Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Twilight Zone

Late one night I pulled in to service a very dark bus stop. A young man paid his fare, but I noticed a woman in the shelter who stood up, so I waited to see if she was going to board. This one took her time, but when she finally walked up to the door, she didn't get in. She looked me up and down as I waited to see what her story was. It made for an uncomfortable few moments.

"What are you doing," she asked, "planting a field or just sitting around?"

Totally out of the blue, about as nonsensical a question as I've ever been asked. It took a moment to analyze, but I recognized a potential for trouble.

"Isn't it obvious what I'm doing?" I replied, trying to conceal my growing irritation mixed with a healthy dose of "Huh?!?"

"Well I'm not sure what you're doing, so it's my right to ask," came another ludicrous statement. This one isn't playing with any aces in the deck, I reasoned.

I took a deep breath to calm myself. She reminded me of someone I don't like to think about, who is sadly afflicted with some serious mental disorders.

"Well okay then," I said. "I'm driving a bus tonight. Either you're riding or you're not. You have two seconds to decide."

She then began an eerie soliloquy I deemed unnecessary to hear. I shut the door after a generous five seconds and drove off. A few passengers audibly sighed and a single "Thank God he didn't let her on" was uttered. Someone told me this woman is a regular trouble-causer, and they were relieved I denied her service.

This person seemed non-violent, but as bus operators we realize even the sanest-looking people can be totally unpredictable. Say the wrong thing, and SNAP! You could be assaulted without warning, and being restrained to the seat, you have little if any means of self-defense at your disposal. If you want to keep your job, that is.

Instead of finding out whether this person could have been dangerous, I made an executive decision, from the seat. We're told we are Captain of the Ship while we're in the seat, and I decided this person could have caused trouble on an otherwise peaceful ride. So I left her there.

To paraphrase a cliché, that's called 'thinking in the seat.'

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