Become a Fan
A Bus Driver From Hell
By Dennis Domrzalski
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Rated "G" by the Author.
A nutty, abusive bus driver and his even nuttier passengers. Two chapters from I Got Stinky Feet
About two miles up from where Dave had crashed, we came into a decent-sized town. It was pretty big for Arkansas, big enough to have a public bus system that had at least one bus. We arranged with a gas station owner who had a place on the edge of town to store the bikes there until the storm stopped and the roads were cleared. Then we set out to see the town.
Dave wanted to walk the two or three miles to the downtown area where there figured to be a few restaurants. We had skipped breakfast in order to deal with the creative writers and were starving. It was cold, windy and snowing—weather that I normally would have been thrilled to walk in. But riding for a couple of hours in that wet snow had drenched us, and the wind blasting those wet clothes turned me into one continuous shiver. Dave shivered, too, but he wanted to walk and shiver some more because, as he said, “Shivering is the body’s way of warming up. We ought to be boiling in a few minutes. Let’s use this as an experiment to see if that theory is true . Could be a scientific breakthrough.”
I reminded him that the ride to Carbondale had made me the champion shiverer of all time and that the result was a frozen solid human.
“True, but you always screw everything up. You probably weren’t shivering enough. And besides, you keep acting like it was a bad thing. You would think that you’d be happy and proud to have been through something that no one else has and survived it.”
I wasn’t, and was way too cold to walk three miles, soaking wet, in a blizzard. The hell with what the brave pioneers and the fearless mountain men and the drunks in the neighborhood had done in the name of adventure, I was miserable. The situation called for common sense, not a reckless, health-threatening quest for adventure plodding around in a blizzard in wet clothes. The intelligent thing to do would have been to sit down on a curb and drink whiskey.
But I lacked the confidence to say no, even though I knew my way was better. Dave said we should walk, and that’s what we did, until we saw a brick bus barn with a bus waiting inside to begin its run. Dave hadn’t been on a bus since November and I hadn’t been on one for a few weeks and, my God, we went goofy at the sight of it. A bus! Just like in Chicago! Who would have thought that there were buses anywhere else? Oh, I knew that hick towns like this one were served by interstate bus lines that took people from one nothing town to another, but this was different. This was a bus that took people to work, stores, taverns and to their mistresses and paramours. We imagine ourselves as so many things in life—cold, heartless cynics; big time drinkers; grizzled survivors of life—but all it takes is a reminder of home to turn us back into the giddy, excitable kids that we really are.
We ran for it, and slipped and slid and fell and got up and fell again and got up and repeated it over and over until we got inside that barn, and holy smokes! It was warm! It was hot! The bus barn was heated!
We banged on the front door and banged and banged some more until the driver, reluctantly, opened it. We heard the pffffffssssss of the opening doors and we stumbled up the steps, laughing, and we dug into our pockets and plunked our fares into the box, and the instant we turned to face the rest of the bus we went into the bus passenger mode that we knew and loved. We squinted our eyes and stared like we were going to kill someone, and looked like we wished that everyone else in the world was dead—just to protect ourselves in case someone considered us targets. We got the urge to smoke and rip up seats, and we schemed to get off somewhere other than our real stop, in case someone was thinking of following us home. We scrambled to the back and plopped ourselves on the seats over the wheels and soaked up what little heat there was and realized that a view from a bus window was one of the best there is.
The driver, a fat, balding guy who wore greyish-blue bus driver’s uniform pants with grease stains all over them, was waiting to start his run. We were the only passengers. It wasn’t the kind of bus we were used to. It didn’t have that “bus” smell of smoke, dirt, vomit and exhaust fumes that we were used to. This one stunk of disinfectant. None of the seats were ripped, the floor was clean, the advertising posters near the curves in the ceiling were all in place and there was no graffiti. With the exception of the noseprints and fingerprints we put on our windows, the thing sparkled. I found it depressing, but Dave had an explanation.
