We're pulling out of Harborview inbound, approaching the stop bar, about to work our way through the right turn. Someone's running for my bus. I'd rather not pick them up- 4 minutes late on a route that runs every 7- and I wonder if someone's about to ask me to wait for her. I know what I'll say if someone does ask, but instead I hear-
"Don't wait for her!"
"You want me to keep goin?" I don't look back to see who it is, still concentrating on the turn.
"Yeah, this bus come so often. Gotta keep it rollin.' If you be stoppin' for everyone, I'ma have to beat you up."
I turn around. "Is that right?"
It's a friendly face. He knows me from the 7. We laugh. Gristly African-American fellow with glasses, older. We continue riffing off of each other-
"Yeah, you know I'm jus' doin my job," he says. "Tryna enforce the rules real proper-like."
"You don't want me to be stoppin and waitin,"
"They tol' me the rules. Can't wait all day for runners,
"Keep the situation moving,"
"Yeah. Don't wanna beat up nobody I dont' have to..."
"It wouldn't be nothin' personal,"
"Aw naw, it's about the rules. Can't have you, friendly muhfugguh that you are, pickin up all a creation. You know I got to enforce the beatdown."
"Shoot, I better leave this girl by the side of the road then-"
"If you know wha's good fo' yuh! I'm a check up on you next time, you better not be breakin' no rules!"
"Always good to see you, man!"
"Yeah, you too. 'Specially when I don't have to beat you up!"
Ever since then, he'll bring up the subject, but naturally the other passengers will be in the dark. I enjoy seeing their befuddled faces when he gets on.
"Do I gotta kill yo ass?"
"Always! You know I picked up all kinda runnin' people!"
"Don't make me go to work, man! Don't make me go to work!"
"But I'm glad you stepped on. To remind me what I'm supposed to be doin.' Keepin' me in line."
"Hey, that's why I'm here," he says in a meaningful tone.
"For the good of the system-"
"This man's a valuable asset to the company," I explain to the others in a mock-serious voice. "He's helpin' me remember the importance of a job done right..."
"Aw yeeeah," he says with enthusiasm, while people look on, terrified. They're confused by my attitude. Without any context, the interaction hardly makes sense, and we gleefully carry on. He notices someone at an upcoming zone.
"Hang on, bus driver, hold up. I gotta go kick that guy's ass."
He walks toward the man outside and they shake hands, striking up conversation. I turn to the Navy man seated at the front, who'd been listening.
"It's all a matter of semantics!" I say.
"Wow, I guess so! I guess that's one way to say, 'there's my friend, I'm gonna say hi!'"
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