Here are two stories of my time on public transport -- just from today!
When my roommate Amy and I left school today, we took the bus (#25) to go to Petrivka metro, where we would continue on to the city center.
Right about where we would get off to go home, some man sitting 2 rows in front of us heard us speaking English, and just started talking to us. "I'm from Florida, from near Orlando -- where are you from?" I replied, "Maryland," and he said, "Oh, I know someone who lives in Frederick, that's near West Virginia -- 301 area code?" Yes, yes it is, and yes I know where Frederick is.
He kept talking, with only minimal encouragement from us. I was trying to be polite because I couldn't tell if he was American or Ukrainian. Then he told us he has a car here in this country, in western Ukraine, but has to take it out of the country every 60 days. He also told us that he was, or could be, or people thought he was, related to Billy Joel.
I elbowed Amy and said, "Oh! I have a strategy!" (for tuning the guy out), and pulled out my headphones. This strategy would have been more efficient had the wire not been tangled. My second strategy was much better -- to get out a stop or two from the end of the line, then walk the rest of the way to the metro. This allowed us to hide covertly behind a kiosk and laugh, without the guy seeing or following us for the rest of our journey.
[My new plan is to create an alter ego for myself, one that is told to strange creepy men like the aforementioned one. In this alter ego, I will be named Ginny and I will call El Paso "home". This alter ego still needs a few wrinkles ironed out, but ideally I won't need to use it for a while.]
The second story takes place on our bus ride home, on the #18. A little girl slid into the seat across from us -- we were in the back right corner of the bus -- and she looked to be about 8 or 9 years old, and was quite bundled up for the (not-so-) cold weather.
She and I made eye contact, and I ever-so-slightly smiled at her. Now, here in Ukraine, people do not smile at strangers. (In the US, everybody smiles at everybody else.) This little girl SMILED ever-so-slightly back at me! So cute!
Then, what's even better, is that a minute or so later, when we made eye contact again, she WINKED at me (slowly enough that I wasn't even sure that she had)!
On public transport, you see all kinds of characters. There's never a dull moment when you live in another culture.