Crazy Talking Man
Each morning, I ride the 9:06 bus into downtown Chicago for work. So does Crazy Talking Man. Crazy Talking Man looks like a dad and wears, every day, a battered fishing hat that is covered with American-flag pins. He is always reading a book that looked to me, from afar, to be written in Chinese—the same book, every day. Another distinguishing characteristic of CTM is the bubble of space, at least three seats deep in every direction, that surrounds him at all times. This is because when someone sits near him on the bus, he punches his fist violently in the air, points to a line in the book, and shouts at the top of his lungs, “It’s my time to speak, I have the floor, you are taking freedom from the Americans, I am translating from the Chinese, here, so GIVE ME A MINUTE!!!” I’d been watching this routine for more than a year when I started to get a bit suspicious. Was it possible that Crazy Talking Man wasn’t crazy at all—that he just wanted to have an entire row of seats to himself on the bus, and would go to any length to make sure he got it? One day, the bus was super, super crowded, and I got seriously annoyed that CTM had all these seats to himself, and I decided I didn’t care if he yelled at me, I was sitting next to him. He of course started up his yelling, pointing at his book, waving it at me, and hollering. That’s when I suddenly got a good look at the book—and noticed that it was written in Korean, not Chinese. I interrupted him and pointed to the book, saying, “Hey. That’s not Chinese, that’s Korean.” All of a sudden, Crazy Talking Man stopped punching the air. He looked right at me and said, in a PERFECTLY NORMAL VOICE, “Really? Huh. Looked like Chinese to me. Whaddya know.” Then he turned around and began yelling again at the guy behind him, who gave him a panicked look and got up and moved. And THEN I KNEW I WAS DEALING WITH THE MASTER OF THE CITY. I give Crazy Talking Man five stars for basically owning the Chicago transit system, but then I need to subtract two because Crazy Talking Man is disturbing and also a seat-hog. So three. Three stars. Learn to share. —Krista

Snowman Man
I see my favorite pseudo-stranger a few times a week on my way home from work, and each time is nothing less than wonderful. This guy, the starlight of my subway commutes, is shaped exactly like a snowman. He’s squat and almost perfectly spherical, and pretty much obligated to be jolly, a burden which he not only satisfies but exceeds times like a million. Snowman Man spends his days with an electric Casio keyboard on his lap, grinning like a snowman grins, announcing things in a soaring but also monotone voice to the subway platform. Sometimes his proclamations are simple: he’ll tell everyone when the next train is arriving a second after the automated robot announcer does, for instance, as though imparting some divine knowledge that no one else is attuned enough to the universe’s rhythms to hear. Other times, though, he really is relaying secret messages from everyone from the president of the United States to the rats on the tracks (which he considers his pets). He likes to describe the diet he feeds them (the rats, not Obama, I mean come on) syllable by syllable in his weird, flat booming-ness: “I WILL SPLIT UP A SLICE OF VE-GAN PIZ-ZER AND GIVE IT TO THEM FOR HEALTH PUH-POS-ES.” Love is a big thing for Snowman Man, too. He’ll announce that he’ll always cherish each and every one of his ex-wives, of which there are ostensibly many, and how God told him that each single day is now Valentine’s Day and we’ll all have paid holidays from work for the rest of forever in order to celebrate properly. He’s a romantic person, and I like that so much. Oh, also? I have never, ever heard him play a single note on that keyboard. Maybe he’ll oblige me one day, but it doesn’t really matter—he makes me plenty happy enough as it is. Love you, Snowman Man. —Amy Rose
★★★★★, doye!

