RIVER EDGE, NJ – The last place anyone should be on a hot summer morning is on a bus. Or, for that matter, on any morning. Any summer day. Any time, ever.
When you grow up bridge and tunnel, working is easy, commuting is hard. In North Jersey, there are bus towns and there are train towns. Because, decades ago, some New Jersey Transit employee hovering over a map of Bergen County had a bone to pick with suburbia, mine is a bus town. (There are trains, certainly, but their arrivals are painfully infrequent, whereas buses fight their way down the main drag like mosquitoes.)
Depending on what time I wake up, there is my mother, my sister, or my father, or a bleary-eyed permutation of the three. I turn the dial on the kitchen radio to WCBS 880 on the 8’s, 1010 WINS on the 1’s.
If the traffic is light, I eat oatmeal and watch a few minutes of Frasier on Lifetime or The Sopranos on A&E, speculating aloud, to my cats, as to what season the episode might be from. If the traffic is bad, I lumber, half-asleep, to the corner in the hopes of catching the next bus. (I usually miss it.)
My buses deposit me into the bowels of either the Port Authority, at 42nd and 8th, or the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, at 175th and Broadway. To reach the latter, I enlist the service of a fleet of scheduleless jitneys—gnats to New Jersey Transit’s mosquitoes—that blast Spanish music, on which a stop is requested with a strident “La próxima.” (I should mention here that the irony of the $10 roundtrip bus ticket that takes me to and from my unpaid internships is not lost on me.)
Regardless of what bus I choose—or, more realistically, which bus chooses me—the rules of commuting are the same. You are entitled to switch seats if the otherwise nice-looking businessman next to you proves to have body odor so bad that it’s palpable. The right side of the escalator is for standing, the left side is for walking quickly, and if any lead-footed specimens should dare to violate this, you are entitled to sigh loudly on the step behind them. You are entitled to, for no good reason, be grumpy.