Sunday, January 17, 2010

BUS STORY # 168, Part 1 (Means Testing)

I’m sitting with Ralph* and we’re talking about work. This utterly fascinating comparison of job expectations and bosses’ reality constructs is interrupted by the woman sitting across the aisle from us. She is leaning toward me and has just finished saying something neither of us heard. I lean toward her and say, “I’m sorry?”

“I said, if he can afford to go to Cape Cod, why is he riding the bus?”

Ralph and I are clueless. Is she talking about us? Did she misunderstand something we said? Is she all there? She’s a short, overweight woman who looks dressed for Walmart.

Ralph and I look at each other, and then I say again, “I’m sorry?”

Before she can answer, a man sitting two rows ahead of us on the bench seat leans forward and tells her he doesn’t sit around listening in on her phone calls and making judgmental observations to everyone around him, so why doesn’t she just mind her own business and shut her mouth.

He's dressed like he works in an office. He speaks loudly and clearly and with an authority that suggests he might also have a boss’s reality construct.

When he’s finished his piece, he leans back and brings a cell to his ear.

“Sorry, I’m dealing with some _______ here on the bus.”

The woman witlessly repeats her question, half to him, half to whoever else is listening, which is pretty much everyone by now.

Unfortunately, he either does not grasp or angrily ignores just how witless she is, and rips her a profanity-laced new one. Embedded in the response is that he happens to prefer taking the bus to work, and he’s probably contributing a lot more in taxes toward the bus than she is, and maybe she ought to be thanking him for her ride.

At this point, the driver pulls over, stands up and steps back to where the man is sitting, and tells them if they don’t quit arguing right now, he’s gonna throw both of them off the bus.

The exchange doesn’t really stop right there, but it loses the profanity and peters out. When he exits, he apologizes to the driver, but points out she was the one being the jerk. After the door closes, she apologizes to the driver and also excuses herself from blame.

Ralph and I, like everyone else, have been keenly attuned to the whole episode and, like everyone else, are conducting ourselves as if none of this really happened in our reality construct.

Later on, when thinking about this rather disturbing exchange, I realized that, as hapless as the woman was, her question would resonate with a large portion of the bus riding population. Anyone who could afford to vacation at Cape Cod could surely afford a car. Why would anyone who could afford a car take the bus, for God’s sake?

*Real name changed.

The photo at the top of this story is titled I see you and is posted with the kind permission (and considerable help) of Carlos Ebert. You can see this and all Carlos Ebert’s photos on Flickr at:


Anonymous OneLifeLiveIt said...

Interesting idea will be checking back again.

7:34 PM  

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