Riding Public Transportation: Know Your Crazy

Hey Kids! At some point in your lives you will need to get from A to B on public transit. If you're like me (and 1 million people in my city) you use public transit to get to work and back every day. It's fun! It's also cheap, fairly safe, and a great way to save the earth But honestly, you're only taking public transit because you're broke. Cut the bullshit. If you could afford a car, insurance, and parking, your ass wouldn't be in a bus seat to save your life. No judgment! I'm broke as hell and I love taking the bus. Hennyways. If you're ever in a big city, you'll notice that there are a lot of crazy kooks that you might get to share a seat with. The bad news is, there will always be a crazy person on your bus/subway/streetcar. Always. The good news is, they're usually harmless. That homeless schizophrenic that just shuffled up to you asking what colour today is? He's okay. It's the Wall Street bond trader who snapped and went nuts and is now brandishing a knife at the driver who you should worry about. But really, that happens like, once a year, so you have nothing to worry about. So let's take a look at the crazy weirdos who you might be sharing a seat with the next time you ride the streetcar. And remember - to quote How I Met Your Mother: "If you can't spot the crazy person on the bus, it's you".

Mr. Only Talks in Swears

First off, let's stop describing someone who talks in expletives as having Tourettes. Tourettes is a super-sad disorder where people (usually kids, sadly) have facial or body tics that they can't control. Screaming DICK SHIT FUCK isn't Tourettes, so stop making that joke. Mr. OTiS will get on and show his monthly transit pass. He will always have a pass; this is a good sign, because it means someone is taking care of him and buying him the gift of mobility every month. If you see a transit pass/card, that's the sign that this person probably isn't going to fuck your shit up; they just want to get home/to a mission for din-din, but they're going to swear a blue streak the whole way there. Typically they will mumble every 4 or 5 words under their breath and then shout the 6th. Despite their extremely foul language, they will usually apologize if they bump your arm when they sit down (then they will go back to hating on whomever is a shithead-sumbitch).
Level of insanity: 3 - You might learn some new words, but if you went to Public School, you've probably already heard them all.

Staring Contest

You know when you catch someone staring at you? And then when you look at them, they get awkward and look away? Staring Contest will keep staring at you. Don't worry though, they're not staring at you: they're staring through you. I have found that the best way to have people leave you the hell alone on public transit is to become Staring Contest. Even crazies don't want a piece of someone who stares blankly at no one in particular (don't stare right into someone's eyes though, because that can cause trouble).
Level of insanity: 1 - Everyone sleeps with their eyes open every once in a while.

The Intellectual
I like to describe this person as teaching a class in advanced physics to no one. Don't laugh at them, ever, because this could be you in 60 years. They are harming no one and it's like listening to Public Radio for 20 minutes. Plus, you might get lucky and learn something. Probably not, though.
Level of insanity: 5 - This guy is crazy, but the best kind of crazy to have on your ride home.

Looks Normal, Talks Crazy
This person is the worst, and it's usually a lady. They'll get on and be all "excuse me, excuse me" and then sit down beside you and say something arbitrary like "it's so crowded in here!" and you'll agree and make small talk, and then they'll just start rambling. Now, this person isn't technically "crazy" (in the mentally ill way); they're "crazy" in the way that Tea Partiers are crazy, or Moms who won't vaccinate their kids are crazy. So they'll sit there with you and spout stupid facts that they read from someone's blog and you'll have to sit there and just nod "uh-huh" because, really, do you want to debate this person? Plus, it's always something super stupid and "who gives a shit"-y like: "Did you know that the mayor took away funding from public transit and put it all into underground tunnels for the rich? Yep, that's your tax dollars at work!"
Level of insanity: 7 - Because for all the ignoring you will do, this person will keep trying to pull you back into their crazy.

The Secret Racist
This person usually deserves a punch in the face, until you realize "fuck, I think he's batshit insane". Although I shouldn't say "he" exclusively, because I have come across several Secret Racist ladies in my time. You'll be on the bus or streetcar or whatever and they'll get bumped or jostled by someone. If the person apologizes, then they will simply mutter under their breath about rudeness and/or assholes. BUT. If the person doesn't apologize (which is kind of a dick move, but whatever - nobody rides public transit for the sophistication and class) then they will grasp at any and all racial epithets and spit hot hatred. Everyone will realize this person is a fucking asshole and totally insane, and someone will tell them to shut the fuck up. Usually this will silence them, since apparently the muttering the words "shut the fuck up" is an insanely prejudiced asshole's kryptonite.
Level of insanity: 10 - It takes a complete sociopath to utter the words "This is CANADA. Go back to YOUR COUNTRY!" because - durr - Canada is made up of immigrants. This is everyone's country.

