And Now a New York Story

On a bus in from LaGuardia today the driver
and a passenger got into a fight, left the bus and we bumped into another bus
ahead of us, driverless. Just another day in New York.

Normally I take a taxi from Laguardia into Manhattan, but today I decided to try an airport bus, not a city bus but a private company. The ride in was mostly uneventful. However, we were told the bus goes to three terminals in the city. This was not true. When we got to Grand Central Station the driver told a passenger he doesn’t stop at Penn Station, as we were told, and as the sign at the airport says.

The passenger became angry. The driver moved his luggage from the bus, left it on the sidewalk and prepared to drive away with the passenger on-board still insisting on being taken to Penn Station.

As the bus moved, the passenger decided to get off and get his luggage. But he slapped the bus driver’s back in what could be interpreted as a hearty friendly gesture, or a slap on the back.

The driver responded with a kick as the man descended the stairwell. The two began to push and shove each other as the driver came out of his seat. A lady said, “Shame on you. Shame on both of you.”

Another said, “I knew I should have taken lithium before I left Pittsburgh this morning.”

As the two struggled the bus began to move. It was in neutral and the emergency brake was not set. They tumbled out the door of the bus. We were rolling slowly downhill toward the back of another bus. I was too far back to get to the front and apply the brakes.

We popped into the bus ahead, jarred but not hurt, and thankful we stopped before getting entirely out of control. The driver and passenger continued to pummel each other outside.

As we came to a rest the driver got back on board and set the brake. He began to explain his frustration that the man touched him and that the ticket seller at the airport lied to get the fifty-cent commission for selling tickets to unwary passengers to Penn Station. In fact, a sign at the pickup point also says the bus makes three stops but the driver insisted otherwise.

I asked the woman wishing for lithium about the next stop. She said she hoped it was the Port Authority. I did too, I said, and I also said I hope we don’t have to fight our way off this bus.

We laughed. The first woman continued to scold the driver for his tussle. As we got off at the Port Authority, I noticed she was still lecturing him by the side of the bus. I decided the better part of wisdom was to disappear.

Part two of this story is about another bus ride and a young man who gave up his seat in a packed New Jersey Transit bus so a young woman could sit. He stood from the Port Authority to Englewood. I told him I appreciated his gesture and felt a bit guilty as I took up more space because I was lugging a suitcase. He was gracious and I thanked him again. As we talked he asked my business and reason for traveling.

I explained I’m the communications executive for The United Methodist Church, to which he said, “Oh, the UMC.”

“You’re running a television campaign right now. Good work. I saw you on CNN. You should be proud.”
Well, in fact, I am proud, even if it’s not my work. It’s the work of a whole team of creative people who are committed and talented and who have consistently done a good job.

He wanted to talk about the campaign, its impact, cost, value. So, we had a nice conversation for the remainder of our bus ride. We introduced ourselves as he departed the bus and bid each other a nice evening.
Just two small experiences that make New York a great city to be in if you can take drama and risk alongside humanity and considerate behavior.

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