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Horriblest, Coolest, and a SciFiction appreciation
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So, last night started out horribly. I had to run for the bus, by way of an ATM machine to pay the fare. When I stepped onto the bus and handed over my £10 bill, the driver asked, “Don’t you have anything smaller?”

I said, “No, I’m really sorry, but I had to stop at a cash machine just to get that--I didn’t have any cash at all.” (Important note to non-British readers: there’s nothing against-the-rules about paying with a £10 bill on an English bus, although there are signs asking passengers not to pay with £20 or £50 bills.)

Instead of reaching for his change, he just sat there, turning the bill over and over in his hands. Then he looked at me, and at the people standing in line behind me. “Look at all those people who waited a long time,” he said. “You’re delaying them all, aren’t you?”

I didn’t know what to say, so I made some kind of noncommittal noise. The people around me were dead silent. The bus driver shook his head, staring at me with a faint smile of...I don’t know what. Wonderment, maybe? It was the way you’d look when you were confronted with something so despicable that you couldn’t comprehend it.

“You don’t even care, do you?” he said. “You’re enjoying it.”

I said, quietly and hoping to end the whole thing, “I really couldn’t help it. I’m sorry.”

“You could have helped it,” he said. He leaned forward, over me. He was a big guy, and his voice got louder and louder as he leaned closer and closer. “You were out all day! You could have helped it!”

I opened my mouth to say something. I saw the look in his eye, and I closed my mouth.

The whole, crowded bus had gone silent.

I took my change and walked to the back of the bus, shaking. I managed to stick out the ride home, but the moment I stepped out of the bus, I burst into tears. I was still crying and shaking when I walked into the house, five minutes later.

It felt so stupid to get that upset over something that bizarre, especially since it only lasted less than five minutes. But it felt like getting attacked, especially because so many people were watching and listening and not saying anything. Which, of course, people don’t, in those situations...but that still made it feel even worse.

Patrick said afterwards that he wished he’d been with me, to tell the guy off. But I don’t think the bus driver would have said a word of all that if I hadn’t been alone. Alone, small, female and vulnerable-looking. It just made me miserable for the rest of that night. It’s always a particular shock when something like that comes out of the blue, from a total stranger. I didn’t want to get on the bus this morning.


In much, much better news, Patrick and I have been making plans for Wiscon--and best of all, we’ve got a reading group! We’re going to be reading with the awesome SarahP and Jenn Reese. Woot! Woot! Pieces and theme to be picked out later, but I am just so incredibly psyched!


As part of Dave Schwartz’s Ellen Datlow/SciFiction project, I’ve just posted an appreciation of Deborah Coates’s SciFiction story 'Articles of a Personal Nature'. Check it out!

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