There are two MTA city buses that go from Flushing, Queens to Jamaica, Queens. They are named the 25 and the 34. One bus goes the local route, making all the stops, and the other is the express, skipping a few. I usually get onto whatever comes first, because the amount of time saved using the express is negligible. But today, I ended up on the express bus, heading towards Jamaica. There were ten passengers on board. The only passenger standing was a mop-headed middle-aged white man who was carrying six plastic Key Food bags filled with grocery items.
“I want to get off here,” he yelled as we passed his stop.
“I can’t. You can get off at the next stop,” said the bus driver, a portly black man.
“But I want to get off here!” repeated the passenger. “This is my stop!”
“I don’t stop here.”
“How can you not stop here? I always get off here.”
“This is the express bus. This is a local stop. I don’t stop here.”
“I demand that you stop!”
“I cannot stop. There are RULES.”
The passenger edged towards the front of the bus, his foot hovering over the white line separating him from the space of the driver.
“I know you,” he said to the driver. “You’re a control freak. You’re always like this. You get pleasure from sticking it to others. You’re a cruel man. A cruel, cruel man.”
Another passenger, an African-American woman in a short dress, stood up, hoping to ease the tension.
“It’s an express bus, mister.. Chill out. He doesn’t make the same stops. You must be used to being on the local bus.”
“Fuck that,” spewed the man. “He could stop if he really wanted. He just loves the power. I know his type.”
The rest of the passengers nervously glanced at each other, preparing for the worst. They turned towards me. I assumed that since I was the only other white passenger on the bus, and they wanted to see if I was to be an ally in case things turned racial.
The tension dissipated when the bus pulled into the next stop. The angry white passenger stepped off, two blocks from his usual stop,
“I know who you are,” he snipped once more at the driver. “All of us know who you are. You enjoy it. The way you stick to your rules. You’re a sick man. You’re crazy!”
The bus driver remained silent, ignoring his insults. The moment he left the bus and the door was closed, we all erupted in laughter.
“That guy was nuts!” said the woman across from me, sitting with his young son.
We all looked out the window as the man struggled with his bags, walking in the opposite direction.
There was a red light at the intersection where the stop was located, so the bus needed to wait at the curb until the light turned green. We sighed; our ride had reverted to normalcy. Just then, an elderly black man, a cane in his hand, knocked on the closed door of the bus, wanting to come inside. He was relieved to not miss the bus.
“I can’t let you in,” said the bus driver.
“Why not?” asked the man. “You’re still here.”
“I closed the doors already. There are RULES.”
The light turned green, and the bus sped away, spewing smoke in the elderly man’s face.
The bus passengers bonded again in secretive looks, but this time, you could see in our eyes that our opinion of the bus driver had forever changed.