charlie ticket on the express bus

"Hi! Are you waiting for the bus?" the woman asks as she arrives at the bus stop. She's well dressed in long coat, bundled against the cold New England weather that finally arrived with the new year.

"Yup." We are at the bus stop, after all, I think to myself.

From under a big hooded coat, she asks, "What bus you are taking?" followed by "Where you are going?" and informs us she just had dinner with a friend. Her trip home is long apparently, and she has to work tomorrow.

We recommend a different bus to give her a more direct route.

She listens as if considering our suggestion, then cautiously declines. "I don't think so. I know where I'm going."

At this point it dawns on me. Her awkward questioning tactics. The slight slur blending the spaces between slowly enunciated words. The hesitancy to change from the familiar. She might be special needs.

"What bus are you taking?" she asks again, and now I am sure.

She goes on to tell me about her job at Lord & Taylor. It doesn't quite fit with the mental image I have begun to construct, but it would explain the coat and designer handbag. She mentions something about stocking.

After my answer to each question she asks and my agreement to each statement she makes, she pauses long enough to give the impression that the conversation is over, then launches in again with awkward, ill-fitting replies. My phone tells me we will be waiting for at least five more minutes. I want to talk to Ian instead, but how can I be rude to someone like her? So I respond. Agreeing that, yes 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. makes for a very long, exhausting work day.

"Nine hours straight is a lot."

"We get an hour break for lunch."

Eight hour work days twice a week. Must be rough. I remind myself to extend grace. She continues to complain, citing a busy holiday season with extra hours: almost 30 one week.

Finally the bus comes, and she says goodbye with a flourishing wave before she gets in line ahead of us.

As we sit down a few seats away from her, we exchange glances. "As soon as she asked us again what bus we were taking, I knew," Ian confides. "She's drunk, so I just zoned her out."