The wildest part of my trip so far was definitely riding the bus from Pine Hills to the airport.
For starters, figuring out the Lynx bus system was crazy – even with printed directions (in English!) in my hand, freshly minted by the ostensibly helpful online route planner, I nearly missed the right bus because of misleading instructions.
Now, I know that buses in many cities can tend to attract the less savory elements of society, but wow, when you’re already in the ghetto, it gets interesting fast —socioeconomic stereotyping gone wild. Enormous families got on at each stop, with 7, 8, 9 children in tow, perfectly spaced in nine month intervals and slapping around the one immediately below them in age. So many people heaved and jiggled their way laboriously down the aisle, clutching the responsible wrappers or take out bags in one fist.
One woman yapped loudly into her cell phone the entire ride about how she refused to force her ten year old to shower and use deodorant or brush his teeth, and if that made her a bad mother, well, just look at the toilet, because “she didn’t have no ring of black stuff around her toilet like most people do,” and you can tell the quality of a person by the cleanliness of their toilet. This tale was repeated verbatim at least three times – each time with the false promise of “I gotta go; I don’t wanna talk about this no more” repeated until I became so nauseous I started toying with the idea of telling her to stuff it. I visualized how long it would take for me to be relieved of my valuables as I lay doubled up from a kidney punch on the filthy bus floor, like a car that had the ill-foresight to stall out in the Bronx of the late 70s, up on blocks and nothing but the chassis left in 3 minutes flat.
I felt obscenely lucky and simultaneously guilty to be riding with weary fast food workers and struggling single parents while toting a backpack full of computer equipment, my pockets stuffed with cash, travelers checks, and a boarding pass that would take me to places these folks would probably love to see, too, but probably never would.
Such thin lines of choices and chance divide us into groups that pull ever further apart as we tread our respective paths, and when we’re thrown together again we’re shocked at the differences that have grown there. That bus trip made me feel gratitude to my bones for the opportunities I have been given, for the adventure I was about to embark on, and inspired a passionate wish for a good long soak in a tub full of Purell.