1.28.2011

They only care about the green stuff

charlie ticket on the express bus

I walk up to the bus stop awning and see George's smile, deepening the wrinkles around his eyes.

Over the past year we've gotten to know one another. We wait for our buses. He tells me about his job as a cancer researcher, visits to his mother-in-law, when his family is going back to China for a visit. He says I look Russian and I laugh. He asks about Ian, my job. We discuss classical music and hard work.

He scoots over so there's room for me. I sit between him and a woman in a teal hat and coat, hood lined with fur. It contrasts with her Revlon 31 dark auburn hair.

George tells me the schedule for the 52 has changed, but the 502 is still the same. He now has to wait for the 6:20 bus. The woman interjects a comment about the approaching 57, but I have a hard time understanding her unusually thick Boston accent. We weren't talking about the 57. Puzzled, I nod then turn back to George. We talk about the weather. It's supposed to start snowing tomorrow night. Over a foot, I've heard.

"What a day I'm having," the woman interrupts again.

My manners tell me to acknowledge her. "Oh?"

"I took my black coat to the cleanah's and asked them to fix the zippah. I picked it up today and paid. I get home and they cleaned it — I didn't want them to, and they didn't fix the zippah!"

"Can't you just take it back and ask them to fix it?" I ask.

"Yeah. But I didn't want to go out in the snow. That's why I picked it up today. Now I'll have to wait until Friday."

"Oh."

"You know they only care about the green stuff." She rubs invisible coins together between her fingers as her rings glint in the twilight. "Because they're Chinese."

I wince, even though George is no longer paying attention — his bus has just arrived and he says goodnight with a courteous bow.

I turn back to the woman. "He's Chinese," I tell her. I don't point out I'm half-Filipino and the only other person waiting for a bus is from Taiwan.

"Oh, I didn't mean to offend. You can't tell." She adjusts her jean purse and sniffs her prominent nose.

That's like saying you couldn't tell rain is wet, I think.

"Well, it doesn't matter," I say. "Anyone can be greedy. White people are greedy." I try to phrase this tactfully, instead of using the other words coming to mind.

"They should learn English. I can't understand them." She is defensive. Is this why she changed the subject?

I can't understand you, I think. Maybe it was her accent, not theirs, that left her zipper broken.

"If I lived in Floridah, I'd learn the language."

Florida is still in the States. Does she mean Spanish?

I mumble something about how hard it is to learn English.

"They just have to go to the library and get some tapes."

She tells me about her son's wife, who is Portuguese and lives in New Hampshire — she learned English and her son is bilingual. "Her English is beautiful."

The 502 pulls up, and I make sure to put several seats between us before I allow myself to chuckle at the absurdity.
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