“People in hick towns don’t have anything to do. There’s no intellectual stimulation or sports teams to cheer for, and so all they can do is clean things, that is, when they ain’t ruining their health by drinking, marrying often and square dancing. They’re neat freaks. We shouldn’t get mad; we should pity them.”
That made sense, and I was about to go tell the driver how pitiful his life was, when the bus pulled out of the barn. The snow was thick in the sky and on the ground, and the visibility was limited, but that didn’t matter to our grease-stained driver. He speeded along like he was on a dry highway on a sunny day.
“Another quaint thing about small-town life,” Dave said, “this guy’s probably so dedicated to his job that he can’t wait to pick up passengers. He’s trying to get to people as fast as he can. And he’s driving like a maniac on the verge of killing himself simply because he knows there are people waiting to get on the bus. You’d never see this in Chicago.”
The run started on the edge of town and the bus whizzed by a few vacant stops before we got further into town and saw up ahead at one stop, a group of four people huddled together, their backs turned to the wind and snow. We assumed our bus riding postures, that is, we sprawled across the seats and glared at the front door.
“This’ll be great,” Dave said, “they’ve probably never had people from Chicago ride their bus before. Get ready!”
I was, and—zoom!
The bus raced by those shivering people. As we passed they shouted and shook their fists at the bus and kicked the snow and stomped and then hunched over again and huddled together.
We figured the driver didn’t see them, what with the blizzard and limited visibility. There was another stop ahead, with even more people and with several children stomping their feet on the ground, a universal sign of humans trying to keep their toes from going numb. Same thing, though. The bus raced right by them. A knot of glove-clad fists rose and shook as one from the huddled crowd. We heard their angry shouts and we flinched as the snowballs they threw smashed against the bus’s windows.
There was another stop ahead where an old guy in a wheelchair was flagging down the bus with feeble waves of his arms. The driver didn’t stop. A woman with an infant in her arms—hospital bound, we figured—was waiting at the next stop. Forget it. The bus sped by. It was the same at every stop. Freezing, shivering people huddled together, and the driver raced right by them. It was crazy, and we wanted answers. We got out of our seats and started for the front of the bus.
“Stay in the back of the bus!” was the crisp demand from the driver. He had spotted us in his rear-view mirror. “Stay in the back of the bus!”
That made no sense to us. The only reason for such an order is if the bus is full, or the passenger is a urine-soaked bum or a member of an ethnic or racial group that the bus driver hates. The driver got angrier when we stood next to him and started asking questions.
“Move to the back of the bus!” he shouted, while plunging the gas pedal to the floor. “Get to the back of the bus! Make room for other passengers!”
“But there ain’t any other passengers on this bus,” Dave said. “Are you crazy?”
That got a response. The driver slammed on the brakes, a move that caused the bus to swerve on the snowy street and into a line of cars parked along the curb. When the bus eventually stopped, the driver got out of his chair and staggered toward us. He was about six-three with a huge belly and a hateful gaze that topped anything we’d ever worked up.
“I said get to the back of the bus and get there now!” he screamed. “You either get to the back of the bus or you get off the bus. Which is it?”
“Neither option is acceptable to us,” Dave said.
“Don’t you dare talk a foreign language to me, punk. You talk English on my bus. You got that?”
“I said we ain’t moving to the back of the bus and we ain’t getting off. Besides, why should we move to the back of the bus? There’s no one else on it!”
“Because it’s the rule, and on my bus passengers obey the rules. Now move!”
“Have it your way, punks. ‘cause if you don’t get off now, you ain’t ever getting off for a long, long time.”
“All we got is time, pal.”
He got the bus going again and continued on as before, speeding by bus stops crowded with freezing, snow-covered people.
Dave tried to start a conversation, but the guy refused to talk. Nothing we tried—demands that he speak, threats of reporting him to his bosses, appeals to his sense of public service and fantasizing about having sex with cousins, worked. Only when Dave pulled a bottle of whiskey out from underneath his coat did we get his attention.
“It seems to me,” he said, “that you twos gonna be riding this bus for a long time and that should be at least an extra fare. But I’ll settle for that bottle instead.”
