"What time did you get in from your trip?"
"Well, it depends on how you define 'in.'"
Our flight landed on time, and except for a glitch with the jammed baggage carousel, we were pretty much on track.
Until we came outside to board the shuttle to the lot where we had parked the car. Then things went slightly downhill at an accelerating speed.
We chose a new parking lot. Their prices are good, at least. But prices aren't everything.
The line for the shuttle was crazy long. We couldn't have known how long the people at the front of the line had been waiting, but when they became hostile with other passengers who nearly cut in front of them, I began to use my skills of context clues to learn that they were past the point of patient.
One man was loud, antagonizing, and short-fused. And then he was denied access to a shuttle. So he walked slowly down the middle of the road until he got back to the front of the line, so the shuttle driver couldn't pass him on either side.
I think he'd been waiting a while.
It was cold. I had a sweater. My mom didn't, though.
Another shuttle pulled up. People filed on with mild aggression, carefully keeping their elbows poised for jabbing, if necessary.
I watched the hostile man climb on board. I didn't inch my way forward, as everyone around us did. I motioned for other people to go around me. I'd like to say it was an act of gracious selflessness. But I'll tell you what: if there's one thing that will send me inward and invite me to give up my seat on a crowded bus, it's a hostile passenger.
You put him on there, and I'll wait for the next one. My intuition is hypersensitive, it has been known to drive my friends and family batty, but it's immovable. Or rather, when it kicks in, I'm immovable.
As I motioned for another person to step in front of us, my mom spoke softly to me out of the side of her mouth. "Are we not getting on this bus?"
"Um, no," I whispered back, and then motioned to another person. "Go ahead, ma'am. We're waiting."
"We're not getting on?"
"But it's cold."
"You can have my sweater if you want. But I'm not getting on that bus."
She smiled and nodded with resignation to my decision. She knows the drill. Immovable, I tell you.
So we waited. Actually, another 45 minutes passed before the next shuttle came. I began to identify with the aforementioned hostility.
This time, with a new opportunity, I was willing to board.
I stood near the back. The driver made the rounds to see that all passengers and bags were stowed carefully, only to find that I wasn't really stowed at all.
"Ma'am, can you get short?"
"Can you get short?"
I still, um, don't really know what you mean. "Get... short?"
"Yes. When we get to the lot, if my supervisor sees you standing, I'll be in trouble. So, you need to get short."
Ah. I see. I crouched on my knees. If getting short means we get to go home, I'm game.
We disembarked the airport and headed to the lot. And once we were going about 75 on the expressway, my knees started to cramp. I unfolded myself and sat on the ground, propping myself against the side of the bus. That's when my mom realized that I was leaning back on an emergency exit.
(Ain't no way she was going home to my little boys and my dad without the fulfilled promise of my safe return.)
So, I got back on my knees. My crampy knees.
Almost everyone was quiet. Except for two people who talked and laughed loudly. I don't remember what they were saying. I just remember loud. The word 'obnoxious' comes to mind.
When we arrived at the lot, one person was delivered to his car. This left one empty seat. My crampy knees prompted me to sit next to the loud man.
I sat down and folded my elbows in, sure to stay in my own space until we found Row H.
He leaned over to me, and in a creepy, raspy version of the same loud voice, he said, "Hey, little girl. Want some candy?"
I looked sideways at him. "Um, that's weird that you just said that."
(I wouldn't normally respond that way to someone. I really wouldn't. But he was loud. And it was weird. And if he was willing to let the entire group of passengers hear him say something like that, then I was willing to let them hear my reply.)
He chuckled robustly. Don't think Santa. Think redneck in suspenders.
"I used to say that to her all the time when she was little," he pointed to the other half of his loudness, apparently his grown daughter.
"Okay. It's still weird that you said that to me just now, though."
Clearly reading me as a tough crowd, he turned his conversation back to the grown daughter, and now they talked about their upcoming trip to Japan and all the changes in their flight itinerary.
A woman from the front called back to them, but she didn't look their way. She just leaned forward and spoke across to the other window. Which was funny to me.
"Are you talking about flights back east?"
"No, we're talking about flights to Japan." At which point, when she leaned back to a resting position, they could have determined perhaps their information didn't pertain to her. But they took no such clue. They repeated all their Japan details. She maintained an unbroken gaze out the window. We all listened, a captive audience.
As people began to get off the bus, one by one, another woman began to announce each person's departure.
"There goes the man in the white hat."
"We just lost the woman in the pink shirt."
We just lost her?
And are we filming the movie Speed right now?
My mom whispered to me, "I'm beginning to feel a little uncomfortable with the level of community on this bus."
One person couldn't find her suitcase on the rack of luggage. Another person said, "I know which one is yours. I saw you get on with it. I watched everyone get on. But I'm not telling you where it is."
I began to wonder if we should have taken the bus with Mr. Hostile Pants.
Aha. Row H. We parked there. That's us. Up and at 'em. I'll even tip the driver. Just please, let me off.
As we pulled out of the lot, the attendant waived our fee when the automated machine jammed and I could neither pull forward past the barricade nor backward through the line of traffic.
I wasn't trying to get a freebie. I was just trying to get home.
She swiped her card and made all our problems go away, and then she said, "Thank you for your patience. It's been a crazy night."
"It sure seems like a crazy night. Thank you for doing a great job," I affirmed. After all, she had just waived my fee with her magic card.
"Oh, it's just another Sunday night."
Apparently this is a weekly routine at this lot, then?
Like I said: Prices aren't everything.