Oh, the humanity!
Today as I was being tossed around the #10 bus, on my daily ride ever closer to the edge, I realized that this is the most fertile experience of “humanity” I have had in years, perhaps ever. I am not exaggerating.
Eighteen years of living in New York City, where I have lived in questionable neighborhoods, fraternized with questionable people, and done questionable things pale in comparison to the daily affronts on the #10. The distinction here is that the questionable, scandalous, unwise, and plain old stupid things I did or saw in my 18 years of living in NYC were occasional. The humanity I either saw, experienced, or put myself through was done on a sporadic basis, in rhythm perhaps with the seasons or at the time, my impulsive nature (some might say that nature still lives within me; if so, it is now subjugated to my will and restraint).
An impulsive nature is what lead me to my own experiences with “the humanity,” and I told myself long ago I’d had enough. But apparently, “the humanity” has not had enough of me, as I was reminded this morning on the #10 bus.
I would not recommend this as a way to start the day to anyone, and I alternate between loathing and feeling sorry for the people who ride the #10. That said, there are not many repeat customers when I’m on the bus, leading me to believe the daily riders are either on earlier buses than the one I take, or it’s simply not a bus that people take to go to work. The latter possibility, if you were to dissect it, says a lot about the neighborhoods served by the #10.
So today, as I tried to hold on to whatever calm and morning cheer I had left, I was confronted with the following:
- a screaming toddler whose cries grew increasingly louder, from “No! No” to “Ow! Owwww!” to “Mami! Mamiiiiii!” until his earbud wearing mother got off the bus, only one stop before my own. Total time on #10 with screaming toddler: approximately 22 minutes.
- an unshaven guy, approximately 30 years old, wearing a plaid flannel shirt, nodding and shaking, his forehead either resting on or banging into the window, as he muttered and drooled.
- an Indian woman in a full sari with an infant swaddled in so many scarves, blankets, and other cloths that they collectively took up 1.5 seats. At least the baby was quiet.
- another infant/mother combo, this one seated in the back. The mother was obese, took up 2 seats, and could not have been older than 20.
- a middle-aged Indian or Pakistani man in a mismatched suit and beat-up briefcase, playing Hindi music out loud on his cell phone.
While trying to spin an invisible cocoon around myself to insulate myself from the noise, the smells, the discomfort, I was literally tossed around the #10 as I could not get a seat this morning, and the hand rails for standees are so poorly designed and placed at such a poor angle that no one, no matter how large, can wrassle a strong foothold in the aisle when gripping these rails. With each lurch forward or each poorly-maintained jerky brake back, I was tossed to and fro, banging into the woman with the toddler, the middle-aged business man playing music on his cell phone, and at least two others riders, on my 30+ minute trip closer to the funny farm.
By the time the bus arrived at Journal Square/PATH Plaza, my destination, and the place from which I initiate the 2nd leg of my journey into the city (which leads to a 3rd leg, my subway commute once I arrive in NYC), I am in a bad mood, annoyed, tired, frazzled, pissed off, and talking to myself about my options with this situation I find myself in.
None of them are particularly good. I don’t want to move out, but I don’t know how long I can last in this neighborhood. Another tip that tells me “you don’t belong here” — I see no one else on the bus that looks like me. By that I don’t mean ethnically, I mean socio-economically. There are NO other young professionals on the bus, no one else in my age range, dressed like me, or with the same apparent demographic profile as me. In NYC, I am dime a dozen: a fit, well dressed, reasonably attractive young professional with a reasonably decent wardrobe and ok shoes. In the wilds of New Jersey from where I commute, I stick out like a sore thumb.