It was a deal. After four or five big swallows, he cradled the bottle between his legs, gave the bus some gas and started talking.
“Enjoying the ride, boys?”
“Not really,” Dave said. “It’d be better if there were other people here. How come you’re not stopping to pick up people?”
“Cuz if I stop this here bus and open them doors, you know what’s going to happen? Got any idea, boys? Give it a shot.”
“The world will end?”
“Ha,” he said while swallowing more whiskey. “You boys is smart asses. But youse is stupid smart asses. Boys, let me tell yas, if I stop this bus and open them doors, my bus is gonna get cold. And you know what happens when my bus gets cold? Them people are gonna bitch and moan and complain that the bus is cold. I got the damn heat on and opening them doors is gonna let the heat out and the cold in. Ever listen to these people? ‘The bus is cold. How come the bus is so cold? The bus is always cold.’ All they do is bitch. You can’t never please them. I keep telling them that the bus wouldn’t be cold if I didn’t have to open the doors and let them on. But they don’t understand. They can’t figure it. So the hell with ‘em. I ain’t gonna sit here and listen to them bitch about the bus being cold. So I ain’t picking them up.
“And you know what else happens when they get on? My floors get dirty. They trudge all that slush and slop in and then they complain that the floors are wet and dirty. So I ain’t letting them on. That’s it.”
“Well, why don’t you let us off?”
“Ain’t gonna do it, boys.”
“Because if I open them doors to let you off, my bus is gonna get cold and someone’s gonna complain. Maybe even you two. And if there’s one thing I’m sick of, it’s hearing complaints about my bus. It’s too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, too stuffy in the spring and not comfortable enough in the fall. I’m either too talkative or I don’t talk enough or I drive too fast or too slow or I turn too sharply or stop too suddenly or I don’t call out the stops or I call them out too loudly or I’m too friendly or not friendly enough or that the fares are too high or that the bus doesn’t go enough places or that they’ve waited a long time or that I passed them by last month or last year or that they can’t find a seat or that the windows won’t open or that the windows won’t close or that the seats are too hard or too soft or too slippery or that the back doors are too hard to push open or that the ride is too bumpy or that they missed their stop or that the bus smells or whatever. They’re never satisfied.
“I’m sick of it all. Just sick of it. I hate the complaining and the complainers. And if I let you two bubbas off of this bus, you know what’s gonna happen? You’re gonna complain that it’s too cold outside, that I let you off too far from the curb or the sidewalk or that you’re late for work or something. It ain’t gonna happen, boys, because you’re not getting off. You’re gonna ride this bus until I say so.”
“Sounds like you need a vacation, pal,” Dave said. “I think the stress is getting to you.”
“I do not need a vacation!” he told us in a vein-popping shout as he careened the bus off a parked car. “What I need is an empty bus. No damn passengers at all. I hate people. Why can’t they build buses with no doors so no one can get on? This would be a great job if I didn’t have to deal with people. I really enjoy driving the bus. It’s picking up the people that makes me sick. Now shut up and sit down.
“And I’ll tell you this. I’m going for the world’s record for a bus driver refusing to pick up passengers. I’ll go years, the rest of my life if I have to, without picking up passengers. I’ll be the envy of all of my fellow bus drivers all over the world. If we had it our way, we’d never pick up passengers. Do you have any idea how much fun it is to drive a bus with no people? Without having to stop? You keep to your schedules! You’re never late on a run! You know what people do? They throw off your schedules. They want to be picked up and let off. On and off, on and off. Stop here. Stop there. Stop, stop, stop. And when it’s all over you got some crazed boss telling you that you’re late on your run. And it’s all because of people! So I say screw the people. Let them walk or skip or run or ride a horse or a bicycle or drive their cars or whatever. But they ain’t getting on my bus. No sirs. This bus driver is keeping to his schedules. Do youse realize that since I stopped picking up people I’ve had a perfect record? This bus has been on schedule, on time, exactly. I start my runs on time, and I finish them on time. Not one late run. You show me a bus driver anywhere in this world with a record like that. Perfect! I’m the world’s best bus driver. But do any of them people care or cheer for me or celebrate or say, ‘Hey, great record. We’re proud to have a bus driver who keeps to his schedules?’ Nope. Doesn’t happen, boys. They don’t care about me. All they want to do is get to work or school or to the taverns on time. They don’t give a damn about my time.”
