Thursday, November 15, 2007

Six in the City - the bus lady

Another thing that I've noticed in the morning is that the buses run on time. The drivers have an LCD console that notes their position via GPS and informs them if they are early or late with regard to their schedule. I always glance at this fascinating little bit of technology when I board the bus, during the day no one is ever anywhere near being on time. I don't fault the bus drivers for this. With the unpredictable nature of Manhattan traffic, the number of disabled passengers who may have to be assisted with boarding (they take up to five minutes to get on the bus), and the weirdos/malcontents they have to deal with at random intervals during the day, it is nigh impossible for them to move at a predictable rate.

But few, if any of these challenges exist in the morning, so I always take the same bus down to the zen-do, it comes by my stop within a couple of minutes of the same time every morning and I've noticed that the same people are on it every morning. One woman, of African-American descent in her 50's or 60's, boards the bus up-stream from where I do (i.e., somewhere in Central Harlem) and always sits in the same seat prominently reading either her highly adorned Bible or some obviously Christian book, always facing the cover out to the aisle as if holding up a placard. I have no way of knowing her actual intentions, but this would be exactly the position in which to hold the book if she wanted everyone boarding the bus to know what she was reading. I've also noticed that in the twenty minutes we ride together she rarely turns a page (I sit behind and across the aisle from her).

What's remarkable is that she warmly greets every woman of African-America descent with a cheerful "Good Morning, Sister! It is a blessed day, isn't it!" How nice that she was so friendly in the morning! I assumed she had been riding the bus for a long time and she knew all of these women she was greeting, in fact, it is mostly the same half-dozen women each day. I've been trying to greet her when I get on the bus but I've been frustrated in that attempt because she never looks up from (or out from behind, more accurately) the book she's displaying when people get on at my stop.

Then I had some additional insight into her situation.

This morning a young African-American woman got on the bus with me at my stop. We had been chatting amiably before the bus arrived, she's from North Carolina and she noticed my UNC hat. We talked a bit about the game last night and the upcoming season while waiting on the the bus.

Of course, I let her get on the bus ahead of me. The bus lady greeted her with "Good Morning, Sister! It is a blessed day isn't it?"

After the woman I was boarding with smiled and nodded a greeting to her while walking past her, I also passed her and said "Good morning!" She looked back at her book without indicating that she was aware of my existence. I was taken aback by this.

The woman I was boarding the bus with looked at me with a mixture of puzzlement and disgust as I sat down, and the two other women of African-American descent on the bus put their hands over their mouths to stifle a giggle as they warmly smiled at me.

Ah. Now I get it.

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