Last night at 11:30pm I was waiting in line at the Greyhound station to catch the midnight bus to North Bay. It's Easter weekend and I have not left the city since my boyfriend packed up his things and moved out of our apartment in February. The breakup forced me to stick around to take care of matters, rather than visiting friends and family like I had been planning on doing that month. So two months later than planned, I finally got my bus ticket, packed my suitcase and stood in line with it along with my purse and a pillow. I had packed my things in only an hour, after coming home from work late to shower, eat a meal of Kraft Dinner, and do a half-assed job of applying makeup to my face just so I wouldn't feel totally like crap. I arrived at the bus station later than I had meant to arrive. It was going to be a long night and I was tired, but I was also excited.
Two men who looked to be in their mid-twenties, around my own age, are standing half beside me, half behind me while we wait in line. We can see the headlights of the parked buses blinking in the dark through the glass doors and windows. They're discussing how full the buses are, and how there may not be enough room for everyone to get on. I glance at them with interest, hoping that what they say isn't true, then go back to staring out the windows. I hear a voice near my ear, suddenly. "Where are you going? Sudbury?"
It was one of the two men next to me. He must have seen me looking at them. His friend leans against the wall and shakes his head, smiling. So, this is how it's going to be.
"No. I'm going to North Bay," I say.
"Oh yeah. Yeah I'm going to Sudbury, myself. So what are you doing here? Are you in school, or . . . ?"
"No I'm not in school. I'm just working right now."
"Oh yeah. What do you do?"
"I work at a medical laboratory," I say.
"Oh yeah like what do you do there? Do you take blood?"
"No I just do med lab stuff."
I really want him to stop talking. At this point, I realize just how obnoxious I must have always seemed to people back when I was in school and always opened up conversation with people by asking what they do. Between other students, it is acceptable and expected, even enjoyable. To someone like me who is finished with school, working until I'm exhausted and just wanting to get on the damn bus and immediately fall asleep, it is really not so interesting. I don't care to explain exactly what I do. How do I explain that my job isn't quite office, isn't quite laboratory but rather a mixture of the two where I primarily do data entry with the occasional centrifuging of blood samples, pouring off of serum and pipetting of urine? How do I say that in just one or two sentences without causing him to ask me more questions? It's too much effort.
So when he tells me he doesn't know anything about how things work in my field, I smile and ask him, "do you know what's going on with these buses? Are they all filled up or something?" He says that yes, they do seem to be. He then falls miraculously silent. I hope that I'm not being too rude. I'm flattered that he's interested enough in me to strike up a conversation. It's nice to know that I've still got it, even though I look like shit and it's been months since I've had any sort of romantic involvement with anyone. He's cute, but he's slurring all his words together and sounds like perhaps he's drunk or on drugs. If I'm too nice, he might try and sit beside me on the bus and ask me more questions. He seems to have taken the hint, though.
When we get on the bus (guess it wasn't full after all), I notice he sits next to a pretty young woman two seats up and across the aisle from me. He asks her what she does and she tells him she's in school for medical laboratory technician. She says she wants to work in microbiology. It's the same program that I took, and she wants to work in the same department that I desperately want to work in. Imagine that. She doesn't seem annoyed by his questions at all, which is what really interests me. Not so long ago, I wouldn't have been annoyed either. I would have been just as happy as she was to discuss my daily life with a stranger.
I'm not sure if I was just tired and crabby last night or if something in me has changed. I suspect it's the latter. I'm no longer the curious student, defining people by what they do for a living. For some reason, it's not that important anymore.