He swung the bus in a wide turn onto a highway and speeded away from town.
“How long,” Dave asked, “have you been refusing to pick up passengers and why on earth are you driving on a highway away from town?”
“Three years, Bubba. I ain’t picked up a passenger in three years and I’m driving on this here highway because there’s no people on this road. None, anywhere. It’s beautiful.”
“If you haven’t picked up anyone in three years, why do they still wait at the bus stops?”
“Because they’re stupid. You would think that a human being with just a few living brain cells would see the pattern and stop waiting for the bus. But they don’t. And there’s another reason why I don’t pick them up. Would you want stupid people on your bus?”
“This whole situation is stupid, ridiculous and unbelievable,” Dave said. “And your behavior is obnoxious. This is a public bus system, right? Funded by the public?”
“So that makes you a public servant, pal. Those people are your bosses. How the hell does this bus system pay for itself if you don’t pick up people and get their fares? How do you stay in existence?”
“I don’t need fares, because we’re funded by the city and the county. Taxes pay for this bus system, Bubba. Property taxes and sales taxes. We just take the money from all them good citizens.”
“They just let you? Don’t they complain and put up a fight? Don’t they try to stop this or get you fired and get better bus service?”
“Yeah, they’ve tried. They’ve started campaigns to end the taxes that pay for this system, you know, to try and punish me. And they’ve talked to the mayor and the city councilors and the county commissioners and they get nowhere. And you know why? Because the mayor’s my brother and one of the councilors is my daddy and two of my cousins are commissioners and some of the other commissioners own the garage that does the repairs on this bus and I take it in for service constantly, even when it doesn’t need it, and the prices are way too high on top of it and we make money and those people can go to hell. Ha! We’re in control. We got these people and we can do whatever we want.
“You know how many times I’ve had the engine replaced on this bus so far this year? Forty- seven! That’s right. Forty-seven times. That’s a lot of work and a lot of money for the garage. And guess what? They just keep using the same two engines over and over. We take one out and put the other in and then take it out and put the other in. They bill the city for brand new engines. But there ain’t no new engines. And there’s nothing wrong with them, either. They’re perfect.”
“That’s thievery and it’s arrogant,” Dave said. “This is the public’s bus system and you’re a despicable creep. A jerk. A disgusting vile person. Who do you think you are?”
He screeched the bus to a stop, got up out of his seat, took several big swallows of whiskey, pointed his huge belly at us, wagged a finger in our faces and said in a voice that escalated from a slow, hateful whisper into a furious, foamy-mouthed scream:
“I’ll tell you what I am, Bubba. In this town I am the bus! And I want everybody to know it. I am the bus! There might be others out there—doctors, lawyers, cooks, gas station owners, exterminators, but dammit, I am the bus! Now say it with me and shout it. I am the bus! Sounds good, doesn’t it? Say it again. I am the bus! They can laugh all they want. They can think that I don’t have a good job, that I’m not educated, that I got no talent, that I’m just a big slob, that I got nothing. But I’m telling you this. I got something they don’t. I am the bus! And no one can take that away. I am the bus!”
He calmed down after drinking, in one long swallow, three-quarters of a half-pint of peppermint schnapps that Dave opened and offered him. Two more short slugs finished the bottle and the bus was on the highway again.
But only for a few minutes. He pulled into the driveway of a broken-windowed, shut down, backroad diner. There was a trailer house in back with a light on. He stopped the bus, beeped the horn, opened the front door and started to leave.
“Where you going?” Dave asked.
The driver patted his belly, grabbed his crotch with both hands and, acting like he was about to embark on the noblest cause ever, announced:
“I’m going to fill my belly and satisfy my honey, if you know what I mean, boys. Satisfy her real good. Like no man can satisfy her.”
