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One morning I dashed across the lawn of my building to catch the 146 bus, arriving breathless behind a jovial woman who was trying to stuff coins into the jammed hopper. The bus driver was trying to cover it with his hand. "What I'm telling you is that it's not working," he said with cold fury. "I'd like you to take your seat so I can get off work on time."

Chastened, the woman sat down. As I approached, the driver made eye contact and said, "You know what? I don't care if anyone pays today. Less is more." I took my seat.

At Belmont, just before the bus turned onto the drive, our driver pulled past a parked bus and opened his door so he could shout at a clipboard-wielding CTA dispatcher on the sidewalk: "You know what? I think they're unhappy. And anytime they're unhappy, I'm happy. I like frustrating the opposition."

Not able to hear, the guy with the clipboard waved and smiled. We drove downtown, and I made it to work on time.

This morning, I boarded and recognized the same driver. Somewhere around Addison, a crowd of commuters squeezed on board. A well-dressed businessman asked the driver, "Does this bus go south of the river?"

"Where do you want to go?" asked the driver.

"South of the river," said the man, as if to a child.

"But where south of the river?" asked the driver, still patient.

"South of the river."

"Do you want Michigan or State Street?" asked the driver--the 146 hits both avenues at different places.

"South of the river."

The conversation ended. The passenger paid his fare and shouldered up the aisle, more willing to take his chances than to provide a detail to the man he'd queried.

No wonder the driver likes frustrating the opposition.


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