Hey Pretty Pretty
Oh man, Hey Pretty Pretty is the worst, and it's always a guy and he directs all his crazy at a woman. He will sit across from a girl (never beside, for whatever reason) and then act like fucking Don Juan of the Streetcar. Maybe he's not crazy...just a fucking creep.
Level of insanity: 1 - This guy is just gross. If he bothers you, move seats.

Uncle Sneaky-poopy

I have seen this a few times and I'm not sure how I feel. Someone will be on the streetcar (never the bus) and will poop or pee. Here's the thing; part of me feels a bit sad, but then I think "when I get to be so crazy that I poop my pants in public, and I just don't give a crap (plenty of pun intended) will I want people to feel sorry for me?" The answer is nope! Don't feel bad for me - just give me enough room to stand and wait for my stop. PS - Uncle Sneaky-poopy is never an old, feeble senior (because if you saw a 90-year-old have an accident, I think I can unanimously say that everyone would help them). It's always a 40-year-old crackhead, and chances are they totally snuck on without paying. PPS - story time! One time I kept barfing on the bus on the way home from work and it seriously took me 3 different busses to get home because I kept getting so nauseous, and the WORST was when someone would go "are you okaaaaaaaaaay?" Lady, unless you want me to barf on your purse/coat, get out of my way and stop with the questions. The best thing anyone did was offer me their shopping bag. THANK YOU.
Level of insanity: 6 - Pretty pretty crazy. All you can do is just make sure you don't sit in the seat with the poop/pee.

Don't Talk to My Baby!
This woman essentially has a child that is screaming and everyone can hear it except for her. Oh, I should mention the difference between actual baby crying and baby cry-whining. Actual baby crying is terrible and makes everyone feel really sorry for the mother and the mom is super embarrassed and she is trying to do EVERYTHING to shut the baby up, and all she can do is frown at everyone staring at her and mouth the words "I'm sorry". Baby cry-whining is very different. It usually comes from a spoiled baby that is pissed off that it can't have any more chips or coca-cola or it wants a different toy every 3 seconds (you get the picture). No tears ever come from this child's eyes; just crying noises and flailing arms. It's really just screaming and tossing shit. And the mom will be so oblivious to her kid, it's like she's watching Dancing with the Stars in her mind. Like, she will literally not take notice of anyone's stink faces or cut-eye. NO amount of cut-eye will penetrate this woman's psyche. But the minute you say something (ANYTHING) about her kid, even something as harmless as a sing-songy "Oooh, someone sounds a bit cranky!" with a smile on your face, she will snap out of her self-induced coma to yell at you for talking to her kid. And it's always very very ghetto and kind of like a Maury Povitch soundbite.
"Oh, you think you know how to raise a kid?!? You gonna talk to my kid like you know him? What, you're Dr. Phil or something? You know how to raise my kid? You think I'm a bad fucking Mom? I take care of my kid! He ain't doing nothing wrong, bitch! Say it to my face! SAY IT TO MY FACE!" and it's like "no one said anything about your parenting skills. Take. It. Easy." Once I was on a streetcar and this woman's baby was going crazy and this little old lady goes "Oh, it's okay. Would you like a candy?" and it was something soft and harmless (like, the kid wasn't going to choke on it) and the mom snaps out of her dazed and confused nap and goes "My baby don't want your dirty ass food! Get that shit away from her! Shit, I don't know where you been!"
Level of insanity: 8 - It takes a special soul to be so clueless.

Happy O'Laughy
This person is crazy-crazy-crazy and everything is funny to them. They could be laughing at a joke in their head or something they've seen or whatever, but they're super smiley (they might have no teeth. Whatever, deal with it). If they laugh at you, you need to remember that they're not laughing at you, but at something totally arbitrary and probably invisible. Don't get all tough and Joe Pesci/Goodfellas and be all "what are you laughing at?!? You laughing at me?!" because DOYE! They don't care that you exist.
Level of insanity: 9 - This person is straight-up crazy, but they are having the time of their life, so...are they really that crazy?

Beggy Hill
Crud, this one is bad because you should feel bad that someone needs money. We've all been there; $2 short for McDonalds and your ass is starving and payday happens in 10 days and you are broke as shit. However, what you need to remember is that this person is almost certainly going to spend any money you give them on drugs/booze/both. If you really want to help Beggy Hill, give them the name of an outreach or a shelter or a mission and then volunteer your time at it and serve dinner to people who need it. It's better than throwing $1 at someone. But for real, when they shuffle up to you mumbling about "helping me out to get a coffee" don't ignore them. Just say "I'm sorry, I can't" or if you want to get rid of some change, do it quietly. There is NOTHING worse than the asshole who whips out his wallet and gives Beggy Hill a $10 and then looks around to make sure everyone saw him do it, and then sits there with a smug, shit-eating grin as if to say "Oh Brad, you are SUCH a good person."
Level of insanity: 7 - Panhandling on public transportation is never a good idea, so if someone decides to go there, you might just want to sit back and watch how uncomfortable Fashiony McHairextensions gets when Beggy Hill asks them for money.