“Wait a minute,” Dave complained. “You mean you’re going to eat and have sex while there are passengers on your bus? You can’t do that. What about us?”
“Oh no, boys. I believe in sharing, but not everything. I draw the line somewheres. I know you guys have needs, too, but no sir, you’re gonna have to find some things on your own, boys. I’ll share my honey with youse, but not my food. That youse are gonna have to get on your own.”
“No, dummy. You can’t just leave us on the bus while you go in there. That’s rude. It’s selfish. It’s disgusting.”
“I can leave you here boys, because remember one thing, I am the bus! Now shut up and wait for me.”
He left the keys in the bus and the engine running while he went inside the trailer.
What an opportunity it was for us, I thought.
“Dave, we could just drive this bus back to town and get rid of this goof. And we could pick up some passengers, too,” I said. “Let’s go.”
“We could do that, yes. He was dumb enough to leave the bus running. But we ain’t gonna. It would be too easy. And besides, this guy makes me sick. We’re going to punish him. We’re gonna drive him crazy.”
“Isn’t he already crazy?”
“Slightly. Actually, a lot. But we’re going to finish him off. We’re going to melt this guy’s brain. I got a plan.” By the time we finished smoking cigars about thirty-minutes later, the driver was back out, patting his belly, grabbing his crotch, picking his teeth with his fingers, burping and smiling.
“Ah, my honey. She sure can—” Sensing that he was about to get explicit, Dave pulled out another bottle of schnapps and tossed it at the driver. He caught it, opened it and drained half of it in one gulp. Then he noticed the cigar smell.
“You fellas know there’s no smoking on the bus! I oughta put youse off right here. Right now and here. That’ll show youse to smoke on my bus.”
“But if you do that you’ll open the doors and let the cold in,” Dave said. “You can’t put us off.”
“You Bubbas is right. No more smoking on the bus.”
He put the bus in gear, turned it back onto the highway and headed toward town, to, as he said, “Pass up more idiots and splash old people.”
Before he could finish his demented laugh, Dave spoke:
“Hey, it really smells from smoke in here, driver, open the windows or give us some air freshener or something. It stinks. Can’t you even keep the bus smelling nice and fresh? You palooka.”
That put the driver into a teeth-grinding mode. I complained about the smell. He put the gas pedal to the floor.
“Open the windows,” Dave shouted, realizing, of course that we could open our own windows. Dave made a move to open a window. The driver spied him in the mirror.
“Leave that window alone!” he shouted.
“No, it stinks in here,” Dave said. “You got a stinky bus.”
“All right,” he said grudgingly. “Open it, but just for a while and only until the smoke clears.”
Once the window was open I started complaining.
“Hey, it’s cold in here! Turn up the heat or make him close the windows. What kind of a bus are you operating? It’s cold in here!”
“It’s cold in here!” Dave shouted. “What kind of a bus driver are you anyway? Why don’t you make us close the windows?”
Dave then opened every window on the bus.
“It’s cold in here!” we shouted.
“Close the windows!” the driver shouted. “Close them, now!”
We did, and when they were all closed, Dave lit up a cigar. The driver, in a rage, jerked the wheel and nearly ran the bus off the road.
“It’s too hot in here,” I shouted, “turn down the heat or make him stop smoking or open the windows.”
“It stinks in here,” Dave yelled. “This cigar smoke stinks.”
He jerked the wheel again and the bus ran into a ditch.
“Can’t you drive, fool?” we complained. “What kind of a driver would drive into a ditch? We’re going to complain to someone about this. Open the windows. It stinks in here.”
He managed to get the bus back on the road. By this time he was swearing to himself and pounding is fist on the steering wheel.
“Open the windows!” we demanded.
“Open them yourselves!” he yelled. We did and then complained about the snow falling inside the bus.
“These seats are getting wet. What kind of a bus are you operating?” Dave yelled.
