Bus shorts: Mean streets




A METRORail car pulls away from the downtown Houston rail stop. 

Riders sit in blue plastic seats two by two, facing each other—half looking at the front of the car, half looking at the back of the car. 

Riders are young, old, Hispanic, African American, White, some business casual, a few legal suits, a few students, but mostly middle age to older men without means.

CAL, a tall, white, man, 30s, with a bad haircut and missing teeth, wears good shoes, jeans, and a large, glittering cross over a white undershirt, sits down across from me and shoves a large, overflowing duffle bag under my seat. While he talks, he gestures with a handful of documents.


 (Speaks in a disjointed, rambling, unstable speech pattern and never makes eye contact)

Hi, I’m Cal. Mind if I put my stuff there, why were ya downtown, need to get my ID at the Vets office, can’t get my social security check without an ID, can’t pay room rent without my social security, don’t need it I’m from money, it’s all rigged, downtown Houston is dangerous, worse than Compton, got beat up twice, arrested once, told ’em I’m the one got beat up, swole up my eye, that why I couldn’t ID him, nobody’s keeping track, it’s all right tho’, I believe in Jesus  

Half a dozen shouts come from the back of the train. The riders facing the front turn around to look. The shouts continue and get deeper, raspier


 It’s a seizure! Dude’s having a seizure!

Agitated FAT MAN wearing a T-shirt with a red X on it runs forward from a car in the back. He pushes the “Emergency” button near the closed exit doors and continues to run forward. He stops at the front and pounds on the railcar driver’s locked compartment door.


Stop! Stop! Man’s having a seizure!

WOMAN BESIDE ME, late 20s, wearing blue scrubs, earbuds in place, looking at her phone, comments to me during the drama.


(Leans in and whispers)

He’s probably drunk or high on something.

Driver doesn’t respond, railcar continues to move southbound, FAT MAN pushes “Emergency” button again and continues to pound on driver’s door. Railcar continues southbound. 

At the third stop, another PASSENGER yells out the opening doors to a “Ticket Checker” standing on the platform.


Help! Man’s having a seizure!


I tell you, it’s a new one every day.

Two “Ticket Checkers” and a policeman enter the car, drag the sprawled man out the railcar doors, and onto an outside bench. They ask for his ticket or some identification. He doesn’t respond. 

Everyone watches what’s happening out the window. Riders impatient with the delay, mutter come on, come on. I check my phone again for the time. 


Bet they cite him for riding without a ticket.  


He should’a been wearing a suit they would’a laid him out, told me not to bother, keep your guard up when you’re downtown, if I just keep movin’, should’a spoke up. Lets go lets go, gotta get my check. 

Railcar slowly picks up speed and moves southbound. Riders facing backwards watch the scene fade away. 

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1 Response to Bus shorts: Mean streets

  1. Barbara says:

    Welcome to down town Houstan. Boy. Sounds like my waiting room. Love you. Stay safe

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