Ivan drives the #36 bus route, a long, lurching stop/go, stop/go ride between downtown and north side neighborhoods. Up and down State Street. Back and forth on Broadway.
Ivan is close to retirement and a good pension. He has seven grandchildren who call him Poppa.
Most of the time, he doesn’t pay attention to the rush-hour crowds. They heap in, mournful and glum.
“Move to the back, please,” he says into the loudspeaker. Rarely does anyone listen. He has stopped trying to understand people who choose to bunch up in the front. Ivan makes sure the passengers pay their fares. Sometimes, he’ll deny someone with an expired transfer. Not always, but sometimes.
He’s been a dutiful driver, acknowledged at Transit Authority lunches for his complaint-free record. He’s received special awards too, one for delivering a baby and another for nabbing a pickpocket. He takes only a few sick days every year.
Sometimes, after he’s loaded passengers, he’ll see out of the corner of his eye a commuter running down the street, frantically waving to get his attention so he’ll wait and pick him up.
Sometimes, Ivan will stop.
Other times, he’ll pretend not to see, adjust his seat perhaps or check his schedule.
Then ever so slowly, he’ll apply his foot to the gas pedal and cruise through the intersection, leaving the would-be passenger behind. Ivan will look into his rearview mirror and watch how the mad dash turns into slow motion and resignation. He lip reads the spewed curses and knows he would never use language like that.