Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cranky commuter: Hormonal edition

I could have walked to the Metro from my office last night. I probably should have. But even though that's under two miles, I decided to save my energy (I don't have much left these days), so that I could fix enchiladas for dinner when I got home and then could go walking with Brian.

I should have started walking when I waited for the bus for 20 minutes and none came. But by then I'd waited 20 minutes, so one had to be coming soon. Right? Well, only if you count 25 minutes after that as soon.

I should have waited for the next bus when I saw how crowded the first one is. They usually come in packs when they're that far apart, so there was probably another not too far behind. But I couldn't see one coming, so I boarded the crowded one. I wasn't too offended when no one offered me a seat. I wish they would, especially on the bus where I feel less stable than on the train, but it's not the end of the world to have to stand. I'm just confused because people were offering me a seat when I was 5 months pregnant and I thought one might just think I had a bit of belly pudge. Now I'm quickly approaching my due date, and it's rare that I'm offered a seat. A seat on the bus did finally open up near me part way down Wisconsin Avenue and I grabbed it.

I started wishing I had walked (I would have been there so much faster!) as traffic crept along and the bus remained jammed full. A man who I would judge to be about in his 40s ended up standing near me as the bus made its way down M Street. He was casually dressed and carrying a heavy leather bag, sort of a cross between a brief case and a duffel bag, if that makes any sense, slung over his shoulder. I moved my head out of his way as he came by so it wouldn't hit me, just as I had avoided a college student's backpack earlier in the ride. But this man stopped right by me, and I had to keep my head out of the way. Not that that helped. As the man swayed with the turns of the bus, his bag kept hitting me in the shoulder. I tried to move out of the way, but unless I wanted to sit on the lap of the man beside me, I didn't have many options.

"Excuse me!" I finally exclaimed when the man turned for some reason and his bag hit me sharply in the ear. "Could you please be careful with your bag?"

"It's a crowded bus, lady. What do you want me to do?"

"I don't know. When I'm on a crowded bus with a big bag I usually hold it it's handle so it's down towards the floor, not whacking other passengers in the head."

"You wouldn't be having the problem if you would be respectful and give up your seat to someone older than you," he told me.

I thought about ignoring him, but I was cranky and annoyed. Plus, traffic was moving slowly enough with the lights approaching Washington Circle that I knew I could make it to the Metro faster than the bus by walking. So I stood up.

The man with the bag promptly sat down as a woman across the aisle protested that I was pregnant and shouldn't give up my seat.

"Ain't my problem," the man said. "Ain't my fault." The woman protested again and began to offer me her seat, but I shook my head and told her I was getting off soon, as the man muttered something about "Bitches always gettin' pregnant, wantin' special attention for it."

I got off the bus and walked toward the Metro feeling angry and overwhelmed, and wondering how much of it was just hormones. It was 7 pm and I had left work at 5:45, which was ridiculous, and I was exhausted. Nine minutes until the next train, I saw, once I was down on the platform. I sat down on a empty bench to wait, thinking that at least it was late enough that the train wouldn't be too crowded.

There were a few open seats on the car that I boarded. I was at the front of the car, and turned toward the very front of it, where I saw two open seats. A woman ahead of me took one. When I got to the other, I saw that the man sitting next to it had his bag there.

"Excuse me," I said, quietly, the way you do when you need someone to move their bag a little so you can sit down.

He just looked at me. "There are open seats over there," he said after a moment, nodding toward the center of the car. He was right, and as the train pulled out of the station, I turned and went to take one of them.


***

I don't know why people are suddenly so rude. Perhaps it's the stress of the holiday season? I am used to a certain amount of indifference among commuters here, but yesterday seemed exceptional. It was a relief to get on my last bus home, with the driver that a classmate and I nicknamed "Speedy" four years ago, because we knew if we didn't make it onto his bus at Braddock Road by 8:40 PM, we weren't going to make that bus at all because he is always so prompt and will drive faster than seems smart in order to stay on schedule. The bus driver smiled when he greeted me. When I sat down, a neighbor whose name I don't know asked me how I was feeling these days. Another man got on the bus, handing over his transfer and then putting two dollars in the fare box. When Speedy stopped him to ask him what he was doing, the man explained that in the past couple of weeks drivers had let him ride a few times when he didn't have the 35 cents with him to pay the transfer fare, so he was just trying to make up for that. It only took a few little things to improve my mood and make me start thinking that the Metrobus and Metro parts of my commute had been almost funny.

1 comment:

lynnerd said...

A letter to the editor from the Dec. 25, 2006-Jan. 1, 2007 issue, in response to the cover story "Why We Worry About the Wrong Things" from the previous issue:

"Mad Cow Disesase, bad spinach and terrorists don't have me worried. What really scares me is the decreased civility in U.S. culture. My car has become a target for other drivers on the road, just as my body has become a target for other people during the walk to the office."
- Gregory A. Retter, Indianapolis

I read this today and I thought it was poignant enough to pass along. I hope you've been doing well since your last post.