Evening Rush Hour:
I sat in a window seat on Short-Line bus out of New York City’s Port Authority Bus Station. Slowly, one by one, passengers boarded the bus.
Some were headed home after a long day’s work. Others were homeward bound after a playful day in the city.
Each passenger that climbed aboard, either male or female, scanned the possible seating arrangements on the bus. Each one climbed up the steps and began to make their way down the aisle between the two, side by side seats.
The choice of seating is either an aisle or window seat. As for me, I prefer the window. I enjoy watching the city lights disappear into distance. I like watching the changes in landscape from city to suburb. The sky above gradually changes and light gives way to a dim evening sky.
Ahead, my world is home. Behind me, the city moves as if I never left. The streets still buzzing with life and my head is still spinning. I choose the window seat and wire music to my ears. Leaning back, I find myself lost through the window and gazing in the deep thought of an empty stare.
It all starts at the bus station. It starts at gate 408, to be exact. Once the seats are full, the driver backs up to depart from the bus’s gate. The driver turns the large wheel with their eyes looking up at a large rearview mirror to maneuver the bus down a tight stretch in the upper levels of a mezzanine parking lot. Once backed out of the spot, the driver heads passed the other buses, which idle patiently at the other gates in the station.
Then we head down the ramp. We wave farewell to Manhattan before ducking beneath the Lincoln Tunnel.
Coming out on the other side, the bus leaves the tube, and I leave my day behind me.
Every day, this is me.
This is the way I exit the city that never sleeps. Most of the passengers sit quietly and occupy their time while reading a book, a newspaper, or skimming through touchscreen on their smart phones.
The seating conditions are somewhat tight. I am not a small man by any means, which is why I always hope for a slimmer passenger to take the seat beside mine.
Getting on the 7:00pm bus, we came out the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel. We are Jersey bound now. I gazed out the window to watch the sunset. I keep my ear buds in to either pipe music or listen to different readings by some of the great poets.
I keep the volume loud enough to drown out the surrounding noise. I find this helps me relax. It helps me leave my day behind and forget the city. I keep the volume loud; however, the volume is not so loud that anyone sitting nearby can hear it.
Amidst the quiet commute home, two people began to speak loudly to each other. They were not seated next to one another. A woman leaned forward and tapped the man’s shoulder in the seat ahead of hers. The woman noticed he was sending a text message.
“Whenever you’re done, I just need to make a really quick phone call.”
“Excuse me,” asked the man seated in front of the woman.
The middle-aged woman with red, long curly hair was slightly freckled. She leaned forward with her face peering between the two seats. Her hands gripping the side of the seat in front of her—her posture seemed a bit too confident and comfortable while requesting that a stranger lend her his phone.
“I just need to make a phone call,” said the woman.
Surprised at the woman’s comfort while making such an awkward request, the man apologized. “I’m sorry,” said the man. “I don’t lend my phone to strangers.”
The middle-aged woman postured back. Her face took on a look of shock. Her hands still gripping the back-rest of the man’s chair, her eyes opened widely as her astonished smile showed a glare of sarcasm
“I just need to make a phone call,” said the woman, as if her request was not forward or strange in any way.
Her eyebrow lifted and her smile curled into the form of an insult.
“I understand that,” explained the man in a calm voice. “It’s nothing personal. I just don’t lend my phone out to people I don’t know.
Weaving her head back and forth, the woman snorted, “Well if it’s a matter of money, I can give you money!”
“No thank you,” said the man.
“I don’t want your money. I apologize. I just don’t lend my phone out to people I don’t know.”
The man turned back around.
The woman began to carry on. She was not poorly dressed. She was not seemingly odd, or appearing to be mentally ill. Simply put, she did not seem to be a person that was accustomed to hearing the word, “No.”
She began speaking to the other passengers. Alarmed that a man did not grant her use of his cell phone, the woman carried on. “I don’t know what the big deal is,” she said.
In conclusion, the man quickly and respectfully silenced the woman.
“Mam, there is no big deal. There are other people on the bus. If you need to use a phone, feel free to ask someone else.”
“I will,” argued the middle-aged woman.
“Okay,” settled the man. Then he turned around and returned to his own business.
The middle-aged woman took his suggestion and asked someone else. She asked a woman this time. This woman was new to the seat and she did not witness the banter between the middle-aged woman and the man sitting in the seat ahead of them.
“Can you believe that,” said the middle-aged woman.
At this point, the man seated in front of her placed ear buds in his ears. He piped music through the wires to drown out the sounds of the complaining woman that sat behind him.
Eventually, all was quiet. Neither the man nor the middle-aged woman spoke anymore about the cell phone incident. Heading down Route 17 and stopping outside the hamburger spot known as “The Fireplace,” the woman stood up to get off at her stop.
She turned her neck to the side and faced the man that was in front of her. In an obnoxious tone, the woman blurted, “Have a nice day.”
The man responded, “You do know I’m not here for your approval, right?”
Aghast, the woman turned forward and walked off the bus.
I consider myself to be somewhat of a story teller. The stories I tell are true.
I admit to changing facts to prove my point. I admit to changing names in my story to protect the less than innocent. The stories I write about are stories that effect my day. I write them down so I can learn from them—and if someone reads along, then maybe they can learn from them too.
In truth, I was the man sitting in front of the middle-aged woman.
I thought about our interaction as it happened. I thought about the way people banter back and forth. Most of all, I thought about how pointless it is to argue—especially when it comes to arguing with a stranger.
Sometimes we instigate.
We say mean things simply because we did not get what we wanted or because we heard that unthinkable word, “No.”
It just proves one thing
Narcissism is a bitch . . .