The bus driver is visibly agitated. I don’t blame him. It’s 5:45 a.m. On a Monday.
I’m sore and groggy. I’m agitated, too. And I don’t have near the excuse he does. I don’t even have to board to see the source of his irritation. I can hear it before I even see it.
“It don’t take no half a hour to get over there,” a shrill, indignant voice claims. The bus driver is on his feet now, consulting the rows of bus schedules that line the small wall at his back.
“Maybe not, but that’s what the schedule says,” he replies calmly.
Finally, I see her. She is a chubby black girl wearing a striped sweatshirt much too small to contain her bulk. Her belly flops swishilly over the waistband of her jeans, coming to rest upon her thigh like a heap of unfolded laundry. It provides a convenient landing pad for the cell phone clipped to her hip.
She pulls a wad of bills from one pocket before thrusting her hand deeply into another. For a second, I think it might disappear, never to return. But suddenly, it does, bursting forth with a shower of change. It rolls in several directions. Clink. Clink. Clink. “Damn,” she mutters and nearly topples as she bends a bit too far to retrieve it.
She is light-skinned and all of 18, no more than 20. Her hair is long and has been carefully straightened. It would be quite pretty, save the obnoxious red and blue streaks going through it. She could even be quite pretty, save the snarl that seems to be permanently embedded on her face.
“How long do it take this bus to get to 6th & Washington?” she bellows. I bite my tongue, wanting desperately to correct the lazy grammar.
“It arrives at 6:10,” the driver answers.
A litany of questions follow, each calmly answered. Then the cell phone leaves her hip. As luck would have it, we get stuck by a train. I hear much more of this conversation than I want to.
“I left your f**kin’ house at 4:20 … and I been standing out here for a whole hour and a half. …I doan know. I need a ride home. No. No. I still got to walk home and put on my clothes first.”
Suddenly, she begins to giggle and tilt her head. Hey, she can smile! There is obviously a male on the other end of the phone. Then: “Because if I wanna did it, I wouldn’t been standin’ here on this corner for two hours, two hours and a half. Actually three hours.”
It’s either later than I thought or this girl can exaggerate with the best of them.
I want to yell to her that if he can’t get her home, or at the very least safely deliver her to the bus stop at what amounts to the middle of the night, he isn’t worth her time. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t listen if I did. She won’t learn until it’s too late.
All that attitude – and directed in the wrong direction, at the poor bus driver instead of the jackass she left two – or was it three? – hours ago.
You’ve got a lot to learn, sweetheart. A whole lot to learn.