39. Friday Rush Part One

 

For many, the weekend starts on Friday. The repetition of this weekly event does little to prepare the masses. In the late afternoon, an element of chaos will permeate the air as so many are set free. The shackles of professional obligations shed, or at least the appearance of it, for 48 hours or so. This was never the case working as a courier. Still, I couldn’t help noticing the change in others. Even if I had been drinking.

Crowds would gather on every corner. Jockeying for position in the crosswalk. Bicycles and cars swerve in and out of so many near-misses. They seem choreographed. Incessant honking provides the music. Supplemented by the low tempos playing out of the occasional rolled-down window. Radio stations’ futile attempts to calm the uncalmable.

Leaning against a brick wall on a semi-busy corner, I wait for a southbound #29 bus that likely won’t have room for me. The passengers crammed in will just stare expressionless. Not sympathetic to my delay, more concerned with their current lack of space and comfort. I’ll likely have to wait for two, possibly three more buses.

When the #29 finally arrives, its front tire slams against the curb, bringing it to a jerky stop. That heaves the large, square cylinder back and forth on its lack of suspension. “New driver,” I’m thinking. I can’t see in the windows because of an ad wrap. It’s for a TV show about young professionals that will only be watched by senior citizens because it airs on network television.

The ad makes it impossible for me to determine the capacity inside. I’ll just assume the dozens of dead eyes staring out at me. I step up and pay my fare. It takes me only a few seconds to recognize this Driver. He’s the old man from the Good Meeting I attended. I want to say something to him, but not sure what.

 “Hey!”

 “Find a seat, goddamnit.”

The Driver’s curtness threw me a bit, but it’s soon forgotten. As I continue boarding the bus, a shiver runs through me when I realize it is completely empty. A rush hour bus on a Friday, void of any other passengers. How is that possible? Perhaps it had just gone back into service? Most logic flounders. Any attempt to comprehend feels similar to taking a step where none exists.

Suddenly, I’m eager to get to the next bus stop. A few blocks later we’re there of course. A large mob of business professionals shimmy up to the door. But the Driver doesn’t open it. This obviously causes agitation. Fists are banged on the plexiglass of the front doors. The Driver watches them a minute, then just pulls away. The mob snarls, it’s an awful sound. Some give the bus chase. In a moment of panic and disorientation, I pull the cord.

 “You stupid bastard. Why would you do that?” the Driver asks. The bus begins to slow as it reaches the next block. Eventually it stops, and the door opens. Looking back, the crazed mob is running at top speed, less than a block away.

 “Just keep going!” I yell at him.

 “Can’t move again until somebody gets on or off.”

I quickly push out through the back doors. Running to the front I can hear and feel the mob right on my heels. Fingertips whisp my back and shoulders. I think I’m going to make it, but just as I reach the door, an older woman jumps on my back. Her arms are wrapped around my neck, choking me as I squeeze the rubber of the door’s edges as hard as I can. Butting my head backwards, there’s a crack! She lets go, falling back in to the mob, and blocking the others long enough for the doors to close again. The bus restarts its slow acceleration.

I’m sweating and confused, struggling to catch my breath as my heart pounds out of my chest. I instinctively move to the back, eventually checking on the mob. We finally start picking up some speed. I know the mob will continue after us, but I check anyway.

 “What the fuck is going on!?” I ask the Driver.

 “I just drive the bus, goddamnit.”

While I’m screaming that question at him, I spot another mob at the next bus stop. I won’t ring the bell. We should sail right through. And we would have, if not for a red light that stops us short. The mob on the other side of the signal is antsy, almost unsure what to do. The original mob behind us is in a dead sprint. The light changes, and we proceed at low speed to the bus stop just across the street.

 “Why are you stopping!? I didn’t ring the bell!”

The timing works out in such a way that the original, sprinting mob collides with the new, stationary mob just as we arrive. The sound it makes would be amusing, if I wasn’t so terrified. Like an extended drum solo, these apparent business professionals slam into each other. Some bounce off and into the bus, rocking it sideways.

 “This is a regular, scheduled break. I gotta take a piss, goddamnit.”

The Driver is able to open the door and exit. As he began making this move, I sprinted to the front of the bus. I slam the lever laterally as soon as he steps off. An arm from the mob made it through, but it can’t seem to go any further. Grasping at the air.

I watch as this crowd of vicious maniacs ignores the Driver sliding past them. “They’re after me,” I think. The collisions having subsided, they are now able to return their full attention to the inside of the bus. They bang on the doors windows. Spit flies on the plexiglass as they scream incomprehensible objections. “Why are they after me?”

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