“But we have poisoned everything
and oblivious to it all
the cell phone zombies babble
through the shopping mall.”
Some time ago I got into a fight with a cell phone zombie on the bus. Almost got my ass kicked. “Ooh,” I told her when she threatened to slap me silly, “I’m shivering.” Truth be told, I really was shivering, remembering the day back in 1959 when ‘Fat Fran’ brutally punched me in the face for sassing her in a similar manner at the lake where my friends and I went swimming in the summer.
I started it this time too. Zombie was doing the performance thing on her cell phone, planning a trip to the East Coast. There I was, trying to read a gripping memoir by a Liberian woman, stumbling through the same sentence over and over, retaining details of Zombie’s itinerary rather than those of the military coup from which the writer had fled. I sizzled, getting more and more annoyed, until I burst.
“Can you talk a little louder?” I shouted across the aisle. “I’m missing some of your plans, and I really want to hear them.”
She cut her eyes at me. “What’s your problem lady?”
“I’m not catching all your plans. Can you talk a little louder?”
“Hey, that’s what you have to put up with when you ride the bus!”
“Hm,” I mused, “Maybe I should light a cigarette.”
“Humph!” snorted Zombie, her tongue dripping venom. “White liberals!”
Nothing makes me as mad as being stereotyped, so I came back with, “Don’t insult me, lady. I’m a conservative!” Her eyes flickered down to the bright yellow Grandmas Against the War button on my shirt. Busted! Like a belligerent child I added, “And who said I’m white?”
Zombie was incredulous. “What do you think you look like?”
I guess she was Hispanic; she wasn’t Asian or African-American. I wasn’t thinking about her ethnic classification, though, but her cell phone habits—to which she returned, at the same volume as before.
I ride the bus mainly because I can no longer afford to drive a car, but I also ride it because I believe in public transportation. Half the time I even prefer it. I come from New York, a city in which everyone rides the bus. Here in Oakland, though, I’m frequently the only white person on it.
When Zombie hung up the phone, she turned to me again. “You wouldn’t talk to a man that way,” she said. “You’d be too scared. Well, bitch, you should be just as scared of me. I’m gonna slap your face when we get off this bus.”
“Ooh, I’m shivering.”
A few stops later she got off. I couldn’t help myself—as the bus rolled away I looked out the window and gave her the finger.
“Bitch!” she shouted.
I made it home safely. This time.