Lady 1 and Lady 2 are at the front. Lady 1 is described here. Lady 2, older and white, has just stepped on; a street denizen with wizened eyes.
Lady 1: "Where you gettin' off at?"
Lady 2: "I don't have to tell you that."
Lady 1: "Why not?"
Lady 2: "'Cause it's my business. Mind your own business."
Lady 1: "You're being unfriendly. I bet- I bet you hate your job."
Lady 2: "You need to mind your own business."
Lady 1: "Driver, this lady's bein' rude to me."
Me: "Yeah?" My gears are turning, trying to figure out the best approach.
Lady 1: "Yeah. She's being unfriendly."
Me: "Maybe she's had a tough day (I should have said "long day." More diplomatic). You never know."
Lady 1: "What? Oh."
Lady 2: "Why'djoo ask me where I'm gettin' off?"
Lady 1: "'Cause I thought you might be friendly."
A pause, containing deafening silence-
Lady 1: "Driver, why aren't you doing anything? She's being unfriendly."
Me: "Well, you know, that's allowed. Sometimes people are gonna be nice, and sometimes not nice. We can't all be 100 percent all the time."
Lady 2: "That's right."
Lady 1 [to Lady 2]: "Well, I hope you hate your job and, and, and, that people are really rude to you today."
Me: "Oh, we don't need to say stuff like that! That's unfriendly!"
Lady 1: "Oh, I'm just getting back at her for what she said to me."
Me: "No, that's no way to do things. We don't need to do that."
Me, into the mic: "Our next stop is Bell Blanchard, Belltown. Here's Bell Street. After this we'll go to Virginia."
People file out; I check for incoming passengers, and there aren't any. Doors closing, but-
Man 1, inside: "Hey, can I get out?"
He steps out, and here's a man outside with a cane. It's Man 2.
"Heey!" I say, kneeling the coach.
Man 2: "Hey, bro. I didn't mean to call you dipshit,"
Me: "Hey, I didn't hear anything! Come on in! How you doin'."
Man 2: "Oooohhh,"
Me: "Could be better, could be worse?"
Man 2: "Yeah. We'll go with that."
Me: "Yeah, why not. Lookin' at the bright side."
Man 2: "There's a bright side?"
Me: "It's somewhere out there!"
We service the Virginia Zone, and move down to Pike. Soon Man 2 and I are praising the beautiful weather. It's afternoon, but it's foggy.
Third and Pike.
I turn to Lady 2 as she walks out, saying quietly, "thanks for being patient."
Lady 2: "No problem. You take care."
Me: "You too."
Lady 1: "Can you drop me off up there?"
Me: "Sure, lemme pull forward for ya."
Inwardly, I'm thinking: this 125 in front of us is doing a road relief. I'll pull around him and block temporarily while our friend here steps out. Should only take a second.
Lady 1: "I was just asking where she was going, and she got all mad at me. I wasn't trying to make her,"
Me, making sure we have enough clearance as we pull around the 125: "Yeah, I know you weren't trying to get on her nerves. People are just touchy sometimes. We gotta be patient."
Lady 1: "Are you gonna be here tomorrow?"
Me: "Yes indeed, I'm here every weekday, same time same place! You can ride my bus anytime you like!"
Lady 1: "Thank you."
As she steps out, a man in a chair with two stumps for legs signals me. It's Man 3. I signal in return, and start deploying the lift.
The remaining exchanges below took place in under a minute, in what felt like a single sustained breath, nary a pause for air, your brain intercutting the onslaught as the world ramps up into a sort of multitasking overdrive:
Lady 3: "Do you go to, are you gonna go down, uh,"
My internal monologue: This bus is too close to the curb to deploy the lift. I need to pull away about 6 inches.
Me, to Lady 3: "Be with you in one moment."
Me, to Man 3: "I gotta pull forward to do the lift, gimme a hot second."
Man 3: "Cool."
Lady 3: "Do you go to,"
Me: "I'm gonna go down Third to Columbia. Wanna go to Columbia?"
Me to Man 3: "There we go."
Lady 3: "Yes."
Man 3 looks like he needs a push; I'm blocking everything; that 125 is definitely chomping at the bit by now. He wants to get out of here, and can't. I'm at a mild diagonal, and he, the 125 driver right behind me, can see me- I wave at him, in an effort to placate him. Can't see who it is-
Me: "Do you need a push?"
Man 3: "Yeah."
Me: "Let's give you a push." I dart out of the coach and push him up the ramp, wheel him into position- "let's see here, we got one [strap] down, don't mind me, I'm just gonna reach in here,"
Man 3: "I wanna go to the last,"
Man 4, boarding: "Hey man,"
Me: "Oh hey,"
Man 3: "Go to the last,"
Man 4: "I'll be darned if I can find my transfer, somewhere in here,"
Me: "That's fine, you can pay me next time,"
Man 5, currently seated by the front: "I can get this." Gesturing at the wheelchair straps.
Me: "Wha- oh, thanks! I can get that. Thank you! I should be payin' you guys! I'm just a volunteer bus driver here!"
Man 2: "We'll be callin' for that paycheck!"
Me: "I got you covered!"
Man 3: "Thanks, bro."
Me: "Sure. Thank the fine gentleman here."
Lady 4, now entering: "Do you go to Capitol Hill?"
Me: "No, but if you go across the street right over there, you can grab a 49, or a 10..."
Lady 4: "A 49 or a 10..."
Me: "Yeah, lotsa good stuff over there."
Lady 4: "Thanks."
Man 3: "I wanna go to the last stop on this treet."
Me : "My last stop on this street is Columbia. I can take you to Columbia?"
Man 3: "Thanks."
Lady 3: "Do you stop at Columbia?"
Me: "I do stop at Columbia! Be happy to take you over there." Into the mic: "alright everyone, time to get outta here!"
Forty-five, maybe fifty seconds. It's a breathless rush of exhilaration. Ah, yes. I was meant to be here. I take the light, waving a big smile at the drivers across the street.