I live in New York City, and as the city is a key character in this particular story, let me here, at the start, explain to you one key fact about it: There’s a train here called the L-train, and this L-train runs across the island, and then into the far reaches of Brooklyn. This train, like so many others, is under constant — like, constant – construction, which means that the train is often replaced with a shuttle bus. This is the story of that shuttle bus. Or rather, this is the story of trying to score myself a date on that shuttle bus.
As I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, buses and trains are different lengths. So when you replace a train that’s not running with a bus that’s one-sixth its size, severe overcrowding will occur. So it is that for those of us who live off the L-train in Brooklyn, all hell breaks loose when our train stops running and we must line up by the hundreds to get on a bus that’s replaced it.
I’ve lived off the L-train for years, I’ve used its substitute shuttle bus for years, and I am, as a result, of the humble opinion that they way people behave while waiting for/trying to get on said shuttle bus, is but a study in the cold, hard reality of humans: We’re happy to give to others, yes, but only if we know for sure that doing so won’t cause us, personally, any lick of inconvenience. By which I mean: The endless pushing, shoving, budging, and overall rudeness on display when people load onto this shuttle bus is not to be believed. The way we behave, you’d think we were fleeing the third-world for the chance to reign supreme in Dubai, and that said shuttle bus was but our singular means for getting there.
Who knows why any of us ever reach a breaking point; who knows what it is that gets us there. I’d been dealing with this shuttle bus business for years, as I said, and all the crazed, embarrassing human behavior that went with it. And I’d done so silently. Agreeably. But than last summer, it was like some switch in my brain turned from off to on, and I thought, “Not any more, people. NOT. ANY. MORE.”
The L-train service was down, the shuttle bus was running, it was midnight on a Friday night. There were three-hundred-ish people waiting in line to get on a bus. When finally it arrived, the crush of people towards the bus’s entrance felt nothing short of terrifying. I remember thinking, “THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENS! I’M GETTING TRAMPLED! THIS IS HOW IT ENDS!”
There was a woman next to me holding the hand of her four-year-old son, and her son, shorter than the rest of us, was getting genuinely squashed. So the woman started yelling.
“STOP!” she yelled. “MY SON! YOU’RE TRAMPLING MY SON!” I heard her, I noticed the small boy, I stopped moving in an attempt to let her go forward and get onto the bus. But we were in a sea of other people who refused, and I, overwhelmed by anger and the grotesque behavior of people in general, stared in the faces of the people around us and screamed, “YOU HEARD HER! SHE’S A WOMAN WITH A CHILD AND HER CHILD’S GETTING CRUSHED, AND YOU HEARD HER SAY SO! AND STILL! STILL YOU DIDN’T STOP MOVING SO SHE COULD GET ON! HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELVES? HONESTLY: HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSEEEEEELVES??!!!!”
So they stopped, the surrounding mass of people stopped, and the woman nodded toward me a thank you, and inched ahead with her son and onto the bus.
When I myself got on just seconds later, well, let’s just say that I have never felt so self-delighted in my whole entire life. In my own fantasy, in my own sadly delusional mind, everyone on that shuttle bus was staring at me as I entered, staring and thinking, “Oh my god. She’s a hero. That girl’s a hero. There’s a hero on the bus.”
I secured a place to stand toward the back, directly across from this guy who was quite adorable. He was quite adorable and he was giving me the eye like you would not believe.
“Oh my god,” I thought. “The quite-adorable guy is going to fall madly in love with me. He knows me for what I am: A hero. He’s staring and staring and staring at me because he saw me defend the woman and her son, and now is all, like, “Now that’s the kind of woman I’ve been looking for.”
I wanted to make it easy on him. I wanted to make myself, the local hero, seem accessible. And so, in the most flirtatious tone that ever you have heard, I said, “Hi there. What stop are you on?”
And the gent, as though to stop the words coming out of my mouth said, “Sorry. I’m gay. I was just, well… I was just trying to decide whether to not to tell you that your fly’s down. So, um, yeah. Your fly’s down.”
Indeed. My fly was down. No matter though. I was a hero. And heroes are allowed to keep their flies down.
Sara Barron is the author of People Are Unappealing and the forthcoming Eating While Peeing: and other adventures.