My friend Gahan and I have a long history of being the entertainment on Whatcom Transit Authority busses. We'll sit and ride out to Bellis Fair Mall (which takes about half an hour from the campus of Western Washington University) and have odd, wandering conversations that the other bus riders find amusing -- discussing subjects like the translation of the names of local Mexican restaurants (El Pollo Loco -- the crazy uncooked chicken! Ewww!). So there's your background.

One day, though, Gahan and I got on the bus. Gahan, a devout Christian, was wearing blue-jeans and his beloved Jesus t-shirt (the one that has a picture of a very buff Jesus holding up an enormous cross with "THE SINS OF THE WORLD" emblazoned on it. The back of the t-shirt reads "BENCH-PRESS THIS!". I'm glad Gahan is Pagan-friendly.) I, in complete contrast, was decked out in full Neovictorian glory -- waistcoat, pocket watch, black banded-collar dress shirt, tuxedo pants tucked into motorcycle boots, and a long swishy black coat. As we got on the bus, we saw these two old guys in the back, keeping a running commentary going.

They didn't glance at Gahan, really, but when they saw me, one said to the other "Look! It's Don Juan!" and they started discussing my mode of dress. I smiled and took my seat, chatting with Gahan. The old guys kept chattering on, critiquing the clothes of everyone on the bus. -- I swear, they sounded just like the Muppet movie critics, Statler and Waldorf. The doors of the bus closed and we headed off.

After a while, the bus pulled into the Bellingham Transit Center. Here, things started to get interesting. The first person to get on the bus was a pretty young blonde woman wearing all black. In accordance with goth ettiquette, we ignored one another completely. The next person to get on was a weird, greasy-looking little guy in a big, puffy L.A. Raiders jacket. He had long, sparse blonde hair and one of the rattiest goatees I've ever seen. He must have really loved the Raiders, since he wore an eyepatch... just like the little Viking raider pictured on his jacket.

Following this sickly-looking, specimen, though, was the coup de grace: a large woman in her early twenties wearing a bright pumpkin-orange tunic, olive-drab wool breeches, and a long olive-drab cape. She sat down, whipped out a copy of Lord of the Rings and started reading it like was the Bible. She later got off at Cornwall Park, no doubt going to the SCA event that was being held there.

I turned to Gahan and said: "My gods. We're on the bus of freaks!"

The bus continued on towards the mall, with only Gahan's stream of verbal diarrhea to interrupt the silence. The bus pulled up to yet another stop, and I turned to look at the people getting on the bus. I saw two skinny little blondes in Abercrombie & Fitch gear and Gap jeans climbing aboard.

Blonde Number One steps up to pay, with Blonde Number 2 close behind. Blonde Number One glances at the people in the bus, then stops and takes a second, longer look.

We -- Statler, Waldorf, Gahan, "Don Juan", the goth girl, the Raiders fanatic and the Tolkien worshipper -- look back, and slowly, we all begin to... grin.

Blonde Number One turns to the driver. "We'll take the next one," she says, sounding shaken. And Blondes One and Two get off the bus.

Everyone else on the Bus of Freaks, aware of the cosmic absurdity of it all, exchanged a glance, and we all broke out in laughter. It's not often that such a... diversity of odd characters gets to freak the mundanes all at once.

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