As I approached Wards Corner Transit Center I noticed one of my regular customers, Mike and with him was a girl who looked to be about 16 or 17 years old. Boats (his real name is Dwight Johnson), another one of my regulars, also noticed them waiting for my 15. He got up and flipped his seat up to accommodate Mike’s wheelchair and told the two teen-agers in the adjacent seat, “You should move because there’s a guy in a wheelchair coming, and he needs this seat more than you do.”
One of the boys said, “I paid my damn dollar, I can sit where ever the fuck I want to. Why don’t you make her move?” he said pointing to an elderly lady across the aisle.
Boats said, “I’m not making anybody move. I’m giving you the opportunity to be a man and offer your seat to someone who needs it”
“Yeah right,” the first guy said.
“I ain’t movin’ either,” said the second.
“Hey shipmate, these two slugs don’t know a Monkey’s Fist from a Rat-tailed Stopper. Do you want to call the cops or can I just keelhaul them under the bus?”
“We’d better let the police handle this,” I said reaching for my radio handset. I had hoped that they would move after they saw Mike came on, because Boats and I knew (and Mike probably knew) that nobody really has to surrender their seat to a disabled person. But I might be able to get them for being unruly. So I spoke into the handset without pressing the talk button, “Dispatcher, this is run 1501, in bus 2004. I have two unruly passengers at Wards Corner”
“They are both about 13 years old, wearing baggy black pants with a white undershirt. Actually they looked closer to 16, but acted like 10 year-olds, so I decided to split the difference.”
Then I bluffed, “10-4. I’m standing by.”
“Let’s get outta here. I don’t need any of this bullshit.”
“Yeah,” said number two. “I don’t need any of the bullshit either.” And they both stomped out the back door muttering cuss words.
“Disregard Dispatcher, they got off the bus,” I said without pressing the button.
Boats flipped up the recently vacated seat and said to Mike, “Here ya’ go Buddy.” Then he sat down next to the elderly lady.
Mike backed his wheelchair into the spot and secured himself. He said to Boats, “Thanks, you didn’t have to do that.”
“Sure I did. He was actin’ like a punk.”
I checked Mike’s straps, just a formality, and noticed that girl standing beside him.
Boats said, “There’s a seat right here, young lady.”
She glanced at Mike with a worried look, who said, “Go ahead, it’s OK.” Then she sat down in the inward-facing seat beside Boats and the elderly lady.
I pulled away from the transfer center and heard Michael ask, “So, what’s a keelhaul?”
“It’s what the pirates used to do to punish someone. They would take a long rope run it under the ship, then tie one end to the guy’s hands and the other end to his feet. Then throw him overboard on the port side and haul him back up on the starboard side.”
He asked, “Wouldn’t he drown?”
“Not if he held his breath. He would just get mangled by all of the barnacles on the hull. But they don’t really do that anymore.”
“That’s good, because my sister is thinking about joining the Navy.”
Turning his attention towards me, he called out, “Ed, I don’t think you’ve met my little sister Rachel. She’s 16 and will be 17 on Friday. I just rescued her from our abusive father this past weekend and she’s been living in the town house with me and will be starting Dam Neck High as a junior into the fall.”
Rachel continued, “We were having an early dinner at the Burger Arch. Then, we headed to the Naval Recruiting Station for my appointment. I’m thinking about joining after school’s over.”