To enhance this story, first you must know that I am a middle-aged woman, overweight, and not terribly imposing looking.
I have no car, so I must take buses to do my shopping. Today, I took my wheeled shopping cart. It’s a middling size cart, not big, not small. I shopped at the Edgewater Mariano’s, in Chicago. I got $ 112.00 in groceries. It included a case of diet pop, canned cat food, cans of broth, potatoes, a quart of milk, and so on. The cart was packed with three full shopping bags, with the case of pop, and a case of cat food sitting under the bags in the cart. The cart was fully packed and heavy.
The CTA bus came, and it was one of those annoying ones with the seats along the sides, facing the aisle down the middle. There were two three-spaced seats that lift up to allow for wheelchairs and strollers. There were people sitting on these so-called “priority seats”. There were regular seats across the aisle that were empty.
Now, to be fair, those priority seats that lift up are for the disabled and elderly, not people with shopping carts. And I would’ve been happy to sit on one of the empty seats across from them. Except for the bus driver.
Now most bus drivers just leave you alone and drive. But some are sticklers for rules. It gives them a sense of power.
This was one of those drivers.
He was changing his shift, so he was out of his seat. But he was standing there telling me, “That cart cannot be in the aisle, ma’am.”
I looked up, and I looked down the row of people in the lift-up seats. The people sitting there averted their eyes, or stared at their phones. Maybe they were sick of giving up their seats for four year olds in strollers who should be walking on their own, but none of them were inclined to get up for a woman with a fully loaded grocery cart, even though there were empty seats across the aisle.
And all the while, the driver stood there repeating, “Ma’am, that cart cannot be in the aisle…You cannot have that cart in the aisle, ma’am.”
Do you remember that final scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when Chief Bromden lifts the granite sink and throws it through the caged window to freedom? Well, I don’t want to brag, but I braced myself and lifted that fully packed grocery cart way up high, and dropped it into an empty seat across the aisle from the lift-up priority seats. I swear, you could hear the musical saw in the background.
I then turned and gave the driver my best You-happy-now-motherfucker? look.
All he could say now, over and over, and an octave higher was, “Really ma’am? Really? Really ma’am?”
I snarled, “You wanted it out of the aisle, it’s out of the aisle.”
The passengers sitting on the lift-up priority seats finally scuttled away, and I lifted up one of the seats, hefted the grocery cart out of the seat across the way, and into the empty space.
Some days I like being stronger than I look.