i'm on my way to my usual ride home one night. right when i walk up to the stop, i knew something was up. there were kids all up and down the platform when usually there’s just a handful of adults. listening to some of them, i found out they’d been waiting 20 minutes. i’ve never had to wait more than 5 minutes this time of day. then it happens, three buses show up, one right after the other, all pulling into the stop at the same time. as you can imagine, all three buses were packed, especially the first one, which i managed to squeeze my way onto.
while that was slightly aggravating, that was nothing compared to what happened a couple of stops later. a guy who i’ll call “herb” got on. herb was perfectly ambulatory and was even hauling some roller luggage with him — not the kind people take on trips, but the kind that substitutes for a backpack. the bus driver tells herb he needs to step behind the yellow line. herb yells out, “i’m handicapped,” and whips out an id. the driver just says, “i can’t leave until you step behind the line.” herb repeats, “i’m handicapped,” followed by, “someone needs to give up their seat for me.” i’m not sure if the driver was skeptical or lazy, maybe both, but he looks at herb and says, “if you can get someone out of their seat, go ahead, but you need to step behind the yellow line.” herb continues his outcry, “isn’t it your job as the driver to get me a seat. i’m handicapped!!” the driver, knowing how close the buses behind him were tells herb, “why don’t you just wait for the next bus?” herb rails, “why should i have to?”
there’s no doubt that handicapped folks have their rights and when there is a genuine violation of those rights, they need to stand up for themselves. but when the bus was already filled to capacity, when you’re holding up everyone three busfuls of people and you screamin “handicapped” when everyone saw you walk with your own two feet down the platform onto the bus, you gotta know people thinkin you an asshole. not herb.
finally, herb pushes his way through the crowd in front. a kid who was doing his homework starts to pack his stuff away so he can get up and give herb a seat. before he’s finished, herb shoves his card into this kids face and says, “i’m handicapped. i need to sit down.” the kid is somewhat startled and replies, “i’m movin right now. just cuz you handicapped don’t mean i’m retarded.”
then herb gets a phone call. “yeah, the trip was great. we got about 20 stores involved. i must’ve made half a million in sales.” usually a phone call on the bus is no big deal. usually, the person taking the call isn’t talking so loud that the people at the very back of the elongated bus are rolling their eyes. “let’s celebrate together. we can go to the beach, go to dinner, the whole thing. c’mon, you can’t spare a day for me?! ohh, okay, alright. okay, have a nice weekend.”
then herb pulls out a card. tapping someone in the arm, he says, “can you give this to that girl over there? excuse me, have you ever modeled? i think you’d do great. i’m a fashion designer.” this is when riding on a bus full of high school kids pays off. one of them chirps in an unidentifiable, high voice, “liar.” the girl tries to take it in stride. she says, “thank you.” herb presses on, “i do high-end…suits. have you ever modeled?” one of the kids chirps, “bullshit.” the girl says, “when i was younger. it’s not really the right audience here for me,” before pulling out, “so, why are you on the bus?” herb shrugged his shoulders emphatically and said, “y’know, the judge said. can i ask you where you live?” the kids chimed in with, “stalker. rapist.” the girl had clearly been hearing the kids the whole time and finally stumbled a bit with a long pause before saying, “i’d rather not say.” trying to make lemonade out of lemons again, herb says, “it’s not like that. i’m married…happily married.” i’m not sure even he believes that one.