Friday, April 4, 2008

DUCK, DUCK, NOOSE: A Local Man's Sad Commute is Truly a Buzz-Kill, by Chip Chantry

Chip Chantry is a Philadelphia stand-up comedian that will be headlining at Chuckles Comedy Club in Audubon, PA (827 Trooper Rd.) this Saturday the 5th and at THE MINISTRY OF SECRET JOKES at Fergie's Pub on Wednesday, April 30th (1214 Sansom St.).

It's a shame about Ray.

Quitting time at the top of the Comcast Tower on Market Street in Philadelphia is 4pm for the construction workers on the day shift. The last I-Beam has been welded. The final mirrored window, hoisted into place by the nodding crane, now reflects the sun, making its daily descent to meet with the glimmering Schuylkill.

For most, this is a time for celebration. Some workers hop in their pickup trucks, beating the afternoon rush, arriving home in time for dinner with the wife and kids. Others will make their way to the train or the bus to hurry home for a night of relaxation. Also, there is always the familiar crew who stop off at the corner bar to put back a few pints and enjoy some time with their friends.

Then there is Ray.

Ray Tosco, 38, of Mayfair, finds himself sitting alone, toolbox and hard hat in hand, waiting for his ride to pick him up. He may not look alone; he is, in fact, surrounded by dozens of families, excited children, and giddy tourists donning fanny packs and Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts snapping photos. But, in his heart, he has never felt so lonely. So lonely, or, in fact, so ashamed.

"I can't believe I done this," laments the burly, mustachioed steelworker. "It's the worst mistake I ever made. It's horrible. I just wanna ride the bus."

Tosco used to ride the bus. Every day, to and from work. He always kept his monthly SEPTA bus pass in his wallet, right behind his Quiznos Points Plus card. "I love those sandwiches," he admits, with a sad smile.

Ray Tosco no longer has a bus pass. At least not until September. In its place, nestled behind the Quiznos card, safely tucked into his Velcro wallet, is a constant reminder of the colossal mistake that he made only a few weeks ago.

"I bought a FUCKING Duck pass!" cries Tosco, on the verge of tears- a sad sight for such a strong man. "I din't mean to. It wasn't 'posed to happen like dis."

Ray's story dates back to February 29th of this year- Leap Day, for you believers. Thinking that February went to the 30th on leap year, Ray was shocked to find out that it was the last day of the month. As he exited the bus, he quickly made his way to the ticket office to purchase a monthly bus pass for March. After the hasty transaction, Ray realized there was a miscommunication. Instead of the bus card, he had mistakenly purchased a season pass to the "Ride the Duck" tour, which utilizes an amphibious vehicle that winds through the streets and waterways of Philadelphia. "The Duck" takes tourists around to historic sites, such as Independence Hall, The Betsy Ross House, and the Philadelphia Mint.

"It's the most Quack-tacular tour in Philly!" proclaims tour guide Kelly Scherer, a homely fireplug of a woman, whose brown perm protrudes through her weathered Phillies visor. "Since I started giving tours on the Duck five years ago, I haven't stopped smiling!"

"That crazy bitch never stops smiling," explains Tosco. Some days I wanna take dis soldering iron right to her face. I'm gonna snap if I have to listen to her much longer."

It's not just Scherer that Tosco has to deal with. The pushy tourists, the loud, obnoxious music, and the ever-present duck-bill callers buzz like kazoos of horror in Ray's ears. And the agony is extended. A commute that used to take 25 minutes now takes and hour and a half.

"The bus used to go straight up 95. Now we weave through town all day. Plus we ride up and down the river. Every time we splash into the water, I hope the thing flips over, and takes everyone with it. And that music, and the buzzers... If I have to hear 20 kids named Chelsea and Brandon sing 'YMCA' or do the "Macarena" dance one more time, I may start crying."

A crying man on a Duck tour? You would think that bothers Ray, but it doesn't. "People already look at me like I'm a jerkoff or a pederast. I don't know what's worse, when people are afraid of me at first, or when that tour guide bitch announces to everyone over the microphone why I'm on the Duck. I think about killin' myself a lot at night."

One may think that there is a simple solution to the problem- just get a refund, or trade it in for the bus pass. But it's not that easy. "All sales are final- no refunds," Scherer tells us, as she shoves a sleeve of Double Stuff Oreos in her fat, greasy face. "I understand Mr. Tosco is not happy with his situation, but we are trying to accommodate him. We give him preferential seating, free foldable maps, pamphlets, and we provide him with a new duck bill buzzer every day!"

"They make me wear that fuckin' kazoo around my neck, and they yell at me when I take it off. I look like a retard," laments Tosco.

Public humiliation is not the only danger that Ray faces each day. "Do you know how many teenagers on South Street throw firecrackers at this thing everyday? I've been hit with three this week. I can't hear out of my left ear."

Unfortunately for Ray, this is his lot until September 1st, when the pass expires. Between alimony and child support, he cannot afford to buy another monthly bus pass, and has accepted his cruel fate for the coming months.

The one positive note for Tosco is that Gene, the Duck driver, has agreed to drop him off in his neighborhood each day after the tour is over. Although, as mandated by the tour company, Gene, a retired public school teacher, must keep the music playing the entire time. "He's always playing 'Who Let the Dogs Out' when he gets to my block. I always have him drop me off around the corner. I can't let my neighbors see me in that. They'd egg my house if they saw me riding that fag-wagon everyday."

"I don't appreciate it when Mr. Tosco refers to our duck as an 'F-wagon', responds Scherer as she sweats through her tour guide uniform on a brisk day in mid-March. "I don't think he appreciates the rich history and culture that we share with our patrons."

When asked about the historic benefits of riding the Duck, Tosco laughed. "They drive past the Philly Vietnam Memorial while blasting 'Summer of '69'.! My uncle died in Nam. And now I get to 'honor' him every afternoon with a Bryan Adams tune? That little prick's CANADIAN!"

It looks as if this will be a long summer for Ray Tosco. But will he miss it when it's gone?

When asked if he will ever ride the Duck again after his summer pass has expired, Tosco looked at me, as if puzzled, and had this to offer: "A little girl threw up on my leg yesterday. What the fuck do you think??"


Brendan said...

hahaha, 2 kudos to you sir. 2 kudos to you.

Chris McDevitt said...

That's Hilarious, Chip. But I think we all know Ray Tosco is just an anagram for the Sorta Coy Chip Chantry.