Two NYC buses, three odd ladies

Yesterday morning, I got on the 86th Street crosstown bus at Broadway. We crossed Broadway, stopped at Amsterdam Avenue, crossed Amsterdam Avenue, stopped at Columbus Avenue, crossed Columbus, stopped at Central Park West and headed through a budding pale green Central Park to the 84th and Fifth Street stop.

At 84th and Madison, the driver turned us left, and when we’d gone two very slow, very trafficky blocks, turned right to continue east on 86th Street. East.

That’s how the 86th crosstown rolls.

My stop was Second Avenue. As the bus driver was about to close the doors at Third Avenue, a woman ran up to the driver’s still open door and called to him, “Are you going west?” I didn’t quite catch what he said but assumed it was, “No, I’m going east. If you want to go west, cross the street and catch that bus.” She nodded confusedly, yet smiled and wandered off, maybe to the other side of 86th Street, maybe not.

Then another woman ran up to the bus driver’s door and, speaking with a slight accent, called out, “Are you express to 80 Street?” I didn’t quite catch what he said, but she followed up by saying, “Eight O.” After he responded to her (undoubtedly “No”), he closed the door and we continued. Traveling east. Slowly. On 86th Street.

A half-hour later (really speedy MD visit), coming back home to the west side, I got on the 79th Street crosstown bus at Third Avenue. The bus was pretty crowded and the traffic was fairly heavy. Still, we traveled west, stopping at each block to pick up or discard riders.

Around the Park Avenue stop, a rather glamorously dressed woman got on. She wore sparkly red strappy shoes and a complicated black and glittery outfit with cut-outs on the top, diamond-ish earrings, maybe some bracelets and rings, and a lot of perfectly applied red lipstick. Very black hair.

When we’d crossed through Central Park and reached Central Park West (at 81st Street), she turned to me and asked, “Is the next avenue Columbus?” Yes, I said; Columbus. “Ah, good,” she said. “And after that is Amsterdam?” Yes, I said, smiling; Amsterdam, and then Broadway.

She sighed in relief. “I get so confused with Columbus and Amsterdam. They change places.” I thought about that for a second and said, “Well, they do cross each other further downtown.”

She said, “I really don’t know the west side. I’m from the east side, and it’s so easy there — First, Second, Third…”

“Well, yes,” I said, “except then they snuck in Lex and Park and Madison…” She waved her manicured hand, “Oh, but I know all that because I live there.”

When we reached Amsterdam, I said, “Here’s Amsterdam and there’s even a big sign for you,” and I pointed to a corner store where there was a big red sign saying “Amsterdam.” She thanked me as she got up to leave and I watched her sparkly red heels manage the one-step descent to the sidewalk.

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