The morning was muggy. So was the crowded Metrobus. The gray-haired man, perspiring even in shirtsleeves, reached forward to pull open the window. Ahhh! A breath of air. But the same breeze bringing relief to some rush-hour commuters also whipped the hair-do of the young woman sitting closest to the window latch. As the bus picked up speed (and the breath became a gust), she clapped a protective hand to her curls and slammed the window shut.
The gray-haired man shrugged -- and perspired until he got off several blocks later at Dupont Circle.
Blame it on the stifling heat inside the bus that morning when I put down my book and took a look at a few of my fellow passengers. If God had created a perfect commuter this group would be left standing at the curb. In the rain:
The Fare Fumbler: She (well, mostly she) waits at the stop for 10 minutes, complaining that the bus is late. When it does arrive, she steps forward to board first.Then, and only then, does she begin rummaging through her purse to find the fare. Those in line behind her, all with their coins clutched ready, plot mayhem until she finally plucks out that last loose nickel.
Moral: The driver isn't going to give you a free ride. Be prepared. $5Andy of the Aisle: Andy isn't his real name. It could be Arthur or Archibald. But he boards the near-empty bus at the beginning of the line, plunks down in an aisle seat and refuses to budge to the end of the route no matter how many passengers have to crawl over his long legs to reach the window seat. One morning three people had to make the hurdle. Maybe one of them stepped on his toes. Hard.
Moral: Slide over and save your shine.
The Jacket Flapper: Standing in the aisle, he reaches up to grasp the support rail. His unbuttoned jacket flies open, suddenly blinding the woman trying to read her paper below him. If the jacket stays over her face, she can push it away, alert its owner or take a bite out of the lining.
Moral: Button up or pay the consequences.
The Reluctant Farewellers: They've never met before, but fate put them in the same bus seat. Friends at first sight, they launch into a 20-block dialogue of work and family. But, too soon, one must get off. She gets a foot out of the door, but wait -- "What's your name?" "Where do you live?" "Give me your phone number." The driver races the engine. Other riders initially patient, consider a swift kick. Finally, in her own good time, she departs. Honestly, it happened.
Moral: Step off quickly or seal your friendship with a ride to the end of the line.
The Over-the-Shoulder Mafia: These people stride forcefully down the aisle unaware that their over-the-shoulder purses or tennis bags are creating havoc behind them. An arm bumped here, a forehead there.
Moral: You may be carrying a dangerous weapon.
The Shouters: When the conversation begins, they are only a foot apart. But boarding passengers have separated them. That doesn't kill their exchange; it only gets louder. They carry on right over your shoulder or into your face.
Moral: The rest of us don't care about your disco dates last night.
The Seat Snatcher: She stacks her shopping bundles next to her on the seat; he puts his brief case at his side. Either way, there's only room for about two-thirds of your sitter to be seated. Hang on.
Moral: Keep to your own turf.
Bus drivers, often the target of complaints, will -- when pressed -- also admit a few pet peeves.
Rena Ansley, who drives the N-1 route from Friendship Heights to the Archives, says, "Most of my passengers are really nice," but that doesn't mean she isn't occasionally irritated. Such as by the passenger "who waits until you're almost past the bus stop -- and then ding-dong, he wants off. You can't stop properly."
Samuel J. Corso, a driver for 38 years whose route (D-6) is Western Avenue to Brookmont, says he's annoyed by passengers who tell him, "Oh, you're running late,"
He knows he's late. "You try to be on time if you can," he says, "but if the traffic doesn't permit, you just can't do it."
One part-time driver, who wished to remain anonymous, says she finds that "bus drivers get a lot of frustrations taken out on them by the passengers. I don't know what kind of day they had, but they use the driver as a whipping post."
Don't get me wrong. Despite complaints to the contrary, young men and women still give up their seats to the elderly. Seated passengers often hold packages for those who must stand. Any number of people offer change to the rider who left the house without a couple of quarters. Most aisle-standers bear quietly the shoves and nudges inevitable in a crowded bus.
Ansley, for one, thinks courtesy is important in the daily commute. After all, she says, "We're all in this together."