This didn’t start out well. My driver called me because she didn’t see me on the back stairwell where the patient entrance is supposedly located (I’d like to meet the genius who planned this) – but it was already 100 degrees and there was nowhere for me to sit and stay cool, so I was in the front of the building in the air conditioning. The way the building is set up is really stupid. Anyway, she ultimately hung up on me. I went outside and she was halfway down the length of the building. I flagged her down and got on. And I thanked her for her patience. I recognized her. She has zero patience.

Still, sometimes I can turn things around if I make sure I keep my F-U attitude packed away. So we talked about how lucky we were to be driving around downtown Phoenix when it wasn’t rush hour. And then we talked about her wanting to buy a house rather than continue to rent, because renting was simply unaffordable. I talked to her about the importance of inspections and the merits and downfalls of being beholden to the rules of an HOA. And she was loosening up. But then we got assigned another rider, and she became tense again. She said that the other rider was notorious for fighting paying a co-pay (the highest we pay is $4, which for some of us is a lot of money, because that’s just one way or leg of the trip).

I’m going to tell you about the other rider, just so you can understand the whole picture. We arrived at her house, and the woman was outside. She had a cane for each hand, and a fanny pack, and a large purse. Our driver arrived and honked at her but made no move to get off of the bus. The woman put a covered cup in her purse and slowly and painfully started to walk with each cane after she slung her bag on a hand, but it was difficult to watch, because she was obviously struggling. After walking about ten feet, hunched over at almost 90 degrees, she shouted at the door. The driver yelled, “What?? I can’t hear you!” All the while she was sitting in her seat. The woman yelled again, and even I heard her: “Can you help me, at least?” The driver finally got down from her seat after heavy sighing and took her bag from her, and set it on the seat in the bus, then stood at the top of the stairs.

Now, this is not the safest place to camp out when someone is unsteady and weak and they are ascending. It’s better to go behind them. I mean, if the woman falls, is the driver going to grab her by the face? Likely not. And the drivers are trained for things like basic transfers. Very slowly, the woman ascended the stairs of the bus with her two canes. It was hot, Arizona hot, and the woman was red-faced and panting. The driver was tapping her foot. The woman got to her seat but her hands were so gnarled that she couldn’t snap her seatbelt into place, so the driver pushed her hands out of the way and did that. And then the driver barked, “Do you at least have your co-pay?” The woman said, “Yes, I have your co-pay.” After fishing it out, the woman said, “You’re welcome.” The driver mumbled thank you and kicked around her log book as she got back into the front driver’s seat.

The one thing I don’t want to do is talk about someone as if they don’t exist, especially the driver if she has the ability to kill us with the bus. So I didn’t want to turn it into a conspiracy of passengers vs. driver. But what I witnessed was undeserved bias bordering on elder abuse. And I did want to get off the bus myself and help the other passenger, and I had to fight the urge to talk about it immediately after it happened.

While we were driving, the other woman and I greeted each other. She told me she had lived in that house since 1946. I asked her what kind of jobs she had worked in since living in Phoenix in the ’40s and ’50s because I haven’t really known anyone who has lived here in those decades. She said she had owned a bar for a while, and she had been a teacher, and she had worked for an airline. I told her that I imagine that after all of those variety of jobs with very specific attitudes and inclinations, she had to be able to handle all types of people. It was the closest I could come to acknowledging the craptastic treatment of the driver.

We dropped the other rider first before my place, and I got to see where she worked (yes, she still works! I was amazed). It was the cutest row of specialty businesses in Tempe that I’ve seen, and includes ironworks and other little industrial gems.

When we got to my place, I told the driver to just drop me at the end of my complex, rather than going into it. It was really pretty hot by the time I got home but not as steaming as my driver’s temper.

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