My first day was successful enough to inflate my confidence for day two. I said I would be the tester of these new MTA routes. Here it goes.
I was at the transit center by 5:50AM waiting for the SIM6, but saw the SIM31 and thought it might be one of the Jersey buses that travel to 42nd St. It was raining so I figured I’d rather take a train afterward than walk over 4 avenues so I leaned into the stairwell and said I wanted to ask him something.
“Really?” I didn’t know what to do.
He looked so serious and the last driver didn’t even smile when I said good morning. He laughed and waited for my question while no one entered his bus.
“Are you going to 42nd? Like are you going up through 23rd?…”
He immediately cut me off, “Ask a better question…”
Inside, I was cracking up but outside, I was frozen.
“I need to get to 34th st.”
“Yea I go there.”
He laughed at me when I asked if this bus is faster than the SIM6. I decided a witty driver was better than an angry and sniffly driver so I climbed up and took the front seat.
The conversation continued and I mentioned my frustration with the new system.
“I hate this new shift of the routes.”
He remained serious, “I did it. I told them the changes would make commuters lives easier.”
Houston, we have a sarcastic driver! Perfect.
He mentioned the 8X was a better idea. He said he would ask the next group if it had passed yet, and that I should take that one if it hadn’t. It did pass and my bus time app didn’t even show it coming by at all so I decided to stick it out with Mr. Personality and his interesting posse.
Even as he picked up passengers, he had a fun attitude about his job.
“Everybody, Neal’s here! We were waiting for you.”
The bus laughed. Neal laughed. He swiped his card. The humor wasn’t forced either, I could tell this was the atmosphere created over months or even years of driving and taking buses everyday. I felt relieved. I had thought every bus ride would be annoyingly quiet.
Another stop, another group of rained-on passengers boarded.
I found it strange that a young boy was headed to the city on his own.
“Is that a sword?” Mr. Personality said with such confusion.
“No it’s an umbrella.” The little boy smiled and paid his fare.
Once we finally made it onto the SI Expressway, it was bumper-to-bumper red lights between the fog.
“You sure you don’t wanna catch the 8X?” Personality shouted through the rear view mirror.
I laughed as we cut across to the HOV lane. It wasn’t so bad actually. By 6:30, I was at the bridge.
By 7:10, we were on the flooded FDR drive.
By 7:24, I was off the bus at Madison & E34th.
I swear, the only negative I had with the ride was the squeaky windshield wipers scratching against the foggy windows.
I told Me. Personality he did a great job. He genuinely smiled and said he appreciated the kind words. He said he rarely gets positive feedback–always someone complaining about the new routes. I laughed. He gave me the same farewell he gave the other regulars he had let off before me, “Come back tomorrow!” And I think I might.
Even the rain let up on E23rd St. It was as though the buildings all huddled together to block the nasty drops for me. Staten Island would’ve allowed me to get brutally attacked by the rain storm.
I was super early and had to walk. I had ample time to watch the city move before I headed to my building. I grabbed a sausage biscuit and casually strolled to my elevator bank. I tapped the 29 and as the doors closed, I smiled at my reflection. “I did it.”
The trip home was a different story:
1. I walked too far and got confused with East and West 35th St. My bus time app told me the bus was at the stop but I wasn’t. 🤯
2. My socks that I refer to as “slip-covers” kept falling under my feet and getting drenched in the puddles. 🙄
3. A woman tapped my shoulder within the crowd and asked, “Is this yours?” It was mine. It was my wallet. Smh. 😯
4. I walked back and forth three times crossing 5th Ave looking for the bus stop in the rain. 😤
5. I bought a Rice Krispy treat from a street vendor for a dollar. 😋
6. My feet were in two pools inside my flats. 😳
7. I finally turned the corner on 5th & 35th and the SIM10 has just pulled off. 😖
8. I got back on line at my bus stop and hopped on the SIM31. 😶
9. The bus was damp, muggy and packed. 🤮
10. I put my headphones on, ate my snack and pressed play on my podcast. 💀
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SamWriteNow & the City