I’m always filled with a sense of dread when I round the corner on 41st Street in the morning and see people squeezed four-deep along the sidewalk, waiting for the bus. For the most part, the buses come more often than I expect and get me to work right on time even when I feel like I’m running late, but when something goes wrong along the 2nd Avenue M15-SBS route, it seems to go really, really wrong. This morning, the bus pulled up just as I collected my receipt at the pre-pay machines and was shockingly empty, so I figured something went really, really wrong uptown and the MTA sent a new bus down to try to fix things. I got a seat right up front by the window and began my long-practiced process of zoning out so the elbow jabs of the person next to me wouldn’t seem so jarring.
The bus was filling up more and more as we made our way downtown, and it was downright packed by the time we got to a stop with a lady waiting in a wheelchair. Now, no one blames anyone for being in a wheelchair, but it’s the simple truth that a wheelchair on the bus is an inconvenience. Everyone in the front has to move back to make room for the wheelchair, and three people have to give up their seats so the wheelchair can be strapped in beside the window, and the wheelchair usually sticks out into the aisle far enough that no one can hold onto the handrail above it. The bus driver always tells people to exit the bus for a moment to make room and then re-board once the wheelchair’s in place, but everyone’s been left at the side of the road once or twice when the bus was too full, and no one wants to risk giving up his spot inside. So it was understandable (but maybe not excusable) when the woman in the wheelchair tried to board and people were reticent to move for her, but she wasn’t in the mood for understanding and muttered complaints to the bus driver as he strapped her wheelchair down. He agreed with her that “people should use common sense” and that he would let the bus sit there all day if they needed to be taught a lesson. “I’m already at MY job,” he said. I was amused, and I thought that was the end of it.