Angry Toothless Grandma
The best way to describe Angry Toothless Grandma is to imagine Santa Claus as an old woman, replace the sack full of toys with a sack full of dirty plastic bags, and now take away her teeth. Oh, and she will get pissed if you accidentally brush against her bag of bags. She's like a nomadic hoarder.
Level of insanity: 9 - This person is absolutely out of their mind, but if they paid the standard fare to ride, they have as much right to be there as you do, so you can't say shit. Deal with it.

Come On, Let Me In, Brother
This person is definitely the worst, maybe worse than Hey Pretty Pretty. He will stand near the driver with no money and no metrocard and will try to convince the driver to let him on for free. The driver will then not move the vehicle until he pays the fare. This is the worst kind of stand-still because NO ONE WINS. The driver will not let someone on without paying (duh) and the guy will not part with any money and thinks he deserves a free ride. Come On, Let Me In, Brother is usually a guy and is usually wearing sweatpants. One time I was on a streetcar that didn't move for 10 full minutes and held up traffic. I had never wanted a driver to grow a pair so badly and just tell him to fuck off. But you know, they can't lose their cool, so I guess this guy did his job pretty well.
Level of insanity: 10 - This guy cares about no one but himself and doesn't care that he's holding up traffic. He's also probably high out of his effing mind.

Simple as that, it's someone who has tattoos all over their face. They might seem like they're not crazy, but think for a second about the kind of person who tattoos ALL OVER THEIR FACE. Exactly.
Level of insanity: 1 - How much they affect you, 10 - For their life choices

Skid who is overtly nice and jovial until you piss him off (at which point he RAGES)

I hate hate hate this guy. He gets on the streetcar/bus and looks like your average crust-punk, so you're like "oh shit, here comes dirty trouble" and then he turns out to be really polite and nice, so then you're like "fudge, I'm a dick. He's not bad". Everything will be going alright until his dog (he usually has a dog with him) starts pissing on the floor or growling at someone and someone will go "ummm, guy...your dog is....uh..." and then he will RAGE like you've never seen someone rage before. He will fly off the fucking handle. Also he will spout some Adbusters shit (which is laughable - but whatever you do, don't laugh). Typically you'll hear stuff about "society's downfall", "opiate of the masses", and "sheeple". He will leave shortly after he starts raging because a little voice inside him says "Derek, your dog just took a dump on a single Mother's shoes. You should be ashamed of yourself".
Level of insanity: 10 - Be nice or don't: there is no try.

MC Bedbugs

Never sit near MC Bedbugs. You will get bedbugs.
Level of insanity: 2 - They're not crazy per se, just inconsiderate. If you're covered in lice and bedbugs, try not to do stuff where you're most likely to give everyone else to your scratchy pals.

And one final note. There are two types of Crazy: Mentally Ill and Asshole. If you think someone is mentally ill, don't start fights with them or debate them or stare at them or whatever. The worst is when I've seen some normie try to reason with Angry Toothless Grandma ("You know, ma'am, you really shouldn't bring so many bags on here? Because it leaves little room for the rest of us? And it's just common courtesy? So, you're really being inconsiderate? And those bags are really smelly?") because someone who is mentally ill doesn't need some stuck-up smug fool telling them that they're not fitting in. Let them be and they'll let you be (they're like spiders, really). And never yell at someone who is mentally ill; it makes you look like a prick. If some crazy guy calls you a shithead, let it slide. He doesn't know you. But if someone is capable and high-functioning, then they are an asshole and you have every right to stand up for yourself. Especially if said person is being sexist, racist, mean to an old person, or just a general thorn in everyone's side. Or, ride a bike and never have to deal with this shit. Whatever. Happy trails!


Alice said...

This post was sooo good! Are you writing for The New Yorker yet? Why not - this should be their next cover piece.

Beggy Hill! Ha. Comparing crazy people to spiders! Double Ha (or ha-ha). Uncle sneaky-poo (who hasn't had a few of these on the bus?)

I'll have to put in my own story - I have so many, but I'll go with the best (warning, also the grossest)...

I rode public transit in Winnipeg for years (the epicentre of crazy people on the bus) because I didn't actually want to drive, not because I couldn't afford it.

One day I'm on the bus and this normalish (though really ugly) guy gets on and sits next to me, he then proceeds to start picking his nose and wiping on the back of the seat in front of us - not just once, like the whole 25 minute trip. At first I don't say anything because I honestly thought he was mentally slow and I didn't want to be mean. Then towards the end of our journey, buddy whips out a cellphone and starts having a normal conversation with someone, then gets off the bus. I was so pissed - the next week I went out and bought a car. Dunzo with the community of bus freaks, thankyouverymuch.

