Her work schedule often puts her both on the same inbound morning bus and the same outbound evening bus as me, and so I see a lot of Sylvia. She is a slightly round woman with longish hair, somewhere in her late 30s, wearing large round eyeglasses that would seem more appropriate on an older woman. When I first started observing her, I thought that perhaps Sylvia had been riding for many, many years, since many people on the bus seemed to be close friends of hers. I quickly saw, though Sylvia is just one of those people who will tell anything and everything, to almost anyone, any time, any where. The people she talked to so openly weren't close friends at all. She just doesn't have any sense of social restraint at all when it comes to talking with strangers.
If you find yourself sitting next to Sylvia, usually it's only a matter of a moment or two until she turns in her seat, leans forward, and enters into a spirited, if somewhat one-sided, conversation with you.
It would be rather easy to simple label Sylvia as a sadly lonely woman who talks to bus people because she has no one else in the world to converse with. She seems more complicated than that, though, because judging from her conversation, it appears that her management job at the bank entails a fair amount of responsibility and routine interaction with others seems to be something she's good at.
Sylvia will describe every aspect of her life to the people around her on the bus, and she does so in a voice that carries pretty much throughout the vehicle. For several consecutive mornings recently, she described the office intrigue that went along with her yearly performance review at work. (She was not viewed positively by her supervisor, who dislikes single women, we're told.) Her principle audience for this conversation was the monkish Thomas, an elderly gentleman who very politely listened, nodded, even offered an occasional word of encouragement.
On another morning, a woman (and everybody else) was treated to a pretty detailed description of Sylvia's extended family, some of whom live in the area, others as far way as Seattle. She is particularly close to her half-brother; doesn't much care for her sister, even though she is a full sibling.
Not everybody listens politely. Some newcomers to the bus shift uncomfortably when Sylvia begins to talk directly to them, and a few even get up to change seats. For those who have been around a while, though, Sylvia no longer draws any attention. She is just one of the gang, although a little eccentric. We know lots and lots about her, even though we've never heard her actually give her name.
Much of the time, Sylvia just describes the minutia of her life in pretty exhaustive detail. Occasionally, however, a bit of philosophy falls out of the sky, apropos of nothing else that's been going on at all. This morning, Sylvia was unusually silent for most of the ride into downtown. It wasn't until the final passengers boarded the bus when only standing room remained, that Sylvia finally spoke, boldly:
"If you've decided to change yourself because of somebody else, it never works," she said to everyone on the bus. "The only reason to change if for yourself, and yourself alone."