It must’ve been around a little after five. People were rushing to get home, as it usually is during rush hour in New York City. My fiancee and I were walking around Battery Park, stopping briefly at a Walgreens to buy a bottle of water. (NYC gets pretty warm during August.) We walked by a group of people waiting for a bus, and I noticed they were watching someone in the road. Curious, I stopped and asked my fiancee to “stop for a sec,” because I wanted to watch the scene unfold.
In the middle of the road — well, in the middle of a lane, I should say — was a man in his forties holding his arms up, making his body larger than it was, in front of a bus. His face carried the weight of a working man wanting to get home, feeling fucked and slighted by the world.
“Just open the door,” he shouted.
The bus driver motioned for him to move out of the way.
“Just open the door, this is your stop. You’re not going to stop here and let people on?” the man continued. “This is your stop!”
The bus driver mouthed something to him, which probably was something like: “Get the fuck out of the way! I can’t do anything right now, because I’m on a schedule and I’m not going to open the door for just you.”
Bewildered, I joined the group of people to watch this surreal, absurdist scene. After all, why couldn’t this man have waited for the next X19 bus? What was so important about getting to his destination that he would actually physically place himself in front of a bus and not let it move, obstructing the other buses behind him, inconveniencing the other passengers (who were all beginning to wonder what was going on and why they weren’t moving)?
“Just open the door,” the man repeated.
The bus driver shook his head. He inched the bus forward, but the man put his hands on the front of the vehicle.
“You’re not going anywhere until you open the door!”
New Yorkers, be as it may, can be aggressive, but this, this was a new low even for us (or is it a high?).
“You dumb fuck, get out of the way,” a man shouted from the crowd.
Buses behind the obstructed bus started honking and revving their engines. One of them eventually pulled out and saw why the bus in front hadn’t moved for some time.
“It doesn’t make sense,” the man in the road shouted. “This is your stop! You’re not going to let people on? This is your stop, you have to let people on!”
Exasperated, the bus driver threw up his hands. The passengers got into the mix, angrily gesturing him to move out of the way. The man, feigning ignorance, shrugged, pointing to his ear.
“I can’t hear you,” he shouted. “I can’t hear you. Maybe if you open the door I can hear you.”
I turned to my fiancee.
“This is fucking nuts.”
“Open the door!” the man shouted.
A man walking by shook his head.
“Buncha crazies in this town…”
I looked around the crowd to see what the general attitude was against the man. It was then someone blindsided the man in the road, picking him up from the path of the bus and on to the sidewalk. The bus driver pounced on this opportunity and quickly drove off.
“What did you do that for?!” the man screamed. “This is not your business! This is not your business!”
Then he started throwing punches, a couple of them landing square on the side of the mystery man’s head. It was a brief scuffle — it might have lasted longer if the man wasn’t out of breath and if his backpack hadn’t been weighing him down.
“What the fuck is your problem? Who the fuck are you? This is America, I have rights!”
“You’re a fucking asshole,” the other man replied and shrugged.
“Fuck you, you’re the asshole!”
The man formerly in front of the bus made more angry gestures. It wasn’t until maybe five, six minutes later I saw another X19 bus turn right from Broadway, on to Battery Plaza.
“I wonder if the bus is going to not let this guy on,” my fiancee mused.
“That would be really intense,” I said. “This is really insane.”
Lucky for the man, the bus stopped and opened its doors to let passengers board. Incredibly, he allowed everyone else to board before he got on himself, but not before angrily gesticulating at the mystery man one final time.
The mystery man, with his torn shirt quietly, somberly walked away from the scene, shaking his head, as if he had a weird — no, totally weird — dream.