"Karma Hell Bus Rides"

"Karma Hell Bus Rides"
The late Chicago musician Wesley Willis. Also the patron saint of hellish bus rides.

The following is part of a series called Short Short Sports Stories which are real life stories and funny stuff under 1000 words.

Years ago I was on the way to an intramural soccer game. I try to avoid the bus when I can, but on this early evening in Chicago I didn’t have the car and the sports complex hosting my game was west of the el train, so city bus it was.

Besides the usual crowd of people minding their own business on the way home from work, there was a man in a wheel chair who was restless, unruly and downright obnoxious. He was doing a play-by-play of the entire ride, sometimes telling the driver what to do. He also warned everyone of the perils of the road.

As the CTA bus sped up from 10 miles per hour to a blistering 20 the guy pipes in.

“You almost hit that curb and if you did that guy woulda flown through that windshield and ohhh that woulda been MESSED UP! Sheeeeit…”

Sure, he was exaggerating. At 20 miles per hour nobody flies anywhere. But at least this back seat busdriver was enjoying himself.

A few people got on and off, and this is typical of city bus life, where people coexist and collide while ignoring the person next to them.  This guy was really hard not to notice though.

I was playing goalkeeper that night for an indoor game, so I used my bus time to tape up my hands. This drew strange glances since I don’t exactly look like a boxer. But after a glimpse, gawkers were distracted by the live entertainment at the front of the bus.

“You almost hit that dude crossing the street and damn, he woulda got CRUSHED! That woulda been MESSED UP! DAMN!” Still, nobody was amused or even fazed but me. Maybe they were afraid to join the cast of this melodrama.

This guy in the wheel chair didn’t seem to be certifiably crazy, but did, based on his scruffy appearance, looked to be chronically homeless or maybe just one of the city’s more eccentric outcasts. And he wasn’t really bothering anybody individually, just all of us mildly as a collective cast on a sitcom through Hell. But it wasn’t until kids got on the bus that his shtick heightened its colorful language.

The bus got rolling again, then made an abrupt stop to comply with traffic signals. Some bike messenger zipped by us, as they’re known to do, and then shot between the lanes ahead.

“If that guy was there a second ago, he woulda got FUCKED UP! On his bike too! BAM!" he said.

“Shut up and watch your language!” the bus driver asserted, “Or get off the bus!” he said now fed up with the unnecessary antics from this guy.


Willis' depiction and jam about being accosted on a city bus.

Subsequently, the strange play-by-play commentator took a commercial break and refocused his attention to the boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, who was sitting nearby with his very old grandmother.

“Do you have a dream, Son? If you do, you gotta follow that dream, Son. Know what I’m sayin’?” he said as the boy feigned disinterest from the awkwardness in the air. Though the play-by-play had stopped for now, this peculiar moment seemed like a staged, uncanny transmission of a sports event with a nightmare broadcaster.

I wondered if the man actually thought this kid would have any interest in babbling. Maybe he could have said it differently. 

Something like, “Follow your dreams son. Or you could end up crazy some day, shouting on a bus like me.”

Luckily for me my stop came up. But then two Transit Detail police officers stepped on to escort the commentator off, indicating this hell ride had gone on long enough.

When I got to the field house for my game, I noticed I didn’t have my shin pads which are required if you actually want to play. Not a big deal, though. I just exercised the age-old soccer trick of applying semi shin pads made out of a few inches of paper towels from the bathroom and extra tape. But after that, I felt like the loud passenger’s disaster karma followed me from the bus and onto the pitch.

"Welcome to the CTA, home of your play-by-play hell ride."

During warm ups, I fielded a few shots but then took a shot to the groin from Hank, my own team mate who hit me square in the balls with clinical execution. I got up of the floor feeling dizzy though my head had nothing to do with the collision. And for a moment, I have to admit, I felt totally “messed up”, like my groin itself got hit by that bus.

Luckily the game went much better, as we held our own against a tough opponant. I recovered just fine but thought that it was not my day to leave the house.

But at the conclusion of the match, I was wary of more bus hell karma. As you could guess, I decided on the way home I was definitely getting a ride.


Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and tweets throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex. Rock over London, Rock on Chicago. .

 CTA bus art depiction by the late schizophrenic rapper/artist Wesley Willis.

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