Santa can’t use the reindeer

The 17 is one of those curious bus lines that come out of downtown, mixing the suits, bums, students, uptowners, retail workers, and the unusually usual cast of the urban theater. On one particular afternoon I was heading back from the U and the 17 Southbound had just crossed the I-94 canyon. The riders were the typical mix of everything and everyone, it was relatively quiet, and everyone had the look of routine.

Everyone except for a short young woman, obviously new to Public Transportation (as she was sitting in the frontmost seat closest to the door). Her eyes were electric, blue, and darting around, and she was self-consciously flicking her very-blonde hair. ‘Good for her.’ I thought, ‘This is a pretty tame bus, she’ll get to seeing public transit isn’t so bad.’

And then the bus stops in front of ACE Hardware on Nicollet. We all hear a warbling commotion approaching the door, and I think ‘Oh Shit.’ On comes an overweight man with an unkempt gray beard, a 2-liter soda bottle half filled with “water,” and a bright red santa cap. He gets his transfer, turns around to face us, and shouts:
“Ho ho hoooo, Merrryyy Christmas everybody”

He sways and staggers while looking around, and, as the bus is pretty much full, decides to sit right next to Blondie. Her eyes are nearly popping out of her head. Santa turns his head confidingly to her: “Santa’s a little drunk, so he can’t uuuse the reindeer”

She says nothing, and the bus moves on. Just before the Nicollet/24th stop, Santa turns to her again, clears his throat, and says (somewhat) quietly “How would youuu like to sit on Santa’s lap?”

She looks directly at me, and I pull the string, looking at her and then the door, as if to say ‘Okay, you should get off now!” We get to the stop and she flies out of the bus with her cellphone in hand. Santa looks out at Blondie dejectedly as we turn onto 24th, but she is too busy to notice, standing on the corner and hysterically talking into her phone.

Did I mention this happened in June?

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