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Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Get on the Bus

I've been kicking myself for leaving my notebook in the car, so often have I encountered foolish people or outrageous behaviors on the bus each morning.

Much ink has been spilled, and many pens have been broken, and many fingers and wrists have been damaged, writing about loud cell-phone talkers. There's not a thing I could add to the discussion, honestly. Except to say that perhaps, from now on, I'll post snippets of conversations to which I'm subjected on the bus. The client negotiations, the "what's for supper tonight?," the real-estate deals (especially the real-estate deals--are you listening, dark-skinned sefardi guy with the slicked-back hair and whiney voice?), the unsolicited career advice, the shidduch investigations, all of it. People have no regard for the comfort of their fellow passengers, and I've had enough.

But the cell-phone talkers exist in every transportation medium. There are some characters that are unique to the "frum" bus milieu.

First, there's the tall, clean-shaven, gray-haired guy who has made it his life's mission to antagonize every male rider more frum than he is, and to ingratiate himself to every female rider, provided they're young and attractive.

This is the guy who will protest loudly if anyone tries to put up a mechitza. He will tear it down if it's already up. He will sit next to a woman, regardless of the availability of "men's" seats and regardless of her comfort level. He also reacts very aggressively if someone talks on their cell phone - or has an audible ringtone - or sneezes. It's reached the point where he's banned from riding certain morning buses, on pain of ejection and humiliation from the driver. Of course, if a scuffle did break out, the police would be called in immediately, creating a devastating chilul Hashem and at least a 30-minute delay in my commute.

Aren't we supposed to be better than all this? How did we get to a point where a passenger goes out of his way to annoy and antagonize other passengers, and where other passengers and drivers are forced to hurl threats and insults - every morning?!

And then there's the clueless girl who thought it was completely acceptable to spread her three notebooks, four shopping bags, and two shoulder bags across four seats. During rush hour.

I debated whether to say something right away, or to wait until someone else commented more pointedly ("Whose stuff is this?!") when the bus filled up. Thankfully, she got the message on her own and cleared the other seats before someone had to yell. But what was she thinking? Did she really believe she was entitled to four seats, when she paid for one?!

And what about the time when a person new to Monsey tried to flag down a bus (at a non-designated stop, granted) and got cursed at and yelled at (and flipped off) by the driver? The bearded, yiddish-speaking driver?

There are dozens of other examples, each of which is more egregrious than the next.

Something has to change, or else these frum-owned and frum-operated businesses are going to continue grinding down whatever goodwill and Ahavas Yisrael I have left. And I'm not the only one.

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