Texas girl in the middle of Kiwiana

Amy Boatman

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Who Was Here Before?

ne of the things I love about learning history is finding out what people were doing in this spot 100 years, 500 years, 1000 years ago. It fascinates me to learn about these people, long dead now, who walked the very streets I’m walking now. Or maybe they weren’t streets but goat paths back then. Or maybe it was just a vast virgin forest that had never seen humans before. I think it’s cool to think about these things when I’m trecking along.

Today, though, a more immediate “who was here before me” thought came into my head. I was taking the bus downtown to see a movie when, at one stop, a very old man got on the bus. He used a cane and shuffled along like that Tim Conway character from the old Carol Burnett skits. There was a big wet spot on the front of his trousers that traced a path down his leg. I felt really bad for the old guy. Ya know, there’s something about old men that just seems helpless to me. Old men, if left alone, won’t bathe or change clothes or clean up a single thing. They don’t clean their teeth. They don’t eat well. They seem to have this sort of animal existence. You can usually tell if an old man has an old woman who looks after him. If he does, he’s better groomed, wearing clean clothes, and doesn’t usually smell as bad. Old men that don’t have women look much like this old man. His clothes, aside from the pee stain, were pretty grimy, his hair was dirty, and he had a scruffy several day growth of beard. And he stunk. Like only an old man can stink. Now, I know old women stink too. But old men have a smell that is something else entirely. I knew there was a grimy old man getting on the bus before I even looked up and saw him. Oddly enough, old men were my favorite patients back in the day. I just loved old men and they loved me for some reason. Go figure.

Anyway, this old man sat in the seat in front of me on the bus. My nose is pretty stopped up because I’ve been sick this week so his smell didn’t really bother that much. Plus he got off the bus just a few stops later. When he got up, I noticed the back of his pants had a wet stain as well. The next stop after the old man got off, this young woman gets on. She looked as if she was going to go on past me but at the last minute she swerved and sat in the same spot that old man had just deserted. It was too late at that point to say anything to her. Best she just go on oblivious to the fact that a man who had obviously wet his pants had just been sitting there. Sometimes we are better off not knowing.

This got me to thinking about the people who had sat in my bus seat before I did. Who were they? Where were they going? Had they wet their pants too. Ewwww, best not think on that one. I see some of the people on the bus and often wonder just what exactly I’m sitting in. If I were just slightly more neurotic, I would bring saniwipes with me on the bus. “Did someone who wet their pants sit in this seat before me” was not something I had to wonder when I had my own car. When you ride the bus, you are much closer to humanity than you could ever possibly be.

When I had an earlier shift at work, there was a guy who rode my bus that stunk to high heaven. He smelled like wet dirty dog and cat piss all mixed up together. He was this older guy with a ponytail. Looked kind of like a refugee from the 60s. I see him walking around the neighborhood sometimes walking his dog. He has this big black lab with no hair on its back half. I don’t know if it has mange or what but the dog is bald from mid chest down. Poor thing. If the guy smells that bad though I can only imagine what his house must smell like.

Later on, at the movie theater, I could have sworn there was blood spatter on the bathroom ceiling. Surely not, I hope, but that’s what it looked like. Too many Dexter episodes I think. Although it reminded me of my most embarrassing moment ever that was, luckily, not witnessed by anyone. I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say it was an airplane bathroom and I managed to get blood all over the place. And I do mean all over the place. If CSI went in there with their little squirt bottle and funky glasses, the whole place would have glowed. But I managed to clean it up and no one was the wiser. I think if we all knew what went on in the places we frequent, we’d probably never leave our houses.