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Too Much Change, Not Enough Patience

, , , , | Working | October 13, 2021

I’ve always suffered from severe anxiety. I have recently moved from a small town to a big city. My friend has come to visit and, as she is from the same small country town, she has never been on a public bus before, so I am trying to impress her with my city slicker knowledge. We get dressed up in our black clothes and spiky accessories and head to the mall.

As soon as we get on the bus, it starts to go awry. The reduced-price ticket I ask for is not available at this time of day and I immediately get flustered, as the bus driver does not suggest what ticket I should be asking for. I ask for a student ticket and hand over $5.

I wait for my change, but as the bus driver turns to my friend, I assume the ticket price is higher than I remembered, so I go and find a seat while my friend pays for her ticket.

When my friend joins me she hands me a bunch of loose change — change from both my ticket and hers.

It is important to note at this point that I have no idea how much my ticket was, no idea how much her ticket was, and no idea how much change the bus driver gave us; I dumped it straight into my purse.

A few stops later, a group of older teens gets on the bus. The driver drives on. Soon the driver stops at a bus stop with no passengers, gets up, and announces to the bus:

Driver: “I accidentally gave too much change to the kids who just got on before.”

Everyone looks a little bit blank, and the driver drives on. He makes increasingly snappy comments every now and then about teenagers trying to steal.

Friend: “Could it have been us he was talking about?”

Me: “It must be the kids who got on after us. That’s what he implied, and he would have said something earlier if it had been us.”

Eventually, a representative of the group of teens goes up to the driver and apologises, saying he didn’t think they’d been given too much change but offering to give it back anyway.

The bus driver snaps loudly and informs him that it was the kids who got on before them — meaning my friend and me.

I am horrified when I hear this, and I immediately take my coin purse up to the driver and ask him how much I owe him. He is terse and unhelpful.

Driver: “You know how much change you should have gotten! You’re just trying to get away with dishonesty.”

I am on the very brink of a panic attack and am trying valiantly to explain that I don’t know how much change he gave us. Eventually, he tells me how much I need to give him, and I hand it over.

The rest of the ride is punctuated with glares from him, my friend is embarrassed, and I am trying not to hyperventilate. When we get to the mall, he is still icy cold, and my friend and I jump off the bus through the door furthest from him.

An older lady also quickly jumps off the bus and catches up to us.

Lady: “I saw the whole thing. That driver’s behaviour was inappropriate. I saw him give your friend all of the change instead of giving it to you separately. His wording was confusing, and I could see you weren’t trying to do the wrong thing.”

It was such a terrible experience for me, but I am so grateful that that lady decided to talk to us. It really helped me avoid a full-blown panic attack and showed me that not all adults will assume the worst (even if you’re wearing spikes and all black).

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