I saw Insane Germophobic Woman on the bus again today.
I’ve been trying to avoid her recently by taking a later bus. Seriously. Not because she and I have some personal battle going on. It’s just that I can’t stand seeing her go through her bus cleaning ritual every morning on the 136 Sheridan bus, which was driving me insane. Like her!
Regular riders of this particular bus run will know who this is. A lot of them purposely avoid sitting anywhere near her. Not that she would easily let them. In addition to being insanely germophobic, she’s viciously territorial when it comes to someone sitting beside her (which doesn’t play too well on a morning rush-hour bus) and she’s extremely egotistical with regards to her comfort vs. someone else’s (if SHE feels cold on a bus, she will close the window near YOU, even if it’s all the way in the back of the bus). Like I said, she’s insane.
Insane Germophobic Woman (IGW) doesn’t really look insane. Just looks like a regular, thinnish black woman, says “hi” to the bus driver and a few other regular riders. She always gets on with her special bag (this morning it was a plastic version of those little brown bags with the words “little brown bag” written on the side). Inside are an unusual assortment of cleaning supplies, unusual for someone riding a bus to work: a couple of spray bottles, Handiwipes, a batch of napkins/paper towels, hand gel and who-knows-what other ozone-destroying chemicals.
I get on the bus a few stops before her, but by now I’ve learned her routine and, in particular, which seat she prefers to use. I know her first choice (the second set of seats facing forward on the left side of the bus), her second choice (the single seats on the right side of the bus) and, if the bus is unusually crowded by the time she gets on, her third choice (the sideways facing seats in the rear). I know this is obsessive on my part, but that’s different. Because of this knowledge, I pick my bus seats carefully now, counting heads and trying to pre-determine where she’s going to sit and trying to sit as far away from her. But sometimes I forget. That’s a bad thing.
When she gets on the bus, she’ll stand there in the aisle making her choice, ignoring the twelve-car pile-up of people waiting to get by her to get a seat. After she picks her seat, she begins her cleaning ritual, spraying some unknown liquid from an unmarked misting bottle. It smells like some homemade concoction, not like any well-known Proctor And Gamble product. And if you’re sitting in the seat behind her, you’ll probably get a spritz or two in the process, a wafting of the mystery liquid as it floats over the seat and onto your hands, clothes, face. Then IGW will begin scrubbing the seat to rid it of any dirt that the highly-paid official transit authority cleaning crew missed, ground-in footprints of little kids, leftover vomit or some residual bum juices. With that done, she places a large napkin thing on the seat as if it was a toilet in a bus station, hoping to create an impenetrable two-ply paper barrier between her ass and any microbes that were lucky enough to survive.
To make sure her now-sanitized section stays that way, IGW snarls at anyone who tries to sit next to her. OK, maybe snarls is a bad choice of words, but she’s not at all happy. She tries to put her bag on the seat next to her as a deterrent, but on a crowded rush hour bus, most people are like, “fuck that.” They’re polite when they ask her is it’s alright if they sit there. When they do, she gives them a stern look, sometimes a heavy sigh as if someone with 20 items just moved into eight-items-or-less lane and then, finally and with visible reluctance, moving the bag and shifting
Insane Germophobic Woman is obviously, well, germophobic, which immediately begs the question: If she is so concerned with germs and cleanliness, then why, pray tell, is she riding a CTA bus? Of all the transportation choices she could make, why pick the one that’s like a stool sample with wheels? Bums make their home on there, babies demonstrate their lack of bowel control on there. It occasionally has the unique combination of urine and French fries. It’s a disgusting mess and no amount of spritzing and scrubbing will fix that.
I know things between her and some other rider are going to come to a head one day and maybe soon. And it won’t be pretty. She’s already caused several people to change seats or choose to stand while they try to figure out what the fuck her problem is.
Today, with the bus crowded as usual, some guy walked back and asked if it was alright to sit there. She tried to discourage him by saying there was dirt on the seat, but it’s a fucking CTA bus; there’s dirt on every seat. When he shrugged it off as if to say that’s OK, she reluctantly moved her special germ-killing paper towel from THAT seat. He had a newspaper in one of those rain-protecting plastic sleeves and dropped it on the seat to sit on it in case she was telling the truth. I guess the plastic was a little too close to her or something, because she flicked it away and sent his newspaper to the bus floor. She said “sorry” but you know she didn’t mean it. The guy picked the paper off the floor and slammed it onto the seat with an audible “thwack”, opened up a second paper and began flipping through the pages, making each one rattle in that “I’m pissed but I am going to read this paper!” kinda way.
I saw Insane Germophobic Woman on the bus home today too. I wonder if she has a husband…