A Tussle in the Bustle (or Let’s Bungle in the Jungle) – 72 People I’ve Met On the Subway (9)

Holy cow! I’m one insensitive jerk! So if you’re easily offended, you should probably leave and go wash your mouth out with soap for the awful things I’m about to write.

What follows here is part 9 of my ongoing tales of 72 People I’ve Met on the Subway…Stories which take place on or around New York City metro system. Most of them take place on a train, others a bus, some just the platform….Each story is 100% true (with a margin of error of + or – 100).

9. A Tussle in the Bustle (or Let’s Bungle in the Jungle)

A crowded bus. That’s where this one starts.

On the way to the airport I and other bus riders, heading out of the city for a holiday weekend, staked the back of the bus as our territory. There were about a half-dozen of us sitting there, each of us with our packed bags and carry-ons.

As the bus rode along 125th street in Harlem it became increasingly busier and busier.

Three points to mention here, as they will become important later in my tale. First is that, as you may have heard around the watercooler, many residents of Harlem are black; I, however, am not (that’d be point two right there).

Point three is that this busy bus was cruising along, minding its own reduced-carbon-monoxide business around the time that, elsewhere in our country, the Federal Government under Mr. Dubyuh was completely ignoring the utter chaos in New Orleans – that chaos being a result of the now-famous Hurricane Katrina.

All that said, on with the show…

The bus was full enough that the driver made no less than three announcements asking folks to move in. At one stop, a woman actually decided it’d be a good idea to sneak on through the back exit as people got off. But the bus driver wouldn’t have any of it: “Miss, get off the bus,” came the driver’s voice through the speakers.

“No, no, I’m comin’ up to pay you,” she yelled back.

He waited a patient few moments and when it was clear she wasn’t going to pay, he announced, “Miss, get off the bus, or I will stop the bus and have police take you off…I ain’t playin’ wit’cha.” He then did indeed stop the bus.

She cursed and argued as people near her told her to leave.  She finally exited, and, when she did, some other clever soul saw it as a great opportunity to sneak on through the same doors she did! And, once again, we heard the driver: “Sir, get off the bus!” Us passengers let out a collective groan, mixed with a bit of ironic laughter, and we all began yelling at this guy to get the hell off, as we were already tired of being held up by the lady.  The frightened man looked around shocked, and quickly left, probably wondering what sort of insanity he’d entered into from the comparatively quiet gangland streets.

Once he was gone, the bus driver put ‘er into gear, and we were able to move along again.

I turned to the white woman next to me and said, “What do they think this is, New Orleans?” The white woman laughed, as did the black man to her left, and the Asian girl to his left.

In front of me stood a little person, now while I am using the politically correct term for an adult of small proportions, I could – as it turns out – have been referring to the keen abilities of her mind as well.

After my little joke, the little person moved towards me and she said, “What’s that mean, was that a racist joke?”

Clearly she had issues – that joke was about as racist as a southern black man named Hakeem Goldberg.

So I said, with a big smile, and a twinge of ridicule, “No, it was a comment about the utter chaos of this bus ride.”

Little woman, still defensive: “Well, do you know where you are?”

Me: “Yes, I’ve lived in New York all my life.”

Her: “Well so have I.”

Me: “Then it’s clear you’ve been here quite some time longer.”


She soldiered on, saying, “Well you should be careful with what you say.”

But I, unphased, said – again with a tone of ridicule (because, while I’m not a racist, I am just a little bit of an asshole) – “Well all these people got it, and, just so we’re clear…” I then pointed to each of the three nearby passengers as I said, “White, black, Asian.”

She felt it necessary to state that she herself was Puerto Rican (although, as important as this was, she pronounced it, “Porto Reekin”). I shrugged, uncertain of the relevance.

A few quiet and sunshiney peaceful moments passed, but the woman just couldn’t let it go.  She had been defeated – two falls in a three-minute time-limit, and I’d already kicked her in the solar plexus and lobbed her over the ropes.  But here she was, back again…

She put her arm alongside mine and said “There are differences.”

This was even more confusing, in part because, as it turned out, I was darker than she.  So I had to end the mutilation: “The difference in this case may only be here,” said I, tapping my finger to my temple.

Indeed I was right – she didn’t get it.

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