Harpy New Year

A grueling early morning commute is seldom enhanced by complaining. I suspect most of us would rather not be here, crowded next to strangers on a barely adequate bus, going to jobs we may or may not find fulfilling. We put up with it, I think, because the ways of making a living have been effaced for those of the late boomer generation, but we’re a practical lot. Besides, it is a new year—why not start things off optimistically? Hanging around the Port Authority Bus Terminal as much as I do, you hear things. Our regular dispatcher and some drivers can be heard, sotto voce, saying that nobody wants to take my regular route. It’s a long route in heavy traffic, and I have the greatest respect and sympathy for the drivers. These are women and men with more fortitude than Job. Most of the time. I wonder why no one cares for an express run with so few stops?

The first day back after the holidays, however, the first commute of the new year: One of the regulars missed the bus and had to drive to a stop further along the route and berated the driver for being early. Given that some of us had been standing in the cold and were thankful for relief a few minutes ahead of schedule, and also for the opportunity to get to work a little early, the complaint seemed self-serving. Besides, this customer has made us all late for work before by complaining until a driver, like an exasperated parent, pulls the bus over. And once she starts complaining, she can’t stop. When a second customer joined in, I thought to myself, “Happy New Year.” Things were starting out well.

Yesterday, for the second morning commute of the year, our usual complainer noticed an unclaimed bag at the beginning of the route and, seeing something, said something. The driver radioed it in. Halfway to the city, she pulled the bus over, announcing she’d been instructed to wait for someone to come get the bag. We didn’t know, until he arrived, that he was from the bomb squad. Still, this didn’t stop the complaining sisters from starting on the driver again. When the bomb squad arrived, they looked on with interest as someone’s gym bag was opened with nothing more threatening than smelly socks inside. Then they started griping again. At that point I realized that New Year is indeed a religious holiday. Each new day is an unopened present. And some people will complain, even when left with an unexpected gift.

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