Annoyingly Loud and Boring Wes Anderson Fan
This guy was sitting in the outdoor restaurant of our Boise hotel during our road trip. He was wearing a plaid shirt and very small glasses and probably could have been my dad’s age. He was talking about Wes Anderson moves in the most obvious and pretentious way possible. And by “talking” I mean basically shouting. Some things he screamed included “HE’S JUST LIKE A PAINTER WHO LOVES MUSTARD YELLOW!” “THE THING I LIKE MOST ABOUT WES’S MOVIES IS HIS CARTOONISH CHARACTERS!” “DID YOU SEE DARJEELING LIMITED? SO GOOD!” I think he was trying to make creative observations about Anderson films, but all of his opinions were boring and EXTREMELY LOUD. It’s like, we GET IT. You like WES ANDERSON. You understand his INTERESTING AND CONSISTENT COLOR SCHEME. I think he probably had just seen those movies for the first time and wanted to let everyone know he appreciated them…a lot. Also, dude, you are definitely not on a first-name basis with Wes Anderson. Sorry! I give him two out of five stars for being annoying but also unknowingly hilarious. —Hazel

Bowl Cut Man
There is this guy who always hangs out at the bookstore near my house. He has a bowl cut—like a for-real, looks-like-someone-threw-a-mixing-bowl-on-his-head-and-cut-off-the excess bowl cut that makes him resemble a medieval monk. My guess is that his mom cuts his hair, because I know he lives with his mom. How do I know? Because this guy has the loudest mouth! I cannot sit down to read without hearing him yap to anyone who will give him the time of day. His favorite subjects to talk about are: (1) living with his mom, and (2) all of the chain restaurants he visits with his mom. He loves the two-for-$20 deal at Applebee’s, but cannot stand the service at T.G.I. Friday’s. In the battle of Italian restaurants, Macaroni Grill beats Olive Garden, in his opinion. And, please, don’t get him started on Outback Steakhouse! According to him, the “Bloomin’ Onion” appetizer is just not what it used to be. I have a dream that Bowl Cut Man gets his big break as a restaurant critic and finally breaks free from his mom’s basement, but the sad truth is that I think he will forever be invading my quiet time at the bookstore. —Gabby

Olivia Bee
When a bunch of Rookies converged in L.A. over the summer, Katherine and I shared a room at the W Hotel in Hollywood, so of course we threw some slumber parties. One of them happened after the Rookie prom, and after the obligatory junk-food eating and hotel-room dancing, we were all sprawled out across various pieces of furniture and began reflecting, as you do late at night at a slumber party, on our LIVES. We talked about high school, music scenes, and things we did as kids in our various hometowns. As the conversation wound on, Olivia, in the exact position in which she appears in this photo, sighed deeply and said, “I’m just sooo sick of party.” Something about that expression of jaded ennui combined with the tiara, the pout, and the fact that we were at this ridiculously ritzy hotel, sent me straight to heaven. I give Olivia five bedazzled stars for being my #1 Diva Hero and totally obliterating every effort I’ve ever made to be a diva because she did it so EFFORTLESSLY it blew my mind and I cried maybe. —Dylan

There was a French guy in my history class named Doupenloupe (pronounced “doopenloop”—truly, doopenloop). He had a cold that lasted about 10 weeks, and every day during class he would blow his nose in a great honk that caused the walls to tremble. He seemed utterly unaware of how disruptive this was. At first he irritated me, but I soon came to admire the way he unflinchingly blew his nose at 100 percent intensity, every single time. He became sort of a folk hero/enemy for me. I changed his name to Droopenloop because in addition to having this astounding honk, he also had really droopy pants. —Maggie

Russian Surrogate Mom on the Bus
Everything interesting always happens to me on the bus. Just today, I spent an entire commute being schooled by a 60-year-old Russian woman. She was sitting next to me in hot-pink lipstick and a fur coat, and I felt like she was nudging me on purpose with her elbow. I turned to look at her, and she shot out a hand and patted my cheek and said, “Very beautiful.” I said, “…thanks?” She then looked pointedly at my leg, which was leaning against the side rail of the bus, and said, “But good girls? They sit with their legs together.” I cracked up and closed the space between my knees. Then she patted my THIGH and said approvingly, “Good girl. Nice, modest girl.” She looked at my face. “You married yet?” I told her no, and she said, “I know why. Is that ring in your face. Men, they don’t like this. They like a soft woman, soft skin, soft lips, not hard with this ring. You take it out, get married, watch.” Forty minutes later, she’d examined my fingernails, discussed my skincare regime (“Dry skin—I know, I see this”), sniffed my perfume, talked to me about the horrors of tattoos, and learned not only where my parents live, but how long I’m going to visit them at Christmas (“Is not long enough. Ten days? Too short”). I can’t remember enjoying a bus ride more. When I got up, I said, “It was really, really nice talking to you,” and she waved her hand at me and went, “Pffft. Is normal. We sit on the bus, why we don’t talk? Is normal.” I give her 500 stars for sheer bossiness and fabulousness. —Krista
★★★★★ x 100

