I had to sprint the last two blocks but I made it just as the bus doors were hissing closed. I had only recently moved to Chicago and was just getting the hang of the bussing system, but I knew from painful experience that missing one, could mean nearly an hour of my life trickling away waiting for the next.
From ten years living in NYC without a car, I am generally a big fan of Public Transportation. But after that first winter in Chicago, I can honestly say I now favor Public Transportation as AN option, not THE option.
In Manhattan and the Near North Side of Chicago, you will see extremely well groomed and exquisitely dressed older men and women regularly riding the bus. This generation is wealthy for a reason – they understand the bus is going the same place as the taxi, and is a fraction of the cost. Generally the bus is a comfortable and enjoyable way to get around, with the added bonus of a great view of life on the city streets.
There are two exceptions; 1) Rush hour in the rain, and 2) When a crazy person is riding.
As the bus pulled over at the next stop, reason #2 ambled aboard ranting and raving and smelling like blue cheese and mushrooms. I turned toward the window to practice tolerance and try to create my own little breathing bubble. As he made his way down the bus aisle I heard him comment on everything from one rider’s “Amaaaaazing” boots to the sadness he felt that “The Facts of Life” was no longer on television. In the next instant I heard him gasp and shout “Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen! Please! This woman needs a seat! She is in neeeeeed, please won’t someone give up their seat for this woman?”
It struck me hard, a reality check – I hadn’t even NOTICED the woman – and evidentially neither did anyone else! Did it really take a person who obviously had very little means of his own, to call to our attention the clear need of someone right in front of us? I felt a warm pride in the man, and turned slightly to watch him assist this woman, whom I’m sure would offer him at least a smile of gratitude.
Except, he wasn’t standing by a woman. He was standing by ME. Right next to me actually. With his hand pointing toward the middle of my body, ala Vanna White. Through my confusion, I heard these words “Ladies and Gentlemen, this woman is CLEARLY expecting, and should not be standing on a moving bus in her condition! For the baby, won’t someone please give her their seat?!?”
The ENTIRE bus was silent but for the insanely loud heart-beat that was pounding out of my body. A young man just in front of me started to rise, with a hand gesture that indicated he would OF COURSE surrender his seat to an enormously pregnant woman such as myself.
Except, I wasn’t pregnant.
I forced a laugh that probably sounded more like a croak and uttered (squawked) “Thanks folks. Not Pregnant. Just chubby.” And I turned back to press my face against the window and stood repeatedly promising God I would never pray for a better chin again, if he would only make me invisible, just this ONE TIME?!?
I know from shared confessions around the wine bottle, that several of my friends have had a similar experience. One friend, a professional actress, was actually asked when was the “happy day her baby would be born” from a patron in the audience during a talk-back after a matinee. OUCH.
And I’m sure that the question asker MUST feel at least as, if not more, horrified when they are told, not a baby, just a bump. So, I have come up with the perfect solution to this conundrum!
If you are ever approached (perhaps at a fancy wedding to which you decided to wear your clingiest Dianne Von Furstenberg treasure from Filene’s Basement) and asked “Awww, when are you due?” Here is your answer!
Lower your eyes, gingerly touch your muffin top, and say “In three weeks.” The questioning person will look shocked and say (here is the best part) “You are SO TINY!!!” And you will smile beatifically and say, “I know.” You will share happy smiles, then excuse yourself to pee “again”, because “you KNOW how it is!”
After this exchange is over, walk away with your head held high and just keep repeating, “I am SO TINY!” You feel great about your size, the baby-lover got to coo over you, and it will be so funny to watch that person’s face when they see you order a Bombay Sapphire Up with a twist an hour later.
And for all well-meaning folks who just want to celebrate the miracle of a tiny new life when you see it in the making – Please! Please, even if she resembles the photo above. Please WAIT for her to say something about being pregnant FIRST.
And for bonus points, even if she DOES resemble the photo above, smile and tell her, “You are SO TINY!”