Transit in the Time of Corona

by Don Driver, 04/02/2020, Chicagland, Il

Adult Category


My daily work serves a plasma center, a drug rehab clinic, a couple of WalMarts, some mega grocery stores and dozens of little bodegas. I am never lonely.

One guy this week kept looking around, waving other passengers up to sit next to him. He apparently thinks “Fun With Dick and Jane” is the funniest movie ever made and kept pushing his phone into people’s faces to show them the trailer.

I asked him politely to limit contact with others and he laughed at me and said, “You believe all that garbage?”

There’s Blue Hat, a guy who’s clearly spent time on the street and, he says, in prison. He rides around for a while every day. I’m pretty sure it’s his only chance to talk to anyone.

If any rider makes eye contact, here it comes, the damn Chinese did this to us, he was done wrong at his last job, et al. He’ll go on for 40 minutes.

One time Blue Hat started coughing, deeply, rasping like a rusty iron gate. Another passenger asked him to cover his mouth. “Asshole!” he said. “You don’t control me!” Thankfully he jumped off at the next stop.

I went back to do a Lysol wipedown on Blue Hat’s seat and there was already a wispy older guy sitting on it, smiling at me blissfully. At my urging he slid across the aisle.

He tapped me on the arm. “You don’t have to worry about me,” he beamed. He produced a box of Swisher Sweets from his jacket. “See?” he said. “I still got one left.” Many of our passengers are like this.

A woman got on and immediately began coughing and hacking like crazy. She did cover her mouth. And when she realized people were staring she announced. “I have COPD. If I walk a block I cough for an hour.”

I swear the first thing I thought was, yeah, right, tell me what I want to hear.

I hear all kinds of outrageous nonsense behind me. “Ever notice how every time there’s an election they come out with a new virus?” one woman opined. Another rider kept loudly insisting that Covid-19 is only dangerous if you’re old and sick. I pulled the bus over and had a talk with that guy.

The civilian drivers still on the road are worse than ever. Maybe they’re distracted, maybe they’re afraid. But they’re paying even less attention. I’ve stopped short half a dozen times in the past week as some numbnutz came rocketing out of a parking lot. Guess that store didn’t have toilet paper either.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a sweet side to this mess. Most of the riders display a real sense of shared ordeal, talking to other riders they just met like old pals, exchanging tales life stories from six feet away.

Many of them thank us for keeping the buses running, and say they’re praying for our health.

I hope it works.