Security Guard at My School
The security attendant who works in my dorm lobby on weekend nights has scored possibly the most exciting time slot to be a security attendant. He gets to witness kids excitedly leaving the building in packs, all dressed up to go ~hit the town~, and, hours later, gets to hear how the night went. He never hesitates to send out good vibes and tell everyone how great they look! Even if you’re leaving in your sweatpants to go pick up Chinese food, this guy will say, “You look stunning tonight!” in a totally warm, grandfatherly way that makes you feel great. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a really miserable night and are drunkenly stumbling into the dorm, he will be like, “Welcome home, ladies!” and you know somehow that everything is going to be OK. One night, my friend walked into the building feeling sad after breaking up with a boy. When she told this man what had happened, his response was “CONGRATULATIONS!” Another time, I wore this really cute dress to go study at the library on a Friday night (I know and I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT) and I came back to the dorm around 2 AM and he told me that I looked “so nice” and wanted to know what “the occasion” was. When I revealed to him the pathetic truth, that I just like to dress up every day, he goes, “A girl with that kind of attitude needs to get out there and see the world!” So, basically this security attendant is also serving as my life coach, but he doesn’t know it. Five stars! —Gabby

My Aunt Marie
My aunt Marie is the best (THE BEST) dresser you will ever meet. She hardly spends a dime on her clothes and yet she is always decked out, head to toe, in the most fabulous outfits. She seems to have a sonar device that is able to pick up frequencies inaudible to the rest of us, telling her when there’s good stuff to be had at our local thrift stores. Last weekend we went out for a family dinner to that kind of “fancy dinner” place where you have to wear that one dress that itches you in the wrong spot. Marie wore jeans, a tailored Comme des Garçons jacket, a shirt with a Peter Pan collar, and black leather shoes by Prada. She got every single item from the LOCAL GOODWILL. The total cost: $80. I was gobsmacked, impressed, and also annoyed that I don’t have her luck/powers. I’m giving Marie five stars, partly because maybe she’ll read this and then want to take me with her on her next thrifting expedition (there’s a 50% off sale this Friday, hint hint). —Kendra

The Street-Harassment Avenger
On 22nd Street just east of 7th Avenue in Manhattan, just a few doors down from where my dog goes to day care, there’s a front stoop that leads nowhere—just some steps attached to a building for no reason. I walk by that stoop at least once a day, and there’s always a group of men hanging out on the steps, drinking liquor and beers—all day, every day—and cat-calling every woman who walks by. It grosses me out so bad that I now inconvenience myself by crossing to the other side of the street to avoid passing them. I wish that I had the guts instead to do what I witnessed a couple of months ago: I was walking my dog home from day care. There must have been something “threatening” on the other side of the street (Piney is “sensitive,” so that could have been anything from a group of dogs to a little kid running “too fast” down the sidewalk), because I stayed on the yucky-men side, behind a group of three people—a man, a woman, and a teenage girl. I saw them pass the drunk guys. I heard the drunk guys whistle and say something that sounded lascivious, per usual. Then I saw the woman stop in her tracks, whip her head around, and yell, “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?” The men ignored her. “I SAID, WHAT DID YOU SAY?” she repeated. “THIS IS MY LITTLE SISTER. SHE IS 15 YEARS OLD, DO YOU HEAR ME? YOU DON’T TALK THAT WAY TO HER! SHE IS 15!” They rolled their eyes in silence and she continued to chew them out for a bit, yelling, “What is wrong with you??” and “How do you think it’s OK to talk that way to a young girl?” then she turned and kept walking with her group. One of the guys muttered, under his breath, to her back, “Slut.” Now, this is where most people would have given up and kept it moving. Not my new hero—she stopped again, turned around, and marched back up to these guys. “Excuse me?” she said. “What did you call me? I better never catch you talking like that again. I will fuck you up. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Her male companion tugged her arm and pulled her away before she tried to drive her lesson home more forcefully. The dudes actually looked ashamed for a second. By the time I passed the stoop, they were not making any noise. Thank you, real-life superhero, wherever and whoever you are. —Anaheed

