Voice of Bruck News Service

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Zumanity on the VRE

Faithful reader(s): I apologize for the relative dearth of VOBs lately; it's certainly not for lack of human folly upon which to pontificate, nor am I suffering from writer's block. Rather, I've been going through a real busy stretch at work and have actually had to use my spare time constructively, go figure. Anyway, please enjoy today's little missive:

One of the current Cirque du Soleil shows is called, “Zumanity,” which supposedly offers an array of entertainment even more colorful and disturbing than the regular Cirque shows. Their website has an "over 18" firewall - that's all I need to know! Notwithstanding the fact that my inner cheapskate would never allow me to spend $125.00 on two hours’ worth of entertainment that didn’t at least include a massage, why should I pay anything to witness the broad spectacle of human diversity when I can get it for free every day on the train? My daily commute on the Virginia Railway Express provides great opportunities for people-watching, and it’s my privilege to share the results with you, at no cost either expressed or implied:


I don’t know if I’ve defined the term “schlub” for you yet. A schlub is an overweight, middle-aged commuter who manages to slow down his fellow travelers. He does not physically block you, but does manage to force you to go his speed or expend undue effort getting around him. A schlub can be employing any mode of transport, but in this case it's walking. Turboschlub is a fellow who follows my same route and fits the description, except that he’s really hurrying in his own right, but in the process making it nearly impossible to get past him. I’m sure it’s not intentional, sort of like the way manslaughter’s not intentional.

The Gay Cowboy

A fellow train commuter, whom I’ve also seen around my office building, is tall, in reasonably good shape, and has long, wavy, salt and pepper hair. A cowboy hat and boots always accessorize his somewhat flamboyant business suits. He may be intending to come off as a lean, rugged Texan, but it looks to me more like Bette-Davis-fan-plays-an-extra-on-the-set-of-Blazing-Saddles.


Coyote is his actual name, printed right there on his USAF flight suit. Actually I’ve talked to him some; Coyote is just a nickname but somehow he got it on his uniform. He also drives a ¼ ton Toyota pickup truck where his wife changed the first and last letters in “TOYOTA” on the tailgate to read “COYOTE.” Cute cute cute. We were chatting one day, as he was impressed with my portable coat hook, which I fashioned from a scrap of 12 gauge romex. Then someone brusquely reminded us that we were in the quiet car. People can get pretty persnickety in the quiet car.

The Fish Woman

I realize that it’s not polite to label someone based on their looks, but I’m sorry, she really looks like a fish. You could say she has prominent features that convey a distinct Piscean visage. I’ve learned to not get in the same car as her as she has a rather loud voice and she and her fellow passengers really whoop it up amongst themselves and I just don’t feel like listening to that at 6 a.m. I’d rather ride with the persnickety quiet car passengers.


The guy looks a little like Lurch from the Addams Family. Personality-wise, he seems like a perfectly affable character. He holds court on the platform every morning in my general loading zone. I don’t participate but like I say, he seems a reasonable guy. He just looks a little like Lurch is all.

The Bulldog

The Bulldog is a fifty-something woman with a lower lip that comes up halfway around her face. I’ve not ventured to determine whether or not this truly reflects her personality (you can’t really reach out to people in the quiet car), but I have learned not to sit anywhere near her as she envelopes herself in a toxic cloud of perfume. It’s not just annoying; I literally break out into a sneezing fit if she’s nearby. I’ve had to change seats because of this. I had to change seats because of a guy farting behind me once, but that’s another story.

The Woman I Dropped My Coat Hook On

As I mentioned above, I have a coat hook which I cleverly fashioned from a scrap of romex. I carry it with me while commuting, and if I’m wearing a jacket, I use it to hang the jacket on a shelf upright, so as to avoid wrinkles from sitting. I usually ride in the upper section of the car, and this affords plenty of places from which to hang this handy little hook. One inauspicious day, I accidentally dropped the hook to the floor of the lower level. A helpful passenger below saw it fall and tried to toss it back up to me. Instead, he caromed it off of a luggage shelf onto the lap of a woman two rows ahead. She was startled and of course looked up to see your pal Bruck wearing a sheepish expression. So technically I didn’t drop the hook on her, but she sure thought I did. Meanwhile the guy who did tag her was having a good laugh at my expense. I asked her to pass me up the hook and she icily complied, muttering something about getting it myself next time. I couldn’t quite tell exactly what she said, but I could clearly see that she was seething with rage, which to me seemed far out of proportion to the actual offense. Brittle people, I don’t get it, life’s short. I of course have made sure there won’t be a next time; she and The Fish Woman are why I don’t ride in that particular car anymore.

The Deaf Indian

An Indian or Pakistani fellow was playing a noisy handheld video game one morning in the quiet car. A few of his neighbors tried to get his attention to ask him to turn it down, to no avail. So your faithful editor, never afraid to be the butthead, got up, sidled past a few people, and got his attention, in the process discovering what his neighbors probably already knew, that he’s deaf. So I wrote out a message on my computer screen to turn off the sound, and showed it to him. I don’t suppose I was making too huge a leap by assuming he could read English, but I’m not sure; he turned the whole game off, not just the sound. Anyway, he got the message. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, what’s a deaf guy doing in the quiet car? Taking his blind daughter to the mime show? They should make him sit next to the Fish Woman.

I’ve met a couple of other interesting characters but never saw them again, ships that pass in the night. One afternoon a guy showed me a bunch of historical maps that he was doing research on, indicating that Washington, DC used to be a swamp (I already knew this), plus a bunch of other semi-interesting things. He had an ungodly commute - he had to drive another hour beyond the train's last stop. Another fellow, after I mentioned that I had watched the Ringling Bros. Circus train go by earlier, indicated that he was somehow related to the former owners of said circus, and that he could still get free tickets to it for his daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I really didn’t pay close attention to the details since I assumed he was making them up, as I usually do in such circumstances. I think it’s some form of Tourette’s Syndrome where people feel they have to make up interesting stories.

So there you have it, in addition to convenient, comfortable travel from point A to point B, a virtual human menagerie, brought to you every morning, and some afternoons, courtesy of the Virginia Railway Express.

Real-time update - I'm on the Friday 4:37 and the guy next to me is really multitasking: he's reading the Bible, from the book of Proverbs, and breaking wind.


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