I drive a bus between Terminal 1 and the subway stop, the last subway stop, at the very end

of the Blue Line. It¶s always beaten me why they didn¶t build the subway right up to the very airport. The security lady who rides along on the shuttle, Chaniece, says it was probably security reasons. I say the people digging the subway tunnel got lazy and decided they wanted a bus driver to do the work of carting people around. These days most people take the taxi inland, so the ones who ride on the shuttle to get to the subway are usually the real penny-pinchers. You know the kind²the young people who don¶t have the twenty-five, thirty dollars to spare for taxi money, the ones who wear their sweatshirts with hoods²hoodies²and listen to Lady Gaga and Jay-Z and Rihanna on their earphones. I know, because they play it so loud I can hear it. The other type of person who rides the shuttle is the person who probably could afford the taxi, but decides to be green or smart or just plain cheap and use public transportation. Sometimes they try to talk. Sometimes they don¶t. What bothers me is when they use my name to talk to me. They¶ll look at my ID badge and say, ³So, Ladawnah²´ and some form of either ³How are you?´ or ³How far away is it to the subway stop?´ or ³Where do you live?´ or ³What should I see around here?´ or some combination of all of the above. Then I give a signal to Chaniece²some kind of meaningful eyebrow wink thing²and she¶ll interrupt saying that the bus driver can¶t talk, she has to keep her eyes on the road, but it¶s five and a half miles to the stop. Just because I have to wear my name on a badge doesn¶t mean you can just start talking to me like we¶re best friends. I imagine having conversations with them. They¶ll start off with one of their pesky questions: ³So, Ladawnah, where around here do you live?´ ³I live in Branchpark,´ I would start out friendly, because it¶s an okay question, but then turn around out of the seat to give them a scare, ³but for your information, I don¶t know you, Mister So-and-so, and I don¶t know your name, so why don¶t you just do a little thinking before you go talking to me with my name like you know me. I¶m pretty sure I haven¶t met you before.´ And then they would

fall back in their seats and apologize stutteringly while hoping for their life¶s sake that the angry fat lady would get her eyes back on the road. That kind of conversation with a passenger would be my fantasy. Obviously, Chaniece gets involved before I start spouting nonsense and lose my job. The airport is starting another one of their cockamamie PR campaigns. This time it¶s about ³transportation friendliness, helpfulness, and approachability,´ whatever that means. Apparently it means that you have to be extra nice to passengers. My job statement said, ³Mrs. Ladawnah Chantelle, your job is stated in three parts: 1. Driving 2. Lifting 3. Bus management´ What it should have been is this: ³Mrs. Ladawnah Chantelle, your job is stated in three parts: 1. Driving (also known as: scooting past the taxi drivers who can¶t speak a lick of English and don¶t yield for the shuttle) 2. Lifting (breaking your back over your ungrateful passengers¶ definitely not carry-on regulation luggage) 3. Bus management (dealing with hooligans of every stripe who play their Eminem too loud, and you can¶t shout at them, because remember µtransportation friendliness, helpfulness, and approachability¶ will be compromised, and so will your job) because that is exactly what it¶s turned out to be. Well, I make 23,000 more than anyone else in the family«which isn¶t saying much, because everyone else lives off welfare, but at least I pay for the roof over my head. I turn my eyes back to the road because there¶s a taxi in front of me and you never know what they¶ll do. I don¶t honestly know how some of them get their jobs, but it¶s a wonder there aren¶t more taxi accidents the way some of them drive. And with passengers inside too.

Today I know will be a bad day. Chaniece had to go to her grandma¶s funeral in Atlanta and the lady on the security shift is a strict-looking twitchy woman with her hair pulled back so much it makes the skin on her face look tight. What do I mean by twitchy? Well, when someone started listening to their music too loud, her mouth twitched. It was like she had a rat in there that was trying to claw its way out. When she finally spoke, it was with that slow, quiet, cool anger, not loud and fast like Chaniece or I do it. ³Sir, please turn down the volume on your MP3 device,´ she said, slowly, quietly, dangerously. The young man²late teen or twenty-something²looked up for a second and turned it up so that we could all hear, ³My name is.. (what?)/My name is.. (who?)/My name is.. [scratches] Slim Shady/Hi! My name is.. (huh?) My name is.. (what?)²´ Since the substitute security lady¶s approach hadn¶t worked²she looked a little bit dumbfounded as to what to do next, I decided to say something. I turned around quickly in my seat and shouted, ³Sir! Did you hear her or not? Turn it down!´ I made a miscellaneous but frightening cranking motion with my hand before turning back to the road. ³Okay, okay, yeah man,´ the kid said, and finally the bus was quiet. I had a daydream about what else I might have said« The security lady told him to turn down the volume. He disobeyed. I turned around in my seat, fixated him with the most evil-eye stare around, and started shouting, ³Did you hear her or not? Turn it down! You want me to get out of the seat and turn it down for you? You want that? I could let this bus go out of control. In the papers it would say, µidiot listening to Eminem causes massive accident.¶ Huh? You like the sound of that? I bet you do.´ And I would start to lift my leg out of the seat to the terror of everyone around, their blaming glances at the boy. His face would go red and he would turn down the volume, and I would go back to driving while all the passengers looked at me with some awed fearful respect.