Dude in a Taxi During Fashion Week
When you live in a big city you spend most of your time in your own bubble, and 99.9% of the time if someone intrudes into your bubble of personal fake-privacy you feel offended and/or disgusted. But that other .1% are the moments when you feel an unexpected connection with a complete stranger, and it just makes your day a little better. Last time this happened to me, I was actually having a really good day already—it was in September, during New York Fashion Week, and I was walking home from a really wonderful show at the Piers, to which I had happened to walk right behind Kate Lanphear and Hamish Bowles, both of whom are idols of mine and absolutely perfect in person. So, good day, good mood. Then, on my way home, I felt someone staring straight at me. It was this curly-haired, sunglasses-wearing 30-something dude in a cab. Normally I’d be like, EW, THE FILTHY EYES OF A MAN HAVE LATCHED ONTO MY SOUL, but for some reason this guy with his fluffy, curly hair looked like an old picture of my dad, and that made me smile, and then he smiled and waved and was generally not a creep and it felt more like seeing an old friend in the city than catching a stranger ogling my outfit. Where I had expected to be cat-called, I was instead figuratively high-fived. Sometimes dudes on the street aren’t creepy, and that’s nice. —Arabelle

My Driving Instructor
When I moved to L.A. earlier this year, I didn’t know many people, I was working from home, and I couldn’t drive. (After passing my road test in high school, I never got behind the wheel again.) Enter Armando. We met a few times a week for two hours, and he was patient and elderly and said reassuring things, like how it didn’t matter if I totalled the car, because he would get a paid vacation while they fixed it. He was a serious improvement over my creepy New York instructors, one of whom had me hold his hand to “practice keeping the other one steady at the wheel.” I looked forward to our time together, because I was grateful for the company, but also because Armando was determined to give me a tour of the city, and driving from Los Feliz to Redondo Beach to Laurel Canyon to Pasadena broke my resistance to California. And when we got stuck in traffic, we would chat, and he would share his fears that L.A. was due for a cataclysmic event, because they seemed to be happening everywhere else. Finally, he insisted I stop taking lessons and start driving a car by myself. He was basically my first friend here, and I miss him and his emergency brakes. I’m giving him five stars for getting me out of the house, and for being a doomsday enthusiast like myself. –Phoebe

A Lovely Barista
A month ago, I was in a Starbucks about an hour from where I live. When I got to the register, the barista noticed that I was wearing my “free bear hugs” shirt and asked, “Where’s my free bear hug?” I stretched out my arms and she came running from behind the counter to hug me. As if that weren’t nice enough, she insisted on giving me my drink for free! Another barista wrote “Bear Hugger” on my cup, and everyone in the shop smiled at me, which was like getting 20 bear hugs at once. 5 stars for her awesomeness and for everyone’s resulting good vibes. —Tyler

Unidentified Rock Thrower
My usually pleasant journey on the train was unceremoniously ruined recently when a hooded creature with the outline of a human teenager threw a large rock at the window I was innocently sitting next to. After my fellow passengers and I recovered from the shock of shattered glass and big loud scary noises early in the morning, I got to thinking about this person who must have, at time of delinquency, thought this action was a good idea. While I didn’t see their face, I knew that I did not respect the choice they’d made because of the danger they had so flippantly put fellow humans in. If you want to score well in my people review, I wouldn’t recommend being destructive/trying to hurt people. Not only was I disappointed in humanity, I was frustrated because I would never find out who the perpetrator was. And there was a third feeling, too—I felt slightly sorry for them, thinking they must not have had anyone in their lives encouraging them to make good decisions, for example not skipping school to throw rocks on a Monday morning at a passing train. I give this unknown person one star—may it serve as a shining beacon of hope, of encouragement, that they may think twice next time. —Minna