A good guy

On my way to breakfast with the family one fine Saturday morning, I was waiting at the transit center for my second bus. It's a two-bus trip, coming and going.

My #C bus was due in eight minutes, and hanging with hobos and being preached at in Spanish had no appeal, so I set off walking three blocks to the next bus stop. Nothing wrong with an invigorating walk twice annually, even with a loose sole on my right shoe sorta flopping with every step.

Three blocks in eight minutes leaves no time to dawdle, but I made it with a minute to spare. The bus shelter, though, was half gone, cordoned off behind yellow ribbons. One of the support poles for the shelter had been twisted sideways, tilting the roof. Chunks of concrete were scattered on the sidewalk.

A sign said, "This stop temporarily closed," and small print helpfully suggested I walk back to the transit center, or walk five blocks the other direction to the next stop. Neither of those things were gonna happen within the one minute before my bus was due.

And there it came, my bus, rolling 'round the corner a few blocks behind me.

And I was pissed.

On Saturdays, the #C bus runs only every fifteen minutes. What am I gonna do for fifteen damned minutes?

And why hadn't they announced this stop was closed? Metro is usually pretty good about signs on the buses informing riders of such things.

There I was, on time at the bus stop, and the bus was almost there, but it sure wasn't gonna stop. All my life I've heard from drivers that they get in trouble if they stop anywhere but at a designated bus stop, and this stop was un-designated, with yellow tape and a sign.

Then the #C bus was so close that me and the driver made eye contact. I raised my arms, palms up, trying to strike a pose of pity. Unexpectedly and illegally, the bus slowed, stopped, and the driver opened the door to let me on.

"Thanks, man," I said. "They closed the stop!"

"Yup," he said. "Some drunk driver slammed a pick-up into it last night. He's dead, and took most of the shelter with him."

"Well," I said, weighing whether to say this out loud, "at least he's dead, so something good came of it." The driver laughed, and I added, "Seriously, though, thanks for stopping where you weren't supposed to."

"I take care of my regulars," he said as I sat in a sideways-seat. I looked at his eyes in the rear-view mirror, and his face was slightly familiar — black guy, gray hair, forehead mole. He'd driven me before, but I don't think I'd ever spoken to him, except saying thanks as I got on or off the bus. Usually I say thanks.

"Guess I'm a regular," I said, "but I only ride this bus twice a month, every second Saturday morning. Kind of amazing you'd recognize me."

The driver glanced at me in his mirror again, and said, "You're a big guy, with a crew-cut, tie-dye jacket, with that black bag you always carry."

"Huh," is all I said. So I don't blend into the city crowd as much as I like to imagine.

"And a few months ago," he said, "when some idiot was giving me crap, you're the guy who told him to shut up."

"I did?" Sounds like something I'd say to an idiot on the bus, but I don't remember it.

"Yes, you did," he said. "I never forget the idiots, and never forget the good guys either."

Nobody's ever called me a good guy before, but I didn't say that, or say anything, because the bus turned a sharp corner, and then the driver maneuvered us around a couple of poorly parked cars. The man was working, so we were done talking until I said "Thanks" as I got off at Mrs Rigby's Diner.

Thought about all this as I was walking toward the restaurant. It's crazy how things circle back, usually for the worse but sometimes for the better. Rumor has it I told someone to shut up once, and I don't even remember saying it, but it got me a bus ride this morning.

Assuming the driver was right and I'm the guy he thought I was, it's guaranteed that I only told some idiot to shut up because he was an idiot and I was cranky. Certainly, I had no intent of being anybody's good guy.


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