But it was a fantasy, and in the real world, we were coming close to a stop. ³Terminal 2, international, European flights,´ said the toneless automatic voice in the bus. ³This is Shuttle 451 to Airport Subway Stop, Blue Line.´ No one got on. The doors closed and the bus lurched along. ³Terminal 2, international, Asian flights,´ said the automatic voice. ³This is Shuttle 451 to Airport Subway Stop, Blue Line.´ Two Japanese girls got on. Oh no. They always wanted to take pictures. They got a look of glee on their face as they saw me and began chattering in Japanese, before one of them walked up with a camera and said, ³Picture with you? Biggest person we have seen!´ Well, that one was new. Wasn¶t exactly a compliment. I took the picture, unsmilingly, and they went to get their seats. The real problems started when a family came onboard. There was a mother, a father, two children (one adolescent, one maybe seven or eight), and a baby. The baby looked fussy when I first saw it. It was flailing around in its fancy-carryingsack-thing, held to the mother by shoulder straps, and making small wailing noises. I braced myself for an explosion. The security lady twitched. The two Japanese girls looked solemnly at it. That baby was like a volcano, and when it started crying, there was really only one word²nasty. Then a group of boys, probably frat kids back from spring break in Mexico, got on the bus. I knew they were loud kinds before I even heard them. You can tell from the way people walk. They were talking too loudly, but the security lady couldn¶t do a thing about it. There was no law against saying: ³That was pretty freaking awesome.´ ³I mean, the waves, man. Like, they must have been feet high.´ ³Not as high as I was, dudes.´ And they all laughed. It made the twitchy security lady twitch, but I could already see what I would say, if I could.

³I mean, the waves, man. Like, they must have been feet high.´ ³Not as high as I was, dudes,´ someone else would say, and they all laughed. I would keep my eyes on the road this time, because they were too small for my attention, but I would yell, ³I don¶t care how freaking awesome your spring break was or what kind of drugs you did, but I do care how freaking quiet you keep your freaking high voices!´ And their mouths would shut, just like that, because their kind is used to spoiling and getting what they want, not angry women telling them to shut up. I kept my mouth shut, even though they were the ones who should have shut up, because it wouldn¶t be policy to tell people to quiet down when they were only talking loudly, not playing music. If I ran the bus, I would say to hell with policy, but I don¶t run transportation²I just get my 23,000 for driving, not disciplining, so I kept my eyes on the road and drove toward the subway stop. When we stopped, my eyes followed the passengers, making sure everyone got off. There went the screaming baby²there went the Mexican spring break vacation fraternity boys²there went the Japanese girls²there went that kid blasting Eminem, a resentful look on his face. I¶d add one more thing to my job description: ³Mrs. Ladawnah Chantelle, your job is stated in three parts: 1. Driving (also known as: scooting past the taxi drivers who can¶t speak a lick of English and don¶t yield for the shuttle) 2. Lifting (breaking your back over your ungrateful passengers¶ definitely not carry-on regulation luggage) 3. Bus management (dealing with hooligans of every stripe who play their Eminem too loud, and you can¶t shout at them, because remember µtransportation friendliness, helpfulness, and approachability¶ will be compromised, and so will your job) 4. Resisting urges²because no matter how annoying the passenger is, you can¶t do a thing unless you want to lose your job.´

I turned the bus around, facing the direction of the airport, and started the long ride back. Driving«lifting«bus management«and of course, resisting urges²it was all in a day¶s work. Back and forth I¶d go, Terminal 1 to the subway stop, and subway stop to Terminal 1. Someday I knew I would probably snap at a passenger, act out one of my daydreams. But I didn¶t want to lose my job quite yet.

THE END.

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