Monday, January 9, 2017
To explain (cue flashback ripple, a la every 80s sitcom you've ever seen):
I had a rather unconventional college experience. I didn't live there, and that was fine with me. My whole in-bed-before-11, up-before-7 sleep habits really don't fit well with a dorm lifestyle. That and the fact that I basically hate the taste of alcohol and only drink wine once in a while if I want to pretend I'm sophisticated. So I commuted to Westfield State (also known as "cheaper than UMass"). A lot of people did. Only: I didn't have a car right away. That's kind of a long story. So my only choice at first was to take several buses up there until I secured my own transportation.
This was an adventure in itself. On the bus there was some good people-watching for this introvert, let me tell you. And there were a few other sorry souls like myself who were also stuck taking the bus up to Westfield. We nodded perfunctory "hello's."
And then there was, well, let's call him "Bob."
Bob had also gone with me to high school, although we'd rarely crossed paths. He was that kind of quiet, nerdy, glasses and all kind of guy I normally liked and got along with (I'd run in the other direction from over-confident jocks!). Bob seemed nice enough. Bob also really, really liked the Buffalo Bills football team.
Really, really liked.
This was back when the Buffalo Bills were acting like the Red Sox of old and getting heart breakingly close to winning the Super Bowl but never quite pulling it off. They were a good team, for sure. Certainly much better than the embarrassingly bad Patriots. The Buffalo Bills were awesome, and Bob made sure he brought that up all of the time. I'd see him climb on the bus, and inevitably he'd end up sitting near me, and somehow, always, the conversation rolled around to football. Maybe he was especially happy that a "chick" liked to talk sports. All I know is, before long he would launch into his spiel about why Buffalo was the best, why'd they'd win on Sunday, why this time they'd win the Super Bowl. The only specific evidence he ever shared to back this up was because they had an "explosive offense."
And there you have it. Explosive offense. I'm not sure how many times I heard that term, but it may have been 3,251. Give or take. I didn't really understand what it meant -- I still don't -- but whatever it was, the Buffalo Bills had it. And Bob was going to let me know about it.
All of this would have been just mildly annoying, if it weren't for one thing. I would have politely listened and maybe done an invisible eye roll and that would have been that. But it's what happened a few months later that always got to me.
You see, my pal Bob managed to get himself a car before I did. And suddenly, he had something new to talk about. Not on the bus, of course, because he was driving to school now. But no, every time we'd run into each other, he'd announce, "Well, I've got my car now. I'm looking forward to driving home. Too bad you're still stuck. Have fun on the BUS!" with a smirk and a knowing look.
Every. Single. Time.
This guy literally lived about a mile from me. I remember the day I missed the bus and was sitting forlornly, waiting.
"Well, I'm headed home," he announced, sauntering by, not acknowledging my plight in the least. "Have FUN waiting for the bus!"
I stood there glaring at his back, fuming, thinking about how he could have offered me a ride. Then I realized I really didn't want to sit in his car and talk about the Bills for 45 minutes. Explosive Offense!
In retrospect, I wonder if Bob had some kind of Asperger-ish thing going on (the repetitiveness; the obsession with one subject). That never dawned on me until I started writing this. Maybe I should have been a little less irritated and a little more compassionate
My run-ins with Bob went on for awhile, until I finally got my own car (a 1984 Ford Tempo that, as it turns out, was infested with spiders). I found that of course I loved the luxury of coming and going as I pleased, but I did miss some of the characters on the bus. The older lady that worked at the dry cleaning place. The lonely man that washed dishes at Abdows. The veteran who would regale the bus driver with stories, many involving his medical ailments. Gus, the brilliant guy from my poetry writing class who enjoyed writing about vampires.
I can't say I missed Bob, because it was nice to not have to grit my teeth and bite my lip. Once he heard I had a car, he had little use for talking with me when we'd cross paths on campus. But to this day, when I hear someone talking about the Buffalo Bills, I think "Explosive Offense!" without even thinking. For Dan and I, it's become a sort of buzz word. He throws it around whenever he's trying to act like he cares about sports. ("The Celtics this year? Oh, yeah, uh, they've got an explosive offense!").
And every time they say it on TV, about whatever team they're talking about, and whatever it means, I laugh to myself and remember this lesson I seem to have been taught several times now. There will always be things that happen that don't seem very funny at the time, but in retrospect are sort of hysterical. I can only think also of our neighbors in our three-family house when we first married, the ones who hated us for no reason and claimed we walked on the floors above them purposely with "one shoe on and one shoe off" to bother them. In 1998, pure hell. Today, a story to tell our kids and laugh about. Again!
Things don't always work out this way. Some stuff happens and it's just crummy and there's no redeeming it. But we can mine our lives for these Buffalo Bill moments. They are out there. When we look at life in that way, it's a lot less miserable and a lot more fun.
So thank you, Bob, from all those years ago.
Go Bills!! (Next year, that is...)