You are hereEssays on Life / Bus Stop
My ex-fiance Emily used to deride people who road busses: “Busses are for old people,” she said in that disdainful manner that she often used. “They go so slowly.” My mother, years before, had said something similar: “The bus takes forever,” she said once. “Give me the subway. One, two, three – and you’re there.”
My father, George, on the other hand, loved to ride the bus. He found it more civilized than the loud and in-your-face subway system, which he rarely visited (in fact, if you went with him on one of his infrequent excursions on the subway, he was usually lost, asking questions about it like a tourist, even though he had lived in New York for decades).
George liked the relative calm of the bus, and, because he got on the bus far uptown (usually on 112thStreet), he liked that he could get a seat and read. And woe to anyone who disturbed his reading. Once, he told me, when he was riding home, he couldn’t concentrate on his book because a woman was talking loudly on her cell phone about a relative who had some private problem. He was irritated, and when he was getting off the bus, he leaned over to her and said, very politely, “Excuse me, miss. Could you repeat that last phrase. I didn’t catch all of it?” And as she stared at him, probably thinking he was crazy, he would step out, probably pleased with his minor triumph.
Another time, he was riding home on a crowded bus. He noticed a woman preparing to get off. She was sitting on one of the single seats, that George felt were “more desirable” because you had more privacy. To his chagrin, he saw the woman lean over to another passenger on the bus and sat, “When I get off, you can have this seat.” My father said: “These seats aren’t co-op apartments, madame, for you to bequeath to your chosen heir.”
But sometimes bus rides are not so benign. Once, I was on line on Amsterdam Avenue waiting for the M60. Now, I like the M60. It takes you to the subway on Broadway and 116th Street – and also goes northeast to LaGuardia airport. All for $2.25. When you’re in a hurry, it sure beats walking.
Or so I thought. The line moved up, the woman in front of me stepped on the bus, and I had my hands in front of me, getting my Metrocard out of my wallet. Without warning, the driver closed the door on me, trapping my outstretched arms inside the bus – while leaving the rest of me on the outside. Oblivious to my situation, the bus driver started pulling the bus away from the curb.
Feeling not unlike a fish on the hook, I called out, “Hey! Hey!” – although I don’t know if the driver heard me over the roar of the motor. But all the other passengers saw me and started yelling at the bus driver to stop.
He stopped and opened the doors. And now it was his turn to yell. He berated me for “moving too slowly.” Not realizing that entries and exits were on a timer, I angrily said to the driver: “You’re blaming me? You’re saying it was my fault?” I was reminded of the child who killed his parents and then pleaded with the judge for mercy because he was an orphan.
The other passengers began shouting at him. “It’s your fault!” “We all saw it!” “Don’t try to blame him!” “Why don’t you apologize!” “Take responsibilty!”
The driver, not contrite in the least, defiantly said, “I did apologize” (I guess I didn’t hear it), adding, with an unfortunate turn of phrase, “It’s you folks that insist on dragging this out.”
Maybe there's something to be said for subways.
November 26, 2013