Mobile Metal Churchland: Kiss Me On The Bus

Think it was in the Clark Gable/Claudette Colbert joint “It Happened One Night” where not only were there significant amounts of wooing-and-denial then wooing-and-less-begrudging denial on the bus (some of which occurs in the netherbounds of the back seat) but also a scene (one that sweetly haunts) where boredom has kinda taken charge on a long haul ride and either Gable or Colbert or maybe another passenger decides, Hell, I’m going to start singing in such a way as to invite the other passengers to join in that seems absolutely normal, as though this sort of thing just sprung up all the time during old-tyme busing. In the scene most of the passengers are rip-rousingly belting out a standard (Found a small slice of it here at 1:22) and a wildcard or two is dancing in the aisles. There may have even been an instrumentalist or two on board.

Could we make this group singing happen on today’s public bus? Let’s just make it happen. Stand up on a silent bus and start singing something. What to sing? What song would be so widely knowable and enjoyable enough to invite the 2012 public bus passenger to either tolerate the ring-ding-sing-along or gladly, even joyfully join in? A holiday carol might shame nay-singers out of (very legitimate) protest. “Happy Birthday” is a song people like joining in on; gets the generous-spirited juices flowing and is difficult to begrudge. Neither of these have a ton of emotional punch, though. We want something momentive and stirring enough as to feel like we are taking a trip within a trip; an escape to a well-known or broadly enjoyable or affecting Elsewhere. We want to wind up somewhere after we go away. We also want to feel free to yodel the Hell out of it to get some of the commuterish monkey off our soul. We want to be able to feel it individually and as a group. Suggestions? Bridging the gaps of taste, generation, and mood sounds terribly hard now. But somehow, due to that old movie, tempted to think it was once otherwise. That there was a cozy, sort of group privacy to be had by launching into song in the middle of nowhere. But also an opening out. Like by group-singing in an unlikely place you revel in sharing popular culture and meeting in a neutral place together. Also, a way of temporarily organizing the public space inside and outside the bus; the shared song containing the experience of the bus, surrounding the ridership. A spontaneous self-effacing we-ness sprung up.. The anti-thesis of the headphones.

© Scott Tienken

About Scott Tienken

Scott Tienken is co-editor of The Cartophile Imprint, a publishing/music/and public arts website. His current novel, Mass Transportation, the second installment of his Portland Trilogy, takes place on the northbound 75 busline to St. Johns. He is founding member of the Pine Needles music collective. He is a certified city and public art project geek, works for the county library, and is looking for a chess partner. (Scott Tienken owns the copyright on all his contributions, please contact him for permission to republish).
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