At least once every summer, I take a day off and head to Taughannock Park for some sunning, swimming and reading. I try to go in the middle of the week because the park gets INSANE on weekends in the summer.
Today, I was the only one on the bus as we set off for the park. I had snacks, Oliver Sacks’ newest book, and a blankie to loll on. I was the only person on the bus on the way there.
Near the front, I saw what I thought was the bus driver’s lunchbox. It looked like it had the word “whisky” embroidered on the front, which I thought was odd, or perhaps inappropriately honest for a lunchbox. (On closer inspection, it said “Husky” and didn’t belong to the bus driver at all; a camp kid had left it behind earlier that morning.)
I like to go to the north point of the park- most people don’t bother going all the way over to that side, so it’s usually pretty quiet and private. Except there were a ton of ducks there today. I counted a mama with eight ducklings and at least two other such groupings. They, like me, were obviously avoiding the public beach, too.
I moved around the shoreline with the sun- winding up on the other side of the park, surrounded by geese, oddly. They left me alone, for which I was grateful. But then the funniest thing happened- one made a funny little squawk and they all lined up and stood at attention. Another squawk and every single one of them went into the water and began swimming away.
The bus ride back to Ithaca was uneventful, until…
…two entire camp-fuls of kids got on the bus at Cass Park. Now, granted, this is only two miles away from downtown, where my stop was. (One time a few years back I got stuck on the bus at the park with several dozen campers. It had rained throughout the day and everyone was soaked from either swimming or the run from the picnic shelter to the bus. The little boy sitting next to me looked at me and my wet hair with such joy on his face and declared loudly, “Everyone on this bus has wet bottoms!”) But today, those two miles were about 10 minutes of pure, excruciating hell, made worse by the fact that I had a headache from straining my eyes reading in the sun.
|This pretty much captures what it was like.
There was barely enough room on the bus for all the campers. The kid sitting next to me kept bouncing up and down on the seat. The ones who had to stand were swinging from the straps like monkeys on PCP. They almost all to a one smelled like dead worms somehow, and one very large child was PISSED that there was another camp on the bus who took all the “good” seats at the back of the bus. He proceeded to shout at the bus driver about how much he hated him and how this was all his fault, while his skinny, ineffectual, high-pitched whisper-voiced scraggly-goateed camp counselor tried to talk some rationality into him. The bus driver just sailed back and in a big cheery voice told him next time he could ride on the bike rack mounted on the front of the bus. The kid laughed and was fine; apparently this is a conversation that has been had before.
There was a little girl with a rainbow striped shirt, long hair and a long-suffering expression on her face sitting in the seat perpendicular to me. The boys in the seat next to her kept shoving her into me and she kept apologizing to me. I just smiled back at her sympathetically.
And then I overheard this conversation:
Counselor: Ian, uh… Ian? Where are your underpants?
Ian: *shrugs* I dunno.
Counselor: What do you mean you don’t know?
Ian: I guess I lost ’em.
Counselor: How could that happen… Ian, please stop that. Ian! You’re being very inappropriate right now! Please- just close the hole up, will you? You’re being very inappropriate. Can you cover it up? Well, then, just… oh man. Please stop. Just stop. Can’t you, uh, cover it somehow? Oh no. Okay, never mind that. Where’s your towel? Where is your towel? *Looks toward back of bus in desperation* Caleb! Caleb, do you have your brother’s towel? Can you toss it up here? Thanks. Ian, keep this on your lap till we get to our stop.
The little girl perpendicular to me rolled her eyes and looked beleaguered- Ian was sitting right next to her. Again, she said, “Sorry.” I said, “No, I’m sorry,” glancing at her seat mate with his grungy, wet towel draped across his lap. You’ll probably end up going to prom with him with your luck, I wanted to say, but didn’t. She was in enough misery as it was.
A few minutes later, another counselor, who was sitting on the other side of the bus, female this time, had to ask Ian, very sweetly, very politely, to please keep his knees together.
I noticed Ian was the last one off the bus, still perched there in his seat, a towel on his lap like a surgical drape. I wondered how he was getting home- was someone going to pick him and his brother up at the library where they had gotten off the bus? God, I hoped they didn’t ride their bikes here, I thought, shuddering. I wondered how he would explain his towel-drape to whatever parents were waiting for him.
I should note that nearly every time I go on one of my little adventures, I manage to come across some
discarded underpants. It doesn’t matter if I’m hiking in the woods or exploring a new city- inevitably, I will find underpants. I’ve always wondered how someone loses their underpants in locations like these. They never appear to have just fallen out of a bag packed with other clothes. They are always alone, unaccompanied by any explanation as to why they were abandoned. It’s like they just spontaneously fell off their owner and onto the hiking trail, shrubs, sidewalk, street side planter, once even a cliffside. Who just loses their underpants in a public place? What happens when they realize they are now sans drawers? Do they ever go back and look for them?
After years of coming across abandoned underwear, today I finally encountered an underpants-loser. Thank you, Ian, for providing a synchronicity of underpants. I hope your folks were understanding.