“Shut up! Stop complaining!” the driver shouted as he slammed the bus into a tree. “Shut up!”
“Hey, your bus is banged up. What kind of a bus is this? We don’t want to ride in a junky bus,” Dave said.
“Shut up!” the driver screamed again. “Shut up!”
“You’re so tense. You’re so unfriendly. I can’t stand this,” Dave said as he threw the driver another bottle of schnapps. “Drink this and calm down. Who wants a hyperactive bus driver?”
The minute he finished the schnapps, I started in:
“You disgusting drunk. Lay off the booze. Who wants a drunken bus driver? I’m going to complain to the authorities.”
The driver slammed the gas pedal to the floor.
“Lead foot! Lead foot! You’re going to get us killed!” Dave complained. The bus screeched to a stop and we were thrown out of our seats.
“Easy on the brakes, pal,” Dave said. “We want a smooth ride. This is ridiculous. We’ll never get to town on time if you stay here idling on the side of the road. What kind of a driver are you?”
The driver took a crowbar from underneath his seat, got up and stumbled toward us.
“Stop complaining! Stop complaining! Stop complaining!” he shouted, as he raised the crowbar to hit us. “I can’t stand people like youse. Complain, complain, complain. Stop iiittttt!”
He started to swing the crowbar, when Dave asked him calmly:
“You know what I can’t stand about you, Bubba?”
The question interrupted the swing.
“What? What can’t you stand about me?” he demanded.
“The fact that all you do is complain about our complaining. All you do is complain, complain, complain, complain, complain. You’re nothing but a complainer. You complain about everything.”
He reversed the swing and slammed the crowbar into his forehead instead of mine.
“Shut upppp!” he screamed, while flinging himself into the walls time after time. “Shut uppppp!”
He had descended into madness. After laughing for a few minutes, we carried him to the back of the bus where he drooled, stared out the window and shouted insults at imaginary people waiting for buses.
It was snowing harder than ever when we drove the bus back into town—a situation just perfect for the grand, heroic deed that Dave planned, which was nothing more than stopping the bus to pick up passengers. We knew what it was like to stand freezing on a street corner in a blizzard and have a half-empty bus race by because the driver was a jerk. We too had been slopped by the splashes of screwball bus drivers who ran their vehicles through puddles without regard for the people standing on the corner. But we also knew the comfort of a warm bus on a freezing day and the compassion of a driver who stopped no matter how full the bus or how badly behind schedule he was. We knew how those people at the bus stops in that town felt and we were determined to make the situation right, to make up for the past jerkism of the madman driver.
We were going to be the best bus drivers ever. We were going to pick up every one of those people and let them off exactly where they wished. Dave steered the bus onto the main street, and as we approached the first stop, which was loaded with people, we were giddy.
“Can you believe it?” Dave shouted, “This is the first time in three years that this bus has stopped to pick up people. This is a turn of events! A change in the world! A victory of good over evil! These people are going to be so happy, so thrilled, so crazy with happiness. And do you realize how grateful they’ll be? They’re going to love us! This is a great day!”
I was just as excited at being able to do something good and decent, and in that excitement I raced back to taunt the madman and to let him know that good had triumphed. I got his attention and shouted in his face that we were about to pick up passengers and do the right thing. I laughed. His response?
“They’ll be dying to get on this bus. You oughta triple or quadruple the fares. They’ll pay. And youse can stuff that extra money in your pocket and buy liquor with it.”
What a sick and despicable human being, I thought to myself. To raise the fares now! When those people were suffering and in need? Could there be a more vile mind on the planet? We needed money, sure, and we could have explained away the increased fares as a maintenance surcharge for the bus. They would have paid, so desperate were they for a ride. But I had morals, a sense of right and wrong. To raise the fares right then would be wrong. In a day or two, after we had gained their trust and had been hailed as heroes, yeah. But not now. Not me.
I raced back up front and Dave pulled the bus slowly and carefully to the first stop.
“Get ready,” he said with a giant smile, “this is going to be great. These people are going to be so happy and so thankful. You be the official greeter. Welcome them aboard!”
