I'm doing the last trip on my 4, southbound at 5th and Broad, 15 minutes late, my follower (the next #4, that is) is 2 minutes or so behind me, just out of sight, and so I skip past 5th and Denny because these 2 skater kids are not at the stop yet, they're skating up and yelling and trying to make my bus but I figure the next bus will be there in just a moment. But the light at Denny is red, and they come up and one of the guys asks, "can we get on?" I open the doors and say hey. Guy One says, "Thanks. What is UP?" "Not a lot. How are you?" The second guy gets on and doesn't say anything- maybe he's out of breath. But something bad in me stirs, something about this eats at me, the lack of thankfulness, and in the moment I sharply say, "You're welcome!" as he walks to the back. He says over his shoulder, "thank you!" and I hear them muttering. Guy One says to Guy Two: "You shoulda said, 'fuck you' instead!"
I wonder if he's not so wrong.
They sit in the back and mutter some more, and I wonder why I snapped at them. I can see how they probably think of me. They're the only ones in the back lounge area. In the last forward-facing pair of seats is a dark-skinned man with long dreads and a huge white t-shirt and shorts, perhaps 35. The fact that I snapped at those kids is bothering me. I made a mistake, I'm thinking. They're just kids. Why did I say that? "You're welcome??" Why did I need to say that, especially when I go around talking about good ways of interacting with people and mindsets and seeing everyone as a friend, et cetera?
There's maybe 10 other people on the bus. This nags at me. Third and Bell, first free stop. At 3rd and Virginia I decide I need to do something about it, this feeling that I did something wrong, to correct it if only for selfish reasons. I need to do something about it, to try, to try to wrestle the day back into the good day that it's been. I have to do it. I get out of the seat and start walking to the back, thinking, "I guess I'll find out in a couple seconds if what I'm about to do is a bad mistake." I go back there, feeling totally naked, and say,
"Hey, guys. I jus' wanna apologize for snapping at you back there. I realize I probably sounded like an asshole, I'm sorry."
"Aw man. It's cool. I mean, we weren't really at the stop yet."
"Yeah, I just, it's not you're fault. It's been a long day. Not your fault. Thanks guys."
"Yeah," they say, a little nonplussed.
As I turn to walk back to the front, of course everyone's been watching, and the guy with the huge t-shirt and dreads says, with awe in his voice, "you're a good man."
I say "Thanks man, I do what I can!"
Somehow, the acknowledgement from Dreads guy was like winning the Nobel Prize. The boys take the time to come up to the front door even though the back door is open. We exchange pleasantries as they walk out, and everything is back in it right place. Third and Pine.