Late night bus rides are never dull. After 10:01 p.m., the buses arrive at different gates, in more distant, less-trafficked chambers of Port Authority Bus Terminal (“PABT”). More tourists, more drunk people, a generic strain of weirdos and lost souls (aren’t we all?).
I arrived at PABT at 10:40 p.m. last night after seeing an opera with my friend. The next bus was scheduled for 11:05 p.m. A jocular becspectacled woman with a thick mane of dirty blonde hair bounced toward the front of the gate. Some of us were leaning against the wall and a few others, lined up.
“Where do we line up?” she said, smiling widely. “Do we stand ‘in line’ or ‘on line’? Do we have any grammar Nazis here?”
I said, “I think it’s ‘on line.’ ”
“In school it was a really big deal. We stood on line, that’s what we did. Always a line.”
“Yes, we did,” I said.
She fished into her canvas tote bag, pulled out five soft black and white balls and started juggling.
A guy leaning against the wall next to me said, “Wow, I could never do that.”
The lady said, “Oh, we can teach you. Come to Bryant Park any Wednesday between 5 and 7. We’re always there. I find it makes people smile. It’s all about getting people to smile.”
If her smile was any wider, I thought it would tear the sides of her mouth until they bled.
She dropped a ball and returned all five balls to their tote bag.
“Oh, alcohol makes everything better!” she said.
The leaning guy and I smiled at her.
Definitely a New York moment.
It was one of those times where you enjoyed the moment, but felt a bit on edge, like you had to participate in this person’s exuberance no matter how tired you were. Not necessarily a bad thing, but there was a tinge of danger and volatility to her. I thought if we looked at her the wrong way or didn’t smile, she might fly off the handle.
We were a captive audience.
I was happy when the bus arrived and I could burrow into a seat towards the back of the bus and close my eyes. I had had enough excitement for one day.