“Driver, aren’t you going to stop those children from making all that noise in the back? They are destroying the bus!”
Alice couldn’t contain herself any more. This was happening more frequently on her daily ride to and from work. Not only was it wrong for these children to behave so poorly in public, it was getting almost frightening.
Ralph had often seen this plain, thirtyish woman on his bus, and had a nodding acquaintance with her. “It’s not my business, lady. I ain’t an airline captain and this ain’t an airplane. ”
Ralph had been driving bus for 16 years, and he silently agreed with her it was getting worse. He used to try to act the role of responsible captain of his ship, but the rules governing actions toward passengers were getting stricter, especially toward “children.” “Hell,” he said to himself, “these aren’t children, they’re wild animals and God knows how management would react if I went back there and spoke harshly to those delicate little souls. Shit! And if I did, the company would just give me crap and nothing good would happen, anywhere.”
“Well, somebody needs to do something,” said Alice furiously, feeling herself on the edge and fearful of losing her temper. “If someone doesn’t stop these children, someone could get hurt. And they’re destroying public property!”
“Lady, if I go back there, which I dearly would love to do,” Ralph said while carefully maneuvering the bus in the driving rain around a double-parked car, forcing oncoming traffic to skid and halt abruptly, “I would bark at them and they would snarl at me and things would get worse and I could get fired. I ain’t Captain America, you know. I’m just a tired, overweight bus driver.”
“Well there aren’t any rules any more, not in the schools, not in public places, not in the homes. What’s to become of us?” Alice was shaking, her fury increasing, her sense of right and wrong taking another brutal assault by these uncontrolled, uncontrollable young louts.
Without conscious intention, Alice abruptly rose from her seat near the driver, grasping her umbrella from under her arm, and ran to the rear of the bus, a demonic light in her eyes.
“Stop it, stop it, do you hear?” She raised her umbrella and inexpertly smashed it on the seat next to one of the gum-chewing girls who were giggling at the antics of the boys. Alice’s words were contained in a shriek, not unlike the tone and vibrancy of a police whistle.
“Yeow,” cried the girl, and the several boys near her leaped back, startled and astonished at this display. The other few passengers swiveled their heads to the rear of the bus in response to the noise, having already begun their rotation as Alice sped up the aisle.
“You have no consideration for the other passengers, you are destroying the bus so it must be repaired with the tax money your parents pay, and you are disgracing yourselves by your public behavior. You should be ashamed of yourselves, and if your parents could see you they would be ashamed of you too!”
Alice, of course, suspected that their parents didn’t pay taxes and wouldn’t care, but she had in mind her own parents and her own family’s values.
The bus, at this point, had reached a regular stop. Ralph, despite his bulk, rose swiftly from his seat to defend Alice from the attack he was sure would happen upon her from the “wild animals.” Now looming behind her, as she raised her
umbrella for another smash on something or someone, Ralph barked,” get off now, all you kids, or I’ll call the cops.”
Stunned, unable to comprehend what they were facing in these two odd-looking people, they stumbled off the open rear exit in a rush, some muttering epithets over their shoulders.
Ralph and Alice, and all the passengers, felt as if a great breath had sucked all the sound from the bus. They were now able to hear the rain on the roof. A few long seconds passed while the sound of the rain, the unusual peacefulness of the bus and the memory of Alice’s passion settled pleasantly into their bones.
Slowly, Alice turned to Ralph and, despite her still remaining and righteous anger, managed a slight smile and said “well done, captain.”
They married two months later.