Pfffffssssss. The front doors opened. People charged onto the stairs.
“Kind and happy people,” I said, “welcome to the bus. Bask in its warmth, in our kindness and take comfort in our reliability. Know for sure that we will speed you safely to your destination. The jerk who ran this bus before is ruined, never to rise again. Good has—”
“Keep your big bazoo shut,” sneered the first passenger up the stairs, a frail, snow-covered woman about seventy years old who poked me in the ribs with the metal point of her umbrella. “How come it’s so cold on this bus?”
“And how come it stinks?” grumbled someone else coming up the stairs.
“Why don’t you two have uniforms?” asked another. “You look like slobs. Where’s the old bus driver?”
The old lady refused to pay her fare.
“I’m a senior citizen,” she bellowed at Dave’s demand for her money. “I get reduced fares.”
“But reduced fares ain’t the same as no fares,” I said.
“I’ll pay a fare when you get some heat on this bus and some decent seats,” she snarled back.
Others got on and grumbled that the fare was too high or that the bus looked funny. Several shook off snow on us. One demanded to know why there wasn’t a radio playing, and another complained that there were too many people on the bus.
Next thing, everybody was complaining that the floor was slushy and wet, that they didn’t get their special seats and that we had stopped too long to pick them up.
Towards the end of the line a snow-caked teenager climbed up the stairs. He passed the fare box and sheepishly explained that his buddy behind him would pay. The buddy trudged up the stairs and said the same: the next in line would pay.
The third teen said the fourth would pay and the fourth said the fifth would pay and the fifth said the sixth would pay. And by the time the sixth was climbing the stairs, the first was walking out the rear door.
“Here’s your fare,” the sixth said as he pulled a whipped cream pie out of a brown paper shopping bag and smashed it into Dave’s face. By the time we could recover from the shock, all the teens were out the back door.
The passengers laughed and told us how stupid we were for falling for one of the oldest bus pranks around.
“The old driver was never that stupid,” someone said. “He never would have picked us up.”
Dave cleaned the pie off of his face and warned me not to laugh. He pulled the bus away and headed for the next stop, figuring that the people there would be nicer. But Lord, the howl that went up from our passengers, who filled about a fourth of the bus, when Dave announced the next stop, was crazy.
Why were we stopping for other people, they wanted to know. Just keep going, they said. Everyone was late and stopping for others meant further delays. They were unanimous: Don’t stop.
“We must,” I told them. “It’s the decent and right thing to do. They’re human beings. They’re out there freezing and shivering.”
“Well that’s their fault,” said the old lady, “for being so stupid to stand out in the cold all this time when there were no buses that stop. We don’t want idiots on this bus.”
“Yeah,” cried a guy. “Why didn’t they just wander on home?”
“But you people stood out in the cold just as long,” I said. “If they’re stupid, so are you.”
“Don’t talk that way about us,” said the old lady. “Doesn’t apply. And unless you want it cut off, keep that tongue in your mouth. Now pass them up.”
“We can’t do that,” I pleaded. “It’s wrong. You people have got your seats on a warm bus. You have to think about others now. You stood out in the cold, too. Just tell me, if you can, because I know you can’t. What makes youse so different from them?”
Oh, I knew I had them—knew that they had no way out; that they would have to answer honestly and dig deep into their souls and come to the conclusion that for making those statements they were hypocrites.
“Just tell me the difference!” I screamed.
“We stood at a different bus stop,” said a woman.
“How can you be so stupid and blind?” a child asked. “Why don’t you just use some common sense?”
They laughed and howled, hooted and jeered. Oh, they were having fun. I tried a different argument.
“You have your seats. You’ve got yours. Think of others,” I said.
“Well that’s just it,” said one guy. “We have got our seats. We’re happy, so why care about anyone else? We’ve got ours and why would we want anybody else to have theirs? And do you realize that the more people you let on this bus the less comfortable we’ll be? So pass them up.”
Those final three words became a chant.
