When it finally arrived, it was crowded. In fact, standing room only. When I put my change in the slot, the bus driver noticed my walking cane.
“Somebody please get up and give this man a seat in the front,” the bus driver yelled. A young kid got up and I took his seat. I thanked him and the bus driver.
When I sat down, I took my sunglasses off for just a few seconds, putting the transfer the driver had given me in my shirt pocket.
I said hello to the man sitting beside me. He was older, a bit round in face and body and had a Band-Aid on his left cheek. He smelled sweaty. I probably did, too.
“No eating or drinking or smoking on the bus,” came blaring out from the bus speakers. Then something like “don’t stand until the bus comes to a complete stop.” The guy sitting beside me touched my arm.
“This bus driver is a bit of a stickler,” he said. “He doesn’t put up with much from anybody.”
Sitting behind me and the round man was a woman and her daughter, or I assumed it was her daughter. I’m guessing she was 5 or 6. The young girl wouldn’t stay still in her seat.
“Sit down!” the woman yelled more than a few times, trying to hold the girl down which made the girl scream and cry almost directly into my ears.
Passengers rang the bell to get off, but more passengers entered the bus. It remained crowded.
“We just passed Buttermilk Pike, still on Dixie Highway,” the man in the seat next to me said. I kind of already knew that.
Stopped at a red light, the bus driver yelled, “You in the back with the white hat, yeah you, stop eating that or I’ll have to let you off the bus.”
The driver repeated this two more times before the guy put his food away.
The driver then played that prerecorded message again. The girl behind me was still screaming and crying.
At another red light, an older woman made her way to the front of the bus.
“I dropped my transfer, can’t find it,” she told the bus driver. “Can you give me another one?”
“No,” the bus driver said sternly. “I’m authorized to give one transfer to each passenger.”
“But I dropped it and the bus is crowded and I need...”
“One transfer per passenger,” the bus driver said. “Those are the rules.”
As the lady made her way back to her seat, I thought to myself that the driver just isn’t a bit of a stickler when it comes to rules; he’s more of a bus Nazi with an eagle eye. How he saw that guy eating at the back of the bus, I have no idea.
“Just passed Sleepy Hollow Road,” the round man beside me said, “still on Dixie Highway.”
The girl behind him was still trying to get up from her seat, mother still trying to hold her down and the kid was still crying and screaming. I could feel my head pound as the driver played those prerecorded messages yet again. This was turning out to be the bus ride from hell.
The bus stopped at the red light at Holman Street. A UPS truck had a very tight squeeze trying to turn left on Dixie Highway.
“A UPS truck just turned left onto Dixie,” the man said sitting beside me. “I thought it was going to hit the bus.”
Why this round man was telling me the progression of the bus route and now telling me about how the UPS truck almost hit the bus was puzzling to me — but as the light turned green, I figured it out.
The man had noticed my dark sunglasses and my walking cane. The man with the Band-Aid on his left cheek thought I was blind.
When the bus entered the Covington Transit Center, just about all the passengers exited the bus, including the woman with the screaming kid. My hearing started to return to normal. The man sitting beside me who thought I was blind stayed on.
There were still a few remaining stops before the bus crossed the bridge to get to Cincinnati. At each stop, as passengers would get on, the bus driver would firmly tell each passenger, “Cincinnati, one stop only!”
Finally the bus got to Cincinnati — Fourth Street at the Main Federal Reserve.
“We’re at Fourth Street,” the man said sitting beside me.” Do you need some help getting off?”
“I should be all right,” I replied.
As we both exited the bus, we thanked the bus driver who didn’t bother to reply. It was still like an oven outside.
“Which way you going?” the man asked, holding on to my left arm.
“I appreciate your kindness,” I replied, “but I’m used to this. I’ll be fine.”
“You take care,” the man said.
As I started to walk toward Main Street, I turned around. The man was still watching me, wanting to make sure I was all right.
It was time to set him straight about my “blindness.” I smiled at him and waved.
Walking up to the bus stop at the Federal Building, I looked to see if that transfer the bus Nazi had given me was still in my shirt pocket.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org