I thought at this point I'd heard every comment possible from strangers interested in my knitting. I was, as Shakespeare wrote in Cymbeline, wrongeddy-wrong-wrong.
To get back and forth to Indiana for Thanksgiving I took advantage of a fairly new bus service running from Chicago called Megabus. It's not fancy, but it's cheap (my round trip at the pricey holiday rate was $44) and convenient. There are no frills, but the parent company is British and somehow this gives one confidence.
The ride out was wholly uneventful. I had two seats to myself and knitted like mad.
On the way back, the bus was crowded and I knew I'd have somebody sitting next to me. Sure enough, just before we departed a group of three came aboard, two paperwhite preppyesque men and a woman who probably fancies herself the Hoosier Sarah Jessica Parker. The men were obviously, you know, together. The woman, I later determined, was a friend who had come along to keep things looking hetero because one of the men is presently in the military.
The few remaining seats near each other happened to be the one next to me, the one in front of that, and the one across the aisle. As they approached, I looked up and gave the first guy the friendly, noncommittal nod that means this seat is open, feel free to take it.
He recoiled visibly. The three were extremely put out at not being able to sit cheek to cheek for the ride. There were many sidelong glances in my direction. Looking back, I imagine I appeared very menacing as I wear earrings and was working on a two-color baby hat. Also, while I am technically caucasian, according to Indiana's racial standards the hint of olive in my skin means I am Kunta Kinte and that seems to be an issue for many locals.
After many mumbled negotiations they gingerly took their seats, with the first guy next to me and the woman across the aisle from him. The (whisper) boyfriend discreetly took the seat in front of us.
They were heading to O'Hare in order to catch a flight to Italy for a budget tour of the Amalfi Coast. I know this, and everything else about their plans, because with the enthusiasm typical of traveling crackers they talked it over endlessly and loudly. The fellow next to me rode on half his seat, the further half. Somewhere along the way we hit a bump and my ball of Patons bounced over and touched his thigh. He jumped as if stung.
After three hours of discussing Whether One Ought to Tip Italian Waitresses and Why We Absolutely Must Go the Blue Grotto, we pulled into Chicago. They planned to take the El from Union Station to O'Hare, and the woman said that this should take about twenty minutes, leaving just enough time to check in and clear security.
Their discomfiture was unbounded when the guy sitting behind them spoke up and said, "That's going to be a forty-minute ride. Maybe fifty."
In desperation they started talking to the rest of us, seeking advice on alternate routes. The guy next to me asked if it would be faster to just take a cab. I told him probably not, and wished him luck. (I hate rushing to the airport and don't wish it on anybody else, not even Log Cabin Republicans.) I made reassuring noises and told them international security at O'Hare is usually pretty quick.
The men were still looking at me as though I might try to lick them, but the woman was positively chatty now that the ice was broken. As we waited for the crowd to move forward, she asked about my knitting.
"I noticed you were making some pretty fancy stuff," she said.
"It's fun, not that difficult," I said. "You just have to know one or two things about what to do when the colors change."
"Oh, I see," she said, brightly. "Now, did you learn to do that in prison?"