Thursday, January 11, 2018

les liaisons autobuses

What on earth is a crosstown bus doing in Midtown? Jack asks, and he certainly has a point. But East-Siders don't have the luxury of turning up our noses at a bus that lacks the decency to cross town through Central Park. The bus speeds by the still-Christmas-decorated Rockefeller Center, and I shift uncomfortably, well-aware of the garish indelicacy of such a route.

I've already maxed-out my one-cab quota for the trip, so I really have no other option, which the crosstown bus knows as it approaches, smugly chugging across the intersection.

I slink back onto the M50 crosstown bus with the reluctant moral rectitude of a woman who has tasted the electricity of another man's lips but slips under the covers next to her more consistent lover, thinking to herself: well this is right and just, but remembering her more inspiring venture with the wistfulness which intensifies desire.

Look, says the M50, how reliable I am, showing up exactly as the timetable dictates. What better partner could you ask for? I remember the erratic arrival of Arab buses, showing up in the cold, late; or in the rain, earlier than expected; or in the sunshine, exactly as predicted. Such whimsical, insouciant arrival which should signal radical disregard for my convenience, should, indeed, breed resentment, in retrospect simply seems honest. What sort of boor argues his desirability based solely on his dependability? I grumble silently to the antiseptic blue seats which surround me, remembering the thrill of early arrival, the leaden thud of betrayal as the full bus speeds by without a flicker of interest in your outstretched hand, beseeching it to stop.

I don't know what you want! cries the M50, stopping (of all places) by the Lotte New York Palace. I don't respond, looking out the window at Saks 5th Avenue, my lips curled into the mournful smile that is a woman's universal signal for: you just wouldn't understand. I may be riding the MTA, but my imagination fixes its wandering eye upon Egged buses, completely despicable aesthetic mixtures of Italian buses and the Boston T, and filled with more machine-gun-toting soldiers in a day than either of the aforementioned has seen in their lifetime. What I wouldn't give to be holding onto one of the hand straps in an overly-crowded Egged at rush hour rather than drowning in this cornucopia of empty seats and ample elbow room.

It's hard to explain to someone we once loved why we no longer love them. Or that we still love them, in a certain way, but that we've found someone else a bit more dashing, more charming, who understands the thrill of the chase, the electric back-and-forth of the will-she-won't-he, and whose timetable is never dictated by some central authority, but authentically derives from their own internal timepiece. I would rather, I try to explain to the M50, as he huffs towards the 6 train, ride a bus who is consistently late, but tries to be on time, than a bus who demands passengers, because he feels it owed to him, as a reward for his punctuality. It's not that I don't appreciate his efforts, it's just that I've found something different, and I think that works better for me and what I need.

Something more real, something more wild, something that speaks to the very heart of me. As the white bus roars up to the ersatz stop, unmarked by any signage, my heart races a little faster, as the thrill runs through me, too tentative to be formulated in any statement stronger than interrogative:
you stopped for me?

Instead of a Metrocard inserted into a soulless slot, I drop living coins into the pulsing hand of a bus driver, and he either soundlessly grunts in appreciation at the correct change, or slides a few shekels out of his coin machine to hand me with my receipt for 4.70 exactly. And I take an empty seat next to a female rider, feeling like I've actually been greeted, welcomed, that my presence is exciting, not exacted.

Sometimes, I have to hound the Egged driver for a receipt, and he points me to the collection of extra slips in the tray below the fare machine, reminding me of my status as a rider with out a RavKav card. I know these are silly power games, and I roll my eyes each time. But how charming, I think, as the old routine is never tired, but has the fresh immaturity of snowball-throwing flirtation.

How can I be something I'm not! cries the poor M50. There's a strained silence, as I arise to depart through the back doors, which aren't opening.
I don't really have a response, because the issue he's raising is not really The Point.
"Give them a push," commands the driver.
So I do. I exit, without another word, thinking that I really don't owe an explanation to a bus who hasn't even merited a crosstown route above 59th street. (Which isn't his fault necessarily. It's a fact he can't help. But. Still.)

Public transportation is best enjoyed, I figure, reflecting on the experience, on its own terms, and loses some of its luster when comparing one infrastructure to another.

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