“Pass them up! Pass them up!” they screamed. It went on and on and drove us crazy. But Dave was determined to stop and help the shivering masses.
“It takes a bold, courageous person to stand up to the reckless and ignorant masses," Dave told the passengers. “It takes a hero to do what’s right in the face of opposition and ridicule. We are heroes in our own minds, if nowhere else. If there’s no one else left on the planet willing to do the right thing, at least we will. If we’re the only two left, we will be! If we’re just two against several billion, so what! Damn everyone. Bring it on. The world will know that David P. Nadolski did the right thing and that he dragged his friend along, too. We are bolder than brass, and even bolder than that. We are the boldest of the bold! We will pick up more passengers! And maybe even the hungry and the tired and the sick, and who knows, maybe even fat people! We shall not be stopped!”
He pulled in to the next stop, the doors swung open, and it was more of the same—griping, grouching and complaining.
Why didn’t we have newspapers or books on board or hot chocolate or decent whiskey and why where there so many people on the bus and why were we late and just where was the old bus driver anyway?
It was depressing. But Dave pushed ahead, thinking that there had to be some decent, grateful people at the next stop. He was wrong. People threw stuff at us, threatened us with guns and knives, demanded our money and were furious that some seats were already taken. The final passenger at that stop was a guy who oozed hatred.
“Who do you people think you are?” he asked. “And what do you think you’re doing?”
“We’re trying to help,” I said, “to give you people rides. To right the wrongs of the jerk who drove before. To treat people with the respect and decency they deserve.”
“Well, by stopping this bus you’ve screwed up my life. Big time, Bubbas. Big time. You two has ruined everything for me, and I don’t appreciate it.”
“How could we have ruined your life by stopping the bus?”
“How? Because, for the past three years when this bus hasn’t stopped, I’ve had an excuse to not go to work or to at least come in late. All I say is, ‘Bossman, the bus ain’t stopping. I ain’t got a car and so I can’t get to work.’ The boss knew that the bus wasn’t stopping to pick up anybody and so everything was fine.
“Now that they know the bus is running again, they’re gonna expect me to show up on time. So you’ve ruined it, and I hate you for it.”
“And me too,” said someone else. “I could always tell the wife that I’d wait for the bus in the taverns. And since the bus never stopped, I could wait there and drink for hours. But now, if she finds out that it’s working normal again she’s gonna start nagging at me and wanting to know how come I’m spending so much time in the taverns. You all make me sick.”
There were others with similar gripes, and it was obvious that we were villains, not heroes.
“You people are so selfish,” I said, hoping to shame them.
“You damn straight we’re selfish. And so what?” said one woman, who appeared to be going through her child’s pockets for money. “That’s the way we are and we’re happy about it. Now get us where we’re going and don’t stop no more.”
“No, we’re going to stop at every stop until we find some decent, honorable people in this town,” Dave said. That was enough for those people. They started shouting that they wanted the old driver back. Soon they were on their feet and crowding their way to the front of the bus with the old driver in their arms. They started pelting us with newspapers and magazines and snowballs and began demanding that we leave the bus.
When Dave refused, the mob dragged him out of the driver’s seat, installed the old driver in his place, ordered him to open the door and threw us off the moving bus.
“Do people always act that way when you try to do something nice for them?” I asked Dave.
“Not usually this bad. This is crazy. I don’t think anybody will ever believe this.”
Before the bus had gotten too far away, it stopped and all of the passengers tumbled out, many of them screaming and shouting at the driver, who in turn was screaming at them.
As we got to the crowd the bus doors closed and the driver sped away, trying his best to spin the tires in a puddle and splash those people. We walked up to the old lady. She was angry.
“He kicked us off the bus. Lord am I mad! What a jerk! It’s cold out here. Sonny boys, I’m plain tired of dealing with fools,” she said.
We were, too. And blizzard or not, we sprinted to the gas station to get our bikes.
Site: Dennis Domrzalski
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|Reviewed by Jack Lowe
|Whoa! I think I've been on this bus! Funny and vibrantly alive. Great stuff, Dennis.|