Wednesday, January 6, 2016


I have a friend that I have not yet met. Her name is Janet and we sit next to each other on the bus most every day.
I don't know if Janet is really her name. Maybe it's Rebecca or Tish or Autumn, even. Still, I think of her as Janet, even though I know a Janet in real life which makes it even more realistic, how sometimes you have friends with the same name. 

I have never spoken to Janet, but almost every day she gets on at the stop right after mine, and almost every day she sits next to me. This has been going on for a few years now. Even when there are other empty seats, she sits next to me. I don't so much mind. She has narrow shoulders and sits small. I hate it when a large man sits next to me, his upper arm warm and knowing against mine.

Janet is smart, I think. A little older than I am. Her hair is black with smatterings of gray, like how a kid might have a smattering of freckles, only it's not cute, not really. For some reason I don't think Janet realizes just how gray she's getting. She works in the financial sector, frustrated sometimes that she did not do anything more with her painting. She used to love to draw.

I admire much about my friend Janet, most of which is how she has a way of saying nothing eloquently. In the morning she holds her phone in her lap as shiny as a beetle. I am good at keeping my head straight while darting my eyes to her screen. Once I saw her write something to someone on Facebook in Tagalog (I think). (Janet is part Filipino.) (I think.) When she is not on Facebook she is on Shopbop, scrolling through pages of sleeveless shifts of pink and orange. This makes me sad, mainly because she only ever wears neutrals, sensible fabric and shoes, and she would really rock the shit out of a sleeveless pink and orange dress if she would just let herself buy one.

Janet has not been on my bus for the last few days. She is probably sick. Or on vacation. (I hope she has not been fired.)

A woman named Deb sat next to me today. She has also been on my bus for years. I am not particularly fond of Deb, even though I have not yet met her either. She has frizzy hair and says hellooooo! to the bus driver as she scans her commuter card. How are youuuuuuu? to people she knows across the aisle. Can you believe all this raiiiiiinnnnnn? to no one at all. I close my eyes and miss Janet. My friend Janet.


Author said...

I did a stint busing from Marin. Maybe I was too much the newbie that I wasn't convincing enough to sit by for the long run. They were right.

Though I never had a regular seatmate, there were recognizable riders every morning. The girl who always got on in a whirlwind at Lucky Drive with raucously dyed hair who put her makeup on on the bus. She probably had her bartender boyfriend drive her to the stop - she always looked to have had to hustle to catch the bus. She is "Working Girl" the movie meets "I don't give a fuck; I live to party." There was also a very put together woman who got on at Bon Air, with a gabardine trench and tailored, pressed pants and excellent statement jewelry. She was obvs upper management but probably at the glass ceiling, because, you know, she gets on a bus at Bon Air every day. Polished or not that says you don't have corporate parking.

I didn't mind the morning awkwardness, what I hated was the random evening phone talker. Really? In the dead silence of a commute bus you pull out your phone and call your pal Barbara to catch up? Or your Mr. Mom (it's never a dude calling) to hear about the accomplished house chores of the day and if dinner is good to go? Do you not see that everyone else is keeping their business to themselves?

I hope Janet comes back to you! There is an assured expectation that is missing without her... and by the way it's JanICE, not Janet.

xx AB

Anonymous said...

Love this. One of my favorite posts ever. Puts a face to something as mundane as a commute.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many strangers you pass in a day that might read your blog and perhaps not recognize you? Maybe some even donated to your GoFundMe campaign? Life is funny that way.

Good Enough Woman said...

Brilliant. Please write lots of books please.

Anonymous said...

That reminds of the subway I wrote way back when in Europe. Every morning the same people and I used to name them too. I just wasn't as nice as you naming her Janet.
Most of my names came from British comedies: Onslow (Hyacinth) Mrs. Slocombe (Are you being served) Patsy, Eddie, Saffron (Ab Fab) and so on.
One time I saw Mrs. Slocombe at the market and I couldn't for the life of me remember from where I knew her.....until the next day in the subway.

Petunia Face said...

Thank you guys so much. Seriously. Thank you. <3

Bertha said...
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Elise said...

I love this post so much. You are just a fantastic writer, truly. And I can relate -- a quiet unassuming seatmate is to be fervently wished-for. I liked "author's" comment above, too, about that one jerk who has to have a cell phone conversation on a quiet bus. God I hated those people.

And seriously, do you have a book contract yet? And will you please post and let us know if Janet came back? I'm worried about her now.

Petunia Face said...

Thanks Elise! Janet came back a few days later. And sat next to me. All is right on the #4. :)