One factor that went into my choice for a new winter coat this year was whether or not the young kids who ride the Metro bus would respect me.
I look like a scarf-wearing college boy when I step on the bus and flash my expired UC I.D. to ride for free. I'm already kind of a square, but my four-year-old wool coat was making me look even more preppy.
A couple months ago I went to Kenwood Towne Centre to drink coffee and check out the sale racks of stylish young professional shirts. At Express I found a sweet black jacket with just enough of a bubble-coat look to make me feel like a tough young person (scarf excluded) and a wool collar that made me feel like a fighter pilot (which is universally cool).
I spent $80 on the coat, grew a hipster beard and looked forward to newfound respect from the young kids. The first wintry morning presented itself and I bundled up, feeling sorry for all the squares who hadn't recently purchased new gear for the commute.
I stood at the bus stop, chin hidden in scarf, and waited.
I was disappointed to find the response to my new look to be non-existent. The young kids on the bus thought I was the same big wuss they saw wearing two sweatshirts the day before. My white headphone buds poked out from the top of my scarf, which matched my shoes.
I sat down on the inside seat next to an adult. Five minutes later I was burning hot.
I looked around at the ceiling for the heating vent. It was so hot on that bus — I thought I had to be sitting either directly underneath a vent or directly above an open flame. I looked up and down the aisle, but no one else was suffering like me.
I pulled my messenger bag strap over my head, trying hard not to elbow the man to my left. I struggled to get my left arm out of my coat without accidentally socking him in the face.
People started watching me wriggle around in my seat, twitching and fighting the fancy new coat. When it came off I folded it into a square and tried to act like it was no big deal.
Sweat had appeared on my hairline. I stared straight ahead, wondering why the heat was turned up so high on the bus and why no one else seemed to be affected by it. Did I have some kind of heat-sensitive condition?
I felt more comfortable as the bus cruised down West Clifton Avenue and made a couple of stops on McMicken. Cold air pushed its way in through the back door when people got off and the man to my left got up and left. Then I realized I hadn't worn one of my collared journalism shirts — I was coatless, wearing only a slightly small T-shirt and scarf.
I felt the cold stares from the remaining young kids as I stood up to exit the bus at Court Street. Once off the bus, I quickly set the messenger bag down and put my coat back on.
This was not the bus ride I had envisioned when I tossed the new coat onto the counter at Kenwood.
During the bus ride home after a long day of making sure all the commas were in the right places in CityBeat, I made my way to Main Street and caught the No. 19 toward college town. This time I pulled my coat off as soon as I sat down, which made the process look more normal.
I sat there wondering how I could be the only person on the bus who couldn't take the heat. Minutes later a young woman three rows ahead of me and across the aisle pulled one arm out of a brown wool coat and then the other. I looked around to see if anyone else was watching her take her coat off.
She folded the garment in her lap, opened a book and started reading. No one else seemed to be looking, but her sweater was rolled halfway up her forearm, leaving at least five inches of skin for all to see.
I looked around to see if anyone was looking at me while I looked at her. The heat was starting to get to me again, and I was embarrassed for watching this woman take off her coat.
But what was I supposed to do? It's always at least 80 degrees on the bus, and when the sun shines through the window it's like sitting under a blanket inside a greenhouse. That woman knew how I felt, and I was angry that she was subjected to the forearm gaze of someone like me.
So hear this, Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority drivers: You turn the heat down on the bus right now. It's inconsiderate and insensitive, and this winter hasn't even been that cold.
Y'all made me look like an idiot in front of the young kids and a young woman on the bus, and those are the only people I was trying to impress.
Contact DANNY CROSS: [email protected]