It’s somehow only day forty-seven of bus stop pickup duty. As I approach, I can see the wince behind your polite smile. I don’t blame you—I wouldn’t want to hang out with this trite, milquetoast version of me for the next three to twenty-six minutes, either. I don’t know what it is about you, an assemblage of perfectly kind moms and dads who happen to live near me, that transforms me into the Actual Most Boring Human of All Time. But I do know this: I have no idea what to talk about with you.
I’m your reluctant companion at this disorienting portal between regular adult life, during which you get to do whatever you want, and parent life, during which you’re frequently called upon to feign a cartoonish level of interest in how loose a small person’s tooth is. These are your last precious moments of adult brain space until you leave for work—fucking work!—tomorrow. You should be allowed to spend them in the company of a fascinating person, or at least someone who knows your first name, rather than a person who asked your name upon meeting you but then immediately forgot your response in a fog of social anxiety, then right away asked you to repeat your name but still immediately forgot it again.
I halfheartedly followed the playoff run of our nearest city’s professional sports team, planning to wow you with my fandom, but they lost in the first round. You’ve already heard, then quickly forgotten, where I’m from originally. You’ve endured my insipid descriptions of what I do at my job. And that one chatty dad whose magical motormouth is perfect at filling the gaping chasm of silence that opens whenever we’re together? He only does bus stop pickup on Fridays.
I can’t possibly bring up any topic that matters. What if you’re one of those “the librarians at the school are trying to turn all our kids gay” parents? We already took a wild risk in briefly discussing how out-of-control youth sports culture has become, each remaining conspicuously quiet about our own complicities in that trend.
So, instead, I’ve mentioned how I wish the movie theater in town were open on Mondays. I’ve noted how random it is that I’m tired today and apologized for yawning, and then one of you started yawning and said, “Gee, it’s contagious!” A couple of days were unusually hot or unusually cold. There is literally not one other thing in the whole wide world to talk about.
But remember days eleven through fifteen? When the murderer who escaped from the prison three towns over was on the loose? God, those afternoons at the bus stop were glorious. The incompetence at the prison, the gruesome cruelty of his original crime, our magnanimous pity for the victim’s family, the fact that they shouldn’t make a miniseries about this jailbreak because the guy is genuinely a monster and the miniseries would no doubt lead the audience to sympathize with him, which would be wrong, even though objectively, yeah, this would make a kickass miniseries. We had so much to talk about, I feel like you almost forgot how very profoundly leaden my conversation usually is.
It’s heartbreaking the prisoner was caught after only six days. We might have had fodder to keep the bus stop chatter going all school year if he had managed to murder someone else while on the lam. If the situation had gotten drastic enough, we probably would have been ordered to shelter in place. Imagine being stuck indoors for days on end, taking personal days off work to watch the kids, terrified that at any moment, a desperate murderer with nothing to lose would break down our door and kill anyone he found between himself and our standalone freezer full of chicken nuggets and tater tots. The disruption, the terror, even the deaths of a few neighbors would have been worth it to avoid witnessing the agony of boredom on your face as I explain how my two cats look alike but have different personalities.
I’m sorry to tell you this, but you shouldn’t expect me to be interesting again until the next local catastrophe strikes. Until then, please pass along this apology if you bump into any of my coworkers who accidentally take the elevator with me, Uber drivers, or hairdressers with whom I’ve never gotten past “Got any plans this weekend?”