I have been riding the New York MTA Express Bus for the majority of my stay here in the big apple. 15 years. While I started with the QM2 which plied the Bay Terrace/Manhattan line, I am now a regular passenger of the QM5. (Glen Oaks/Manhattan).
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I don’t mind the higher fare, primarily because it means getting on the bus just a few blocks away, and then getting off across my office building. Almost literally door-to-door. Plus you are almost always guaranteed a seat — unless you choose to stand — and there’s a certain unwritten code that assures you a more or less more considerate and courteous bus group. Almost always. There are those who would blab on on their cellphone not mindful of the sign plastered in front of the bus that says no cellphones please. Or who would act as if they paid for two seats instead of one. It takes all kinds.
Last week was one of those exceptions to the rule — we usually grab our “row of two seats,” always on the ready to “vacate” the empty seat if anyone walks up to your spot. I am usually good with clearing the seat even before I am requested when I see the bus starting to fill up.
On this particular day, the ride was pretty light. So I decided to whip out my make up bag and start painting my face. The bus wasn’t even half full, and every row before and after me had an empty seat available to some passenger who was minding their own business. The lady across from me was also putting on make up.
Midway through the pick ups, a young lady boards and requests for the empty seat next to me despite her seeing that I had a mirror compact in one hand and some make up in the other. Again, there were empty seats aplenty. Perhaps she thought we could be friends. Perhaps it was because she saw I had my earphones on — which didn’t help later on. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I was requested, and while the diva side of me would have opted to give her the look and heave a huge sigh of irritation, I promptly put my stuff away, and there she stood looking at me with a sense of impatience — forget that she knew beforehand I had my hands full.
And then she sat. And that was the start of my hell ride.
So I continued putting on my make up, being mindful not to hit her in any way. (Some people hate that when you encroach on their space.) Then she whipped out her phone and started checking messages. Then she starts making a call. Now I had on in-ear earbuds — supposed to be noise cancelling — but because I don’t want my music seeping through to my seatmate, I don’t play it full blast. Yet she managed to talk above the din. I didn’t say anything — thinking it was one call.
Then she decides to talk to the baby. Then some other relative. Then she makes an appointment — giving out her phone number. (Which, I was impishly thinking of writing down to prank her.) And with around half an hour left in the ride, I was hoping that was that. I was done putting on my make up — I wanted some peace and quiet. But no, she called her Mom, I think — or some other relative. Then she made another call, even telling her friend she was beginning to get some dirty looks on the bus which, I mistakenly thought, meant that was her last call. But she never stopped…
I was starting to start letting out audible sighs.. nothing. People around me were giving her the look, nothing. It only ended when she finally got up. After all those calls, I already knew she was studying at one of the universities on 34th street and was going in just for one day of class this week. She had to reschedule her appointment and would wait to hear from them. She talks to the baby who cannot understand what she is saying. And she doesn’t know what she’s doing for the long weekend holiday they observe.
I felt like we had known each other for a lifetime. I wouldn’t reveal all that in conversations on the phone with anyone near unless they were close friends of mine. She probably felt that way towards the bus crowd. The feeling was clearly not mutual.
I discovered later that the people around me had fallen victim to her antics many times, and were surprised at how I had kept my cool through all that hoopla. I had no choice. I ride a bus on this route everyday and I am not one to antagonize people for seemingly intolerable behavior, no matter how irritating it may be. Two ladies chimed in — and all I could say was, I didn’t have a choice and I just had to let it go.
Next time she chooses to sit with me again, I will promptly grab my things, step out to the aisle, and offer her the window seat. Let’s see how close she will feel we are when I go out of my way to offer her my choice seat. Maybe she does want to be my friend. I have news for her, though, I don’t need any more friends. She can sit next to me if she wants, but I’m not biting.