do not hear someone on board who is talking to an invisible companion, most of the time it escalates to an argument and yelling ensues.
But it’s really just part of living in a major city that I’ve grown accustomed to and can, for the most part, block out.
Until that man announced how sick he was and spit on the floor. This wasn’t a bus for barbarian behavior.
I turned around and glared at him, and thought about saying something until I realized I wanted zero contact with that level of contamination.
I shuddered, feeling sorry for whoever would unknowingly wander up to that seat after he left and sit down having no idea what preceded him.
Most days, I wondered the same thing about the fate of whatever seat I chose. Who had gotten their germs all up in that spot before I sat down?
Now I try to block it out and stay mentally occupied for the entire ride so that I don’t spend too much time focusing on the germ ridden vehicle I take minimally twice a day.
Instead of confronting the man about his disgusting behavior, I quickly got off the bus and tried in inhale the clean air like maybe that made any kind of difference in the chances of me contracting some kind of disease.
I went to meet up with some friends downtown later that week, and on my return home, I looked down and the entire bottom of the bus was wet. And it wasn’t raining.
I tried not to step in the mysterious wetness, but it was unavoidable.
My mind instantly jumped to the worst case scenario: someone pissed all over the bus floor and now I was standing in it. There was a musty smell in the air.
I looked around, calming myself down by thinking that the sheer quantity made it unlikely that the culprit was pee. It would be physically impossible for one body to hold that much liquid.
I successfully convinced myself the mysterious liquid wasn’t pee, but my mind was racing with other options for the rest of the ride home: Water? Soda? Pee? Those were literally the only three options I could think of.
I convinced myself someone dropped a gallon of water on the ground and that I’d live through the next five minutes of my life.
That tends to be how it goes.
Most days are relatively normal by big city standards and it is relatively uneventful.
So after a week full of two weird bus rides, I was now on high alert when boarding buses. Was there going to be shit on my seat? Was the floor sticky?
I had a relatively normal ride when it came to getting to Pioneer Square on Friday to meet up with some friends, and got off with a sigh of relief as I walked through the historic section of Seattle.
I took in the crisp air, thinking how I don’t get to this area enough, but it’s right up my alley because its got a ton of character.
As I was walking, taking in the Christmas lights, I suddenly slipped and almost fell on my face.
I caught my breath, adrenaline pumping, glad I didn’t face plant and have a bloody nose or lose any teeth. Then my instinct was to turn around and see what I slipped on.
“Oh Jesus, please don’t be vomit, please don’t be shit,” I thought to myself as I swung around to address the culprit.
I knew I would throw up if I saw that I had just stepped in vomit. And I had places to be, so there was no time for that.
I looked down and saw the remnants of a loogie. I hoped to God it wasn’t the sick man on the bus that seemed to find it appropriate to spit wherever he felt the need.
I have to admit, I was kind of relieved when thinking of what the alternatives could have been. When the bar is set at vomit, stepping in spit and phlegm seems a to be a better fate, while still completely disgusting.
I headed off in the darkness lit by up lights, dragging my contaminated foot beside me, trying to scrape the bottom layer of my shoe off in the streets of the city before I arrived at my destination.