The Bus as Hostile Architecture II

by Sungpil Yoon


Still from Speed, 1994. Directed by Jan de Bont Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Sungpil Yoon is a writer and curator. He is Director of Spare Room, a subsidiary of Rice Cooker/Hair Salon Inc. a non-profit organization that explores the composition of theories and objects through the lens of artistic practices. Yoon is a graduate of the UBC Art History department and currently works in Vancouver from 222, a studio building in Chinatown.
The Bus as Hostile Architecture is the second of five texts by Sungpil Yoon that are informed by his bus commutes from Lynn Valley to Downtown Vancouver. Read “The Bus as Hostile Architecture: Part 1” in Charcuterie 2 or online here.

The Bus as Hostile Architecture II is the second of five short stories by Sungpil Yoon that will appear in Charcuterie.

Stories of regulars

They share the bus with me. Sometimes I play a game
As to where they will sit
I am always right
Because people are predictable
But mostly
Because patterns form

Slightly off schedule

It is about 3:20pm, a weekday in 1998. Probably Autumn. My sister and I are running to catch the bus. It only comes through the main road and school is a bit of a walk. I run and run, to the bus stop that I always go to. It’s the one beside a church that looks like a community centre, or a community centre that looks like a church. I went back to this location years later to find that this church centre had turned into a cafe. The bus narrowly misses me but I manage to create enough of a fuss that I can wave it down for the extra ten seconds while I run and catch up to it. Completely out of breath, I get on. As I walk past the driver he confronts me and says, “Did I wait for you?” the driver is a bit shy of middle age, with a slight comb-over and a pair of large translucent-framed glasses. I manage to drag out an answer similar to “yes.” He looks at me with utter disapproval, “Then you say, THANK YOU!” as if to scold me for having been so rude to not acknowledge his gesture of kindness.

Nod on home

This regular that I ride the bus with is a very large man. He appears to be narcoleptic. He is nodding off every 30 seconds and I always see him on the 1am bus. He misses his transfer in one of the stop-overs because he’s always asleep when he gets there. This seems to be an ongoing joke with the bus drivers during one of the loops where they all congregate to discuss shitty passengers in unison. Very large man seems to have a serious lung problem. He coughs out his entire organs until all seats within a 6-ft radius are left vacant. He also falls asleep at a level that can be considered narcolepsy. He is so out of it. Nowadays he has started to bring a guitar case with him to the bus. I like to think he is the DJ for a sports stadium because he looks the part in my mind.

Shopping spree (Tokyo)

I am riding the metro. Train is close to empty except for the odd seat here and there. A woman that looks to be in her early 30s gets on the train with an older woman. Perhaps family, perhaps not. The younger woman is wearing a white mask. She starts to yell “SHOPPING!!!” in Japanese out loud (I only find out what she said afterwards, after asking a friend). She starts to bang on the train windows as she continues to yell “SHOPPING!!!” over and over until the older woman calms her down.

Someone that I used to not know

Running for the bus once again. I see someone I recognize at the stop who I almost never run into. Catching my breath, I ask
“How are you?”,
“Hey! I’m good. I’ve just been—”
My bus arrives abruptly as she is about to respond to my attempted small talk only after a few words in. I have to catch this. It’s the last one of the night. I cut them off,
“I’m so sorry to do this, but I have to catch the bus.”
I make that face that everyone makes when they want to project empathy but require that they maintain their stance of saying “No”.
I think to myself, that was not nice.

The 80’s businessman in navy blue

He is already there when I get on the bus. I see him sitting in the back, and as always, wearing a dark blue suit at least a size too big for him coupled with an equally large overcoat. He has a black leather messenger bag that has multiple cracked sections from wear and tear that he rests on his lap. This bag looks like it has been used every day for the last 15 years. He has a haircut that is about an inch in length with a slightly receding hairline. Every 15 seconds he fidgets in his seat, looking for something in his bag. He never seems to find what he is looking for and stops for a short period, only to look again and again for the duration of his bus ride. He looks concerned. He fixes his glasses intermittently, and seems uneasy about people sitting next to him. About 15 minutes in he continues to fidget, but this time is different as he finally takes out something. It is a transparent plastic bag labelled, “Dempster’s”. It’s originally a bag used to house a loaf of bread which I have seen in grocery stores for $4.99. Within it, he takes out something from another package. It is covered in wax paper. Inside it looks to be a sandwich. I get the feeling that his mouth is very dry because every time he chews it does not sound succulent, or enjoyable. Like eating dry cereal. He seems like he’s just stuffing nutrients into his mouth to fill the void. I can’t smell anything else on that sandwich. Is he just eating two slices of bread? The smell of yeast fills the bus interior. It’s not quite a punch of aroma, but enough to notice that the bread could be slightly expired.
Every single day that I see him on the bus, and this is his ritual. He looks so uneasy that I just want to give him a hug. If not, I imagine he will explode in a fit of anxiety.

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