16 juillet 2005

Fifi throws a fit

First of all, I apologize to all of my French friends for using the name Fifi for a French woman. Sometimes, in the interests of alliteration, one is compelled to make certain choices.

And now, on to the story. One of Manhattan's greatest pleasures, at least for me, is that a situation can often have a totally unexpected and very surprising outcome. Predictability is the stuff of Chicago and cities found in the fly-over states.

Each morning, the M42, the bus which runs back and forth on 42nd Street between the Hudson and East Rivers, stops in a line of buses at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the city's main bus terminal, in order to pick up the commuters, mostly from New Jersey. Mostly, I say, because, the Bus Terminal is also a main subway hub and it's likely that many of the commuters are from other parts of Manhattan or one of the other city boroughs.

The M42 generally moves quite quickly along 42nd Street, but the pick up process at the Bus Terminal can last for a few minutes, it being the most populated stop. In fact, the dispatcher will line up the buses, and fill them in the order they arrive, so if your bus is second or third on line, you must endure the wait while the bus or buses in front of you fills up with passengers. However, this never lasts more than 10 minutes and usually only five.

On this morning's commute, we came in second. After about three minutes of waiting, no more, a very elegant 40 something French woman threw a fit. This perfectly coiffed and extremely well-tailored lady (in that Parisian sort of way) stormed to the front of the bus and starting shouting at the driver.

"Why are we standing here? I have to go to work. What is the delay????!!!!"

Bus driver: "The dispatcher is filling up the bus in front of us and then we'll let passengers board this bus and then we'll be on our way. It will just be a few moments."

Fifi: "This is unacceptable! I live in Manhattan. I pay my taxes. Why should I have to be late for work because of people from New Jersey? Who are they? Why should I care about them???? Do they pay taxes??? No! I do! If they want to use our buses let them move to the city and pay taxes!!!! I need to go to work, now! The street is clear! Drive!"

Bus driver, speaking with the calm and indifference unique to New Yorkers faced with a crazy person: "Lady, it's up to the dispatcher. I can't move until he's done loading the buses and gives me the signal."

"No, no no. That is not acceptable. I pay taxes. A bunch of people from New Jersey are not going to make me late for work."

(I wonder what awful thing happened to Fifi in New Jersey. Perhaps her boss is from New Jersey?)

She stomps to the rear of the bus and demands to be let out. The driver obliges and opens the exit door. Fifi shoves aside the Jersey "unwelcomes" and starts shouting at the dispatcher.

"I've already been waiting for 15 minutes! (We all know this is a lie, especially the dispatcher and the driver--at most it's been five minutes.) You have no right to make me wait for people from New Jersey! Who are they? They are nobodies! I live in Manhattan. I pay taxes. Release the bus now! I demand it."

The look of shock on the faces of the people waiting to board the bus is priceless. Regardless of where they're from, they've all just been seriously insulted and demeaned as Jersey detritus. Yum. I'm having such fun. Bus ride with free show. Are we on Candid Camera?

Fifi reboards the bus. The dispatcher knocks on the front door. The moment we've all been awaiting! This is going to be great! Chic and sophisticated Fifi is about to be physically ejected from the bus. Oh, please, please let her fight back! I'm hoping for punching, flailing and maybe even some kicking! We've all seen many people tossed off city buses for lessor disturbances and offenses. This will be great fun. Au revoir, Fifi!

The driver opens the door and he and the dispatcher whisper something to each other and then they both shrug and nod. The doors, front and back are closed and the driver leaves the stop, abandoning the 15 or so passengers waiting on line to board. Huh? What has just happened? This can't be.

Stunned we stare at the line of abandoned passengers through the windows. Stunned, they stare back at us, some holding their hands to their cheeks, eyes wide, clearly confused and agitated. They watch the bus pull away. Nothing more is said. Fifi is silent. The driver is silent.

Fifi, against all odds and outrageously unfairly, has won. Fifi has turned a public conveyance into her own private limo. We hope she allows the rest of us to stay. We're all from Manhattan, after all. This is shocking and grossly unfair. An outrage!

Of course, we are all thrilled. You can see the little smiles on many of the passengers. New Yorkers like nothing more than a successful and totally unreasonable temper tantrum, an almost insane act of rebellion. What can be better than something that makes no sense? And, after all, those people waiting to board, well, they were, after all, most likely from Jersey.

Fifi La Folle, our new hero. The combined rudeness, arrogance and elitism of Paris and New York, rolled into one elegant mega bitch. Unstoppable. Unbeatable. Vive La France! Jersey people, indeed.

I was dying to ask the bus driver why the dispatcher caved, but Fifi was still on the bus and I wasn't going to cross swords with her, no way. I'm just a New Yorker. Fifi is a very dangerous and formidable hybrid.

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