STAGE MANAGER: This place is a bus stop in Manhattan. The day is Monday. The time is around 6:25 a.m.
A rat family scurries across the sidewalk.
Over there is a condominium under construction. Krispy Kreme’s over yonder. Dunkin’s still farther over. Right here is a tree with a plastic bag in it. Any minute now, people will be walking to this stop to catch a seat on the great M96 crosstown.
A garbage truck roars by. The STAGE MANAGER covers her ears and nods.
At our bus stop, we know very little about everybody, but we’re a family.
Oh—here comes the man with a briefcase I always see around now. And here’s the woman in scrubs, right on time.
MAN WITH BRIEFCASE: Morning!
WOMAN IN SCRUBS nods.
MAN WITH BRIEFCASE: Any sign of the M96?
WOMAN IN SCRUBS: Not since a minute ago. I just got here myself.
MAN WITH BRIEFCASE: (Shaking his head) Here we go again. I declare—this bus!
STAGE MANAGER: There comes another fellow I see here every morning, wearing jeans. Sometimes he carries a helmet, but not today. Must be a no-helmet day at work.
FELLOW IN JEANS: Bus here yet?
MAN WITH BRIEFCASE: Not that I can tell, but I keep checking my watch. With any luck, if I keep checking the time, the bus’ll be on its way.
FELLOW IN JEANS: According to my bus-tracking app, it should be coming any minute—but time will tell.
WOMAN IN SCRUBS: Doesn’t it always! Father Time is up to no good at the bus stop, and that’s the truth.
STAGE MANAGER: Maybe I should explain why all of us keep waiting at this bus stop anyway, day after day, even with its unreliable service. You see, this stop is the beginning of the M96 route, the very first stop—which means we get our pick of the bus seats. If there’s a little puddle in one of the seats, no matter—that’s nothing a fresh tissue can’t wipe up.
An M96 bus rolls up to the stop. Everybody walks to the door and takes out their wallets. But the bus’s lights go off.
FELLOW IN JEANS: What in the devil…?
WOMAN IN SCRUBS: Why, that bus driver parked with all of us standing here!
MAN WITH BRIEFCASE: It’s not his time. If my memory serves, this driver doesn’t go until seven o’clock. But another will be here any minute. That’s a fact.
WOMAN IN SCRUBS: I pray you’re right. If I stand out here long enough, I’ll catch a cold.
STAGE MANAGER: Sometimes after an exchange like this, a school bus passes by, and we think, “Close, but no.”
FELLOW IN JEANS: Look!
Another M96 bus pulls up to the stop.
MAN WITH BRIEFCASE: I told you! Come on!
FELLOW IN JEANS: Finally!
This bus’s lights go off too. Another garbage truck is heard.
MAN WITH BRIEFCASE: You know, I think I knew this one wasn’t it. It’s the next one!
WOMAN IN SCRUBS: I hope so!
MAN WITH BRIEFCASE: There’s a plan—a schedule!
FELLOW IN JEANS: I’ll put my MetroCard away—no use having it out if I’m just going to keep putting it back in my wallet. No, sir.
STAGE MANAGER: And so we wait.
STAGE MANAGER takes off her hat, rests it on her chest, and shakes her head. WOMAN IN SCRUBS zips her jacket all the way up.
STAGE MANAGER: Sometimes around now, we stand without talking. One of us might put in airbuds, or sip coffee from one of those travel mugs, or walk to the street corner, looking for any signs of the bus, to bring ourselves some peace. Maybe a pigeon struts awfully close to our feet, and we gaze at its shimmer. And I reckon the next M96 might be coming right around now…
Another M96 bus arrives. The lights stay on and the doors open. The bus driver waves.
FELLOW IN JEANS: Hallelujah!
MAN WITH BRIEFCASE: I knew it! Everybody, get out your MetroCards! No need to rush—single file—we’ll all get a seat. The bus driver won’t leave without us. Isn’t that right?
BUS DRIVER: I’d never do such a thing! I serve the people. Hop on.
STAGE MANAGER: And so we all sat down, as we do after we board the bus. And (she claps her hands) I even got my favorite seat—a single, right in the front. Now we rest. As more people board, we might feel a little squished, but we distract ourselves with podcasts, or by listening to the same Fiona Apple song five times in a row. And tomorrow, as morning breaks, we’ll all gather once again and be confused, together, at our bus stop.