Good Guys

Act Two. Heels On The Bus

Ira Glass
Act Two, The Heels on the Bus. So a test of whether or not you are a good guy, it can happen anywhere, as Mike Birbiglia well knows. He's a comedian and told this story onstage in New York.

Mike Birbiglia
Last week, I was meeting my wife in the city for dinner. And I went down to take the subway. And one of the unfortunate things about living in New York with the subway-- and you guys probably know this-- is sometimes on the weekends, the subway is just off.

And there'll just be a sign that's just like, there isn't the subway, you know? And it'll say, you could take the bus, you know? It's written in pencil. And there's an ellipses, you know?

So last weekend, that happened. And so I walked up to the bus. And I said to the bus driver, hey, the subway is off, but it said that I could take the bus to the subway. Do you know where I can get off? And the bus driver said to me, and I quote, he goes, "I don't know anything about the subway."

I was like, you don't know anything about the subway? You're wearing the same outfit as the man running the subway. If someone said to me, you see that guy walking down the street with the khaki shorts and the Kings of Leon T-shirt? You know anything about that guy? I'd be like, yeah, I'll tell you a few things about that guy. I know that he could use somebody.

There's only one other person on the bus. And it's this guy. And he looked up at me, and he goes, I'm taking the subway. You can follow me. So now I'm in an action film. I'm like, got it. I sit down, and I'm following this guy.

And then we go a few stops. And this lady walks onto the bus. And she was a pretty lady. And she wasn't just bus pretty. Like, she was pretty for the world.

And I did this thing that I sometimes do when I see a pretty lady, which is I looked at her long enough to realize that she was pretty. And then I looked at the floor. And then I never looked up again. That's my move.

And so I'm looking at the floor. And then I'm looking up at this guy I'm about to follow, because he's, like, my ride. But then he was staring at the lady. And I know we're all guilty of staring at some point or another. I think we've all done it.

But I think that there's an etiquette to staring. I think that you can use your peripheral vision if you want to look at somebody. You can stare at someone like you're inside of a spooky painting in Scooby-Doo where your face doesn't move, but then your eyes pan side to side, like you're living in the walls of a mansion.

But this guy was not doing the spooky painting. He was just full-on staring at this lady like a gargoyle. And I was so mad. I was just like, we all want to stare at the lady. But we don't. Because we are decent people. And we have decided as a group that we are not going to stare at the pretty lady.

But that's the difference between decent people and creepy people. Creepy people do the things that decent people want to do but have decided are probably not a great idea. Decent people are like, I would like to stare at that pretty lady, but it will make her feel uncomfortable. Creepy people are like, look, I'm going for it.

We go a few more stops, and the creepy guy stands up, looks at me, and says, let's go. I was like, oh great. Now she thinks I'm with you. This pretty lady and I have built up a rapport where we have an understanding that she is pretty and I am decent. And when I am in her presence, I stare at the floor. And now she thinks I am with you, a creepy man.

And so as I walk by this woman, I try to convey all of this with my eyes. Like, I am not with this guy. And that look takes so long to convey that the look itself becomes creepy. And I know it. And so I say, sorry, which were the first words uttered in a conversation we were not having.

As this woman understands her bus ride, she walked onto a bus, a creepy man stared at her for 10 minutes and then left the bus, and then another man, who she did not know was on the bus, approached her and apologized, which means what he did is worse.

And I'm so frustrated about the unfairness of the situation that when I get to the dinner with my wife, I'm explaining this whole thing in detail. And I'm like, it's not fair, because I am not creepy. I am decent. And my wife says, wait, is the moral of the story that you want credit for just not being creepy?

And I was like, exactly. Because I think that decent people are undervalued. And my wife says, but you do get credit. I married you. And I said, I want more than that.

Ira Glass
Mike Birbiglia. He's heading out next week on a 100-city tour from Milwaukee to Melbourne, or should I say "Melbin," called Thank God for Jokes. Details about when he is visiting your town at Coming up, proving that you're a good guy to somebody who will never, ever know what you did. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International when our program continues.

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program-- good guys, stories of people trying to be good guys and not always sure if they're succeeding.




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