And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use. And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried: “Look at this Godawful mess.”
— Art Buchwald
Here’s the setup: My apartment complex runs a shuttle service to the Metro station every morning on the half hour between six and nine. At 7:00, 7:30, and 8:00, there are so many people waiting that often one bus can’t take them all. In the past, this meant that if you couldn’t get a seat on the shuttle, you had to make a run for the local bus, but you never knew for sure whether you’d be able to get a seat on the shuttle. After many complaints from residents, the complex apparently worked out a deal with the shuttle bus company that for those three times in the morning, the route would be serviced by two of the larger shuttle buses (which probably seat about 25-30 people each), one behind the other. The first bus would pick up until it was full and then head for the Metro; the second would catch the stragglers at the early stops and, usually, all the people at the last shuttle stop. This system has worked well for more than a month, and I thought everything was settled and going smoothly.
Then today, the first bus arrived in the form of a HUGE charter bus. I’m talking easily a 60-seater. This happened once before, prior to the 2-bus system. I assumed it would be the only bus today, as when all of the people at my stop (the second or third one on the route) got on, it was less than one-third full. But, instead of making the rest of the route (2 more stops), the driver made the first turn off to head to the Metro, which made no sense. Turns out there was the regular second bus behind him. I, who tend to be extra-conscious of the environmental impact of my actions, was quite distraught over this. I was sitting in the first seat of the bus, right behind the driver, and at the first stoplight, I inquired politely why we had such a big bus if we weren’t going to make the full route. Here’s what happened next:
Driver: Oh, well, y’all are usually all crowded together on the smaller bus. I thought I’d take the big bus today and let you have your space. [This is true, but only in the sense that all the seats are filled; it’s not like we’re packed in like sardines or anything]
Me: Ok, but this is such a waste —
Driver: No it’s not.
Me: Yes, it is. It’s a waste to drive this whole big bus that’s less than half-full when there are still other people to be picked up —
Driver: What do you care? Do you pay for it? Do you?
Me (stunned, not as quick on my feet as I would like): No, but —
Driver: Then what difference does it make? You don’t pay for it, it’s not a waste.
Me: Why are you jumping down my throat?
Driver: You people, somebody says something you don’t like, they’re jumping down your throat.
Me: No, when you interrupt me and don’t let me finish, then you’re jumping down my throat. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t just bring the regular bus.
Driver: What do you care?
Me: I live in the world; I care because this is a waste of gas to take two buses.
Driver: No, it’s not, don’t worry about it.
[By this time, the light has turned green, and the driver has started moving forward through the intersection]
Me: But it is; there’s no reason to take two buses when this one’s not anywhere close to full. We could pick up all those people and still be only half-full.
Driver: [STOPS THE BUS, LIKE HE’S MY MOTHER OR SOMETHING] Do you want to get off? If you don’t like it, you don’t have to ride. You can get off the bus. Do you want to get off the bus?
Me (shocked into silence for a moment, then): Are you kidding me? Are you serious with this? No, I don’t want to get off. Like I want you take an even less full bus to the Metro.
Driver: Alright then. It’s not a waste. I just take the bus they tell me to take. If you got a problem with it, take it up with the company.
Me: I will, you can be sure of that, and I will also take your attitude up with them.
Driver: I don’t know what you’re talking about, attitude, but you do what you got to do.
[Someone else chimes in, I think in my defense, but I can’t be sure]
Driver: We take two buses every day, and we’re taking two buses today, what’s the difference?
Me: At least one bus is full on the other days when you take two normal-sized buses.
Driver: Whatever. I take the bus they tell me to take. You don’t like it, you call them.
Me: I will.
[We head down the road, the Driver, as usual not obeying basic laws and rules of traffic; towards the end of the ride, he nearly rearends the car in front of us and lays on the horn]
Me (who admittedly should have kept my mouth shut at this point, but didn’t): What good will that do?
Driver: You got something you want to say to me?
Me: Yes I do, but I will talk to you about it at the station.
Driver: I’m not interested in talking you at the station. You got any talking to do, you call the company.
Me: Well, tell me: first you say you picked the big bus so we could have more room, then you say you just take the bus they give you – which is it? [I’m not a lawyer for nothing!]
Driver: I’m done talking to you. You don’t pay for this so what do you care?
Me: I do pay for this, because I pay rent. I asked you a simple question, and I think I’m entitled to an answer.
Driver: You want an answer, call the apartment people, call my company. I take the bus they tell me to take.
Me: Fine. I’ll call them, don’t worry.
[We arrive at the station. He stops the bus, we line up, me first, waiting for him to open the door. He does. I take one step and my foot slips. I land on my ass – hard – on the bottom step.]
Me (out loud, but to myself): That’s just perfect. [I gather my things, get off the bus, and don’t look back]
S’posed to be some kinda irony, or something.