Renee said...

If you laminate this, I'll bet Metro would gladly post this next to their bus schedules. It'd be a nice change from the advertisements for cock calls and University of Ottawa.

The Mayor said...

Alice - I can only imagine the bus stories you have from Winnipeg. So many times I'll see something in Toronto and go "I wonder what the Winnipeg version of this is....". Loved your story. I enjoy when people treat the bus/streetcar as if its their bathroom. I have seen people pop zits, pick their face, pluck their eyebrows and (my personal hell) seen them clip their nails. This one is super common in Toronto. That snap-snap-snap sound will play in my head forever. But the boogers is just awful. Once I was on the streetcar and this guy kept sniffling - you know when you have a nose FULL of shit and you sniff in really deeply to try to keep it from running out of your nose? We've all been there, whatever. Anyways, so this guy has grossed everyone out with his disgusting snorting for 10 minutes and I (really nicely) offer him a kleenex. I was all "hi - do you want one?" in a bashful-nice way, and he proceeds to give me this look as if I whipped off my dirty underwear and asked him if he wanted to use them to blow his nose. Then he scoffs "uh...NO!" What?!?! Dude, you sound like you have a year's worth of mucous above your mouth. To quote Steve Martin: Excuse me.

Renee - I know you live in Arizona, so it baffles me that anyone would want to leave the warmth and the desert and rattlesnakes and live in Ottawa for 4 years. OTTAWA IS NOT GOOD. It's cold and lonely and, okay, sort of cute in the summer and they have an amazing children's museum, but I would not ever leave Arizona for Ottawa.

Alice said...

Ottawa cold?! Ha! I moved from Ottawa to Winnipeg when I was 15 (not by choice) and the year I moved here it got to -61 CELCIUS with the wind chill!

I don't want to accuse the rest of Canada with being a bunch of winter whiners - but if the Sorel boot fits.

The Mayor said...

No no, you win. That sound like Hoth.

Jess said...

This applies equally to public libraries.

Traci said...

My Dear Mayor,

Long time subscriber, first time commenter. Although I have never met or corresponded with you, I feel sometimes as if we are BFFs or separated twins or connected by some weird time-space continuum. Even when I don't have interest or knowledge of your chosen topic (i.e. most TV shows), I always find your writing wonderfully hilarious..

I promise I am not a stalker, just an avid fan…and not in the sick psycho movie kind of way...

Ehem. OK. Now to the main topic. I absolutely LOVED this post! Even though I have very little public transportation experience due to an extremely dismal system in my otherwise beloved hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana, I SO recognize these people. As another commenter said, it certainly rings true of public libraries. I have also encountered these individuals while volunteering for homeless shelters, at my church, and (very unfortunately) in kids in the township schools were I substitute teach. I love how you are so clever and witty yet so kind and understanding of the elderly and those dealing with mental illness.

You really have an incredible way with words - I hope you are able to use your gift in every way that you desire (e.g. as a career making $$$$$ from it). You are great!

…Gush gush gush...Really, I’m not a stalker…Or this creepy in real life…

- Traci

The Mayor said...


So long as you don't go all Eminem's "Stan" on me, we can be iBFFs (internet bffs, doye). Also I would find your comment a bit creepy if you had not put that you're from Indiana, and everyone knows my favourite TV show is set in Indiana (Parks and Recreation).

I guess what I'm getting at is, is there really a Pawnee?

Josh said...

According to AltaVista, there is a Pawnee.

MK said...

To say that I can kind of relate to this post would be the grossest understatement yet. Kind of like saying that World War 2 kind of sucked. But I digress..

I want to add one more character to the cast because I encounter it more times than not and I fear that they're going to ultimately take over the TTC just like their British Columbian counterparts have started doing in Vancouver (so says my sister)

I'm talking about the welfare/and/or ODSP receiving, sweat pant wearing, Tim's cup clutching would-be revolutionaries. Easy to spot because they travel as a couple, one gravelly voiced woman with a late 80s hair cut and her boyfriend in his Dallas Cowboys windbreaker. They talk loud and proud about their latest shoplifting success (FIVE sets of headphones from Canadian Tire...what?) and how they're going to schedule their day around free lunches at shelters and missions (they have homes). They talk about the goddamned conspirational doctors who administer their weekly drug tests, the employees who dole out their welfare cheques and how they can fuck the system just a little more. And then the best part... when they cackle because they're so clever and oh boy, look at all these idiots on their way to school or jobs, HA! So fucking under the Man's thumb.

They also sometimes like to talk about the inefficient nature of the TTC and about the exorbitant rates that they charge (even though our favourite couple likes to board through the back doors at Spadina)as well as other social injustices perceived by them to be a result of some government force out to screw them and them alone.

Also, they hate the police.

The Mayor said...

MK - You win. That is the one archetype I totally forgot about.